What is SFST?
What is San Franciscans for Sensible Transit, Inc. (SFST)?
SFST is a non-profit, California public advocacy organization seeking common sense approaches to transit problems across the City and County of San Francisco. It supports a residential environment in the Richmond with access to shopping and opposes massive projects such as the costly and ineffective Geary Bus Rapid Transit project (GBRT).
Why Sue CTA / MTA?
Why did SFST sue the County Transportation Authority (CTA) and Metropolitan Transportation Agency (MTA)?
To stop the project! The City must not make travel more difficult for the elderly, children and disabled, spend $300 million and tear up 1.6 miles of the boulevard, and ruin small businesses and community access just to cut a few minutes time spent on buses!
The CTA and MTA concocted a two-phase plan. The first goes from Stanyan to Gough using incremental system improvements but painting red lanes for all-day-every-day bus only use. That will wipe out businesses from Stanyan to Masonic. The second phase from Stanyan to 28thAvenue on Geary will destroy the boulevard, take two center lanes for bus only traffic, cause severe slowing and diversion of trucks and cars to the quiet, parallel residential streets. During four years of construction many businesses will be forced to close, a result seen on other transit project streets such as Ocean Avenue.
What are the lawsuit claims?
· The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that an environmental impact report (EIR) reflect full and thoughtful consideration of alternatives to the GBRT. But the transit planners refused to examine carefully simple incremental improvementsto bus service on Geary. Instead they criticized bus performance even though it has improved over the last five years. They rejected making further incremental improvements could not be made. That was wrong!
· Many bus riders and commuters prefer using Uber and Lyft because it takes less time at little extra cost, but planners ignored the impacts of those services on bus ridership in the EIR. Planners did not analyze the reduction in the number of bus riders as driverless electric cars become the norm and costs drop. Planners assumed instead huge growth in ridership on buses as the justification for this overspending.
· CEQA requires that transit board members exercise their independent judgment to consider alternatives. Instead of taking time to meet that obligation, the board members (our Supervisors) hastily agreed to a public meeting on January 5, 2017 to rubberstamp the GBRT project selected by the planners. They wanted to exclude the new members coming on board only a few days later because some newly elected board members questioned the GBRT plan. In addition to an undemocratic decision, the TA board violated state law.
· The TA inappropriately assumed the role of lead agency for this project, using its control of funding of transit projects to force approval of the GBRT concept without adequate analysis or expertise. It caused delays, overspent, and created a public outreach filled with false and misleading statements to support its desire to have a big and expensive project when common sense called for modest, incremental improvements. Its bumbling resulted in the loss of critical federal funding. Ironically TA claims to not be a part of the unified San Francisco government. It had no business forcing the GBRT project and should have relied on the Planning Department as the lead agency.
· Throughout the public outreach process, orchestrated by the planners’ public relations staff, using public funds the transportation agencies have constantly made false and misleading statements. These include claims that 52,000 people ride the Geary buses when there are actually only 26,000 travelling east and then west. They assured riders they would save ten or more minutes in transit time when the great majority of riders will find a savings of only two or minutes or less. At public comment meetings planners suppressed questions and comments. When the planners listened to comments they ignored them. CEQA requires careful consideration, not a blank stare.
· Planners did not tell the truth about why the Federal Transit Agency drew back from supporting this project. They owe it to all of us to make full disclosure.
What has the lawsuit accomplished so far and what is next?
· The project has not advanced. No action has been taken since February 3, 2017, when the lawsuit was filed. The second phase of the project depends upon getting massive funding to replace that of the Federal Transit Agency. We have seen none.
· CEQA required the transit agencies to prepare an administrative record, which they provided on November 15, 2017. The database had over 306,000 pages allowing a look inside government. The examination by SFST volunteers required ten weeks. Many documents were discovered which support the SFST claims.
· The opening brief by SFST must be filed by May 11, 2018. The City must respond by June 15 and SFST will file its reply brief June 28. Oral argument will be on Thursday August 9.
Experienced attorneys from the well-known San Francisco office of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in San Francisco will brief and argue this case. SFST has many more claims than those reviewed above and is optimistic that it will prevail. This is a costly mission undertaken for the benefit of San Francisco and the Richmond District community, whose financial support has been and will remain essential to stopping this foolish expenditure and disruptive project. If this project is permitted to proceed the impacts on the Geary Corridor will be ugly. Your financial support will help prevent that. Please give generously. The volunteers will be grateful and San Francisco and the Richmond will be better for it.
We need your help. Click here to donate to SFST.