Sean Nozzari, deputy director of traffic operations for the California Department of Transportation in the Bay Area told “Civic” that when the spring 2020 lockdown began, “the amount of travel initially dropped maybe 80%. But it started building up, and around December of 2020 it started going up steadily to a point that the amount of travel that takes place on our freeways is pretty much about what we had before.”
Public transportation has been transformed by the coronavirus pandemic. San Francisco’s Muni light rail system has been shut for months, and buses are running on core service lines only. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Director Jeffrey Tumlin and Director of Transit Julie Kirschbaum joined “Civic” to explain how Muni has adapted to the pandemic and some of the changes ahead.
On BART, ridership was about 13% of pre-pandemic levels in October. Since around 65% of the system’s revenue comes from fares, the drop in ridership was a major blow to operating plans, said Janice Li, who represents BART District 8 on its board of directors. The board has since passed a cost-cutting plan that covers its expenses for the first three quarters of fiscal year 2021, but the agency still faces a $33 million deficit for the fourth quarter of the fiscal year and a projected $177 million shortfall in the next fiscal year.
Bay Area political leaders are throwing cold water on a controversial work-from-home rule proposed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission as part of a regional climate change plan. The proposed mandate, part of a long-term sustainability initiative called Plan Bay Area 2050, would require the majority of office workplaces to ensure 60% of their employees are working from home on any given day.
Adina Levin, executive director of the nonprofit Friends of Caltrain and cofounder and advocacy director of the nonprofit Seamless Bay Area, explains how Measure RR got on the ballot and what it would enable Caltrain to do. Eric Garris, a San Francisco resident who submitted the official opposition to the measure, lays out his argument against the tax.
On Aug. 20, a state appeals court gave Uber and Lyft more time to argue their case that they shouldn’t have to abide by a California law that requires them to classify their drivers as employees, who would be entitled to unemployment, sick leave and other benefits mandated in California.
Uber and Lyft were expected to shut down service at 11:59 p.m. tonight as a court ruling forcing them to reclassify drivers as employees was set to go into effect. With just hours to spare, an appeals court judge granted the companies a reprieve. “Civic” spoke with two drivers who want employee protections.
Drivers for Uber and Lyft staged a car caravan and rally outside Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s home last week to protest their classification as contractors despite a California law, AB5, which the state says defines such drivers as employees. “It’s personal for me, it’s personal for all these drivers, because our lives are directly affected by it,” said driver Edan Alva. “My ability to pay for my son’s health insurance, my ability to put food on the table, all these drivers’ ability to exist in a balanced way, in a dignified way, where they live, is dependent on labor protections.”
Cherri Murphy. Laura Wenus / Public Press
The drivers, affiliated with groups including Gig Workers Rising and We Drive Progress, were also there to call on Uber to withdraw support for a ballot measure backed by Uber, Lyft and DoorDash that would exempt drivers for these services from AB5’s requirements. The measure, which will be on the November 2020 ballot, would also require that drivers be paid more than minimum wage and would require health care coverage for drivers who work at least 15 hours per week.
Muni is running only a core system of buses with no rail lines in service. But around 100,000 people still ride every day. Cat Carter, interim executive director of the San Francisco Transit Riders, hasn’t been on Muni in months, but she and others in the organization have kept busy.
San Francisco is closing several streets as part of an extension of the stay-home order in a move that addresses some criticism of a street-closure plan announced last week. The action applies to streets in Golden Gate and McLaren Parks. Last week, a Tenderloin street was also closed to through traffic.
Some city officials are dissatisfied with new transit rules that are intended to help pedestrians follow social-distancing guidelines by stepping into streets when necessary. Through its new Slow Streets Program, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will begin closing some streets to through traffic, freeing up space so that maintaining six feet of separation is easier.