We all know that traffic in San Francisco is some of the worst in the entire country — and we are overdue for action to address it. A recent study by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority found that Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Lyft and Uber have contributed two-thirds of the overall increase in traffic congestion over the last six years. The numbers are staggering, and whether you experience the impacts as a pedestrian, a cyclist, a transit rider, or even a TNC user, there’s no escaping the omnipresent impacts of Ubers and Lyfts on our city streets.
Last year, I went to Yick Wo Elementary School at the behest of some parents to inspect an intersection close to the tour bus attractions of Lombard’s crooked street. We counted as Ubers and Lyfts alike zipped through stop signs to drop off tourists. Even with a crossing guard nearby, the sheer volume was hard to manage. My colleagues and I also regularly receive videos from residents of TNCs double-parked in bike and bus lanes. There is no denying the impacts, but we can work together to address them.
State law preempts any local efforts to cap the number of TNCs on our city streets, and we have seen a flood of TNCs from as far away as the Oregon border who know San Francisco is one of the most lucrative markets in the country to drive. To mitigate the costly impacts of these vehicles to our roads and public transit system, a per-ride fee was one recommendation that the S.F. Transportation Task Force 2045 published in 2017. (You can read the report at sftransportation2045.com.) Since then, the mayor and I have been working to craft a ballot measure that would allow us to levy that tax on the TNC companies — and in a first-ever approach, we have enlisted the companies’ input in crafting the measure.
Last month we introduced the TNC Congestion Management Tax for consideration on the November 2019 ballot. The measure would place different surcharges on solo rides and shared rides, as well as offer incentives for Zero Emission Vehicles. The measure is expected to raise more than $30 million annually to be split between Muni operations and Vision Zero safety improvements, like pedestrian and bike infrastructure — because we know the best way to get cars off the street is to give residents affordable, safe, and reliable alternatives to cars. The measure has the support of the Board of Supervisors and the mayor, as well as transit and environmental advocates. If it passes in November, San Francisco would become the first city in California to effectively implement this congestion mitigation revenue measure, and other cities are closely watching our efforts.
We all need to do our part to invest back into transportation infrastructure that supports our growing city while combating the biggest drivers of congestion — and even the TNC companies themselves recognize their role in addressing these issues. I look forward to coming to talk to folks in the neighborhood more about this in the lead-up to the November election.
DISPLACEMENT IS NO LAUGHING MATTER: #SAVETHEPUNCHLINE
Last month, I was approached by the comedy community at The Punch Line S.F. about their impending displacement from their home of more than 40 years. With its storied history, intimate setting and rotating roster of world-class comics, The Punch Line has been a critical pit stop for almost every aspiring comic looking to hone their craft on the national circuit. When they told me their lease was being terminated in August with no chance of renewal, I knew we couldn’t let this beloved institution go the way of the Purple Onion, Brainwash Cafe, and Doc’s Lab, who all fell victim to San Francisco’s attrition of local comedy clubs.
If there’s one thing comics know, displacement is no laughing matter, and I was joined by legendary, award-winning comic Dave Chappelle, Emmy-award winning comic W. Kamau Bell, activist comics Nato Green and Chris Riggins, and former Assemblyman (and comic) Tom Ammiano at a rally to save The Punch Line last month. I have nominated The Punch Line for an expedited Legacy Business status, which comes with benefits to both employees and the property owner. And on June 3, the Land Use and Transportation Committee will hear my Punch Line Preservation Act, which imposes immediate zoning controls for anything that is not a Nighttime Entertainment Club and Legacy Business use at One Maritime Plaza. The legislation will be voted on at the full Board on June 4, where every member of the Board has signed on as a co-sponsor.
The property owner, Morgan Stanley, declined to renew the lease in anticipation of a bigger tech giant taking over the entirety of One Maritime Plaza. Google has leased 190,000 square feet at One Maritime Plaza, and I have been in direct discussions with them around the future of The Punch Line site, and am cautiously optimistic that we will see a reasonable lease renewal for this beloved institution before August. They have gone on the record saying they don’t want to displace The Punch Line community, and together I’m hopeful we can keep this venue alive and cracking for years to come.
(With everything happening in the world right now, we could all use a haven for laughter, you know?)