San Francisco’s Mayor Lee to Take on Transportation Issues

In his State of the City speech Mayor Ed Lee made it known that he was planning on creating a task force to take on San Francisco’s complicated and worn-out transportation system. This task is by no means an easy one. San Francisco’s public transportation network is a complicated web of city and regional agencies. These agencies each have their own complicated network of funders and these funders (and by proxy the agencies they fund) don’t always have the same agenda.

It looks like the task force’s main focus will be the aging MUNI system. However, the task force will need to partner with BART and Caltrain to help create a functional regional system. One of their first tasks may be to coordinate with the two agencies to put forth a measure for voters to approve new funding such as a vehicle license fee, a general bond measure or another tax-based initiative. All three agencies would benefit from such a measure.

Many task forces have been convened on this very issue in the past, all with limited success. However, “Lee has a history of getting results from such panels. Similar groups helped push through major reform plans for public pensions, the payroll tax and affordable-housing measures.”

So far, Supervisor Scott Wiener, Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, Tom Nolan, chairman of Muni’s board of directors, and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu are top candidates for the task force. Although his nominatins have yet to be finalized, there are two groups that seem to be unrepresented in Ed Lee’s task force. First, the group is all male. Second, the pedestrian and cycling advocacy groups in the bay are unrepresentted. These oversights may be corrected before the task force is finalized, but it is important to recognize their absence.

In spite of these obvious oversights, this panel may see some actual results. “If Mayor Lee were not the person convening this, I would be very pessimistic,” Wiener said. “But his track record has shown that he knows how to take on these intractable long-term disputes.”


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