Motorists fight back in "transit-first" San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the most traffic-congested US cities, but a new coalition says we need more parking and fewer bike lanes
SF Media Co.

Believing that they’re somehow discriminated against on the streets of San Francisco, a new political coalition of motorists, conservatives, and neighborhood NIMBYs yesterday [Mon/7] turned in nearly twice the signatures they need to qualify the “Restore Transportation Balance in San Francisco” initiative for the November ballot.

It’s a direct attack on the city’s voter-approved “transit-first” policies and efforts to reduce automobile-related pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. It would prevent expanded parking meter enforcement unless requested by a neighborhood petition, freeze parking and permit rates for five years, require representation of motorists on the SFMTA board and create a Motorists Citizens Advisory Committee within the agency, set aside SFMTA funding for more parking lot construction, and call for stronger enforcement of traffic laws against cyclists.  

“With 79 percent of San Francisco households owning or leasing an automobile and nearly 50 percent of San Franciscans who work outside of their homes driving or carpooling to work, it is time for the Mayor, the Supervisors, and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board to restore a balanced transportation policy for all San Franciscans,” the group claims on its petition.

But given that drivers already dominate the space on public roadways, often enjoying free parking on the public streets for their private automobiles, transportation activists say it’s hard to see motorists as some kind of mistreated population.

“The idea that anyone who walks or cycles or takes public transit in San Francisco would agree that these are privileged modes of transportation is rather absurd,” Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City and an elected member of the BART board, told the Guardian.

He said this coalition is “co-opting the notion of balance to defend their privilege. They’re saying the city should continue to privilege drivers.”

But with a growing population using a system of roadways that is essentially finite, even such neoliberal groups as SPUR and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce have long promoted the idea that continued overreliance on automobiles would create a dysfunctional transportation system.

“Prioritization of the single modes of transportation isn’t a matter of ideology, it’s a matter of geometry,” Radulovich said. “We’re all better off, including motorists, if we prioritize other modes of transportation and encourage people to get out of their cars.”

Still, the revanchist approach to transportation policy in San Francisco has been on the rise in recent years, starting with protests against parking management policies in the Mission and Potrero Hill, and continuing this year with Mayor Ed Lee successfully pushing the repeal of charging for parking meters on Sundays.

The coalition behind this ballot measure includes some of the combatants in those battles, including the new Eastern Neighborhoods United Front (ENUF) and old Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhoods. Other supporters include former westside supervisors Quentin Kopp, Tony Hall, and John Molinari, and the city’s Republican and Libertarian party organizations.

Spokespersons for the coalition didn’t return Guardian calls, but we’ll update this post if and when we hear back, and we’ll have a longer analysis of this issue in next week’s Guardian.

But Radulovich said that while conservatives are helping drive this coalition, anger over the city’s transportation policies is more of a throwback to a bygone era than it is based on conservative principles (for example, the SF Park program criticized by the coalition uses market-based pricing to better manage street parking and encourage turnover in high-demand areas).

As he said, “There are certain people who believe in the welfare state, but only for cars and not for humans.”  


ballot measure is absolutely hilarious. He just cannot understand why anyone would believe in a balanced approach to transportation planning - he's shocked, SHOCKED at this development!

Posted by Guest on Jul. 08, 2014 @ 4:52 pm

Steve and his pals yammer about what they want and call it balance.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 08, 2014 @ 5:25 pm

But he's also shocked why their spokespeople won't return his calls too so... Just because he's biased against them doesn't mean they shouldn't call him back.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 08, 2014 @ 6:37 pm

Agggghhhhhh! Alternative viewpoints! Hop on your fixie or beat the street with your Birkenstocks but we must protect the women and children from the horrible evil that is the internal combustion engine.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 08, 2014 @ 4:54 pm

when they agree with Steve are "activists."

When they do not agree with Steve they are "NIMBYS."

I suppose we all do things like that to some point, Steve is just more comical about it because it is so obvious and self serving.

The whole "transit first" thing as a policy statement is the same as Avalos's foreign policy statements, meaningless.

You don't see Steve howling about article 40 from the of the police code, something that isn't a meaningless policy statement. It is in the actual police code, for example

sec 4004

•Marijuana contains more cancer-causing agents than tobacco and weakens the immune-defense system.
•Because of new growing techniques, the marijuana available today contains three to seven times as much THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient) as it did in the 1960s and 1970s and can cause severe depression and other physical and psychological problems.
•Marijuana causes a temporary disruption in the delivery of the male hormone testosterone, particularly in adolescents and slightly decreases organ size in males (which may be critical to a user with hormonal imbalance or in the throes of puberty).

Steve is a backer of bonged out Ammiano, while ranting about a meaningless transit first thing.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 08, 2014 @ 5:24 pm

Try ticketing and impounding the cars caught on video flying down Howard, Folsom et al (AROUND 60 MPH) towards 3rd St.

Posted by S L on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 5:38 am

Fat-ass Americans have a hard time relinquishing the driving life.

San Francisco: 49 square miles, 820,000 people and 720,000 motor vehicles.

Teenagers here in town (SF) are not getting driving licenses.

They understand that cars are for the fat-asses living in their metallic cages, in a film noir world in which public space is considered to be a danger zone.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 6:10 am

And that is 5,000 square miles and seven million people.

We can't all walk or bike to where we're going

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 7:35 am

But you could get your ass on bart to get to the city

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 7:57 am

It's really only good for getting people into SF and Oakland from the burbs but, these days, many people live and work elsewhere.

Try getting from Santa Cruz to Novato by BART

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 8:06 am

Good point, which is why we need to make that trip and so many others a transit reality.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 10:59 am

And what's that got to do with the price of parking in the Mission?

Posted by Alai on Jul. 10, 2014 @ 10:47 pm
Posted by Guest on Jul. 11, 2014 @ 2:39 am

Those teenagers will get their license when they move out of town cause they can't afford to live in San Francisco.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 8:14 am

BART is already at peak limits and the parking lots are full. What is their response? Raise the parking lot rates. That doesn't make it easier for people to park and ride.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 8:17 am

I can't believe those cyclist, pedestrians, and public transit users being so selfish. As a driver, I have been coddled by seven decades of traffic engineering that ensured my trip was as quick and convenient as possible, laws that made sure I would be able to speed, honk, pollute, and even kill with very little consequence, spending hundreds of billions of dollars in dedicated highways that serve only me while disinvesting in other all modes, the tearing down of buildings to put in parking lots and structures, the tearing apart of cities (mostly through poorer ethnic neighborhoods) so that I could live far away from where I worked, a total societal worship of the method that I choose to get around in to the point that we look the other way when 34,000 people die from it every year, and the ability to mock and shun any active modes of transport that might actually improve the entire country's health. Those selfish, selfish cyclists and pedestrians and public transit users. I can't believe them.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 8:22 am

That makes no sense. like the rest of your thing.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 11:11 am

"laws that made sure I would be able to speed... with very little consequence." Man, reading a clause until the end is hard.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 12:42 pm

is the consequences if caught.

What do you want, a firing squad?

Your whining is ridiculous.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 7:41 pm

More carrot, less stick, anti-car shadow-minds!

Demonizing car drivers may feel good in the moment, but policies which stem from such attitude are much more prone to produce blow-back than lasting and beneficial change.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 8:22 am

I moved to SF specifically because I hate driving and wanted to live in a walkable city with decent public transit. I was happy to get rid of my car when I moved here. I'd rather see improvements to MUNI and fewer cars.

Posted by Mike C. on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 8:22 am

The only reason to own a car in San Francisco is so that you can move out of the cesspool that it has become in the last 3 years.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 8:52 am

We've been hearing the "wasn't cesspool three years ago" argument for more than a century.

Have fun out in The Burbs. I'm sure you like it there.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 10, 2014 @ 7:42 am

There are just folks who live in the Bay Area. Turns out that they are us and we are them.

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Posted by garcinia cambogia side effects on Jul. 23, 2014 @ 12:01 pm

The best part of this?
The same people who the SFBG have marched in lockstep with (no wall on the waterfront) are the ones who are involved with the "restore transportation balance" campaign in SF.
I guess the sword cuts both ways.
When we are looking at restricting housing in SF, the SFBG is onboard. When we are looking at making it easier to drive in SF, the SFBG considers them the enemy.

Posted by Beck Backside on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 9:31 am

That's just wrong,  BB, check their supporter lists, it's not the same people. 

Posted by steven on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 3:26 pm

The idea that parking a private car should be free while you have to pay to ride public transit seems pretty messed up.

Posted by Chris J. on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 10:28 am

traffic lanes that buses use, and there is no parking allowed in bus stops.

You park in what is left over after transit has taken everything it needs.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 10:45 am

Are people paying to ride the bus when they are not on it?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 12:08 pm

No, the point is that parking spots and public transit are both public resources. So why should parking be free while you have to pay for the other one?

If anything, we should be incentivizing the modes of transportation that are less damaging to the environment -- not the other way around. Remember that thing called global warming?

Posted by Chris J. on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 12:16 pm

Much of that tax money goes to public transit.

Why are drivers subsidizing public transit?

Again, do you pay for riding the bus when you are not on it?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 12:27 pm

It's just wrong to say your gas taxes are subsidizing public transit. Gas taxes don't even come close to paying for the public transporation infrastructure we all maintain for cars, let alone the public health and environmental costs of driving. 

Posted by steven on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 3:29 pm

its up there with his telling the difference between a policy statement and reality.

I'll leave the absolute factualness that the SFMTA does use drivers to finance transit. That is a fact no matter Steve's make believe.


There are hundreds of things that don't get directly financed by the people that use them. Only with cars do progressives make these associative arrangements.

Ask progressives to foot the bill for their good intentions and they ramble about how we are all in this together and that there are elected people who make these decisions. Unless the decisions are bad and everyone in the system is corrupt.

Do progressives pay the full cost of voting for people like Avalos and Campos? Of course they do not, every time I suggest that progressive pay higher taxes to back up their voting choices they get all worked up, just as when I suggest it to pro war right wingers I've met.

Does Steve even begin to pay for his share of re-striping the streets for bike lanes?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 7:39 pm

Also, Steven saying things like "Gas taxes don't even come close to paying for the public transporation infrastructure we all maintain for cars".

As opposed to the infrastructure that we maintain so that trucks can deliver the SFBG to newsstands? So that the SFBG staff have jobs?

As opposed to the infrastructure that we maintain so that food supplies are delivered to groceries?

Fire trucks? Ambulances? Police cars? School buses? Services for the elderly? Is that somehow a different infrastructure?

Don't think that the bicyclists are paying for it. They just use it.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 8:13 pm

we have all these amenities by living in the burning man culture.

We all sit around using up resources and then when they run out we eat each other I suppose?

You think I'm kidding, years ago Steve would post blogs about the genius of the Burning man culture, until he had a falling out with the leadership.

He would post his 15 year old like "communism would be OK if I ran it" rants here until he had a falling out with that whole scene. Steve really thinks good intentions will work as a world view model.

Factually the city takes from drivers(I don't own a car by the way) and hands it out to transit. That is OK, pubic transit is a vital part of what the city does. Where Steve loses his Faberge egg is when he wonders off into created dreamland of entitlement.

Gore Vidal once said that the morals shouter doesn't care about morals, they just want you to see their morals on parade. Steve just want you to see how righteous and moral he is.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 9:30 pm

So it is transit that isn't paying its way, and the rest of us are subsidizing it even though many of us do not use it.

So we subsidize you and not the other way about

Posted by Guest on Jul. 10, 2014 @ 2:12 am

people that agree with you.

One of the more comical justifications that the bike riders use is that they pay taxes, so they should get things directed towards them.

Irony eh?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 11:47 am

Not really. We all pay the same taxes that pay for the road, so logically we should all get some part of the road. Not irony in the least bit.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 12:38 pm

If you ride a bike, how much do you pay in gas taxes?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 9:13 pm

The biggest source of funding for roads in San Francisco is the sales tax increase authorized by Prop. K, so we all pay for the roads, even though motorists use more road space and cause most of the wear and tear on them. Federal gas taxes have been a declining source of transportation funding for many years, mostly going to the federal highway system. 

Posted by steven on Jul. 11, 2014 @ 11:13 am

1) Car owners probably pay more in sales taxes because they are typically wealthier, and because sales tax applies not just on new cars but even on private sales of used cars

2) Drivers pay extra taxes and fees for using a car whereas cyclists pay zero, and don't have to worry about licenses, insurance, registration etc

Posted by Guest on Jul. 11, 2014 @ 11:26 am

Oh, Gerard, you silly goose! You should be working hard to make junior partner at your firm and yet you're here posting senseless comments like this one all day long. You and your 500 alter egos need to have a chat, eh?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 12:44 pm

Hi, lilli!

Posted by Guest on Jul. 11, 2014 @ 11:47 am

Probal, does your legal secretary know you're on a lunch break? She may direct a client into your office while you're logged in to one of your 1.200 SFGate accounts and we wouldn't want that to happen now, would we? Your Avvo rating would drop like a rock!

Posted by Guest on Jul. 11, 2014 @ 12:06 pm

The person most obsessed with trolls is usually a troll himself

Posted by Guest on Jul. 11, 2014 @ 12:10 pm

Yeah, the poster has the sort of moronic persistence that one associates with Lilli.

Since he can't use troll barriers anymore, he's come up with this equally dumb way of trying to disrupt posts he doesn't approve of.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 11, 2014 @ 1:18 pm

Not bikes
Not cars
Not planes
Not Buses

Trains, linkages, system connections and adequate fixing of the existing lacking systems on the west side, and cross town.

F-Line extensions to the GG Bridge
T-Line connections up Geneva
M-Line connections to Daly City BART up front of development
L-Line extension up Sloat or along the sunset blvd. to daly city and john daly blvd.

Fix the transit systems by building what we need not central subway boondoggles, bike lanes all over the city that many cannot use and BRT's that go only short distances and not extending like down van-ness to the excelsior and daly city.

we need solutions, and bigger transit planning up front now.

Posted by goodmaab50 on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 3:10 pm

"we need solutions, and bigger transit planning up front now. "

The MTA has no vision, no goal as to what is needed to get us where they say they want to take us, just half-assed haphazard politically beneficial partial measures.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 20, 2014 @ 11:58 am

The voters are Californians, and they all drive

Posted by Guest on Jul. 20, 2014 @ 12:27 pm

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