MTA Calls Slow Street Safety Improvement “Paralysis by Analysis”

The Confusion

A meeting at City Hall on Tuesday discussed the climbing political pressure to bring about a quick fix to pedestrian danger. The problem has long been established and addressed, so what’s taking so long to solve it?

Well, according to MTA’s Board of Supervisors David Chiu, “We are experiencing a little bit of paralysis by analysis.” With so many different agencies conducting studies and presenting plans and statistics, Chiu claims that it is the bureaucracy that is preventing any real action.
Deputy Director of Planning for the SFCTA (San Francisco County Transportation Authority) Tilly Chang calls this problem a problem of “fragmented responsibility.” And it is unsurprising that responsibility is so difficult to delegate because, in the SFCTA’s “Update on Citywide Pedestrian Safety Efforts“, the Authority is listed as “one of 12 agencies currently participating in the City’s newly-established Pedestrian Safety Task Force.” Despite the confusion, Chang says that the responsibility falls mostly on the MTA because they are “arguably” the lead agency on pedestrian safety.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Stampe of Walk SF doesn’t think it’s that simple, saying, “In some ways having the MTA be the agency where it’s centered makes sense, but in some ways the work that the other agencies are doing gets translated into real action on the streets faster and in a way that satisfies people more.”
But while everyone is trying to figure out who’s running the show, reps from all agencies agree that immediate action needs to be taken–if not because it’s been long overdue, then because the political pressure is getting to be too much.
A Few Results
From the meeting’s confusion arose a few key ideas for improvement:
  1. Data integration.
  2. Better enforcement efforts by the SFPD.
  3. Reducing the speed of automobiles. According to Rajiv Bhatia of the SF Department of Public Health, “We’ve calculated that serious injuries could be reduced by over 50 percent from a 5 mile an hour reduction in the travelling speed.” However, he also noted that traffic laws might impede the realization of the plan. And I think it’s safe to say that we don’t need anything else impeding real action.


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