Supervisor Scott Wiener prides himself on having his finger to the pulse of San Francisco public transit. But that pulse, he notes, can sometimes be faint. We aren't doing enough, Wiener says, to prepare for a future, larger San Francisco. That prompted a popular blog post to Medium, where Wiener insisted that we should always have, as we do now, a subway line under construction. Though buses are all well and good, that "isn't enough," he writes. "We need to move more transit underground, meaning we need more subways."
After the really positive reaction — and a little pushback — to his initial post, the Examiner and ABC 7 report that Wiener has announced a proposed ordinance that would call for a master plan focused on city subways.
The ordinance, introduced yesterday, will be heard this fall at the Board's land use and transportation committee meeting, and if passed, would call for the plan to be drawn up within a year.
The San Francisco Transit Riders Union, a riders advocacy group, spoke up in support of the idea. "Our city struggles with the slowest transit system in the nation because our trains and buses must navigate the same clogged streets as everyone else," member Andy Bosselman said in a statement issued by the Union. "Yet San Francisco's small footprint and high population density make it ideal for more subways... This is an opportunity for elected officials to show leadership. Every one of them should take it."
Executive director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority Tilly Chang outlined the difficulties of such a plan to the Examiner. “It’s going to take all sectors, public involvement, and sustained continued leadership from the mayor and the board,” Chang said. “I don’t want to fail Scott challenging us.”
Wiener would like to see subway service to both the West and Southeastern portions of the City, areas he sees as underserved and "overdue."
"We will hear every objection in the book to these ideas," the Supervisor acknowledges in his writing. "[T]hat they’re too expensive, that they will take away from maintaining our current transit systems, that in a city where it takes years to make small transit improvements it’ll take forever to do any of this, that transit leads to gentrification, that a focus on subways will undermine bus service (it doesn’t have to, as London and New York show), and so on and so forth."
Wiener gives his fervent nod of approval to the Central Subway, whose budget is $1.578 billion. Roughly $983 million of the Central Subway’s construction comes from federal sources, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and about $123 million comes from local sources.
"Yes, revolutionizing our transit systems will be hard and expensive," the Wiener stump speech continues. "Yes, there will be political and funding fights with the forces (both local and beyond) that couldn’t care less about funding good transit. Yes, there will be ups and downs over this lengthy process. Yet, with a forward-thinking, aggressive, can-do attitude — the same attitude that got us the interstate highway system, the Golden Gate Bridge, BART, and the world’s great subway systems — we can get it done."
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