We must hold the City to its Vision Zero promises
This morning, I took a stack of letters and my frustration to the SFMTA Board of Directors meeting with a message for the leaders of the City’s transportation department: Vision Zero must be put back into focus immediately.
The SFMTA Board is having a daylong retreat today. Yet Vision Zero is not on the agenda.
In 2022, 37 people were killed in crashes – the most since 2014, when the City committed to Vision Zero, a comprehensive, data-based approach to end severe and fatal crashes. And 2023 is off to a heartbreaking start. There were three pedestrian deaths in January. Three lives cut needlessly short, with untold loved ones left suffering.
At the same time, we are seeing that SFMTA has fallen behind in one of the most important commitments it made as part of the 2021 Vision Zero Action Strategy: completing 20 miles of ‘Vision Zero Quick Build’ safety projects on the most dangerous streets each year.
And we continue to await a comprehensive speed plan from SFMTA to address the #1 cause of severe and fatal crashes on our streets.
The letter I delivered today, which you can read below, is signed by not just Walk SF. It’s signed by community groups from across the city that are part of the Vision Zero Coalition, plus San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets.
The letter details what we believe is most needed to get Vision Zero back in focus. With your help, we will push relentlessly in the coming days and weeks to ensure these happen.
TO: SFMTA Board Chair Eaken and Vice Chair Borden; SFMTA Directors Cajina, Heminger, Hinze, and Yekutiel; and SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin
RE: New Focus Urgently Needed on Vision Zero
Dear Chair Eaken, SFMTA Board of Directors and Director Tumlin:
At your Annual SFMTA Board Workshop on February 7, an item is glaringly missing from your agenda: Vision Zero.
While we understand that budget concerns are paramount for the SFMTA right now, there is a crisis on our streets that demands your attention on Tuesday and at all future SFMTA Board meetings.
Our streets are deadly. 37 people were killed in crashes in 2022 – the highest number since the City adopted Vision Zero in 2014. Hundreds of people were severely injured in crashes last year. Three pedestrians were hit and killed already in the first month of 2023.
Our voices include parents who have lost children in crashes, crash survivors, neighborhood groups and community organizations desperate for safer streets, and healthcare workers who see the brutal aftermath of crashes in emergency rooms every day.
We are together asking you to please hear our voices and sharpen your focus on Vision Zero to prevent more needless tragedies from traffic crashes. We are looking to your leadership now to:
- Move forward meaningful action to bring down dangerous speeds. Speed continues to be the #1 cause of severe and fatal crashes in San Francisco. Speed is the greatest threat and opportunity when it comes to Vision Zero progress. We eagerly await the City’s comprehensive speed plan, which was supposed to be released last year. Walk San Francisco’s report, Making San Francisco a ‘Safe Speeds City’, offers a road map for progress.
- Ensure the entire high-injury network receives safety improvements by 2024. While the City has made significant progress, about 50 miles of designated high-injury streets have yet to get any kind of safety improvements. The City made a strong commitment in its Vision Zero Action Strategy to bring improvements to the entire network by 2024. But in 2021 and 2022, the SFMTA fell far short of its commitment with the number of ‘Vision Zero Quick Build’ projects completed. The SFMTA must find a way to get back on track to reach this crucial goal.
- Identify and solve the holdups to faster implementation of safety projects. Key projects continue to stall or fall far behind and it’s unclear why. Beyond the speed plan and Quick Build delays, the red light cameras promised at 8 intersections in 2020 won’t be installed until 2024. Left turn calming is supposed to go from the seven intersections it was piloted at in 2020 to 35 intersections by 2024, but the current pace is concerning. A no-turn-on-red policy for the high-injury network is stalled. As the City looks at its budget and staffing needs now, solving safety project delays must be at the heart of the conversation. We acknowledge that other agencies also play a role in delays, but look to SFMTA as the lead Vision Zero agency to find an expedient path forward.
This is no time for defeatism when it comes to Vision Zero. The most successful Vision Zero cities have proven Vision Zero is the right approach. Vision Zero absolutely works when solutions are layered and at the scale needed to move the needle with crashes.
San Francisco was an early adopter of Vision Zero in the United States in 2014 – and has since made huge strides in its approach to traffic safety, bringing meaningful changes to many streets. But the pace and focus must be commensurate with the threat, which is all too real. The stakes could not be higher and there could not be more urgency. San Francisco can and must be bold.
Lastly, as you face difficult conversations on February 7, we are concerned that funds designated for street safety projects could be siphoned to save public transportation. Proposition L, passed by voters in November, approves an expenditure plan with $200 million for safe streets projects. These funds should be expedited for use immediately and solely for these projects. San Francisco’s transportation system – more than anything – must put safety first. While robust Muni service is of course part of the full Vision Zero picture, we ask you to keep safety top of mind on Tuesday and moving forward.
We are grateful for your public service. We offer our support in any way needed.
San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets, Walk San Francisco and the undersigned members and allied organizations of the Vision Zero Coalition:
Central City SRO Collaborative
Barbara Tassa, Bayview Hill Neighborhood Association
Hayes Valley Neighborhood Assoc: Transportation & Planning Committee
Housing Action Coalition
LightHouse for the Blind
North Beach Neighbors
Pomeroy Recreation and Rehabilitation Center, Inc.
Portola Neighborhood Association
Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association
San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
Second District of the California State PTA
South Beach | Rincon | Mission Bay Neighborhood Association
St Francis Square Co-op
Tenderloin Community Benefit District
Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation
Tenderloin Housing Clinic
The East Cut Community Benefit District
Honorable Mayor London Breed City of San Francisco
SF Board of Supervisors