Rafael Mandelman – District 8

Rafael Mandelman - District 8

Name: Rafael Mandelman

Age: 36

Occupation: Attorney

District: District 8

URL for website :  www.rafael2010.com

Neighborhood You Live In: Dolores Park

Date Questionnaire Returned: 8/7/2010

1. How often do you rely on Muni to get you around town? If not, what do you use instead?  What would make it easier for you to choose Muni over other forms of transportation?

I do not own a car, and the J stop is about a block from my home, so I rely on Muni pretty heavily. I also bike, use car share and occasionally take taxis.  My biggest frustration with Muni are the service breakdowns, the delays, the unreliability. Just last week, there was a 25-minute wait for the J-line during the morning commute. If I need to get somewhere in a hurry, and the hills are not too bad, I find that riding my bike can be a better option.

2. What are the primary concerns of Muni’s owners (aka riders) about transportation and Muni in your District?

District 8 residents have a love-hate relationship with Muni. On the one hand, with the J, K, L, M, N and T lines all running through the District, residents have unique access to the Muni Metro system.  On the other hand, with that access come all the frustrations of crowded and unreliable trains and tunnel clogging.  Like Muni riders across the City, District 8 residents have suffered through the service cuts of the last couple of years, with riders of lines like the 35-Eureka being particularly hard hit. Of course even prior to the cuts, many residents living in areas of Twin Peaks, Glen Park and Diamond Heights not in easy walking distance to a Muni Metro line have not treated public transit as a viable option.  Finally, seniors and disabled folks have had to endure increases in the cost of fast passes at a time when many can least afford it.

3. As a Supervisor, you will serve on the Board of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. What is the role of the SFCTA, and what would you set as priorities for the agency in the next 4 years?

The role of the SFCTA is legally threefold: to administer the 1/2-cent transportation sales tax, to serve as state-mandated congestion management agency, and to allocate certain federal, state, and regional funds.

The SFCTA is in a unique position to ensure that transportation funds are spent wisely and accountably, and that the various transportation agencies coordinate their efforts to realize an integrated transportation picture.

As a Transportation authority commissioner, I will work to ensure that we: realize new funding sources to stabilize and augment Muni’s operating budget; address Muni’s capital shortfall for essential maintenance, repair, and replacement; coordinate funding streams to fulfill our complete streets ordinance, which calls for street designs which accommodate walking, cycling, and transit graciously, and foster neighborhood livability and commercial vitality; and we spend discretionary capital funding wisely to achieve measurable improvements in transit speed, safety, reliability, capacity, and accessibility.

4. Difficult decisions often have to be made regarding transportation in San Francisco. Sometimes a well-researched project may have loud, angry opponents, or a popular project may not be the best for City residents and for San Francisco’s transportation infrastructure. How would you make a decision under these kinds of circumstances?

(Feel free to cite a similar situation from your past experience as an example – it doesn’t have to be transit related)

I try to weigh each tough question on its own merits, making a hypothetical like this one challenging.  During my time on the Board of Appeals, I like to believe I defended staff-level determination when staff were upholding an important city policy against a powerful or well-connected special interest but also challenged staff when they had failed to adequately consider the perspective of a neighborhood group or other affected constituency.  I respect expertise, and when experts tell me that a particular project or policy should be pursued, I take that recommendation seriously.  But I also believe it is important to listen to the people who will actually be most affected by that project or policy, particularly when they may be uniquely or unfairly burdened.  And then, balancing interests and equities, and trying to correct for institutional or other biases, one tries to make the best decision for the greatest number.

5. What is the Fix Muni Now charter amendment? Do you support it? (Y/N) Why or why not?

Currently the City Charter provides that driver salaries shall be no less than the average for the two highest paying transit systems nationwide.  Proposition G would remove that provision, I support that change, and it will surely pass.  I do have some concerns about the measure. First, proponents argue that by making salaries subject to collective bargaining, we will enable the MTA to secure work rule concessions from the TWU that could save as much as $30 million.  Maybe, but that was the rationale for the charter changes in Proposition A three years ago, and at least in that respect, Proposition A was a failure.  Second, I would have preferred to see a broader package of reform on the ballot.  Finally, I am concerned that Proposition G creates an unfair burden for drivers, spelling out burdens of proof for arbitration proceedings that are more burdensome than for other city workers.

6. One (of many) causes for Muni’s perennial budget woes was the illegal seizure of state gas tax money by Governor Schwarzenegger and the Legislature. This has left a large hole in Muni’s income (as well as every transit agency in CA).

How would you make up this gap in Muni revenue? Would you support

– a local funding source or sources (fees, taxes, or other type of revenue) to avoid future problems caused by the state?

Yes. The Board of supervisors must become more effective advocates for new transportation funding. An additional general fund contribution, congestion pricing on bridges or around downtown, closing parking tax loopholes and/or increasing the parking tax rate, and county or regional gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees, better management of on-street parking and city-owned lots and garages are all promising revenue sources.

– would you achieve savings through cuts to Muni’s budget, fare increases, etc.

No: I would oppose additional fare increases and service cuts

– or, do you have other ideas on how to get Muni out of its annual financial woes?

(You can choose more than one option, but just explain it clearly)

There may be substantial savings to be had from reducing travel times through aggressive use of rapid transit features: faster boarding, transit priority measures, and stop consolidation. The TEP is aiming for a 10% increase in systemwide average speeds; transit thinkers who I respect believe this could be 20% faster.

7. Finally, tell us a story about a funny or unique experience you’ve had on Muni.

I have been taking Muni since I was eleven years old.  As a kid growing up in the Sunset, the N-Judah was one of my regular lines.  When I was younger, the area between Twin Peaks and downtown was mysterious territory indeed; I spent most of my life in fog-land.  I remember 45-minute and longer waits for the 28-line on 19th Avenue to get myself home from middle school and high school.  As an adult, I have spent far too many hours sitting in the tunnel, steaming, waiting for the cars to move.  As far as I am concerned, for at least as long as I can remember, Muni has never managed to provide San Franciscans with the efficient and reliable transit service we should be able to expect.  Unfortunately, I don’t suppose there’s anything particularly unique about either my childhood or adult experiences of Muni.

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