Transportation

San Francisco Seeks Public Feedback on the Future of City Subways

Connect SF is part of an effort to change the way the city plans for transportation.

by Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle / August 19, 2016
San Francisco Muni Train flickr/Shawn Clover

(TNS) — Everybody’s got an idea of how to improve transportation in San Francisco, and starting Thursday, they’ll get a chance to draw a picture of their vision for city planners, beginning with where they want to see future subways.

A San Francisco effort to change the way the city plans for transportation, dubbed Connect SF, rolls to a start with an invitation to the public to go to a website and draw on a map where future subway lines and stations should be situated.

Subway Vision is the result of legislation proposed by Supervisor Scott Wiener, and passed by the Board of Supervisors last fall, that calls for creation of a subway master plan, based on Wiener’s idea that the city should have a list of subway projects lined up so that as soon as one is completed, the next is ready to break ground.

The website will collect the subway wishes of riders until Sept. 2, at which time planners will compile and analyze the data, create a list of popular suggestions and their trade-offs, and present them to supervisors. Then they’ll be narrowed down and placed into priority order before the end of the year.

The idea, said Wiener, is for the city to keep pace with growth in both population and the demand for high-capacity subway service, something he said San Francisco has neglected since BART and the Muni Metro subway were opened in the early 1970s.

“We did two visionary things in the ’70s — opening BART and the Muni Metro subway,” Wiener said. “Fast forward 40 years and we have not opened up a single other underground rail branch. San Francisco has grown by 200,000 people and the Bay Area has grown by nearly 2 million people and we’re suffering consequences of letting our subway and rail construction to grind to a halt.”

Wiener said he would like to see subways to the west side of the city and to the Bayview, as well as a second Transbay tube for BART and commuter rail. But he wants to see what the public suggests. A subway beneath Geary Boulevard has long been a dream of many commuters and transit advocates, and in recent years, a push has started to extend the under-construction Central Subway to Fisherman’s Wharf and to put a portion of the M-Ocean View line under 19th Avenue.

“This is just one piece of the puzzle,” Wiener said. “We’ve been working for a few years now to get our transportation system on track to meet our city’s and our region’s future growth.”

The subway plan is just the start of Connect SF, a joint effort by the Municipal Transportation Agency, Planning Department, County Transportation Authority and the mayor’s office to coordinate transportation planning and take a long view — 50 years.

Past planning has taken into account land-use and transportation, said John Rahaim, city planning director, but hasn’t focused enough on a long-term vision with an eye to how transportation and growth affect each other.

After the subway vision effort, the agencies plan to revise a collection of city transportation plans that govern spending and projects as well as take a longer-term look at how and where the city should grow and how transportation can service or even control that growth.

“We’re trying to make sure that all these things we do are going to lead to the same thing, the same vision,” Rahaim said.

Ed Reiskin, the MTA’s transportation director, said the city hasn’t really done that historically, instead preparing lists of favored projects and seeking funding. But with the city growing, and the way people get around changing, it’s time for a different approach, he said.

“We don’t know what 2040 or 2065 will look like,” he said, “but we have to plan for how we’re going to grow and how we’re going to plan the transportation that meets our needs.”

©2016 the San Francisco Chronicle, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.