The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s annual report describes this year as one that “radically changed” the agency and forced officials to make “the tough choices” in order to survive.
Many of these tough decisions stand out when one thinks of 2020: a complete shutdown of Muni’s metro system; a nearly 40 percent reduction in bus traffic at the lowest point; the discontinuation of the Free Muni for Youth expansion and the BackFirst operator wellness program; the downsizing of the ambitious Market Street redesign; Preparation for possible mass layoffs in the midst of a budget crisis; and the struggle to allocate severely limited resources in the face of an apparently insurmountable deficit.
“I know change is difficult, especially in these uncertain times. I am confident that we can work through these adjustments together and build a stronger transportation system worthy of San Francisco, ”wrote SFMTA Transportation Director Jeffrey Tumlin in the opening speeches of the report.
And while the number of drivers barely drops back to about 30 percent of prepandemic rates, SFMTA officials say the service they run is performing better than ever in some cases.
The restricted service prioritizes lines that are often used by key workers and transit-dependent passengers. The agency recently received national recognition from TransitCenter for its focus on Equity in Recovery.
The Muni collision rate and the crime rate on board have dropped significantly since last year. Since May, more than 85 percent of the buses have arrived on time or early every month.
There are still many areas in which the agency can improve.
According to the annual report, customer complaints have remained higher than in the past, peaking at 131 complaints per 100,000 miles in April.
Capital projects have been a consistent problem for the agency. Data shows that the agency continues to fall short of its target completion rate of 75 percent of all capital projects started.
Some of the most notable delays involve the Van Ness Improvement Project, Geary Bus Rapid Transit Project, and Central Subway, all of which have suffered budget overruns.
Though the Better Market Street project started the year with a ceremonial closure of much of the street to cars to make room for transit and cyclists, The City has since scaled back the project to save money and remove some of the most transformative road safety Items, especially for people who ride bicycles or walk.
On the positive side, the SFMTA’s annual report also highlights the agency’s bold, swift decisions that may have taken months, if not years, to move forward in otherwise normal times.
Public space has been redefined through the Slow Streets and Shared Spaces initiatives.
The Slow Streets program, which has closed or will close more than 30 corridors for through traffic, has created a network of pedestrian and cyclist-friendly roads between key destinations and, for the first time, a near-car-free route from the sea to the Embarcadero.
The Shared Spaces initiative enables small business owners and groups of businesspeople in the neighborhood to convert streets, parking lots, sidewalks and parks into commercial spaces, as well as outdoor dining and gathering places, presumably with a lower risk of spreading COVID-19.
The SFMTA has also been instrumental in its efforts to create transit-only lanes. These lanes, which are closed to private vehicles, enable buses to complete their routes faster, make more trips per hour and reduce waiting times and overcrowding for passengers.
With transit-only lanes, a bus can travel an average of eight routes an hour with a round trip of 45 minutes. In contrast, the same bus with no transit lanes can only travel six routes per hour with a 60-minute round trip.
Looking ahead to next year, Tumlin said the agency’s approach is simple: “Be strategic; try new things without fear; Listen carefully to the feedback. adjust quickly if it doesn’t work; and build on the successful experiments. “
Read the entire annual report here.
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