Guest Opinion: Vote yes on Prop L — SF's transportation future depends on it

  • by by Rafael Mandelman
  • Wednesday November 2, 2022
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Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, center, gathered with Prop L supporters at a rally for the transportation measure. Photo: Courtesy Yes on L campaign
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, center, gathered with Prop L supporters at a rally for the transportation measure. Photo: Courtesy Yes on L campaign

San Franciscans have a critical choice to make on the ballot this year, and it's one that I fear is not getting enough attention with everything else filling up our ballots. This November 8 we are asking voters to renew the one-half cent transportation sales tax that we have had since 1989 (this is not a new tax) that funds road repairs, pedestrian safety, Muni and BART improvements, paratransit, and a ton of other worthy and necessary transit investments, by voting yes on Proposition L.

Although Bay Area Reporter readers may be more familiar with my role as District 8 supervisor, I also serve as chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, a position previously held at various times by two of my predecessors, both gay men, Scott Wiener, now a state senator representing San Francisco, and Bevan Dufty, who is currently an elected BART director, along with his out queer colleague from San Francisco, Janice Li. From U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on down to gay Director Jeff Tumlin at the Municipal Transportation Agency, now happens to be a very queer moment for transportation leadership. And in San Francisco, we really need our queer community to come through for transit on the ballot.

Prop L requires two-thirds of the vote to pass, a tough threshold that San Franciscans narrowly missed on the June ballot for Proposition A (the $400 million Muni bond). If Prop L does not pass, not only will we not have the local revenue it generates to keep our city moving, but we will miss out on billions of dollars in matching funds from the state and federal governments. The historic infrastructure law passed by Democrats in Washington, D.C. allocates generous grant funds for local transit projects that we can help secure by passing Prop L. If we don't renew our sales tax, Sacramento and D.C. have plenty of places other than San Francisco to send their infrastructure dollars.

And what will the funding from Prop L do? It will repair and repave our roads and reduce congestion for emergency vehicles so that they can respond quickly and save lives. It will install crosswalks, traffic signals, and bulb-outs to protect pedestrians and build new protected bike lanes. It will dedicate new funding to our paratransit system that has been overburdened during the pandemic so that those operators can continue their vital mission serving our seniors and those with disabilities. And this funding will help revitalize all our public transit agencies by investing in the renewal of those systems, buying new more efficient and reliable buses and trains, and replacing our outdated train control systems so we can all get where we need to go faster and more reliably.

These past few years have been tough, and San Franciscans have shown great resilience. However, we are at a tipping point in our recovery, and Prop L funding will be a big part in securing that economic rebound. Now is the time to invest in the future of our transportation systems, to revive our downtown and improve connections among neighborhoods.

Not only will Prop L allow us to reconfigure our transit network so that it works for the commute patterns of 2023 and beyond, but the state and federal grants we receive will allow us to build projects that generations of San Franciscans will depend on, creating thousands of good, union jobs in the process. That includes projects like undergrounding and electrifying Caltrain, preparing for eventual high speed rail, and building a ferry terminal near Chase Center so folks don't have to drive to Warriors games. These projects, alongside all the smaller ones funded by Prop L, are crucial in our fight against climate change. If we do not invest in making San Francisco a safe and easy place to walk, bike, and use public transportation, we will fail to reach our climate goals. However, all of us can help our city take a big step in the right direction (and prevent us from sliding backward) when we vote this year.

Please join me in voting Yes on L before November 8. Better roads and transit — no new taxes.

Rafael Mandelman, a gay man, represents District 8 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and is chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. He is also up for reelection November 8.

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