Dear SFTR Members,

We started the new year with a bold intention:

It would be ideal if we could unite the fronts of residents and transit agencies alike and if, as (writer) Anand Giridharadas so eloquently puts it in ‘The Persuaders,’ our movement could have a savvier relationship to power and to translating rage into programs.

In modeling that playbook, I believe we indeed struck that relationship. When the abysmal budget update from the Governor’s office early this year created a frenzy for transit agencies and riders alike, transit riders ingeniously orchestrated a funeral procession at City Hall to solemnly observe the death of transit. We, as constituents of Assemblymember Phil Ting’s district in San Francisco, diligently set out to make hundreds of calls. When we did that, we stemmed the tide of the $2 billion cuts to transit in the state budget into a $5 billion investment. Of course, Governor Newsom’s signing of the budget authorization while taking public transportation alongside Assemblymember Ting in a one-of-a-kind photo-op moment was a fitting ending to the eulogies that we had all observed earlier.

San Francisco Transit Riders’ own advocacy in San Francisco also joined hands with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to bring transit-only lanes and pedestrian safety improvements to the west side of Geary Boulevard, and to improve the reliability and efficiency of the 29-Sunset bus line by minimizing pass-ups and introducing a new late-night terminal. And where so urgently needed, we directed the agency’s attention to the Bayview senior residents’ long-standing transit needs.

Coming to a full circle was our advocacy’s pivotal and instrumental win in preserving SFMTA’s long-term structural autonomy with the recent withdrawal of the proposed Charter Amendment from Supervisor Ahsha Safai. As our Board Co-Chair Thea Selby puts it:

Supervisor Safai’s proposed charter amendment would have worsened governance of and accountability for Muni. There is no doubt in our minds that all of our members — calling/emailing/giving public comment to the Supervisors made a difference. This was a great example of how we can show San Francisco that the voice of the transit rider is mighty. The more we flex that muscle, the more we grow.

We advocates are the bridge builders between policymakers and residents and riders. We ensure that when policymakers bring resources to our communities, they serve real needs. And we center the leadership of our communities in elevating those rider needs.

In that regard, we at San Francisco Transit Riders bridged multiple new perspectives and partnerships this year alone. As a lead convenor of the Transit Justice Coalition, we coalesced across diverse stakeholder perspectives: labor, seniors, people with disabilities, low-income and immigrant communities, and historically marginalized and geographically isolated groups. Together we created a comprehensive policy platform that illustrates our vision for public transportation in San Francisco.

For our Transit Month celebration in September, we pushed the boundaries of our overall reach, cultivated new relationships with transit agencies and advocates from across the region, and struck a chord with dozens of riders here in the city who chose to become new SFTR members. The Safe Routes to School partnership, an inaugural one for SFTR, is further cementing our understanding with the SFMTA, the San Francisco Unified School District, and our advocacy partners in directing resources and targeting new audiences toward a mode shift from cars to public transit.

Right before I left for my sabbatical, SFTR completed our Strategic Plan setting the path and direction for our work through 2025. Having returned to the office recently, I am super grateful for the privilege but also for our hard-working staff and board who have continued to co-lead SFTR’s charge in countless and incredible ways.

I am also super appreciative of our members for your generous support as well as for your direct advocacy and leadership in making these collective wins possible. Please consider donating to San Francisco Transit Riders again for our End-of-the-Year campaign that will run through January 15, 2024, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so that we can continue to be successful in centering the needs of riders in transit policies and investments in the coming year.

Capping our fundraising drive this year will be our member meeting scheduled for January 23rd, 2024. Please hold the date as an opportunity to get together and to participate in strategic updates, brainstorming, and the SFTR board officers’ election. More details to follow soon.

With gratitude,

Vinita Goyal

Executive Director, San Francisco Transit Riders

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