The Agreement Reached on
A New Municipal Transportation Agency

What's Changed from the Initiative on the Streets

Why the New One is an Even Better Proposal
by Beryl Magilavy, San Francisco Environmental Organizing Committee Steering Committee
Signatory to Published Notice of Intent to Circulate Petition
June 14, 1999
A coalition made up of riders' advocates Rescue Muni, the planning think tank San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), and the San Francisco Environmental Organizing Committee (SFEOC), in alliance with Supervisor Gavin Newsom, have come to agreement with Mayor Brown, Supervisors Yaki, Kaufman, and Ammiano, and the management of the Municipal Railway and the Department of Parking and Traffic, to propose for voters' consideration a new initiative to reform Muni. Our coalition has been gathering the signatures of voters to place an initiative on the ballot to this end.

We hope we will have the support for the new proposal of all those who have signed the petition, and all others frustrated with the performance of public transit in San Francisco. The new proposal is actually better than the proposal that is on the streets. This improvement has resulted from new information brought to light during discussions organized by the mayor's office over the last few weeks among the organizations listed above, the Controller, experts from the Department of Human Resources, and others. We would like to acknowledge the good faith of all parties to these discussions, which really had the tenor of a room full people of different perspectives genuinely interested in reforming the transit system, rather than the sort of horse-trading sessions usually described in the papers.

Here's an overview of what will change if the new proposal is approved, and some discussion about each point where there's a difference with the initiative. Note that there has been a lot of non-substantive re-organization (for instance, the level-of-service language has been removed from paragraph [a] of Section 8A.100 Municipal Transportation Policy, and moved to Section 8A.103 Service Standards and Accountability), which will not be mentioned here, but might lead someone doing a quick side-by-side comparison to be misled on the number of real changes.

A New Transportation Agency

The Municipal Railway will be combined with the Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) and the Parking Authority under a new entity called the Municipal Transportation Agency (the Agency), with the option of adding in the Taxi Commission at a later time. The reason for this reorganization is to allow transportation financing and planning to be done in a coordinated fashion that includes all transit modes.

Governance and Duties

Service Standards and Accountability

Personnel and Merit System

Unlike in the initiative, the new proposal has employees not in the "service critical" categories continuing to bargain for economic issues on city-wide contracts. This includes all current employees of DPT.

This was a complicated area that involved trying to balance the wish to give the Agency the most autonomy possible in managing relations and compensation with its own work-force with the fact that many of these job classifications (such as clerk-typists) are used across many city departments, with transfer rights between them.

Funding and Budget

Quality Review

The Agency will be required to report annually on the extent to which it has met service standards and how effectively it is spending money. Every two years, it must hire a professional outside management or transportation consulting firm to do an independent review of the quality and efficiency of its operations. (The initiative on the street requires the outside audit every year, but the frequency was decreased due to the expense and long lead time required for the city to hire consultants-requirements for competitive bidding and the like.) Hearings will be held on the report by the Citizens' Advisory Council, the Agency, and the Board of Supervisors.

Fares and Route Abandonments

Both the new proposal and the initiative set specific criteria for any proposed change to fares, including the need to keep fares low to encourage maximum patronage. Fare increases may be blocked by a 2/3 vote of the Board of Supervisors, but-and this is new to the new proposal-in an effort to ensure that the Board take responsibility for its decision, consideration of a fare increase must be made as part of the budget process. This means that if they deny the Agency a fare increase, they must consider how to make up the money from other sources. Route abandonments may also be blocked by a 2/3 vote of the Board.

Transit-First Policy

The city's transit-first policy has been expanded and greatly strengthened. It newly emphasizes the importance of public transit, bicycles, and pedestrians; emphasizes the importance of having parking policies that encourage transit use in areas well served by transit, and acknowledges the importance of regional mass transit. The wording in the final proposal has been streamlined and clarified, hopefuly increasing its effectiveness.

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Last updated 6/14/99.