First off, I want to thank The San Francisco Examiner for its continued coverage of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and our city’s transportation network.
We agree that all public funds should be protected through a transparent process. However, any characterization of the efforts to obtain 112 new buses for 700,000 Muni riders and the formalization of a much-needed shuttle policy as a “handshake agreement” simply is not true. In both cases, we put the people of San Francisco first.
Based on consistent feedback from Muni riders, everyone loves the new hybrid diesel buses because they look better, they’re greener, they perform better and they provide an overall better ride. In purchasing these buses, we obtained approval from both the SFMTA board and the Board of Supervisors.
We neither signed an agreement nor accepted a single bus prior to approval. All procurement information was shared at various public board meetings and in legislative and financial reports prior to approval.
New Flyer, the bus manufacturer, avoided laying off employees over the holidays by filling a hole in their production schedule and offering vehicles to the SFMTA at a cheaper cost to taxpayers and faster than our current plans. New Flyer clearly understood that we would follow the public process and that is exactly what we did.
The 35,000 daily trips provided by employee shuttles pull thousands of cars off city streets and is in line with our transit-first policy. While beneficial, these shuttles are a relatively new phenomenon and our policies are now catching up.
There has not been any agreement with shuttle providers prior to the upcoming pilot that is set to start July 1. As the shuttle sector has grown, conflicts have become more apparent and difficult to address on a case-by-case basis.
Resolving problems on an ad hoc basis isn’t sustainable and doesn’t create a clear landscape for enforcement or operations. It is confusing to all. This is precisely why we need this policy and why we are currently asking for public feedback prior to implementation.
The vast majority of SFMTA employees serve this city each day with integrity and excellence. We will continue to serve the people of San Francisco as efficiently as possible within the appropriate policies and procedures.
Edward D. Reiskin is the director of transportation for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which is responsible for all modes of ground transportation in The City.