A bus in a red bus-only lane on Market Street, surrounded by green bike lanes.

Photo: SFMTA Photography Department

Introduction

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopted the city’s transit-first policy in 1973. The policy—which prioritizes movement of people and goods with a focus on transit, walking, and biking instead of private automobiles—continues to guide our efforts amidst rapid growth and change. 

Transit-First principles have led the development of the city’s major infrastructure projects, including BART and the city’s first bicycle plan, as well as significant planning efforts like the Downtown Plan and Better Streets Plan.

Why Transit-First? 

A more equitable transportation system: Focusing transportation improvements in San Francisco’s Communities of Concern means better transportation, walking, and biking options for our most disadvantaged or vulnerable communities.

Cleaner air: More trips by transit, walking, and biking means cleaner air and healthier communities and supports the City’s climate action goals. 

Safer streets: Investments to improve pedestrian and bicycling space make streets safer for everyone, helping us get closer to our Vision Zero goal. 

A stronger economy: Better access to efficient transportation options will help facilitate future growth and enhance regional competitiveness.

Our Work

As San Francisco’s congestion management agency, transit-first principles are fundamental to the Transportation Authority's work.

We support transit-first policies by:

Funding major transit projects such as the purchase of BART cars and Muni rail and bus vehicles, Caltrain Electrification, the Salesforce Transit Center and Downtown Rail extension, Van Ness and Geary Bus Rapid Transit, and the Better Market Street project.

Using pricing and incentives as a tool to reduce congestion, reduce solo private vehicle trips and fund transit. Examples of this include our work on downtown congestion pricing, freeway express lanes, and the Treasure Island Transportation Plan. 

Supporting long-range planning efforts at the state and regional level on long-range planning efforts that support a transit-first future, such as ConnectSF, the San Francisco Transportation Plan, and Plan Bay Area.

Conducting data analysis and evaluation to better understand how our transportation network is functioning, such as our twice-yearly congestion reports and studies on ride-hail vehicles and congestion. 

San Francisco Charter SEC. 8A.115. Transit-First Policy

(a) The following principles shall constitute the City and County's transit-first policy and shall be incorporated into the General Plan of the City and County. All officers, boards, commissions, and departments shall implement these principles in conducting the City and County's affairs:

1. To ensure quality of life and economic health in San Francisco, the primary objective of the transportation system must be the safe and efficient movement of people and goods.

2. Public transit, including taxis and vanpools, is an economically and environmentally sound alternative to transportation by individual automobiles. Within San Francisco, travel by public transit, by bicycle and on foot must be an attractive alternative to travel by private automobile.

3. Decisions regarding the use of limited public street and sidewalk space shall encourage the use of public rights of way by pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit, and shall strive to reduce traffic and improve public health and safety.

4. Transit priority improvements, such as designated transit lanes and streets and improved signalization, shall be made to expedite the movement of public transit vehicles (including taxis and vanpools) and to improve pedestrian safety.

5. Pedestrian areas shall be enhanced wherever possible to improve the safety and comfort of pedestrians and to encourage travel by foot.

6. Bicycling shall be promoted by encouraging safe streets for riding, convenient access to transit, bicycle lanes, and secure bicycle parking.

7. Parking policies for areas well served by public transit shall be designed to encourage travel by public transit and alternative transportation.

8. New transportation investment should be allocated to meet the demand for public transit generated by new public and private commercial and residential developments.

9. The ability of the City and County to reduce traffic congestion depends on the adequacy of regional public transportation. The City and County shall promote the use of regional mass transit and the continued development of an integrated, reliable, regional public transportation system.

10. The City and County shall encourage innovative solutions to meet public transportation needs wherever possible and where the provision of such service will not adversely affect the service provided by the Municipal Railway.

(b) The City may not require or permit off-street parking spaces for any privately-owned structure or use in excess of the number that City law would have allowed for the structure or use on July 1, 2007 unless the additional spaces are approved by a four-fifths vote of the Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors may reduce the maximum parking required or permitted by this section.

(Amended by Proposition A, Approved 11/6/2007)

Related Project & Studies

Kids crossing the street in a yellow crosswalk with a crossing guard

San Francisco has vowed to eliminate all traffic-related deaths by 2024 through education, enforcement, and road infrastructure redesign.
Bicyclists on Market Street wearing face masks due to smoky air

Replacing car travel with more sustainable modes will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a healthier environment for San Francisco residents, workers, and visitors. 

The Van Ness Improvement Project is bringing San Francisco its first Bus Rapid Transit system.

Geary Bus Rapid Transit will improve Geary Boulevard with much-needed safety improvements and faster, more reliable bus service for the 54,000 people who use the 38 Geary and 38R Geary Rapid bus routes every day.

The Better Market Street project will deliver transformative transportation, street, and safety improvements along 2.2 miles of Market Street between Octavia Boulevard and the Embarcadero.

The Salesforce Transit Center is San Francisco’s new regional transit hub.

The Treasure Island Transportation Program will address the island's growing transportation needs with a goal to have at least 50 percent of trips made by transit instead of private vehicles.

Congestion pricing would involve charging drivers a fee to drive in specific congested areas of downtown to keep traffic and transit moving.

The Downtown Extension is a plan to extend Caltrain and future California High-Speed Rail service from 4th and King rail yard to the newly-constructed Salesforce Transit Center.

The Caltrain Electrification project will bring fully electrified service to Caltrain.