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SFMTA Proposes Enhancements to Commuter Shuttle Regulations

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees all ground transportation in the city, released a proposal to enhance and extend its regulation of private commuter shuttles. The SFMTA is proposing continuing its regulatory role beyond January 31, 2016, when an 18-month Commuter Shuttle Pilot Program comes to an end. The proposed program builds upon lessons learned and the successes of the pilot, which were outlined in a comprehensive October 2015 program evaluation.

"The SFMTA’s Commuter Shuttle Pilot Program showed encouraging results in improving order and safety on San Francisco’s streets,” said SMTA Board of Directors Chair Tom Nolan. “Commuter shuttles get thousands of people to work every day without a car. We must do everything we can as a city to improve the flow the traffic, reduce congestion and cut pollution while improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods.”

With input from neighbors, elected officials, employers, shuttle operators and transportation professionals, the SFMTA’s Commuter Shuttle Program will build upon the pilot in several key ways, including:

  1. Requiring buses over 35 feet long to travel on the major and minor arterial street network as defined by the California Department of Transportation, keeping them off smaller residential streets
  2. Requiring participating shuttle operators to use newer vehicles, lowering greenhouse gas emissions from the shuttle fleet
  3. Requiring shuttle operators to certify they are in labor harmony by submitting a plan that outlines efforts to maintain consistent and efficient shuttle service in the event of potential disruptions, including labor disputes.
  4. Increasing enforcement resources devoted to shuttle zones and corridors and recovering the costs as part of the fee for participation in the program
  5. Increasing capital improvements at shuttle zones and corridors, with shuttle operators paying for their portion of the benefits as part of the fee for participation in the program

The proposal requires SFMTA Board of Directors approval to take effect.

“Every aspect of our transportation network is connected,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin. “The Commuter Shuttle Pilot Program demonstrated that a regulatory framework can help ensure the city realizes the transportation benefits the shuttles provide while minimizing impacts to Muni and our neighborhoods.  These proposed enhancements will strengthen our ability to realize benefits and minimize impacts. For every person who rides a shuttle, that’s one more open seat on transit or one less car clogging traffic or competing for a parking space.”

Teamsters Joint Council 7, which represents some Bay Area shuttle bus drivers and is seeking to represent others, applauded the proposal.

"We are pleased to see the SFMTA designing a program that recognizes the efforts of these shuttle bus drivers to organize for better wages and working conditions with our union,” said Rome Aloise, president of Teamsters Joint Council 7.

In August 2014, the SFMTA began an 18-month Commuter Shuttle Pilot Program to regulate and better understand the hundreds of commuter shuttles using the city’s streets, many of which were loading and unloading passengers in Muni bus zones, open spots along the curb or in the street. That led to traffic, transit and safety hazards. The pilot includes strictly limiting the zones at which private shuttles may stop, charging private shuttles to stop in Muni bus zones and shuttle-only loading zones, concentrated enforcement, and extensive data collection on shuttle activity.  State law limits the fee amount to the cost of operating the program.

The pilot included a survey of shuttle riders and an analysis of shuttle activity before and during implementation. The results showed that nearly half of participants said they would drive alone to work if the shuttle wasn’t an option. Less than 5 percent said they would move closer to work. Conflicts with Muni buses were also reduced by 35 percent on a per-stop basis, and commuter shuttle zone locations were roughly halved from more than 240 to 124 under the SFMTA’s pilot program, an agency analysis found.

If the pilot expires without an ongoing program in place, shuttles will still be able to legally operate on San Francisco’s streets, but their activities will not be regulated.

"The choice is whether to continue to improve the way we regulate shuttles or go back to unregulated shuttles that weren't working for the city," said Tom Maguire, director of the SFMTA’s Sustainable Streets Division.

A community meeting to provide the public with details about the proposed changes and answer questions will be held on November 4.  More information, including the proposed Commuter Shuttle Program Policy, the SFMTA’s October 2015 evaluation report, and a map of streets that large shuttles will be required to operate on can be found at www.sfmta.com/commutershuttles.

 

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