Founded in 2010, San Francisco Transit Riders has been working to raise the rider’s voice and push for transit improvements that make life better for all San Franciscans.
Check out some of our highlights and successes:
Masks for Muni
As the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of San Francisco, Muni had to keep transporting people with no other way to get around. Many were stranded as Muni service disappeared in many places almost overnight, due to the pandemic impacts on many drivers with children, family members to care for, and their own health risks and concerns.
With generous donations from our members, and through partnering with our friends at TWU 250A, we were able to secure over 1,200 cloth masks for Muni operators. We also distributed several hundred disposable masks to riders who needed them.
We also had a chance to hear directly from three Muni operators about what it was like to work during COVID. You can check out the video for their engaging, honest, and uplifting stories.
Transit Week was established as our annual celebration of public transit – of the riders who use it every day and the drivers who make it work. During Transit Week we challenge city leaders to ride transit (one year, half the folks riding to our City Hall Kick-Off were late because of Muni). We speak to the importance of good transit for the future of San Francisco – for safer streets, climate change, air quality, mobility, accessibility, and a more livable city.
We often reach out to riders and hold educational and social events. We cap the week off with our Rider First Awards to acknowledge people, teams, or transit projects that have done something special in the past year to focus on improving the experience of transit riders. Check out our online 2020 Rider First Awards.
So far we have conducted four separate Ride Audits from Visitacion Valley, to the Tenderloin, to Geary Boulevard, and Outer Mission.
Ride Audits are a focus group tool that we developed with help from our friends at TransitCenter. The idea is to get riders and transit planners in the room together, and on the bus together, to do an in-depth review of a transit project or issue and work together on solutions and plans. It enables riders to provide deeper feedback than a survey, and provides planners with a more comprehensive understanding of what issues riders confront.
Geary Boulevard has seen some great improvements in recent years. From the new fleet of low-floor buses, to more frequent service, to the red carpet Transit-Only Lanes (TOLs) downtown, the capacity of the 38 and 38R Geary buses has increased and travel time has decreased – getting more people where they need to go faster!
We did a Ride Audit to help riders inform the improvements for the Geary Rapid Project, and planners changed some elements based on riders’ input.
Riders along Geary have suffered for decades because of political opposition to improving transit. Geary has more weekly ridership than Caltrain, and really needs a subway. Plans for light rail and even Bus Rapid Transit have been sidelined. What we have now is a mostly decent Rapid treatment, complete with queue jumps and transit-priority lanes along 75% of the route.
We’ll continue to work for a fully prioritized street for the 38 and 38R Geary so we can achieve as close to 30-minute travel time as possible.
Safe Routes to Transit
Door to Door, Not Just Stop to Stop.
Transit trips are door to door, not just stop to stop. Prioritizing safety while accessing transit, while on the bus, and for all the moments in between is vital for the mobility of everyone – especially populations that don’t drive, such as youth, seniors, and those with disabilities.
So we partnered with Walk San Francisco on Ride and Walk Audits to empower community members to speak up as both transit riders and pedestrians.
We first did a successful Ride and Walk Audit for the 27 Bryant, helping SFMTA planners and 27 Bryant riders understand each other better, and reach a much improved route for the bus north of Market Street.
We then reached out to community-based organizations in the Outer Mission/Excelsior. We held pop-ups at various bus stops and intersections to hear directly from people about how we can make access to transit safer. Our work influenced the Mission/Geneva Safety Project, which still doesn’t include enough improvement for Muni. We continue to be active in the community and will continue to push for real transit improvements.
Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit
Some of our earliest concerted advocacy was for the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). If it weren’t for our dedicated volunteers being in the right place when it counted, we would likely have ended up with a watered-down side-running rapid line. We also held a forum on Van Ness BRT so transit riders could speak directly with agency officials about the project.
Good transit design is not always easy for people to understand, especially if they don’t ride transit themselves. And people tend to be averse to change, especially if they can’t see its direct benefit. An important part of our work is doing a better job of conveying the benefits of and importance of good transit design. Making a dedicated lane in the center for transit means a more direct, faster, smoother route that doesn’t conflict with turning and parking cars.
Another part of our job is to build the political clout to make sure SFMTA and city leaders support good transit design and don’t let transit priority projects get watered down.
Funding For Transit
In the November 2014 election, San Francisco Transit Riders campaigned successfully to pass Propositions A and B, which secured significant funding for Muni. That year we also helped defeat the anti-transit, pro-parking Proposition L.
Proposition A authorized up to $500 million for Muni capital improvements, used primarily for Muni Forward. Proposition B directs general funds for Muni and increased street safety. Muni funds from Proposition B can only be spent on increasing service: either buying more buses and trains, or paying to increase service on the street.
In 2016, we campaigned for Props J and K. Prop J was for funds to be spent on homeless services and public transit, and passed by a large margin; but Prop K, the sales tax to fund Prop J, failed. Prop J could never go into effect.
In January of 2020, our member survey showed transit funding as a top priority. Check out our current campaigns to see what we’re up to now.
22-Day Muni Challenge
In 1993, San Francisco voters passed Proposition AA: “City officials and full-time employees [shall] travel to and from work on public transit at least twice a week.” Prop AA was a Declaration of Policy, however, so is not enforceable.
22 years later, in 2015, we held the 22-Day Muni Challenge – one day for every year since the passage of Prop AA. We challenged the Board of Supervisors to post every time they rode Muni during the 22 days.
The challenge was designed to get our city officials to experience Muni on a regular basis to better understand when it works well and importantly, when it doesn’t. With first-hand experience, leaders are more likely to prioritize Muni funding and planning a better transit system. Check out our coverage in Muni Diaries and Streetsblog.
All Door Boarding
Our members proposed an all-door boarding pilot program to SFMTA in fall 2011. Because of our work, and our testimony at the SFMTA Board of Directors, the pilot was adopted.
The pilot was hugely successful: all-door boarding decreased boarding times on many routes, including by 17.9% on the 1AX-California and 8% on the 38-Geary. This means service is faster and more reliable.
We received an award from Livable City for our success implementing this policy change, and All-Door Boarding was voted the Best Livable Streets story on Streetsblog in 2012. Transit advocates are still trying to replicate our success and get all-door boarding implemented in other cities.
San Francisco Transit Riders
P.O. Box 193341, San Francisco, CA 94119
© 2018 San Francisco Transit Riders, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit