SFMTA Fails to Match Pro-Vision Zero Talk With Dollars

by Andrew Szeto on April 16, 2014

SFMTA approved its two-year budget on April 15, but it failed to address concerns raised on the agency’s enactment of their Vision Zero goals. The budget retains the same funding proposed two weeks ago for WalkFirst and bicycle safety, nowhere near what Vision Zero requires.

The need for the free Muni program to include seniors and funding Vision Zero was made clear in public comment two weeks ago, and is an important part of realizing the goals of Vision Zero. But the MTA has yet to hold to its commitments, and it is unclear if the budget passed will address these concerns.

The budget meeting was crowded with over a hundred community members who came to push for the inclusion of free Muni for seniors and people with disabilities. Though the MTA approved an amendment to include 18-year-olds (which won’t begin until in November), it delayed the inclusion of seniors and people with disabilities to a January 2015 fiscal review when possible funding for November transportation ballot initiatives could be available. The Board, however, said that including seniors and people with disabilities would be a priority in upcoming meetings.

“We laid out everything we could find in terms of funding,” SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin said. “This budget represents our best effort at trying to fund those [programs].”

“We recognize for any of these modes, including transit, it doesn’t provide the full funding we need,” Reiskin continued. “Even with these measures… it’s a huge leap forward for transit and for streets and for bike and pedestrian safety.”

The MTA continues to support initiatives for Vision Zero, and it announced plans to implement 24 projects to increase pedestrian safety over the next two years last Friday.

“We’ve been really happy to see MTA’s twenty-four projects that will be implemented in the next two years to help us move towards Vision Zero,” Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider said. “We’re really happy to see that listed out, and we’re really eager to projects in the ground.”

Despite these initial rollouts, Schneider questioned MTA’s commitment after relaying concerns for Vision Zero’s support two weeks ago. She asked the MTA Board about the concerns raised over plans if November’s ballot measures didn’t pass, and how WalkFirst would be implemented.

“We were here two weeks ago and many of you raised the question, and many of you raised the question of how we’re going to get to Vision Zero,” Schneider said. “How in the budget are we actually going to achieve Vision Zero?”

“I looked at the budget, and it looks exactly the same as it did two weeks ago.” Schneider continued. “And I’m wondering why this hasn’t been addressed.”

The Board did not spend any time after public comment to discuss Vision Zero.

The MTA also approved removing Sunday parking meters, the revenue of which helps funds other transit modes. Following Mayor Ed Lee’s call to end Sunday meter enforcement, Board Vice Chairman Cheryl Brinkman said that removing them would help “gain support for ballot measures.”

But with minimal funding for Vision Zero initiatives, and without including seniors and people with disabilities into the free Muni program, MTA’s commitment to pedestrian and bicyclist safety remains questionable.

“Half of the people killed in our city’s streets are seniors. It ties into free Muni for seniors and people with disabilities,” Schneider said.

The SFMTA budget will be submitted to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors May 1st and the Board of Supervisor budget hearing will be held on May 15th.

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