Monday, September 16, 2013

Inventing a phony conflict between the MTA and the SFCTA

Tilly Chang andTim Papandreou

The San Francisco Transportation Authority's (SFCTA) Tilly Chang has been appointed the new head of that agency. Even though there's no significant conflict in City Hall on the city's anti-car, pro-bike transportation policies---and underfunding Muni, the only real alternative to driving for most people in SF---the SF Chronicle and Streetsblog are trying to invent one. No conflict, no story.

The Chronicle:

But will the new chief continue the status quo of butting heads over transportation planning with the Municipal Transportation Agency? Or will the two agencies hold hands, sing you-know-what and work together to improve the city's transportation system? And does the vote signal a major split among supervisors on transportation? The authority, which oversees spending of transportation sales tax revenues and does some planning and project delivery, is the supervisors' only chance to directly influence transportation policy. The MTA board is appointed solely by the mayor and doesn't have to answer to the supervisors.

Streetsblog tried to manufacture an issue (here and here), but it could only get help from the usual unreliable anti-car sources like Tom Radulovich, Thea Selby, and Leah Shahum. What the pseudo-conflict apparently boils down to: The SFCTA didn't provide enough money for some of their favorite traffic "calming" projects:

He[Radulovich] pointed out, for example, that when re-paving streets, DPW often doesn’t implement pedestrian safety improvements that are called for in the city’s street design standards, meaning money doled out by the SFCTA for street rehabs goes wasted. “They’re rebuilding dangerous, ugly, deadly traffic sewer streets as traffic sewers,” said Radulovich...

For the uninitiated, "traffic sewers" are busy city streets that carry a lot of motor vehicles, known as "Death Monsters" to the bike people.[Later: enter "traffic sewer" in the Bicycle Coalition's website for some examples.

Putting the two agencies in perspective: The MTA has an annual budget of more than $800 million, while the SFCTA brings in a mere $88 million a year in sales taxes for transportation projects.

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