Business, City Hall must work together for transit success 

click to enlarge Investing in transit can boost the economy by creating jobs in addition to helping The City get around better. - MIKE KOOZMIN/S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • mike koozmin/s.f. examiner file photo
  • Investing in transit can boost the economy by creating jobs in addition to helping The City get around better.

San Francisco's economy has added more than 70,000 jobs since 2010, spurred by diverse industries across multiple sectors. The draw of our vibrant neighborhoods has also brought The City's residential population to new peaks. To get to and from their daily activities, San Franciscans are walking, biking, driving and using public transit in record numbers.

As our economy rebounds, The City's transportation infrastructure has been able to accommodate this surge, but we are quickly nearing the limits of what our system can handle with busses packed to capacity, chronic freeway delays, and increasingly congested city streets posing dangers for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike.

We must act now -- with the business community and local government working in tandem on creative solutions -- to make robust investments in our transportation infrastructure while also managing demand in smart new ways that connect travelers with what they expect from a world-class city. Infrastructure investment also means jobs -- studies estimate that for each $1 billion invested, 13,000 direct and indirect jobs are created or sustained.

San Francisco grew thoughtfully and invested effectively in the past, and we can do it again. The 1984 Downtown Plan placed downtown businesses and jobs in close proximity to Muni and BART transit lines. Parking was carefully managed and employer-based associations helped commuters access transit passes and carpool options.

Thirty years later, we must support The City as it reprises this comprehensive approach and winning formula. This time, the focus is on both housing and jobs and on The City's new growth areas, keeping in mind the greener travel patterns and preferences of young and old alike.

San Francisco seeks to place housing, shops and jobs in close proximity to transit and to one another, thereby creating more walking trips and less need for parking.

In addition, through the Vision Zero effort, The City is enhancing our streets with safety and efficiency measures. Examples of this include modernizing signal systems and adding bus-only and protected bicycle lanes on high-trafficked streets like Market Street, Third Street and Potrero Avenue.

Next, transit planners want to boost capacity and reliability for BART and Muni through better train control, expanded fleets and new routes. We must support the next generation of rail investment for these two great systems as well as for Caltrain and California high-speed rail, which will have a shared home in San Francisco's new Transbay Transit Center.

Finally, we need to get the most out of our existing infrastructure to move our employees, residents and visitors with efficient carpool facilities on our freeways and mobile applications that help travelers share rides and incentivize efficient travel choices.

Transit operators and planners cannot move these projects ahead alone. They need the voice and backing from the broader community. We are at a critical juncture. Offering our support and voice for a sustainable vision will ensure that San Francisco remains an accessible world-class city for generations to come.

Bob Linscheid is president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. Tilly Chang is executive director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.

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