Thursday, November 21, 2013

'Housing For All' Request to Muni Ends Public Service Alerts on Buses

This is one more lesson showing how billionaires and private enterprises are able to have access to public services, including using public service alerts on the headers of San Francisco's bus fleet operated by Muni, and the public is denied equal access to those same services.

Have you noticed in the last three years that Muni has run "Go Team, Go!" messages in-between bus read-outs telling you the bus route number and destination. It's not as if the owners of our local sports franchises lack for advertising dollars to spent on City bus shelters and other spaces throughout the Muni system, and I'm not necessarily opposed to charging up civic pride in sporting events regardless of my huge apathy toward professional and for-profit sports.

What I'm troubled by is that my simple request in the summer to Muni to have the headers read Housing for All for a month, has not only failed to the agency saying yes, but they're also not been able to turn up a single page of written rules regarding such requests, and now Muni is ending the practice because a member of the public with an affordable housing agenda wants equal access to the bus headers that the billionaire have.

In addition to the team-related messages, Muni has also allowed Equality for All and We Stand With Boston to appear on buses, pro bono.

I complained on Tuesday, Nov. 19 directly to the full board of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency during public comment, which aired on SF Gov TV, since my emails to spokesman Paul Rose weren't producing results. My comments start at the 2:40 mark:

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Excerpts from exchanges with the agency's flak:

July 30th

Paul Rose: We have received various feedback about the use of the head signs. We are currently establishing guidelines around the use of these signs beyond the bus’ destination. Conversations are taking place right now between various divisions and units within the MTA to explore this issue. As the conversation continues, I will be sure to include your request for consideration. At this point I do not have an answer, but will let you know when something has been resolved in the very near future.

November 19th

MP: It's been three months since I last heard from you about this matter. Are those conversations still taking place? I've noticed since we last communicated that some buses now say "Go Bulls!" on their headers. So odd that there are no written guidelines, yet it seems every sports team gets access to the headers. Please let me know the status of the conversations you've referred to, before the SF MTA meeting today at 1 pm. I wish to address this matter during public comment this afternoon.

November 21st

Paul Rose: I’m sorry it has taken so long to get back to you on this. We have received numerous complaints from passengers who have said that these signs hinder their ability to quickly read the intended destination information. Because of this, the SF MTA has decided to remove the sports signs from the entire fleet and will not post any additional information that is not related to the route’s destination. We have already started removing the signs from the bus fleet and the process should be complete by the end of the year.

November 21st

MP: This sounds so bogus, that for at least three years super wealthy sports teams have had plenty of access to the buses, as if they don't have ad budgets, and every thing is hunky dory. I come along and ask for equal access to the headers, and you shine me on for a couple of months, and now state, without any written or independent proof, that you've received complaints about the headers with messages and access to the headers will end for everyone. 

And it took you all these months to determine such complaints before getting back to me, finally, after waiting months for information on my request to run Housing For All on the headers, to say I'm tough out of luck with getting what the billionaire owners of the teams have gotten for three years for free from SF MTA. 

One more example of how public services and public space have been sold off or given free to private enterprises. 

There's also the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza that is technically municipally-owned and managed, but instead controlled by the private MUMC group, and hardly a fortnight goes by without the City renting Civic Center to a big corporation for branding purposes and increasing profits, and making citizens pay for access to City land.

I wish to appeal this decision to end the practice by the end of the year. I would like the chance for the Housing For All message to appear on the headers. How about giving the public one last chance at getting the equal of what the private sports teams have received from Muni these past years?

We'll see if my appeal gets heard and considered at the SF MTA. I see no reason why my request can't be met. Maybe I should form the Housing for All sports team. That may be the solution. Let's put "Go Housing For All" on the buses for the month of December!


Rusty said...

Good for you, Mike! I'm greatly opposed to the use of public spaces (like those bus displays, and the outside surfaces of buses) for advertising. Our urban environment is way too cluttered with visual garbage. It's outrageous for the city government to add to the clutter with advertising and sports boostering. I'm delighted that you've been instrumental in causing one of those types of clutter to disappear.

Unknown said...

Much appreciate hearing from you, Rusty, with such praise. Glad you understand the central issues here with SF MTA.