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Prop. A loss to have ‘cascading impact’ on transit projects

Proposition A would have helped fund improvements to Muni’s ancient bus yards and a host of street safety initiatives, but voters didn’t bite. Now, blame for the defeat is being tossed around and The City’s transit agency is forced to evaluate what the loss means for planned projects.

Erica Kato, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency chief spokesperson, told SFBay that the agency will assess over coming weeks how transit and street safety projects will be affected without the $400 million bond measure funding.

While Kato did not provide specific details, she said the loss at the polls will have a “cascading impact” on city transportation projects, adding:

“We do know that it’s going to be more difficult for San Francisco to access federal and state infrastructure dollars due to lack of local matching funds.”

The agency had prepared a bond report that detailed projects the measure would have supported, including $250 million to modernize aging bus yards: making them larger to support a growing bus fleet, adding state-of-the-art equipment and upgrading infrastructure to support electric bus charging.

Another $26 million was allocated for capital projects to improve Muni buses times by upgrading traffic signals, adding dedicated bus lanes and installing wider sidewalks so passengers can be picked up more efficiently.

The SFMTA is also looking to upgrade its outdated subway automated train control system, which is over 20 years old. Of the $400 million, $10 million would have to gone to modernizing the train control system and expanding it to street-level trains.

It was estimated the project would run around $300 million for the initial upgrades and more than $100 million to maintain the new system for the first 10 years. The bond report indicated Prop. A passage would have provided The City with leverage to access additional  federal dollars needed to support the project.

The agency will also loses planned funding for street safety improvements. Another $114 million was earmarked to upgrade traffic signals, signage and crossings at intersections to increase safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Additionally, funds would have been applied to traffic calming measures.

Moving forward, Kato said:

“…We want to continue to have active conversations and engagement with communities, like those on the west side, to ensure that we fully understand their transportation needs. And we want to deepen trust with San Franciscans to build a robust transportation network that equitably connects everyone to where they need to go, regardless of their income or neighborhood.”

Zack Deutsch-Gross, policy and community investment director San Francisco Transit Riders, issued a statement saying the organization is disappointed the measure was not supported by the two-thirds of voters needed to pass, adding:

“The failure to pass Proposition A will continue the decades of disinvestment in public transit that has resulted in the inadequate service we have today, particularly in equity priority communities.”

In the upcoming general election in November, voters will likely be asked to renew the half-cent transportation sales tax for another 20 years, which is administered by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority board. Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who chairs the board, has already begun the legislative process to place it before voters.

If the tax measure makes it to the November ballot, it will also require two-thirds for approval.

The half-cent sales tax generated approximately $100 million annually before the pandemic and has funded major capital projects, agency studies, street safety improvements, paratransit service and BART station upgrades.

On behalf of the transportation authority, EMC Research conducted a survey of likely voters in November and presented concerning findings to the board in May. Of the 1,329 likely voters surveyed on the sales tax continuation, 66 percent supported the measure, which would barely meet the requirement to pass. However, when interviewees were presented with an opposition statement on the tax, approval dropped to just 60 percent.

Transit advocates said they will now focus their attention on ensuring the half-cent transportation tax is approved.

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