Bay Area transit advocates, playing the role of pallbearers, carried four fake caskets holding cardboard renditions of trains and buses in a mock funeral for the Bay Area's public transit system. BART, Muni, Caltrain and Alameda County Transit were the agencies being mourned at a pro-transit rally in San Francisco's Civic Center on Saturday afternoon.
"Dearly beloved, we gather here today to say our goodbyes: Today, we prepare to lay to rest our beloved public transportation system as we know it," shouted a protestor against a backdrop of cheers and a brass-band funeral march.
The protestors did not chant as they made their way from United Nations Plaza to Civic Center Plaza across from San Francisco City Hall starting around 1 p.m., but when someone saw a Muni bus driving by, they would shout, “Bus! Bus! Bus!"
More than 100 demonstrators participated in the mock funeral procession mourning the impending loss of public transit agencies—and its potential impact on the local economy—that began around 11 a.m. in Downtown Oakland. Outside the Elihu M. Harris State Building, a brief memorial was held featuring AC Transit Directors Jean Walsh and Jovanka Beckles as well as BART Director Lateefah Simon.
After the procession moved to San Francisco and ended in another memorial at Civic Center Plaza, city officials—including Mayor London Breed, state Sen. Scott Wiener and Supervisors Dean Preston and Rafael Mandelman—spoke at the rally.
"It's more important that we are loud and make our voices heard, all the way from San Francisco to Sacramento," said Mayor London Breed. "It doesn't just impact us here; it will impact our ability to recover as we go through this challenging time, which has been very devastating, as a result of the pandemic."
Breed went on to applaud San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director Jeffrey Tumlin, lauding his organization's investments in environmentally friendly trains and its flexibility during the pandemic.
"There are so many different pieces to the puzzle," Breed said. "On the statewide level, with all the goals they talk about around a clean, green environment—transportation is the thing we need to focus on the most to ensure we achieve a greenhouse gas-free state by 2045. We cannot get there without these investments."
The protestors are asking Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature to expand regional transit funding in the budget for fiscal year 2024. In January, the governor proposed a budget that cuts almost $6 billion from capital programs, including transit infrastructure.
"It's hard to even envision San Francisco without great public transportation," said state Sen. Scott Wiener. "We all criticize and beat up on Muni—I'm guilty of that—but let's be clear, we have world-class transportation here in San Francisco, and we should never ever take that for granted."
State Assembly Budget Chair Phil Ting, who represents San Francisco's west side, has been under pressure recently to boost transit funding in the state budget. Currently, BART has budgeted its federal pandemic relief funding to last through 2025, after which it faces a deficit in the hundreds of millions per year.
"We are actually at risk of seeing public transportation in the Bay Area crater," said Wiener, who has been a longtime advocate for public transit in the Bay Area.
The SFMTA, which runs Muni Metro trains and buses, has made projections showing a $76 million budget hole by 2025. SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin has said that without enough state funding, the Muni bus system may have to cut 20 lines as early as this summer.