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A YIMBY Action Endorsement Questionnaire. View all November 2018 Questionnaires.

Melanie Nutter

Candidate - BART Board District 8

Housing and transit go together. What do you think the role of transportation is in helping us with our regional housing needs?

The housing crisis in San Francisco has continued without end for over a decade. We have seen massive amounts of displacement and relocation to the suburbs. BART can play a role in mitigating the damage caused by these circumstances by promoting the building of housing on BART owned land and by better connecting people to their homes and work in sustainable ways that are outside of traditional car travel.

BART owns a significant amount of underutilized real estate that can be developed into affordable and middle income housing allowing residents easy access to transportation and bringing needed opportunities to the surrounding neighborhoods. I am currently a consultant to cities and nonprofit organizations on transportation, smart cities, and sustainable growth and will bring the necessary level of expertise to helping to solve this challenge.

Whatever BART builds it should do so with community input and a commitment to sustainability. BART should be the model and leader in sustainability. As Director of the SF Department of the Environment under Mayors Newsom and Lee, I expanded San Francisco leading edge green building standards and I will do the same at BART. I lead the effort to pass and implement the Existing Commercial Building Disclosure Ordinance, which requires any buildings 10,000 sf or larger to report their energy use to the city, increase transparency as well as efficiency. I will seek opportunities to implement these same policies for the same for existing BART stations and offices. The LEED Certification process provides a important framework for construction and all BART projects should be LEED Gold or higher.

Do you support AB-2923 (Chiu), requiring cities to update zoning to be compatible with BART TOD policies? Discuss what you see as potential for housing on BART-owned land.

I would encourage Governor Brown to sign the recently passed AB-2923. I think it is a reasonable compromise towards the goal of building more housing and transit oriented development on underutilized BART property. As mentioned above, I am an advocate for building more housing, particularly more affordable and middle income housing on BART owned land. A couple of key areas that need to be addressed to increase the affordable housing stock in general include streamlining permit processing for affordable housing and continuing to support and expand requirements for specific amounts of below market rate housing and units that are rent controlled. Strengthening tenants right and protecting existing affordable housing are critical as well. In building this housing we need to prioritize access to transit and encourage people to use transit and not cars.

However, if BART remains unsafe, dirty and overcrowded during commute hours and unreliable on nights and weekends people will opt for other modes of transportation. It is imperative that BART sees itself in competition with these other forms of transportation and delivers a better and more efficient alternative.

What improvements would you like to see to create a more unified transit system with coordinated fares and schedules across Bay Area transit services including BART, Caltrain, Muni, SamTrans, and AC Transit? How important do you consider such coordination? Would you support a more integrated transportation system, even if it meant less independence for BART?

As a working mom living in the Richmond District, I know the challenges of living in an area with no BART access. I rely on many forms of transit to connect me to the BART system and see the gaps in coordination on a daily basis.

When you arrive at the Embarcadero Station via BART and need to transfer to MUNI, the station layout requires you to go all the way up to the station entrance and then back down to the MUNI platform, a trip of a few minutes for a physical distance of about 15 feet. In order to create a more seamless experience for the rider, we need to break down the physical barriers between modes of transit.

Twenty-seven transit operators provide service in the Bay Area but many operate as if they are in a silo and also do not function optimally. In order to improve the coordination of these transit operators, I support adoption of a regional transit payment system through Clipper card or another provider that would allow seamless movement of transit riders between buses and trains to commute around the Bay Area. I understand that there are multiple barriers to implementing this kind of system including technology systems, data exchanges and fare recovery targets. However, a uniform regional payment system would allow for strong checks and balances on fares for riders as well an improve usability of the system and rider satisfaction.

I support the pilot program that was passed at MTC this year “to approve a revised program framework for a Regional Means-Based Fare Program. The program will provide a discount of 20 percent to eligible low-income adults on transit rides for four large Bay Area transit operators — BART, Caltrain, Golden Gate Transit and SFMTA — during a pilot period.” This is an example of how the regional operators can work together towards common goals and I will advocate for more of this type of problem solving as Bart Director.

I have strong working relationships with many leaders of city and transit governments and will work to adopt better communication between agencies to create an efficient web of transit.

My priority as BART Director will be to serve the public’s transportation needs, my priority is to ensure that BART is functionally optimally as one of many good public transportation options that helps to get people of our their cars in and into a safe, modern and reliable network of transit options whether it is BART or another system.

What strategies do you support to improve multimodal passenger access to and from BART (transit, bicycling, walking, strollers, wheelchairs, electric kick scooters, transportation network drop-off, other), especially as we build more housing near BART stations? Should BART make increasing accessibility at existing stations a bigger priority?

BART should invest primarily on making the core system operational. There is simply not enough money currently to continue expanding into suburbs. Expansions have come at a cost for those using the core system.

Although the Livermore BART extension was popular with BART riders in that community, the expansion comes at a steep cost – $1.6 billion for 5.5 miles of track. The current shortfall for the project comes in at about $1 billion. It’s fiscally irresponsible to approve this extension without the necessary funds to build it. However, I am in favor of a bus rapid transit/light rail alternative that could be brought online much faster and built at a fraction of the cost for $380 million. This is the best option for accommodating riders in that region while ensuring the funds earmarked for the core system are not depleted.

I live in the Richmond District which suffers from a lack of connection to the BART system, leaving my neighborhood more reliant on cars than others. I will advocate for more mobility options in the Richmond to connect our community to the Bay Area, in a smarter more sustainable way.

It’s clear that our roads and the BART system as it is today are both nearing capacity. Since BART first opened in 1974, the Bay Area’s population has grown from 4.3 million people to 7.6 million people. Meanwhile there is no new capacity through the BART tube or across the Bay Bridge. In order to meet the capacity needs and provide Bay Area residents with a viable, safe, clean and more modern transportation alternative to driving, a second transbay tube should be approved.

Where do you think BART should expand or improve in the urban core, in addition to a second Transbay Tube? Would you focus on building infill stations, serving new corridors, or a mix of both? What corridors or station sites do you think are most promising?

BART should invest primarily on making the core system operational. There is simply not enough money currently to continue expanding into suburbs. Expansions have come at a cost for those using the core system.

Although the Livermore BART extension was popular with BART riders in that community, the expansion comes at a steep cost – $1.6 billion for 5.5 miles of track.  The current shortfall for the project comes in at about $1 billion. It’s fiscally irresponsible to approve this extension without the necessary funds to build it.  However, I am in favor of a bus rapid transit/light rail alternative that could be brought online much faster and built at a fraction of the cost for $380 million. This is the best option for accommodating riders in that region while ensuring the funds earmarked for the core system are not depleted.

I live in the Richmond District which suffers from a lack of connection to the BART system, leaving my neighborhood more reliant on cars than others.  I will advocate for more mobility options in the Richmond to connect our community to the Bay Area, in a smarter more sustainable way.

It’s clear that our roads and the BART system as it is today are both nearing capacity. Since BART first opened in 1974, the Bay Area’s population has grown from 4.3 million people to 7.6 million people. Meanwhile there is no new capacity through the BART tube or across the Bay Bridge. In order to meet the capacity needs and provide Bay Area residents with a viable, safe, clean and more modern transportation alternative to driving, a second transbay tube should be approved.

Policing, fare enforcement, equity, and public safety on BART have been top of mind for many riders. What are your policy ideas on these critical issues? Feel free to link to other materials you think are relevant.

Safety on BART is my number one priority. If riders do not feel safe on BART they will turn to other modes of transit. This can already be seen in the decreased ridership on the system at night.

As I advocate for increased public safety on BART, I do so knowing the history of over-policing communities of color in the past and am determined to not repeat that today. We need more BART officers trained in de-escalation as well as cultural sensitivity and look towards community based solutions to provide alternative ways to promote safety. One such way is a BART ambassador program of trained volunteers and an increase the responsibility of existing Community Service Officers to accompany people on trains at night and walk them to their cars. While I also oppose the current use of facial recognition software for its intrusion of privacy and its potential for racial profiling, there are certainly opportunities to improve technology tools to support a safety agenda which include moving from analog to digital for video cameras and upgrading the call boxes.

I fully support the Safe Transit Policy that Directors Simon, Josefowitz, Dufty and Saltzman created this year that ensures that regardless of ethnic or national origin, gender, gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientation or immigration status, riders can count on a safe and secure environment on BART. The policy would also forbid BART from spending its resources to enforce federal immigration law and prohibit BART police officers and employees from questioning riders about their immigration status.

As a safety measure and to ensure revenue for the system, I believe in sustaining the culture of fare paying. I do not see the best use of fare enforcement to levy fines or criminal charges, but rather as an opportunity to point people to discounted fare programs that ought to be more readily available to those who cannot afford BART.

Is there anything else you think our members should know about your candidacy? Links, references, endorsements, etc?

I am proud to have the endorsement of our Mayor London Breed as well as Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymember David Chiu, who are all advocating for building more equitable housing in the region and in particular on BART owned land.

BART is at the nexus of so many of our city’s most pressing issues. From the homelessness crisis, to affordability, to mental health and drug addiction, the problems at BART are at a tipping point and affect all riders. Our system is falling apart under increased strain and perennial underinvestment. I’m ready to work to fix BART and help make BART safer, cleaner, more modern and more reliable for all riders including working families.

As a transportation and sustainability policy advisor, I have spent my career creating the solutions to the most pressing urban challenges including in regards to transportation and mobility. In the past few years, I’ve worked for a number of cities helping them address issues of congestion and on how to make our public transportation systems viable, accessible, safe, modern and clean.

Other endorsers include:

BART Board Director Nick Josefowitz
John Rizzo,Community College Board Member
Dr. Kim-Shree Maufas, Former Commissioner, SFUSD Board of Education
Rachel Norton, Member, SFUSD Board of Education
Andrea Shorter, Commission on the Status of Women Commissioner
Hene Kelly, Region 9 Chair, California Democratic Party
Mary Jung, Former SF Democratic Party Chair

http://www.melanieforbart.com

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