Ford believes that through the TEP and adding additional staff, the on-time performance will not only rise, but “kick us into that 85th percentile.”
With the recent study released on congestion the topic has become an even bigger issue. San Francisco is no exception, but Ford says it is an interesting case.
“I think all cities to me have congestion issues, [but] the uniqueness of this city is the topography and density of it,” Ford says.
“We’re on a peninsula and also this is the core or the financial core of the region. So we’re drawing in … you can take the [MTA] operation, we have AC Transit buses coming over the Bay Bridge. We have Golden Gate buses coming over the Golden Gate Bridge. There’s SamTrans, Caltrain, you name it. This city is touched and fed well by mass transit.
“So our congestion issues are not just automobiles. Our congestion issues are pedestrians and bicyclists because we’re promoting all the other modes, too.
“It’s hard for me to say comparing one city to another. We definitely have our challenges here. We have very narrow streets here as opposed to some other cities.”
San Francisco also has its share of bus-only lanes, which provided MTA with an interesting use of a proven technology — front-mounted bus cameras.
“It’s not just transit. Transit is a big piece of our operation, but if it’s all working well and cooperatively and seamlessly, all boats get lifted.”
— Nat Ford
“Our buses also act as a traffic management tool,” Ford says.
“Anyone double parking in a bus-only lane, we can snap their picture. Our parking control part of the house gets that information, writes a citation and does the proper administration of that.”
The bus cameras are only one way the agency is attempting to clear up parking congestion through partnering with transit. This wasn’t the case when Ford came in, though. As the old adage goes, “never the twain shall meet,” and that was certainly the feeling of the parking and transportation divisions within MTA.
Ford says one of his toughest struggles was getting people to understand, “…how the parking and traffic part of the house has such an impact on Muni and the quality of Muni service, and really helping the two cultures merge in thought processes.
“Right now it’s kind of interesting. We have a line that is not doing well in terms of on-time performance. Whereas before we would have to pick up the phone and say, OK parking what’s happening with this traffic signal over there, it seems like the timing is off. But now I don’t even have to pick up the phone anymore, because they are listening to see what’s happening with Muni.
“When they hear that there is some issue like that, they send some of their technicians out there and start calibrating the traffic signals and those types of things.
“It was not necessarily the case when I walked in the door. They were still on one side of the floor and Muni was on the other side of the floor, but in bringing the team of folks I brought in, a good collaborative team of folks, that recognized that it’s not just transit.
“Transit is a big piece of our operation, but if it’s all working well and cooperatively and seamlessly all boats get lifted. Pedestrians have a better operation. The bicyclists have a safer operation and a better network and their system works well. The automobiles have a good system with SFpark rather than driving around looking for a parking spot in a meter or a garage, we’re going to give you advanced notice before you even get off the Bay Bridge or the Golden Gate Bridge or 101 coming up from the North, we will tell you where there is parking is available.”
SFpark is MTA’s effort at what it is calling “intelligent parking management.” The goal of SFpark is simple — help people in cars find parking spots quicker and easier to get them off the road. The idea works on many levels, including reducing emissions, stress (have you ever tried to find a parking spot in a busy city?), traffic congestion and it makes streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.
“We will tell you which garage [has space available,] and there will be wayfinding signs as soon as you get off [the freeway],” Ford says.