Tilly Chang, the SFCTA, and Congestion Pricing
People in the city are familiar with the Municipal Transportation Agency, otherwise known as "Muni." It's the burgeoning city bureaucracy of more than 5,000 employees[Later: As of 2015, the MTA had 6,263 employees] that mismanages our bus system and preys on everyone who has to drive in San Francisco.
Not many are familiar with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) that administers the sales tax money for transportation from Proposition K, but it's also an important player in City Hall's ongoing war on cars. (Finding out exactly how much money the SFCTA gets every year from Prop. K is not easy. Based on some obscure agency documents, I concluded that it raises $70-80 million a year. Earlier today I sent the SFCTA a request for that information, but have had no response yet.[Later: They provided it. See this post.)
The SFCTA pays for Bike to Work Day and a lot of "improvements" to city streets. On its homepage right now there's an announcement for Cycle Tracks: "CycleTracks uses a smartphone's GPS to record users' bicycle routes, times, and display maps of their rides. It was developed to help San Francisco transportation planners understand the trade-offs cyclists evaluate when choosing a route."
Like the folks at the MTA, the SFCTA sees dealing with our dysfunctional Muni system as secondary to making the streets of San Francisco more "comfortable" and convenient for cyclists. See the SFCTA's Bicycle Program Coordination page.
Tilly Chang has been pushing Congestion Pricing for the SFCTA for years, when she isn't trying to undermine the present sensible LOS method of measuring traffic jams in San Francisco. But it's all part of the same project: making it as difficult and expensive as possible to drive in San Francisco. Over the years, Chang's agenda has been written about mostly in the San Francisco Business Journal: here, here, here, and here.
Now comes the SF Examiner's Will Reisman, who has been embedded in the City Hall transportation bureaucracy for years. His story in today's examiner reads like a rewrite of a press release or, just as likely, an account of a phone conversation he had with Chang:
“It’s time to really plan proactively to avoid gridlock,” Chang said. “If the growth anticipated in the region happens, we’ll be facing massive delays and really unsafe conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists.” The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, has been working with the authority on the circulation study. Spokesman Paul Rose said the agency is interested in exploring some of the ideas put forth in the authority’s report.
The problem Chang and the anti-car folks in the MTA and the SFCTA have: public opinion polls show that the people of San Francisco are overwhelmingly opposed to paying a fee to drive downtown in their own city. The latest Chamber of Commerce poll showed 69% against and only 26% in favor of Congestion Pricing.
And, according to Proposition 26, the city will have to get a 2/3 vote of approval from city voters before they can shove Congestion Pricing down our throats, which doesn't mean they won't keep trying.