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Muni Citizens’ Advisory Council Reviews Super Bowl 50, Vision Zero and Budget

Will Carruthers/Ingleside-Excelsior Light

Super Bowl 50, the plan to reduce pedestrian fatalities and the budget were reviewed at the March meeting of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Citizens’ Advisory Council.

Super Bowl Impact

Candace Sue, director of communications at Muni, gave a positive review of Muni service during the nine days of Super Bowl events at the beginning of February.

“Our goals were to get people to the event and back safely and to make sure everyone else who was in San Francisco who were going about their daily business could get around the city safely,” Sue said. “We believe we met those goals.”

Although Muni plans for about 1,400 special events throughout the year, the Super Bowl was “by far the largest event that SFMTA has ever handled because of its three-week duration”—including set up and tear down—“and the number of people who came,” according to Sue.

Muni coordinated with regional transit agencies and law enforcement departments while planning the transit and emergency management procedures for the event and encouraged public transit options with a combination of media outreach, hundreds of additional street signs and staff educators.

Sue reported that coordination with SFMTA Parking Control Officers was successful, but that there were miscommunications with the San Francisco Police Department on traffic issues due to heightened security restrictions.

Subway ridership was 50 percent higher on the weekends when Super Bowl City was open. There were half million riders on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, according to Sue.

In response to concern about escalator accessibility during a Super Bowl briefing at the CAC’s January meeting, Muni and BART assigned on-call technicians in case of an outage. Although the elevators did go down at some points, there weren’t any lasting issues, according to Sue.

One weakness identified was that some of the over 5,000 Super Bowl ambassadors didn’t know their way around the transit system, leading to bad directions for visiting fans.

The council spent much of the hour-long discussion questioning Sue about the cost of the Super Bowl. The SFMTA is still calculating its expenses, according to Sue.

The council was curious how Muni would account for paid hours spent by Muni employees doing Super Bowl related tasks such as educating the public about Super Bowl-related transit changes outside of stations in the weeks before the event.

Stephen Cornell put forward a successful motion suggesting that the city reimburse Muni for the costs incurred by Super Bowl costs from the Hotel Tax revenues.

Since the SFMTA receives funding for event planning as a whole, the Super Bowl “does not appear as a line item” in the budget, according to Sue.

Dan Weaver, the council’s chair, introduced a successful motion for Frank Zepeda, who was absent, thanking the SFMTA for their work planning and managing the Super Bowl.

Two Years of Vision Zero

Mari Hunter, a senior transportation planner, gave a rundown on the city’s Vision Zero program, with the goal of reducing traffic deaths to zero.

Vision Zero includes enhanced education, engineering and enforcement techniques meant to decrease traffic fatalities to zero by the year 2024.

In just over two years of existence, since Feb. 4, 2014, the program exceeded its goal of completing 24 projects in 24 months, according to Hunter. In February 2016, 30 projects had been completed.

“It’s been wonderful to see how just this project alone has allowed us to priories improvements along these corridors,” Hunter said.

Despite the program’s success in completing traffic safety projects ahead of schedule, members of the council were quizzical about the direct results.

Traffic fatalities stayed flat at 31 in 2014 and 2015. The new year is already expected to be a bad year for traffic fatalities because of a car chase resulting in three fatalities in late January, according to Hunter.

“So you’ve met all the goals of number of projects completed and there’s not one practical change has happened?” Steve Cornell said. “That nothing has changed is bothersome to me.”

It is too soon to look at the numbers since two years of data is not statistically significant, according to Hunter.

“We’ve seen that we really can’t engineer or enforce our way out of this problem. It’s really a multi-pronged approach—but that behavior change will take more time,” Hunter said.

As a result of their experiences so far Muni is making changes, such as educating drivers on recently completed projects.

The council suggested breaking out the numbers to remove some of the accidents that could be considered unavoidable.

“I think you need to parse the data to say, ‘OK, this is criminal activity, and this is the responsibility of the person [who was hit],’” said resident Edward Mason during public comment. “They had incidents reported that some guy at midnight runs out on Van Ness Avenue in front of City Hall and gets hit.”

Weaver suggested that Vision Zero should include data about fatalities in its quarterly reports.

The Vision Zero Task Force is meeting on Tuesday, March 29 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. in City Hall, Room 201.

The Vision Zero Committee’s next quarterly meeting is Thursday, March 31 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. in City Hall, Room 263.

Budget

Sonali Bose, director of finance and information technology, gave a brief presentation about the changes made to the agency’s budget since February. It goes before the SFMTA Board of Directors at a March 15 meeting.

“I think the next [Board of Directors] meeting will give us significant guidance on what their priorities are and how we can balance the [2015-16] budget,” Bose said.

The council has a special meeting on Thursday, March 24, at 5:30 p.m. on seventh floor of the SFMTA headquarters to discuss the budget proposal. Weaver estimated that the council will put forward 10 to 12 motions at the meeting.

Subcommittee Report

The council passed three motions put forward by its Operations and Customer Service Committee.

The first motion called for generating a set of questions for a customer satisfaction survey respondents who say that they do not use Muni.

The second motion encouraged the SFMTA Board of Directors and other policymakers to better scrutinize large and lengthy private events like Super Bowl 50 and suggested a mandatory environmental review for events that require street closures longer than 72 hours.

The third motion recommended that Muni alter the complex program it uses to decide which new capital projects to build next. The council requested Muni to increase the weight given to total passenger travel time over other variables.

“The idea is that, if you put more weight on [total travel time], it will move up projects that reduce travel time in the priority queue,” council vice-chair Dan Murphy said.

Meeting Recap

  • Muni presented its successes and failures during Super Bowl 50. The council passed a motion thanking Muni for its efforts and requesting Muni be reimbursed for its expenses from the Hotel Tax revenues.
  • The council learned that, despite Vision Zero’s success completing pedestrian safety projects ahead of schedule, traffic fatalities have not decreased in the two years since the program began.
  • Muni gave a presentation about the budget in advance of it being presented to the SFMTA Board of Directors and other meetings.
  • The council passed three motions brought by the Operations and Customer Service Committee.

Correction: An early version of this article stated that the budget would go before the Board of Supervisors on March 15 instead of the SFMTA Board of Directors.

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