Friday, August 26, 2016

Family Representation

I recently submitted the following letter for consideration to some decision makers:

“What does a San Franciscan get for his fifth birthday?

“A new home in the suburbs.”

You’ve heard the joke. Everyone has. It could be depressing. I feel a little depressed thinking about it as my child just started kindergarten and many of her friends’ families prepare for The Move. Maybe I’m an idealist, but I don’t think it has to be like this. San Francisco has world class public transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, many excellent schools, museums and cultural institutions on par with the world’s best. Shouldn’t it be easier for families with children to stay?

The Move happens for lots of reasons. The costs of housing and childcare are often mentioned, but another huge one is that the transportation system (and the associated democratic process for planning it) could do a better job of meeting the needs of children, people traveling with children, and pregnant women.

San Francisco can be a family-friendly city, and you have the power to make it so. Last year, a group of us gave a talk at SPUR “Can Families Get Around in San Francisco?” (Tuesday, May 26, 2015). After which, the Transit Riders Union had the foresight to create the Families Working Group. But we’re not sure it’s the right mechanism to have the most opportunity to improve the City’s transportation system for children. So, I’m writing to you now to ask you to help us. How do you think families with children can have a stronger voice in the democratic process? Here are a few ideas we came up with:
  • All public meetings should take place between 5 and 7 pm, with a defined end time, and provide childcare on site (like PTA meetings currently do).
  • Survey responses and thoughtful letters should have a larger impact on public decision making. (Sidenote: I can’t tell you have many times I have written a long thoughtful letter only to receive a response that I should attend a meeting which I cannot attend because I have a young child.)
  •  All CACs should include member representatives who are parents with children of a variety of ages.
  • SFMTA (and BART) could create a Families CAC along the lines of the Multimodal Accessibility Advisory Committee (MAAC). We have a draft proposal for this available upon request.
  • The Department of Children, Youth and Their Families could create a Task Force with the SFMTA.
What ideas do you have? We look forward to discussing the possibilities with you. Thank you for your thoughtful attention to this critically important issue.