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Sustainability Plan / Transportation / Introduction

 A sustainable transportation system is one in which people’s needs and desires for access to jobs, commerce, recreation, culture and home are accommodated using a minimum of resources. Applying principles of sustainability to transportation will reduce pollution generated by gasoline-powered engines, noise, traffic congestion, land devaluation, urban sprawl, economic segregation and injury to drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. In addition, the costs of commuting, shipping, housing and goods also will be reduced.

Ultimately, in a sustainable San Francisco, almost all trips to and within the City will be on public transit, foot or bicycle -- as will a good part of trips in the larger Bay Region. Walking through streets designed for pedestrians and bicycles will be more pleasant than walking through those designed for the automobile. Street-front retail and commercial establishments will prosper from the large volume of foot traffic drawn to an environment enhanced by trees, “street furniture,” (appropriately designed street lights, bicycle racks, benches, and the like) and other people. Rents and property costs will be lowered as land for off-street parking is no longer required or needed. Customers will be closer to businesses; goods and services will be delivered more quickly; and time that employees would otherwise spend commuting will be available for activities of their own choice. The high use of transit and other alternatives to the automobile will enable the city and state to forego expensive freeway construction, land acquisition and housing condemnation. Old, obsolete highway segments of the automobile era will be demolished, freeing up land to be used and developed to its greatest potential as the community sees fit. With abundant, cheap and versatile alternatives to the automobile, the sustainable city is truly a place of equal access and enhanced opportunity.

Realizing the ideal of a sustainable San Francisco is a political, physical and educational challenge. Many people consider owning and driving an automobile an essential need or right, the very cornerstone of this country’s economic base. They do not understand the tradition of subsidizing gasoline, parking and driving has taken its toll on their pocketbooks and on the tax revenues that could be spent in ways much more conducive to sustainability. Some people are willing to drive less, to pay higher tolls and parking fees, and to support investments in alternative transportation, but as a result they expect transit and other infrastructure to adapt and respond more readily to their needs. The City needs more revenue today simply to maintain the existing level of transit operation and service -- and much more to match such expectations.

Reallocating revenues and subsidies from the automobile to public transit and other alternative modes is essential to move toward sustainable transportation. In addition, issues such as land use, traditions, safety and comfort profoundly influence the way people move about. Listed in the strategy section are goals, objectives and actions that, if implemented, will guide government officials, residents, community and business leaders toward a sustainable transportation system for San Francisco.