How the SFMTA is Supporting Small Businesses
By Bradley Dunn
The SFMTA, along with our city agency partners, is committed to working with local businesses to protect public health and ensure our transportation system supports a strong economic recovery. Small businesses are the lifeblood of San Francisco and as we work to recover, working with businesses is a key part of our Transportation Recovery Plan.
Below are some of the ways the SFMTA is partnering with other city agencies to support businesses.
To support small businesses, the SFMTA is working with agency partners to fast track permits enabling businesses to utilize the public right-of-way for their operations. The Shared Spaces effort includes using the curb along requesting business frontages to provide space for curbside pickup and delivery, outdoor dining or physical distancing where queues form. Note that not every business’s application will meet the criteria. Learn more about the program and apply here.
As economic activity increases, we are supporting parking availability and curb access as a strategy to provide access to commercial corridors and local small businesses. Our goal is to set parking meter rates so that one or two spaces of parking is available on every block. That way patrons can visit local businesses without needing to circle to find parking, saving customers time and reducing frustration, all while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
While meter rates vary throughout San Francisco, our plan restores meter prices to near pre-COVID-19 levels with a $0.50/hour decrease. We will also be restoring pre-COVID parking meter time limits enabling customers critical to the health of small businesses to access commercial corridors.
Our approach to recovery is driven by data and parking is no different. We hope to accelerate the demand-responsive pricing process to be flexible and tailor our parking policies to best serve the businesses in each commercial corridor. We typically reevaluate and adjust meter prices (whether up, down or staying the same) based on demand data every three months by $0.25. We plan on speeding that process up to every six weeks so we can better reflect San Francisco’s changing needs as the economy reopens.
If just a fraction of the people riding transit before the health crisis begins driving alone, congestion will be so bad that it will cripple San Francisco’s economic recovery. Without helping employees and customers move about San Francisco, small businesses will suffer.
As the health orders allow more activity, we will be increasing Muni service and installing temporary emergency transit lanes to help reducing crowding. Transit lanes allow buses to complete their routes faster. This enables us to minimize the risk for employees and customers that must use Muni for essential trips, with minimal resources.
When Muni Metro service returns in August, we will implement temporary changes that address longstanding reliability challenges created by having all our rail lines entering the Metro tunnels. This operational structure has caused delays for employees getting to and from work for years. By linking the L Taraval and K Ingelside (with transfers for Downtown customers at West Portal) and having the J Church terminate at Duboce and Church (where customers can transfer to the N Judah and go downtown), we can reduce delays in the subway. These changes will be automatically removed 120 days after the emergency order is lifted unless there is a public process to make the improvements permanent. We will be getting public input about these improvements and evaluating their effectiveness to inform potential long term changes.
To provide more space for people to bicycle or walk around their neighborhood, including to their local commercial corridors, we have implemented 24 miles of Slow Streets with an additional 10 miles to come. These traffic-calmed streets provide more space for bicycling and walking, enabling space on Muni to be used for essential trips by people who have no other options. We hope that these streets encourage San Franciscans to shop in their neighborhood and support local businesses.
If you run a small business, there are additional City and County of San Francisco resources for small businesses to help during this time. You can find information on Small Business loans and grants; information about how to safely get back to business in the new normal; opportunities to defer business taxes and licensing fees; accessing free COVID-19 testing for essential employees and resources for self-employed individuals at oewd.org/covid19. We look forward to continuing our work with small businesses as we support the city’s recovery efforts.
Published July 14, 2020 at 02:04AM