Starting on Monday and spanning the next three weeks, members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Mayor Ed Lee have accepted a challenge to ride public transportation daily in order to better understand the frustrations and joys that residents experience on San Francisco Municipal Railway on a daily basis.
The challenge, spearheaded by the advocacy group San Francisco Transit Riders, will continue until June 22 and aims to help city officials gain familiarity with public transit and inspire them to improve the experience.
Supervisor Scott Weiner stood with fellow members of the board and with public transit enthusiasts outside San Francisco City Hall this afternoon and said his first day of public transit, although he is a regular daily rider already, was a success because it got him thinking about possible solutions. Weiner said public transit impacts the city’s economy and residents’ quality of life. He said that the challenge brings public transit much needed attention.
“We are moving in a positive direction,” Weiner said today.
Transit supporters also gathered on the steps of City Hall and held signs with slogans championing Muni, such as: “Save the world, Ride a bus.”
Many of the supervisors, such as Eric Mar and John Avalos, vowed to take the challenge seriously and said they will stick to the challenge despite the difficulties it sometimes presents. “Everyday I will ride Muni without fail,” Avalos said today.
Even the mayor took to Twitter today, the first day of the challenge, with a photograph documenting his ride on Muni prior to unveiling his two-year proposed budget for all city departments. The mayor tweeted, “On our way to City Hall!” shortly before 8:30 a.m. today.
Nicole Ferrara, the executive director of the pedestrian advocacy group, Walk San Francisco, encouraged city officials as they went on their journeys across the city to consider solutions to safety issues they see and to make policies that address the inadequacies they detect, saying these trips “can help shape future policies” that can improve or even save lives.
According to the San Francisco Transit Riders, the 22-day challenge represents the 22 years that have gone by since San Francisco voters passed Proposition AA in 1993, which required that “city officials and full-time employees 1/8shall 3/8 travel to and from work on public transit at least twice a week.”
While many city officials do not abide by that 1993 proposition, the challenge is a reminder to city officials that the public wants public transit to remain a priority, especially as the city population grows.
The San Francisco Transit Riders maintain that when city officials regularly ride public transit they can better prioritize funding to create “a more reliable, robust, and visionary transit system to support it.”
The transit challenge requires that the city officials tweet while riding, walking to or from, or waiting for transit on each of those 22 days. They can include an optional photo and will be using the hashtag #OnBoardSF.
Officials who skip a day are being asked to tweet their reason for not taking public transit with the same hashtag, according to the San Francisco Transit Riders.
The ranking of the participating city officials can be viewed via an interactive leaderboard at: sftransitriders.org/munichallenge.
As of Monday evening at 5 p.m., San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos was in the lead with four Muni rides in the first day of the challenge.