San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed is wondering publicly why The City’s transportation agency is spending the 2014 voter-approved $500 million transportation general obligation bond so slowly.
Breed is requesting a hearing with San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency officials to explain the delay in spending bond money, timelines of transit projects, and if transit officials had cut any projects because of the depreciation of the bond money. The hearing is co-sponsored with Supervisor Aaron Peskin.
At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Breed said that voters trusted the transit agency when they approved the Proposition A bond measure in Nov. 2014 with nearly 72 percent of voters approving the bond measure:
“Almost two and half years later, I am concerned that the MTA is misusing our trust.”
“With each passing day we are paying interest on bonds that we have sold, but are not using. With each passing day the value of this money goes down while cost of construction goes up.”
SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said the transit agency has so far spent $12 million of $500 million, which is about only 2 percent of the bond money.
A SFMTA document shows that the transit agency has already spent the majority of the $12 million on Muni Forward projects such as on the 5-Fulton, 10-Townsend, 14-Mission, 30-Stockton and L-Taraval.
The transit agency received approximately $66 million during the first issuance of the bonds back in June 2015. Of the $66 million, nearly $40 million remains, according to the document.
Public outreach and scheduling of projects has caused some of the delay in spending the money, said Rose:
“…Due to the demand for extensive public outreach and the need to schedule the projects in a coordinated manner, where all of the infrastructure work can be done at once, the process is slower than we anticipated.”
“We are doing everything we can to accelerate the spend rate, while continuing to work with the neighborhoods and partner agencies to get work done as fast as possible.”
Breed did mention the outreach process and how a few people can sometimes block a project:
“We can’t continue to let a handful of people block transportation improvements that benefit thousands of people. It’s not fair. It’s not democratic.”
She said while the outreach process is important, officials have to make a decision and accept that not everyone will like the decision:
“We can’t let our transportation system die of a thousand cuts or in this case, 500 million of them.”
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. He covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent over a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a native in the city and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Email tips to [email protected]
There are a number of critical infrastructure projects waiting to break ground, but we all know what is happening. SFMTA is ready to roll with twin peaks tunnel track replacement, M-line upgrades at 19th Ave, L-Taraval improvements, along with a host of other projects, but we’re bogged down in lawsuits and community meetings that drag on and on. Market St improvements are delayed, Geary BRT is delayed, and planning for Central Subway Phase III and 19th Ave Subway are moving like molasses.
I dont necessarily agree that we just want to speed up the spend rate, but we want to use this money wisely! So coordination must take place with other agencies, and we need to get those critical infrastructure upgrades done at the same time, but not paid for using SFMTA funds. The board of supervisors should push for accountability and get some momentum to get things done, but far too often they have caved to the interests of merchants or community groups that water down SFMTA projects and add to the delay. So today is a new day, and let’s see if we can get some of this work done and get MUNI rolling.
Why not use some of that unused $ to finally upgrade Muni’s 1970s era computers/central control system for Muni’s Automatic Train Control System in the subway? That’d at least put a nice amount of that $ to good, long overdue use. While they’re at it they could also use some of that $ to upgrade Muni’s computer system at the Curtis Green Light Rail Division which I understand(correct me if I’m wrong) also plays a crucial part for Muni’s LRVs.
There have been a number of upgrades to the train control system, most recently the reprogramming to allow for double stopping in the subway. I believe there have been other upgrades behind the scenes but as to whether that actually makes a difference in performance, I cant tell. I’m still waiting for the new VMS signs to go live and tracks to be replaced.
Now, by chance would the 19th ave upgrade to the M line include giving the M line signal priority so that it won’t have to wait for red lights when crossing Holloway and Winston, for example? Because that signal priority would go a long way in making the M run faster along that short 19th ave right of way.
I know about the coming re-addition of double-stopping in the subway again..But I meant besides that upgrade. Because from what I understand, the computers used in general to monitor which streetcars are in the subway, etc are still the originals from the 70s.
No, the 19th Ave M-line upgrades do not include signal priority.
The plan is to continue the subway from West Portal (where only L-Taraval trains would exit to the surface through St. Francis Circle (where the signals add a 3 minute delay, the K will exit the subway into the Junipero Serra median), underneath 19th Ave entirely, with the two surface platforms becoming subway stations. After SF State, there will be one last stop in Parkmerced.
The environmental process is supposed to start this year, and what they do in the short run (like signal priority) will depend on what they send off for study.
Here’s the SFMTA information page about it: https://www.sfmta.com/projects-planning/projects/muni-subway-expansion-project
The tunnel control system upgrade is in the final stretches, but it’s also a good example of why the SFMTA can’t spend $500 million overnight because there were a lot of prerequisites before the new control computer could be put in place.
To just pick one, a few years ago Metro shut down early for a while to install a new fiberoptic communications backbone for the new computer system to communicate with the equipment in the tunnel.
I think it was about a ten year process from the start of planning until now because it had to go step by step. (and that was a behind-the-scenes infrastructure project which didn’t need any community outreach or a multi-year environmental study)