Transit activists stand at 16th and Mission for a better transportation system. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez

Several dozen activists gathered in the rain at 16th and Mission Streets Monday evening to demand a more equitable, accessible and environmentally friendly transportation system in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

This was the first demonstration of a relatively new coalition of activists — composed of groups like South of Market Community Action Network, United to Save the Mission, Senior and Disability Action, the SF Taxi Workers Alliance and Mission Neighborhood Centers. 

Their demands: free Muni, generally better service, better accessibility for seniors and people with disabilities, no private shuttles in public bus lanes, higher pay for transit workers, and affordable housing near transit stations.

They waved signs that read: “Transit Justice For All — Make Muni affordable” and “Wherever you go, whatever you do, Uber may be watching.”

“Whose city? Our city!” they chanted as rain fell on the plaza.

Some excoriated the proliferation of dockless bike companies like Jump, and scooter startups like Scoot and Skip — all of which the city permits to operate in the city. “It seems like we went to bed and woke up with bikes and scooters at our doorstep everywhere,” said Carlos Bocanegra, an organizer with the activist group United to Save the Mission.

David Woo felt it was important to come out and demonstrate, despite the rain. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.
Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.
Peter Miller of the SF Taxi Workers Alliance speaks. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.

Mary Strope, one of the organizers behind Monday’s rally, said the idea for a a new coalition of organizers for transit equity had been brewing for several months. Their first meeting was Jan. 4 and, according to Strope, had a “good turnout.” The rally was the culmination of these meetings, Strope said, and a precursor to bigger events.

Strope said the idea was to bring out ideas on how democratize the streets and make sure people are all on equal footing. Often times, she said, residents feel like lab animals as tech companies try out new products in the city, like rental scooters.

“The way these things are rolled out are like any other tech experiment,” Strope said. “But I think people would like to see more publicly operated options.”

Strope said her group feels the public needs to be a lot more involved in the processes.

“I can see where they fill the gaps for Muni, but it needs to be more equitable,” Strope said.

The disruption of newcomer transportation companies to San Francisco have had dire effects on taxi services as well. Peter Miller, who spoke at the rally, said the addition of Uber and Lyft and other ride-hailing services had driven taxi cab drivers out of the city and created a wild frenzy of congestion and drivers in the city.

“Taxi drivers started getting pushed out of the city 10 to 15 years ago,” Miller said. “They used to be able to make a decent living, now what?”

“If the taxi cabs are doing what we need, why do we need Uber and Lyft? The only reason people are doing Uber and Lyft is because they can’t make enough at their primary job,” Miller said.

Preston Rhea was one of the attendees at the rally. A bicyclist, Rhea said some of his acquaintances have been injured by the thousands of private vehicles on the city’s roads. One friend, he said, was hit by a door and spent six months immobilized. He believes the roads are not currently equal for bicyclists and motorists, in part because some ride-hailing service drivers use the red lanes meant for taxis and buses across the city.

“The fact that laws are not enforced for Lyfts and Ubers when they go in the red lanes also just means it’s more their streets than it is our streets. We need streets that are going to be primarily equitable for those of us that are not protected by hunks of metal or on public transit,” Rhea said.

According to Strope, the coalition has another meeting scheduled for Friday.

Julian Mark

Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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12 Comments

  1. “He believes rideshare drivers should be held accountable whenever they break traffic rules…”

    Kind of atypical for a justice protester to be calling for law and order strict enforcement that will certainly entail greater surveillance and reduced privacy in public places.

    As for free muni, BART is trying to reduce the numbers of non-paying passengers in part as a way to exclude passengers who act in deplorable ways. as in many aspects of society economic hurdles often serve as barriers that defend the customs of civil society in lieu of intensive law enforcement.

  2. I’m all for doing the heavy lift needed to reconfigure the MTA into a community serving operation.

    But Having seen this playbook tried endlessly, I can guarantee that Yet Another Coalition of Nonprofits is not going to be the instrument that gets us there.

    Where is the participatory unowned democratic grassroots organizing?

    1. Hello, this is not just a coalition of nonprofits. It includes many residents and local activists, including members of DSA. Come check it out!

  3. Shortly before the Clipper card there was an investigative journalism piece that found it cost almost as much to collect and process proceeds from Muni fares as was collected in the first place.
    The implication being that fare collection was essentially a make work program for a large number of the city’s union workforce and in this regard fare collection was inviolable.
    If one tries to decipher if a similar situation exists today – not possible – at least from MUNI budgetary documents available on-line.

    This would be an interesting project for our intrepid Mr. Eskenazi.
    How much, and that means every single related cost, does the city expend from the point of initial fare collection to when the money gets deposited in the bank?
    Inclusive of the cost of slowing the whole system down while fares are collected on each MUNI vehicle during stops.

    Since we’re now running tandem cash and Clipper service plus the obvious incompetence of MUNI administration in general, one may speculate it’s still pretty close to the amount generated by actual fare collected.

    If one has experienced comparable transit systems in Europe, say Zurich which runs light rail in winter conditions on sloped streets, we pay way too much in fare for the level of service.

    However, none of this matters. Fare collection and processing are deeply ingrained union jobs with department heads no doubt willing to fight to the death to maintain their turf status quo. Additionally you now have the ingrained Clipper contractors and their city supporters/advocates.

    Free MUNI is not possible – it’s the fare payer’s responsibility to keep a large segment of the city workforce and their preferred contractors on track for their pensions.

    1. “Carlos Spinoza”,

      Very interesting comment!

      (BTW, you share the same surname with my favorite philosopher.)

  4. As usual, the socialist don’t say how SF will pay for their new program, Free Muni. Socialism doesn’t work.

    Government regulations led to the demise of the taxi industry. If you’re not downtown the service is terrible. Try to get a cab in the Outer Richmond. Long waits. Lyft arrives within 10 minutes. The companies should be pushing for deregulation rather than protectionism.

    1. In thirty years, I’ve never had a problem getting a cab by phone within twenty minutes WOPA. There aren’t many cabs downtown anymore because there aren’t many cabs anymore. If you want to know why, ask a cabbie. 100% of the time they’ll tell you it’s Uber and Lyft, not non existent, new, government regulation.

      1. You had much better luck than I. SF taxi service has been a mess for as long as I’ve been here (coincidentally, 30 years as well).

        There were never enough medallions, therefore never enough taxis, and a result, we waited a long time, or just gave up and walked. This was especially bad on weekend nights when lots of folks would just drive (drunk), knowing it would be impossible to get a cab. Also, fun, ordering a cab for a morning trip to the airport, and having them just not show up. Happened more than once.

        Given all this, the ride-sharing services have been a freakin’ godsend in my opinion.

  5. Mr. Rodriguez,

    You wrote:

    “Strope said the idea was to bring out ideas on how democratize the streets and make sure people were all equal footing. “

    This sentence is almost unintelligible, can you please make sure you or an editor can review your text before you publish?’

    On a non-editorial note, it seems that they protestors have found a way to deal with the fair evasion problem… making it free for all. Interesting, if somewhat unfair to those who don’t use the service.

    Thanks.

    1. Hi there — 

      Thanks for reading. We sent out Abe in the rain and had him write this up on deadline. Clearly I missed that line. Thanks for pointing it out. In the future, feel free to not cop an attitude.

      Best,

      JE

  6. Add Cable Cars to the list. It has become a cash cow for Muni. This is our city- Our Muni- Not a money grab- $7.00 per single trip is price gouging! Muni raised the price then cut service then asked the city to pay for maintenance. We just barely paid off the bonds for past 25 years back to bring Cable Cars into the 20th Century- Were told then that Cable Cars would be good for another Hundred years. How many times do we have to pay for the same cable car trip?

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