The History of the SFMTA

Established by voter proposition in 1999, the SFMTA, a department of the City and County of San Francisco, oversees the Municipal Railway (Muni), parking and Traffic, bicycling, walking and taxis.  With four modes of transit, Muni has approximately 700,000 daily passenger boardings.  More than one million people traverse the city each day and rely on the SFMTA to ensure safe and reliable travel by transit, walking, bicycling, taxi and driving.


Proposition E, passed by the voters in November 1999, amended the City Charter, calling for the creation of the SFMTA through consolidation of the Municipal Railway and the Department of Parking and Traffic on July 1, 2002, to support the City’s Transit First Policy.  This landmark measure gave birth to the new San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) which would manage the entire surface transportation network. In 2007 the voters added taxi regulation through passage of Proposition A which was launched officially in March 2009. Through the will of the people it serves, the SFMTA emerged as a municipal transportation enterprise fully poised to elevate the city’s quality of life through sustainable streets.

San Francisco has an internationally renowned reputation as a leader in boldly confronting and mediating tough environmental issues. It has long been in the vanguard of alternative fuels and recycling while aggressively promoting the primary green modes—transit, bicycling and walking. More recently it has established composting as a way of life and adopted and enforced green building practices. It has routinely enacted policies to reduce greenhouse emissions and the Board of Supervisors is set to review a new citywide Climate Plan.

In the transportation arena, which the SFMTA manages and operates on a daily basis, the focus on the environment to create a sustainable quality of life for current and future generations of residents and visitors is impressive and always advancing, as evidenced by initiatives that include:

  • Operating one of the greenest transit fleets in the world that features electric, hybrid and biodiesel-powered buses, biodiesel-powered paratransit vans, electric light rail, streetcars and the iconic cable cars.
  • Powering its electric fleet via hydroelectric power generation from Hetch Hetchy Dam, a renewable source owned and operated by the city.
  • Giving transit a break through use of bus only lanes and signal prioritization.
  • Transformation of the city’s taxi fleet to hybrid vehicles and piloting of electric taxis and rapid recharging facilities.
  • Reducing wasteful and polluting circling by motorists through SFpark which is testing parking strategies and technology aimed at directing them to available parking spots using computers and hand-held devices.
  • Building a vastly larger and safer bicycle network to attract even more people to this emission-free mode that is already a choice for a high percentage of the population and growing rapidly.
  • Improving streetscapes and pedestrian signals to encourage more walking as another emission-free way of getting around one of the most beautiful and dynamic cities in the world.
  • Leveraging technology to keep traffic, including transit vehicles, flowing and to reduce emissions.
  • Leading implementation of "smart card" fare collection technology throughout the Bay Area as a further incentive for people to ride transit—using the nearly 30 transit operators in the region.
  • Providing additional transit service during major events which are a hallmark of the quality of life equation for San Francisco and which also support the city’s major industry—tourism.
  • Expanding and upgrading transit service in congested travel corridors through projects such as the Central Subway and Bus Rapid Transit along Van Ness Avenue and Geary Boulevard.
  • Installing environmentally friendly transit stop shelters with solar power to operate lighting and real-time accessible customer information features, such as NextMuni with an audio push-to-talk version for blind customers.
  • Applying green techniques to the upgrade, renovation and rehabilitation of facilities and other infrastructure.