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In S.F., Advocates Make Bold Plans for Better Transit

From right to left, the Transit Rider’s ED Rachel Hyden, Assemblyman David Chiu, and Steve Pepple handed out awards to transit advocates at last night’s fundraiser.

Last night the San Francisco Transit Riders (SFTR), the advocacy group that organized the 22-Day Muni Challenge and Transit Week, among other things, celebrated a year of accomplishment and laid out a list of goals for next year at a holiday party held at the Mariposa Hunters Point Yacht Club in Mission Bay.

"It's been an amazing year for growth" for the SFTR, said Rachal Hyden, the organization's Executive Director. "Today we're going to celebrate that and gear up for next year--a year of action."

Some 70 transit advocates attended the SF Transit Riders fundraiser.
Some seventy transit advocates attended the SF Transit Riders fundraiser.

So what's high on the agenda? "Red lanes on Geary and Mission--all the way to the Outer Mission." Also: better bus stops--Hyden said simply painting a bit of yellow on a pole is not enough. The advocates also want to see all buses indicate what stop is next, instead of having the electronic sign inside the bus simply read: "Stop Requested."

Another big goal is to keep pushing for better, faster service on the T-Third and other Muni rail lines that are aggravatingly slow. Hyden is hopeful that SFMTA will eventually give the T-Third total signal preemption over cars, instead of making it wait at every intersection. "Every time I meet with SFMTA I ask, 'what are you doing on the T line?' I'm hoping by the end of the year we will start to see improvements."

Speeding up existing lines, such as the T Third seen here, is high on the agenda.
Speeding up existing lines, such as the T-Third, seen here, is high on the SFTR agenda.

The SFMTA announced the results of its rider survey, which, according to the agency, shows that more than half of riders think Muni provides a good service. But the members of SFTR are holding Muni to a higher standard. "I've lived here for ten years," said Beate Flach, who is originally from outside Frankfurt, Germany. "Public transit is never a problem where I'm from--there's always a place to sit, it's smooth; we're spoiled in Europe." But in San Francisco, she finds transit infrequent, irregular, and overcrowded. "It's why Lyft is so successful." She wants to see Bay Area transit held to a European standard.

Other advocates hope to see greater integration of BART, Muni, and other services in the Bay Area. "It's so confusing for someone to use BART and Muni--why can't we make it more seamless?" said Emma Daugherty, another advocate with the group.

But to accomplish all this takes supportive political leadership. Hyden and the SFTR's chair, Thea Selby, said they want to get commitments from political candidates moving into the next election. "We want a laser focus on the elections," said Hyden. "We want them to make transit part of their platforms, front and center."

SFTR's Thea Selby and Assemblyman David Chiu at last night's reception.

Hyden also wants to see a follow-up to the failed San Francisco Prop. K, which would have increased the city’s sales tax rate from 8.75 to 9.25 percent to help fund homeless services and transit. "We have to educate voters on why it's so important to vote 'yes' for transit." State Assemblyman David Chiu was there (see photo above) to rally support for automated speed enforcement. His bill, A.B. 342. would allow speed cameras to be installed as pilot programs in San Francisco and San Jose. "We're also going to have a real battle fighting for Regional Measure 3," a potential $3 increase in bridge tolls that, if it gets on the ballot and is passed by voters, would provide funds for a host of street and transit improvements.

Selby talked about the group's past accomplishments, such as getting all-door boarding on Muni buses. "We became the only city in the country with all-door boarding, thanks to you," she said to the audience. But to chalk up more accomplishments, the advocacy group needs to continue growing. "We started out seven years ago with wonderful allies: the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has been around since '71, there's Walk SF... we want to be like them in twenty years," said Selby.

And by growing in numbers and increasing funding, they hope to gain political pull as they strive towards making Bay Area transit as good as or better than systems in Europe. "I want this to be the 'transit-first' city it should be," said Hyden.

Transit Rider Executive Director Rachel Hayden Spellllllll????
The Transit Riders' Executive Director Rachel Hyden

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