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Activists block downtown San Francisco freeway ramp, causing traffic chaos

A handful of protesters gather to block the Highway 101 off-ramp. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Transit activists blocked traffic leaving Highway 101 northbound at Market and Octavia streets in Downtown San Francisco on Thursday at around 6:05 p.m., causing a backup on the freeway.

Traffic was already at a near standstill on the 101 southbound due to an accident at around 4:45 p.m. according to 511.

As of 6:30 p.m., activists had stopped blocking the road and confirmed to The Standard their protest was over.

Demonstrators staged a WWE-style skit where activist Anthony Ryan dressed up as Gov. Gavin Newsom and beat a piñata shaped like a Caltrain car.

READ MORE: BART Board Approves Fare, Parking Pricing Increases

"I think it's great," said Nicole Moore, who was driving into San Francisco on Highway 101. "I'm forced to drive because public transit is terrible."

Another driver was less receptive to the protest.

"Whenever you do this it never helps," said Stewart, who declined to give a last name. "It just pisses people off."

One protester with a bullhorn speaking to drivers called the action "Transit Smackdown 2023."

California Department of Transportation live freeway cameras show traffic is moving at a snail's pace into the city. The protestors appear to be letting through a few cars between instances of blocking the road with bicycles.

The protest came on the same day BART chiefs voted to increase fares and parking prices.

A handful of protesters block the Highway 101 off-ramp. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Safe Street Rebel, which identifies itself as a transportation justice advocacy group, said it blocked traffic to raise awareness about the financial woes that Newsom and other state lawmakers are said to have forced on public transportation agencies by failing to provide sufficient funding in the budget.

In January, the governor proposed a budget that cuts almost $6 billion from capital programs, including transit infrastructure.

"The insufficient funding proposed by Newsom will lead to significantly worse car traffic, which the group will highlight by causing a backup on 101-North," a statement from Safe Street Rebel said. "The direct action will send a message to Newsom that he needs to provide sufficient funding for public transportation to reduce car traffic, noise, and air pollution and fight climate change."

Transit activists gather on a the corner of Market and Octavia in San Francisco, on June 8, 2023. | Isaac Ceja/The Standard

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which runs Muni Metro trains and buses, has projected 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. 

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. 

Garrett Leahy can be reached at