In San Francisco, conservatives, moderates and (yes Martha) even liberals are fighting back against the anti-auto fervor of the hard core progressive left. A coalition of pissed off voters has formed to field a non-binding ballot resolution against a juggernaut of zealous greens who have been trying for decades to destroy private transportation in favor of really awful public transportation.
Sunday parking meters were the last straw.
Mayor Ed Lee and his hand-picked SFMTA board (SF Metropolitan Transportation Authority) didn’t have enough money and hadn’t spanked drivers enough. So the bureaucrats began to charge for parking on Sunday, and, with exorbitant meter and ticket prices in SF that sparked a citizen’s revolt. The day of rest became a day of surprised rage for drivers across the city.
With less than 4% of San Franciscans commuting by bicycle (bless them, I also commute by bicycle) and with aggregate auto owners at 79% and auto commuters at 50%, the aggressive, sometimes anarchistic bicycle lobby had gotten expensive bike lane projects built across the city. Green-painted lanes and concrete-divided bike paths were springing up all over, constricting drivers, taxis, ambulances, cop cars, fire trucks and delivery vehicles to narrow channels as the unlicensed and untaxed groovy kids on bikes breezed through traffic merrily.
MUNI riders recently got free bus and light rail for students, even as SF empties of families because of sky high rents and laughable public schools. Now, the same folks want free MUNI for “transitional youth” to age 22. And right behind them the seniors and disabled want buses also. Perhaps MUNI should be free. But then, who pays the salaries of the bus drivers and the cost of new rolling stock? Voila! Car drivers. Mayor Lee wants to raise the vehicle license tax locally by 300%, back to the pre-Arnold prices with a ballot measure this fall. And he’s put a humongous bond on the 2014 ballot to back stop the hemorrhaging SF transit system.
Let’s not even get into BART. The debacle of the 2013 strike that cost the Bay Area millions and infuriated voters when it was settled in a management cave in to unions is still a painful memory.
But despite the inevitable attacks by the progressives, the Transportation Balance Initiative is exactly that—an appeal for BALANCE.
In San Francisco, we are transportation omnivores. I ride my bike to the Financial District, to North Beach and Chinatown, to the Mission District, etc. But we’re a city of 48 hills, some of them daunting. So I also schlep my bike onto the MUNI bike racks and pay $2 to go to the beach or the CCSF campus where I was taking labor studies courses. I drive an Uber car part time, because it’s fun and remunerative. And I take BART dozens of times monthly to visit friends and family in the East Bay and South Bay.
Omnivores don’t like it when one of their food sources gets cut off. Omnivores don’t take kindly to green vegetarians or worse, to rabid transport vegans who impose purity schemes when we really want and need a Big Mac or a juicy bar burger at an Irish pub.
Most San Franciscans are solidly for the Transit First policy put in place decades ago, a policy that makes sense in our tiny 7 by 7 mile jewel of a city. But progressive zealots have turned a smart, reasonable strategy around and quietly promoted a Transit Only policy that makes car owners and drivers the Evil Ones, and makes transit-bike vegans the Holy Ones clothed in robes of purity and (green glowing) light.
Frankly, that’s nuts.
The fire department is grumbling, “What about getting our ladder trucks around narrow turns when bike lanes proliferate?” The EMT drivers say, “Two more minutes in traffic is so many more deaths.” The taxi drivers are angry, “What about the terrible pavement that busts our suspensions? Wasn’t there just a huge paving bond? “ Taxis are sprouting, “Dump Mayor Lee,” bumper stickers.
Pedestrian seniors say, “How about the bike maniacs who cut us off, ride the sidewalks and flip us the bird?” The disabled are not happy, “What about curb to curb para-transit and wheelchair taxis? We can’t get to our doctor’s appointments on time.”
And while no one is happy to pay meters, fines, 300% uptick vehicle license fees or to vote for huge bond issues, voters are now murmuring, “The SFMTA is out of control, we don’t want to pay for dirty, dangerous, crowded, off schedule buses from an agency gone rogue.”
San Francisco, in the forefront on many issues, may soon lead a movement for transport balance. The assumptions of the dinosaur progressives—car=bad, transit=good—may no longer be viable. We have greened our automobile fleet drastically over the decades. New federal and state mandates for fuel efficiency will green the fleet further as we move towards electric, fuel cell and hydrogen cars. And when Google navigation comes online, we will further disrupt the assumption that gigantic, bureaucracy-driven public transit systems are intrinsically better.
San Francisco as the birthplace of a Transportation Balance Initiative leading the way out of the green wilderness? Well, we’ve accomplished a lot already, out of proportion to our tiny size.