A New Organizational Model for “Mobility Management:”
The ‘Sustainable Mobility Strategy’ and Integrated Responsibilities of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA)


The institutional landscape and the transportation network serving the San Francisco Bay region are both extensive and complex. Within the region are 28 transit operating agencies, 101 municipalities, most with responsibility for a portion of the region’s street and highway network and 9 counties acting as Congestion Management Agencies under state law.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the region’s designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), has long been recognized as an effective innovator in cooperative regional transportation planning and decision-making within this complex arena. The concept and practice of “mobility management” has been evident for many years through varied and evolving institutional arrangements, policies and programs involving planning and operating agencies at all levels.

The profile provided below, however, focuses on the fundamental changes in transportation organizational structure, policy and business practices that have taken place within the City and County of San Francisco through integration of transportation roles and functions among formerly independent municipal transportation entities.

Prior to 1999, San Francisco Municipal Railway, or MUNI, was the operating agency responsible for the extensive system of multi-modal transit services provided throughout the City and County of San Francisco. MUNI’s transit services include diesel and electric trolley buses, light rail and cable cars that have operated under the city’s “Transit-First Policy” since 1973. San Francisco’s transit system has the third highest per capita ridership in the nation. MUNI services historically have been planned and operated in coordination with the services of several other major transit providers in surrounding jurisdictions in the region that serve San Francisco travel markets, including rail service operated by the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit), the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans), the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (GG Transit), the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority (VTA) and Caltrain commuter rail services operated by the Peninsula Joint Powers Board.

A decade ago city and county elected officials and citizens had grown increasingly frustrated with the complications inherent in bridging effectively the interests, responsibilities, programs and resources of separate municipal transportation agencies and commissions. With the passage of Proposition E in 1999, voters directed the 2002 formation of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), a semi-independent agency combining responsibilities for MUNI’s transit network and responsibility for city streets under the San Francisco Department of Parking and Traffic. In the process, the separate commissions governing each of the organizations were dissolved and a single seven member SFMTA Board of Directors was created, appointed by the Mayor subject to confirmation by the city and county Board of Supervisors.

Transportation responsibilities were further consolidated in 2009. Passage of Proposition A resulted in the merger into the SFMTA of the former San Francisco Taxicab Commission giving SFMTA the added authority to regulate the taxi industry and other for-hire services in San Francisco.

Progress in “Mobility Management”

Prior research on mobility management done for the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP Report 97) of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) suggested that fundamental, transformative change in business and service organizations commonly involves changes across six key dimensions. When these changes occur in transit organizations, they provide an operational definition of “mobility management.” The nature and scope of changes made at the creation of the SFMTA are highlighted below in each of the six dimensions.

Mission shift

The SFMTA mission is no longer mode-specific or concerned with a single set of transportation assets. SFMTA is now focused on optimizing the use of transportation assets and the quality of the travel experience regardless of which mode or combination of modes are being used. It seeks to foster a “sustainable mobility shift” with a “focus on moving people, not cars.”

In pursuit of this mission, the SFMTA officially serves as the City’s mobility manager, supported by a long-standing Transit-First Policy, and is responsible for the entire surface transportation network and its multi-modal operation on a sustainable basis. The objective is, “integration of car, car-sharing, bicycle use, bicycle-sharing, walk, public and private transit and paratransit” modes “by advancing seamless payment, information and connectivity.”

Customer Orientation

New efforts are underway at SFMTA to build out a comprehensive structure for defining and measuring the quality of the customers’ travel experience at several levels, as specified in city enabling legislation. Traditional measures are used by mode and across the overall street and highway network; broader, formal measures are being incorporated to gauge the impacts of multimodal transportation decisions on shared regional concerns, e.g. green house gas emissions, carbon footprints, utility consumption and access to the region. An “Annual Mobility Report” is in preparation that also focuses on sustainability of both the overall surface transportation system and the SFMTA itself.

An SFMTA “Transit Effectiveness Project” (TEP) is currently underway in coordination with a regional effort by the MTC to define more precisely customer travel needs and motivations as well as a hierarchy differentiating regional and community level mobility needs and solutions as well as intercommunity mobility needs and solutions. In addition, the SFMTA is a partner with the MTC in development of a sustainable community strategy for the entire Bay area.


Within the larger San Francisco region, collaboration among the transportation agencies and local governments noted above has been a continuous and complex challenge as well as hallmark, guided by the MPO process managed by the MTC. Within the SFMTA, the new Divisions made up of formerly independent agencies now are drawn together in reconciling policy and management processes and to share a common customer orientation under the guidance of a single policy board.

Outside the SFMTA, active collaboration takes place with City land use, development, environmental and social service and related agencies and other region-wide interests, in part through the Bay Area Partnership, an organization of transportation and environmental agencies. Citizen Advisory Councils are also active in each area of SFMTA responsibility as well as on major projects. Finally, SFMTA meets regularly with all the transit providers in and outside the City of San Francisco service area to address mutual mobility needs including stop locations, joint promotions and marketing, vehicle technology and fuel innovation pilot projects, funding and advocacy and service planning needs that complement the transit network. Ongoing collaboration also includes joint efforts with private sector firms such as the Silicon Valley partners involved in the new Clipper smart card system.


Within the city and county, integration of responsibilities, policies, assets and resources is taking place on a number of levels as a result of the new SFMTA organizational structure and approach:

Sharing Street Space. The most significant integration flowing from creation of the SFMTA are the still emerging steps to make operational the notion that finite street space and capacity has to be rationed or allocated among competing users in varying ways to effectively sustain mobility, safety, economic vitality and environmental quality. This requirement, in turn, has meant that previously independent mode-oriented staff must reconcile and integrate preexisting and conflicting policies across modes (highway, transit, bicycle and pedestrian), and across types of assets and owners (roadway, sidewalk, parking facilities, taxi and livery services, etc.).

Policy and Strategy Integration. Integration also takes place in terms of reconciling policies and through the shift to a single policy board from the several that previously operated independently. Priority is given to maintaining a state-of-good repair in the infrastructure, followed by efforts to optimize use of available capacity, followed by then demand management and introduction of other modes to add capacity. The SFMTA is hiring the agency’s first Travel Demand Management Coordinator to develop projects and programs that reduce the use of the automobile and service delivery trips in the city for all trip generators, including coordination of private shuttles as well as ride- and car-sharing services.

Plan Integration. Plans in place or underway also provide a mechanism for integrating policy and strategy within the city and county area. A Better Streets Plan focuses on the pedestrian environment with a Pedestrian Strategy under development; the San Francisco Bicycle Plan has been developed to be consistent with the Transit-First Policy and a Climate Action Plan (CAP), and a new Cycletracks Strategy is being developed to advance a 100 mile grade-separated, in-street bicycle network similar to Europeon systems in Copenhagen and Amsterdam. A pilot bicycle-sharing project funded through the MTC for SFMTA, Caltrain and the VTAwill provide 1,000 bicycles (500 bicycles and 50 kiosks in the City of San Francisco). The SFMTA plans to expand this effort to 3,000 bicycles, citywide.

SFPark, the first of its kind parking demand management system is being expanded to cover more of the City and data is being collected to determine how this program helps the flow of transit and serves to relieve congestion. SFGO, the City’s transit and emergency vehicle signal priority and synchronization project is under way. SFMTA also plays a role in integrating segments of regional improvements.

Resource Integration. Integration in a budgetary sense is also a feature of the SFMTA. As a single agency responsible for a multi-modal transportation network, the MTA can draw on a variety of funding sources not typically available to traditional transit operating agencies, including parking revenue, traffic fine revenue, and development fees.

Information Technology

The SFMTA is advancing state-of-the-art information technology applications in its own sphere as well as participating in the introduction of new technologies on a regional scale through the efforts of the MTC. Examples include:

  • Chairing efforts to develop and implement the Clipper card, a new region-wide successor to the TransLink ‘smart card’ system that will ultimately be used for parking, taxi trips, as well as bike and car sharing;
  • Implementation of NextBus GPS and related technology providing real-time transit arrival information via the internet (NextMuni), internet-enabled personal digital assistants (PDAs) and cell phones;
  • Participation in the region’s 511 Traveler Information System;
  • Installation of state-of-the-art parking meters (SFPark), and a state-of-the-art Intergrated Transportation Management System (SFGO) to manage traffic signalization; and
  • Ongoing analysis of how the full spectrum of mobility services and supporting information can be delivered interactively via wifi, web and cell phone technology.

Organizational Change

The SFMTA organizational structure includes:

  • the Division of Administration, Taxis and Accessible Services;
  • the Division of Capital Programs and Construction;
  • the Division of Finance and Information Technology;
  • the Division of Security and Enforcement;
  • the Division of Transit; and
  • the Division of Sustainable Streets.

The Division of Sustainable Streets is the focal point for execution of the mobility management mission and responsibilities and has five subdivisions:

  • Long Range Planning and Policy, responsible for all long-term planning and policy, capital and strategic planning, modal integration plans (pedestrian, bicycle, transit system, transit corridor, service delivery), land use integration planning efforts, station and neighborhood integration plans, sustainability and climate action plans, intelligent transportation plans and travel demand management.
  • Livable Streets, responsible for implementation of pedestrian, bicycle, and traffic calming projects and programs, bicycle sharing and parking, innovative street design solutions, and school crossing safety and education.
  • Transportation Engineering, responsible for designing, directing and managing all traffic engineering functions within San Francisco, including placement of signs, signals, traffic striping, and curb markings to promote the safe and efficient movement of people and goods throughout the City and response to specific neighborhood problems.
  • Transportation Operations, responsible signals, striping and signage projects and programs to ease traffic congestion and promote parking turnover throughout the City as well as enforcement of related regulations.
  • Parking Facilities management, responsible for 19 parking garages, 21 surface lots, 24,000 parking meters and the on-street parking supply.

Responsibility for management and oversight of San Francisco’s 6,500 taxi driver, 1,477 drivers and 31 taxi companies lies with the Division of Administration, Taxis and Accessible Services, as does administration and oversight of the contract broker responsible for procurement and operation of the city’s accessible services and paratransit. The Sustainable Streets Division is also assisting with development of a Taxi Integration Framework for capital and strategic planning purposes.

Section 3. Outcomes and Measures of Success

While traditional modal performance measures remain in place, the consolidation of responsibilities for the entire surface transportation network has led to a new, ongoing effort to introduce and track the effect of combined transportation decisions and investments on the broader set of region-wide goals, including: access within the region, green house gas emissions, utility consumption and transportation’s carbon footprint.

The combination of these operational and strategic measures, and related monitoring, are intended to provide a mechanism to assess the sustainability of both the overall transportation system as well as the SFMTA itself, and to provide a mechanism to reconcile conflicting demands on the use of San Francisco’s limited transportation rights-of-way.

Section 4. Successes, Frustrations and Shortcomings

Among the most apparent advantages of the consolidated SFMTA organizational scheme are: 1) the ability to focus on and understand more clearly how broad regional goals are affected by all transportation decisions and investment in combination; 2) the focus and means to reconcile through the actions of a single policy board difficult questions related to balancing modal use of limited street space and understanding the implications of varied modal combinations; and, 3) access to multiple revenue streams, including farebox revenues, parking fees and fines, city general fund and local, regional, state and federal grant sources. Continued efforts are underway to enhance measurement and monitoring of the extent to which these apparent advantages are being realized.

Among the continuing challenges facing the SFMTA are those related to merging the very different corporate cultures evident among the formerly independent agencies that have been consolidated to form the SFMTA. Through development and implementation of more multimodal projects, however, formerly single-mode staff expertise is being broadened to to think beyond traditional modal limits and project scope.

Section 5. Next Steps

Ongoing and anticipated activities of the SFMTA include:

  • Update of the SFMTA Strategic Plan;
  • Publication of the SFMTA Annual Mobility Report;
  • Conclusion and application of findings from the Transit Effectiveness Project;
  • Development of a Climate Action Strategy;
  • Development of a Pedestrian Safety Strategy;
  • Development of a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program;
  • Expansion of SFPark parking management system;
  • Conclusion and application of findings from the Transit Preferential Street Project;
  • Broadened use of the Clipper card across modes and services;
  • Implementation of the NextMuni real-time arrival data system and data access through wifi, web and personal devices;
  • Execution of a transit data license agreement to facilitate access to and use of real-time transit data and information;
  • A range of major system and facility improvements (Market Street Multi-modal streetscape redesign, Van Ness and Geary Street BRT projects, Central Subway, rail replacement projects and fleet and facility upgrades).

Section 6. Lessons and Advice

Take things one step at a time; it is an evolutionary process, not a revolution. Continued communication, education and collaboration is key to the integration process. Allow room for innovation and mistakes.

Background Information and Data

Basic transit operating statistics for transit services provided by the MTA as well as other functions performed by the MTA are noted below.

Transit Service Overview

As a transit operating agency, the SFMTA provides services directly on five transit modes in the city and county area: diesel buses, electric trolley buses, the Muni Metro light rail system, historic street cars, and San Francisco’s famous cable cars. Also serving the city and county directly are the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) heavy rail system and the bus, ferry and demand response services of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. The scope of these services are summarized briefly in Table 1.

Table 1 Transit Service Overview
Transit Services Extent Annual Ridership

SFMTA Transit Services


378 vehicles on 52 routes

95.2 million

Electric trolleybus

241 vehicles on 16 routes

72.1 million

Muni Metro and historic streetcars

139 streetcars on 6 lines

50.7 million

Cable cars

27 cable cars

7.9 million

Demand Responsive Service

1,609 vehicles under purchase of service

1.1 million

BART Heavy Rail

534 cars on 7 lines

114.7 million

Golden Gate BHT District

168 buses on 37 routes

7.2 million

5 ferries serving three destinations

1.9 million

41 Demand Responsive vehicles under purchase of service


Source: 2009 National Transit Database

Roles, Responsibilities and Functions

As described earlier, the SFMTA in its broader role as mobility manager within the city and county is responsible for:

  • The street network, signals & systems
  • Pedestrian & bicycle networks
  • Parking supply & management
  • Station area development
  • Taxi administration
  • Street enforcement

Table 2, below, provides a more comprehensive list of roles, responsibilities and functions in managing mobility in the City and County of San Francisco with brief explanatory comments about the role of the SFMTA in each.

Table 2 Roles, Responsibilities and Functions

Planning and Policy Functions Brief notes/descriptions
Strategic planning The SFMTA maintains its own Strategic Plan and participates through the MTC on regional plans and programs
Service planning The SFMTA Transit Division manages service planning in collaboration with the Division of Sustainable Streets
Finance, budgeting and programming The SFMTA Division of Finance and Information Technology does agency budgeting; the Division of Sustainable Streets manages prioritization and programming
Fare policy The SFMTA collaborates with other regional operators on fares
Fare collection Regional strategies on fare collection and fare media are coordinated through the MTC; SFMTA has taken lead roles in these efforts
Contract management The SFMTA manages demand responsive service contracts through the Division of Administration, Taxis and Accessible Services. Other SFMTA manage contracts relevant to their sphere of responsibility
Engineering and construction The SFMTA Division of Capital Programs and Construction is responsible for engineering and construction activities
Marketing The SFMTA Division of Administration, Taxis and Accessible Services is responsible for Marketing and Customer Communications
Public information/ customer relations See Marketing p. above
Real estate and property management The SFMTA Division of Finance and Information Technology is responsible for real estate transactions and management
Legal and compliance

The SFMTA uses the City Attorney but maintains its own safety and compliance section

Information technology The SFMTA Division of Finance and Information Technology is responsible for information technology strategy and applications
Human resources and labor relations

Human resources and labor responsibilities are split between the SFMTA Division of Administration, Taxis and Accessible Services (Labor Relations, Human Resources, EEO, Payroll and Merit), and the Division of Safety, Security and Enforcement (Training, Workman’s Comp., and OSHA)

Land use planning and coordination The SFMTA Division of Sustainable Streets is responsible for land use planning activities and coordination
Land use development The SFMTA Division of Finance and Information Technology is responsible for real estate transactions and management
Other Modal Program Responsibilities
Carpool matching Bay Area 511 RideMatch is managed on a regional basis by the MTC. Independent ridesharing businesses are also available, e.g. the San Francisco Carpool Center at eRideShare.com
Vanpool program Bay Area 511 RideMatch is managed on a regional basis by the MTC
Taxi voucher Regional Transit Connection discount cards are available to persons with disabilities and seniors. Application and availability is managed through each individual Bay Area transit system.
Car sharing A variety of for profit and non-profit car sharing ventures offer vehicles without a SFMTA regulatory role. The SFMTA acts as a fiscal sponsor for grants
Bicycle sharing See p. 4 above re: SFMTA share of MTC-sponsored regional assets
Medicaid transit passes Medicaid cards are valid for $0.75 discounted fares
Highway programs The SFMTA is responsible for all aspects of street and highway network in the City-County area
Travel training Muni provides a free travel training program geared towards assisting seniors and persons with disabilities in using bus and light rail services. Individualized or small group trainings are provided by peer trainers.
Traffic signal coordination SFMTA is responsible for signals and coordination
Emergency road services The MTC 511 system is available for emergency and non-emergency roadside aid on the regions freeways. SAFE, the Service Authority for Freeways and Expressways operating under the MTC, operates a fleet of free Freeway Service Patrol (FSP) tow trucks. Contract towing companies serve CALTRANS and the California Highway Patrol.
Emergency medical transportation The SFMTA manages a biofuel contract and works jointly on emergency signal synchronization
Traveler road information The MTC 511 system provides regional traveler information.
Demand Management
Telecommuting Telecommuting is a City-wide strategy. The new TDM coordinator will have responsibility for all alternative work programs.
Flexible hours See above
HOV/HOT An 800 mile Bay Area Express Lane Network is part of the MTCs Transportation 2035 Plan and is the focus of the Bay Area Toll Authority’s responsibility, in coordination with other local and regional agencies..
TOD Transit Oriented Development (TOD) has been an ongoing focus in cooperation with MTC. Work is underway on a TOD policy. The SFMTA does have land use review authority for all major development and neighborhood planning and coordinates with the City’s redevelopment agency, the Port of SF, and economic and workforce development departments on major developments
Congestion pricing The Bay Area Toll Authority, an arm of the MTC, has authority to set tolls on regional facilities. SFPark is piloting the variable pricing demand management for the City. The SF Transportation Authority (SFCTA) is examining the feasibility of road-based cordon congestion pricing in the north-east quadrant of the City
Joint development The SFMTA has developed property downtown (a hotel) and is exploring joint development opportunities on several other sites it owns.
Parking administration An SFMTA responsibility; see p. 6 above.

Agency Contact Information:

Mr. Timothy Papandreou
Deputy Director of Transportation Planning
Sustainable Streets Long Range Planning and Policy
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA)
1 South Van Ness Avenue, 7th Floor,
San Francisco, CA 94103,
415-701-4333 (o)
415-297-8493 (c)

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