Policies and Processes

The SFMTA is guided by a number of federal, state, regional, city and SFMTA policies that help provide the direction for how we go about improving our transportation system. 

At the highest level, transportation in San Francisco is funded by U.S. Department of Transportation under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) legislation. For SFMTA, much of these funds are distributed through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) via the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) also administers some MAP-21 funds that SFMTA is the recipient of. 

The FTA provides guidance to grant recipients through publications called “circulars.” These FTA circulars include statutory requirements as well as direction on program specific issues. FHWA administers a number of programs with varying levels of guidance. For SFMTA, the MAP-21 guidance is of particular importance.

Locally, the City of San Francisco has adopted some of the most progressive transportation policies in the nation. Adopted in 1973 and last amended in 2007, San Francisco’s TransitFirst policy establishes the priority of public transit, bicycles, pedestrians, and non-single occupant vehicles over single occupant vehicles in the public right-of-way. The San Francisco Complete Streets and Better Streets policies also guide infrastructure investment in the public right-of-way to consider and design for the needs of all users as well as environmental quality.

The SFMTA’s Public Participation Plan provides a framework of options and strategies from which to guide a customized, systematic and strategic public involvement approach that seeks out and considers the viewpoints of the general public and other stakeholders in the course of conducting public outreach and involvement activities.  Of particular importance are those methodologies that specifically address linguistic, institutional, cultural, economic, historical or other barriers that may be preventing minority, low-income and limited English proficient (LEP) populations from participating effectively in the SFMTA’s decision-making process. Download the SFMTA Public Participation Plan.

The goal of the SFMTA’s Language Assistance Plan is to provide language assistance in a competent and effective manner to help ensure that SFMTA’s services are safe, reliable, convenient and accessible to its limited English proficient (LEP) customers. Download the Language Assistance Plan.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was signed into law in 1970 by President Richard Nixon. For the SFMTA, any projects that include federal funding are required to achieve NEPA clearance. 

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is the state of California laws and regulations regarding environmental quality. CEQA applies to all projects in the State of California. 

Global Warming Solutions Act, AB32:  The Global Warming Solutions Act adopted 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals into law, including regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve those goals.

Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act, SB375: The Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop regional greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for passenger vehicles.  CARB is to establish targets for 2020 and 2035 for each region covered by one of the State's 18 metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). To do this, regional government agencies came together to develop the One Bay Area plan. One Bay Area and SB375 aim to meet state and regional greenhouse gas reductions by focusing growth around areas served by high quality transit. SFMTA is an active participant in development and implementation of the One Bay Area plan.

Formula Funding Policies: At the regional level, the MTC is often the recipient of federal funds and then distributes these funds to the various transit operators in the region. The policies by which federal formula funds are distributed are called the “Transit Capital Priorities Process & Criteria”. The formula funds provide a majority of the Capital project funds available to SFMTA. 

FTA New Starts & Small StartsFTA New Starts is the federal government’s primary financial resource for supporting locally planned, implemented, and operated major transit capital investments. FTA New Starts is a discretionary program that funds new and extensions to existing fixed guideway transit systems. New Starts projects include commuter rail, light rail, heavy rail, bus rapid transit, streetcars, and ferries.

FTA Small Starts is a sub-category of the New Starts program for projects with a total cost of under $250 million and FTA New Starts funding request of under $75 million.

The SFMTA is developing a more transparent decision making process to help improve project delivery. The following are current processes that we participate or lead as will be providing more information in the near future. 

The SFMTA administers, operates, or oversees one of the most diverse sets of transportation modes, infrastructure, and policies around the world. The processes by which SFMTA operates are outlined below.

Project Idea to Implementation

For SFMTA, to go from a project idea to realizing the implementation of the project includes five primary phases. First, the Project Idea is cleary identified. Then the project is reviewed for integration opportunities and any opportunities are coordinated. Funding approval is then provided for projects that have been prioritized by the SFMTA for implementation. Finally, the project is implemeted and the public benefits from the new or improved transportation infrastructure.

Interdepartmental Staff Committee on Traffic and Transportation (ISCOTT): SFMTA chairs the ISCOTT, which is a formal interdepartmental committee that discusses special events on streets and how they impact the transportation system. ISCOTT also serves as a public hearing for special events.

Transportation Advisory Staff Committee (TASC): SFMTA chairs the TASC, which is an interdepartmental committee that discusses proposed legislation or proposed street changes prior to proceeding to a public hearing. TASC is only an informal advisory body, but provides a regular forum for key agencies to review and comment on proposed changes to the public right-of-way. Key representatives include the Fire Department, Planning Department, Police Department and Public Works. Non-governmental parties are also invited to present or participant in committee meeting when appropriate.

Transportation Capital Committee (TCC): The TCC is an internal committee that meets once a month to review, discuss, and approve the projects the agency will undertake. Specifically, the TCC develops and identifies the agency’s long-term needs, prioritizes projects for funding, and approves funding for projects planned for the next five years.

Regional Planning Processes: The SFMTA is an active participant in regional planning efforts. 

The SFMTA is subject to the review processes associated with both NEPA and CEQA, depending on the project funding source. Although the SFMTA is the lead agency on many transportation projects within San Francisco, the San Francisco Planning Department provides guidance and oversight of all NEPA and CEQA environmental review processes.

List of SFMTA policies