Skip to Content
Streetsblog California home
Log In

SFMTA Plans for COVID Traffic Realities

4:15 PM PDT on June 8, 2020

As San Francisco re-opens, traffic is quickly returning. And if something isn't done about it, and done fast, "There can be no recovery," explained SFMTA director Jeffrey Tumlin, as part of a new "Transportation Recovery Plan" presented to the SFMTA board earlier this week.

The plan lays out a framework for how the city can avoid complete gridlock--and the stagnation that would cause--as the economy starts to re-open. Obviously, thanks to COVID, it would be dangerous to pack people into buses and trains like before. That means there simply has to be more room reserved for bikes and the additional buses required on certain streets so that transit riders can safely distance themselves on board.

Mayor London Breed's Transportation Advisor, Paul Supawanich summed up the geometric realities described in the report via this tweet:

"We’re very concerned that as people understandably retreat from public transit to their private cars out of a sense of security or safety... the problem is the roadway system can not accommodate any more vehicle traffic," Tumlin added to the board.

The report prescribes the emergency rollout of bike lanes, slow streets, and dedicated transit lanes, as the only way to keep the city moving.


It also acknowledges that protected bike lanes will take time--which the agency doesn't have. "I’d been projecting August as the return of severe congestion," said Tumlin, acknowledging streets are already starting to gridlock, with the economy barely reopened. "Turns out I was wrong."


Instead, it will shift focus to expanding the network of slow streets, which can happen almost overnight. And to help exploit those slow streets: a huge expansion of bike share.

A comparison of how much space is taken up by modes. Image: SFMTA
A comparison of how much space is taken up by modes. Image: SFMTA

"We're going to have to find a very different way of doing things," said Tumlin. That includes continued teleworking, he said, but it won't be enough on its own if people on bikes and scooters aren't given roads to use where they feel safe and if buses don't have their own lanes.

Streetsblog invites readers to check out the full presentation and share their thoughts below. One can also watch Tumlin's presentation to the SFMTA board HERE, starting 1 hour 39 minutes in.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog California

Friday’s Headlines

Caltrans, we need complete streets everywhere, including at freeway interchanges (or maybe especially there); Public agencies and academics join forces to develop AV standards; Republicans really want to suspend the gas tax; More

September 29, 2023

Transit Month Event: Disability Access is for Everyone

BART was the first accessible transit system in the country. Advocates want Bay Area transit agencies to do better at keeping buses and trains accessible for all

September 28, 2023

New Federal Committee Will Push for Transportation Equity By Helping DOT Reckon With Its Past

"Everybody who alive today and in a position of responsibility is accountable for what we do about transportation inequities. That's why we're here.”

September 28, 2023

Thursday’s Headlines

There's new transit funding available, CA needs to access it; Bus shelters are not some optional perk; Biking is up nationwide; More

September 28, 2023
See all posts