Members are the lifeblood of San Francisco Transit Riders. They give us the political power to make change at city hall, they help us educate and engage other riders, and they help shape and lead our transit-first agenda.
While we’ve grown a lot since our all-volunteer beginnings in 2010, being accountable and accessible to our members continues to be at the core of what we do. We’ve had strategy sessions, surveys, and large meetings and events with members over the years.
This year’s inaugural Summit went online so attendees could hear directly from staff about what we’re working on and, most important to us, provide direct feedback to make our movement more effective going forward.
After reviewing the larger public transit landscape nationally, regionally, and locally, staff dove in to our various initiatives. Our community organizing team shared updates on their work prioritizing the transit needs of communities of concern across San Francisco, including outreach to talk with riders about how their trips have been impacted during the pandemic.
We talked about the launch of our youth leadership cohort, part of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s Spare The Air Youth (STAY) program. We’re educating high school students across San Francisco about public transit and its challenges, and empower them take action to improve transit.
We discussed our new member-led Working Groups — one on Local Funding, one on Regional Policy, and one on 30x30, the Rapid Rider Network. These groups help us sort through the issues, develop positions, and plan campaigns and events. When asked what we’re looking for in terms of participation, the answer was simple: we’re looking for anyone with the passion to learn more and to do more!
“We know this already, but our members are smart!” said Executive Director Mark Cordes. “They know a lot about what they want, what they need, and what’s going on.”
Members talked about the need for an integrated regional transit system, with a fare structure that works better for riders. The discussion went quickly to the importance of good signage and wayfinding — whether you’re from out of town, or a lifelong resident, our regional systems are not easy to figure out.
We talked about our vision for 30x30 and what Muni routes should be part of it. Members also raised the need to address the bottlenecks we all know on our regular routes — those stops or intersections that always hold up the bus or train. Members expressed their frustration with the poor signage, difficult transfers, and poor access to bus stops that are hidden behind parked cars or parklets.
With these challenges and more (like unreliable service and majorly delayed construction projects), we have our work cut out for us to convince people to invest in transit, to support the funding measures needed to make our system better. But we know there are a lot of riders who want to make our public transit system work.
We have the tools to address these challenges: our most effective tool is our membership, made up of transit riders. Our members are empowered to speak up for what riders need, and they empower us to make a difference together. It is our membership that makes it possible for us to lead.
Another key tool is our community organizing team, which includes many of our dedicated members. Members shared what has moved them to take action, and about connecting to others; about seeing that light in people’s eyes, the joy and enthusiasm when folks are compelled to take action.
By the end of our Summit, we had dozens of members committing to take at least one action each — from getting a friend to join, to attending our happy hour with our board members, to helping with rider outreach, to speaking up directly for better transit.
Looking forward, there are always opportunities for our members and volunteers to continue to drive our rider-first movement forward.
When you become a member, you can join our members-only Google group and/or Slack. You’ll get regular updates on transit issues of the day from our newsletter, get training on effective advocacy and/or community organizing, and get alerts and preparation to speak up for transit improvements. You can help out on a current campaign for transit priority, better service, or transit funding. You can join our community organizers to engage riders at bus stops, farmers markets, and other community events.
As always, our strength and impact depends on our members. If you aren’t already, please consider becoming a member of San Francisco Transit Riders today and making a difference in public transit!