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In 1954, Turning Market Street Into a Parking Lot Seemed Like a Good Idea

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How some envisioned a “better Market Street” in 1954. Image via SFMTA

In an alternate universe, the streetcar tracks that line the center of Market Street would have become car parking.

That was an actual proposal in 1954, put forward by Supervisor Marvin Lewis. The plan [PDF] was recently dug up by SFMTA staff from the agency’s archives. Today it’s an appalling idea, but back then it was typical. The conventional wisdom among city planners and elected officials held that the answer to traffic congestion in downtown SF was to tear it apart with freeways and parking spaces.

While the plan to turn Market into a parking lot was never realized, the pursuit of abundant parking left its mark on downtown SF. The dense urban core is dotted with massive parking garages, including the country’s first underground parking structure, under Union Square. It could have been worse — the Fifth and Mission Garage, for example, was envisioned to be five blocks long, with exterior car ramps.

San Francisco, perhaps more than any other U.S city, successfully resisted many of those would-be disasters. The city’s identity would be very different today if SF had torn up its neighborhoods and iconic streets, like Market, to create parking lots.

While SF fought off the worst impulses of 1950s-era thinking, the plan for Market Street is a reminder that for all the “bullets we’ve dodged,” as one SF planner put it, players at City Hall were indeed able to dramatically reshape the city around the car.

Our streets are shaped by deliberate public policy decisions, and the way they are currently designed is not the natural order of things. Every curbside parking spot that opponents of change cling to so fiercely today was at one point bestowed by policy makers, who decided to reallocate street space from general public use to private car owners.

As we revisit streets like Market in 2015, let’s remember: It’s an era for new possibilities.

Ah, iconic Market Street. Image via SFMTA

Ah, iconic Market Street. Image via SFMTA

Streetsblog USA
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The Appalling Rollback of Truck Safety Provisions in the DRIVE Act

A battle is brewing over the Senate transportation bill’s approach to truck safety. Though large trucks are involved crashes that kill nearly 4,000 people a year — a number that has grown by 17 percent over the past five years — the DRIVE Act actually rolls back what few protections exist.

The bill would allow longer and heavier tractor-trailers. Trucking companies would be able to double up two 33-foot trailers behind one truck, even in states that have banned such big loads.

The bill would also cut down on mandated rest periods for truckers, a long-simmering question. Right now, truckers have to rest for at least 34 hours between work weeks, with that 34-hour break including two overnights and the work week not including more than 70 hours of driving. The Senate bill would allow truckers to work 82 hours a week with less rest.

Perhaps most appalling, the DRIVE Act would let teenagers drive commercial trucks.

Yes, the bill would allow 18-year-olds to drive commercial trucks, despite the elevated crash risk of teenage drivers. A raft of legal provisions and insurance standards work to protect the public from notoriously unsafe teen drivers, who pose a danger to society even driving a VW bug, much less a big rig with two 33-foot trailers.

Read more…
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Detroit Riders Share Their Transit Horror Stories

Detroit’s transit system is in crisis.

The region’s fractious transit network was highlighted last year by the story of James Robertson — “Detroit’s walking man” — whose one-way, 23-mile commute consists of two bus routes and 10-plus miles of walking.

The Detroit region has been struggling to create a unified city-suburb regional transit agency for the last few years. Next year voters will be asked to approve a tax increase to ensure transit service in the region functions at a basic level again.

In the meantime, Detroiters who count on transit are suffering. Network blog We Are Mode Shift points to a new site, DitchedbyDDOT, where riders air their grievances. We’ve collected some of the more unbelievable examples below [emphasis ours]:

  • “More than 10, less than 15 people waiting for the Dexter 16, outbound. One says he’s been waiting so long his transfer expired. The bus scheduled to stop rolls past without stopping. It’s 6:15 pm and freezing.”
  • “During the ride, a fellow passenger got an angry call from what I assume was his boss. He pleaded with the man on the phone, saying that he had been waiting on the bus since 5:50 and would be there soon. From the way the other riders nodded their heads, I knew he wasn’t the only one. When the bus dropped me off downtown, the snow on the sidewalk was almost up to the parking meters. I walked the rest of the way to work in the street.”

Read more…


Today’s Headlines

  • Muni Announces Second Service Increase for September; April Increase Boosted Ridership (SFGate)
  • SFMTA Begins Construction on SF’s First Urban Parking-Protected Bike Lane on 13th Street
  • Painted Bulb-Out Installation Underway at Four Intersections in North Beach (Hoodline)
  • Driver Hit by F-Market at Pier One While Reportedly Making Illegal Left Turn (Hoodline)
  • N-Judah Shut Down After Train Hits Construction Vehicle at UCSF Parnassus (Hoodline)
  • 19th Ave Development Planned in Sunset Would Have 42 Housing Units, 56 Parking Spaces (SocketSite)
  • SFO Renews Permits for Ride-Hail Apps (SF Exam); Cabbies Say App Drivers “Troll” Terminals (Weekly)
  • SamTrans Ridership Increases Six Percent Over Two Years After Service Reorganization (Mercury News)
  • Two Suspects Turn Themselves in for Driving Into Gas Line That Burned Santa Clara Strip Mall (NBC)
  • San Jose Police Still Seek Driver Who Hit and Killed Woman on Sidewalk (ABC, NBC, SFGate)
  • People Behaving Badly: San Jose Drivers Run Stop Signs and Red Lights Near BART Construction
  • Sidecar’s California Permit Suspended After “Administrative Error” (SF Examiner)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA


D3 Supe Candidates Peskin, Christensen Weigh in on Polk Street Bike Lanes

District 3 supervisor candidates Aaron Peskin and Julie Christensen gave their positions on bringing protected bike lanes to all of Polk Street this week in response to the SF Bicycle Coalition’s election questionnaire. Peskin gave an affirmative “yes,” while Christensen’s response was closer to a “maybe.”

Aaron Peskin and Julie Christensen.

Aaron Peskin and Julie Christensen.

The redesign for Polk, approved by the SFMTA board in March, was watered down from the original vision for protected bike lanes after some merchants complained about the reduction in car parking. David Chiu, who was the D3 supervisor during most of the planning process, did not stand up for a bolder vision.

The candidates were asked if they will “commit to supporting continuous, protected bike lanes on the High-Injury Corridor segments of Polk Street when the Polk Streetscape Project is next reviewed.” The next review is supposed to happen after the current design has been in place for a year, at which time the SFMTA will assess further improvements.

Peskin, who is running for his old job (he served two terms as D3 supervisor preceding Chiu), answered “yes” to the question.

Christensen, the current supervisor who was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee, gave no response to that question but then explained her stance in a follow-up question, “How will you prioritize public safety during this process?”

The plan was in jeopardy when I took office. I worked to sustain a compromise that does not preclude future adjustments, but will allow the significant bike safety portions of the current project to move ahead. Many of the gravest conditions and concerns have been addressed in Phase 1 and I have promised all parties that we will — jointly — evaluate the impacts and shortcomings of this initial installation and develop next steps as needed.

Here’s how Peskin answered the follow-up:

I was disappointed by how contentious the Polk Street process became. It is my hope that when the first bicycle safety improvements — enhanced with pedestrian improvements — are in the ground that residents, merchants, commuters and visitors alike will see the benefits and be supportive of continued improvements. It’s one of the most dangerous corridors in the City, and isn’t helped by the crush of TNC’s double-parked along this corridor.

Read more on Peskin and Christensen’s stances on creating safer streets, data-driven traffic enforcement, and increasing funding for bicycling, walking, and transit.

Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways Podcast: Remaking California Transportation

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This week on Talking Headways I’m joined by a big roster of guests to talk able about California’s climate legislation and how it will change transportation policy.

Lauren Michelle of Policy in Motion and Kate White, Deputy Secretary for Environmental and Housing at the California State Transportation Agency, give us the lay of the land when it comes to California’s emissions laws and the state’s array of transportation agencies.

Caltrans Sustainability Director Steve Cliff discusses what sustainability means and how it gets misconstrued as just an issue of environmental stewardship. And Eric Sundquist of SSTI also joins us to talk about how Caltrans will reorganize itself to shift its approach to transportation policy.

The last segment touches on funding and what revenue from California’s cap-and-trade system will mean for transportation. Fred Dock, transportation director for the City of Pasadena, guides us through how his city will be able to access funds by thinking outside the box.

Tune in and hear all about how California is turning the ship around — it’s exciting to think about the bright future ahead for the largest state in the nation.
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Louisville Police Officer Strikes Pedestrian During City’s Big Safety Push

Louisville's three-year pedestrian safety campaign is called "Look Alive Louisville." Image: Broken Sidewalk

Louisville’s three-year pedestrian safety campaign is called “Look Alive Louisville.” Image: Broken Sidewalk

Louisville is trying to get a handle on pedestrian safety. An average of 16 pedestrians are killed on the city’s streets annually, and the last few years have been getting worse. The city has received funding from the federal government for a three-year safety campaign dubbed “Look Alive Louisville.”

Branden Klayko at Network blog Broken Sidewalk has been running a series about the initiative. While the objective is admirable, so far the city’s tactics are a mixed bag at best. Law enforcement has been ticketing pedestrians for “jaywalking” and warning them about the dangers of dark clothing. On a more positive note, some of the messaging is aimed at drivers, and Dixie Highway, where 20 percent of collisions involving pedestrians occur, is due for a design “do-over.”

In the midst of the campaign, Klayko reports, an off-duty police office struck a pedestrian — an incident the encapsulates, in some ways, how “Look Alive Louisville” comes up short:

One of five dangerous target intersections being watched by the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) as part of the city’s Look Alive Louisville pedestrian safety campaign is at Fourth Street and Broadway. On Monday night one block west, a pedestrian was struck by an off-duty LMPD officer who failed to yield to the unnamed person crossing Broadway in a crosswalk.

Read more…


Today’s Headlines

  • Man on Bike Seriously Injured By Right-Turning Driver at Divisadero & Golden Gate (Appeal)
  • SFPD: Driver Who Hit Man on 6th, Surrounded By Witnesses, Wasn’t Trying to Flee (Examiner)
  • More on the SFMTA Proposal for a Car-Free Powell (Hoodline)
  • Supervisor Christensen Starts Street Cleaning Campaign in District 3 (Hoodline)
  • More on Tree Replacement for Van Ness BRT (Hoodline)
  • More on Muni’s Plan to Replace Paper Transfers in 2016 (NBC)
  • Bauer’s Shuttle Company Accused of Creating Fake Workers Union (Examiner)
  • BART to Install New Tracks During Transbay Tube Closure (Modern Luxury)
  • Charges on a Stolen Clipper Card Can’t Be Cancelled Until Midnight (ABC)
  • Oakland City Council Votes to Reroute Trucks Away From East Oakland Residential Streets (EBX)
  • San Jose Pedestrian Killed by Hit-and-Run Driver Marks City’s 31st Traffic Fatality of Year (CoCo)
  • Santa Clara Strip Mall Fire Caused by Driver Who Hit Gas Line and Drove Away (SFGate)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA


SFMTA Proposes a Car-Free Powell Street in Union Square

Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA has proposed making crowded, traffic-clogged Powell Street in Union Square a car-free street on a trial basis. Removing cars from the equation would make the street function better for pedestrians and cable cars on the blocks between Ellis and Geary Streets.

As we wrote last year, it makes little sense to have cars on Powell, which is seen as San Francisco’s gateway for visitors. On this two-block stretch, private car drivers routinely block bustling crosswalks, create stop-and-go traffic that damages Muni’s world-famous cable cars, and obstruct intersections in the path of the 38-Geary, Muni’s busiest bus line.

The car-free trial has already been delayed due to the Union Square Business Improvement District’s resistance to what it calls a “rushed” timeline and insistence on delivery vehicle access throughout the day.

The SFMTA’s goal “is to have these changes in place before the 2015 holiday shopping season,” with signs and paint installed in November, according to an agency flyer [PDF]. An engineering hearing is tentatively scheduled for October 2, and an SFMTA Board vote on October 20, but agency staff said the dates aren’t confirmed.

The car-free trial was originally listed on an engineering hearing for August 14 but got tabled before the hearing was held.

Union Square BID Executive Director Karin Flood told Hoodline that “the group was concerned about the SFMTA ‘fast-tracking’ the changes without taking into account stakeholder concerns.”

“We are open to the concept of making the area more pedestrian friendly but need to ensure that merchant loading/unloading needs are accommodated and that the timing is right,” Flood wrote in an email to Streetsblog.

Under the proposal, during a 12-18 month trial phase, cars and delivery vehicles would not be allowed on Powell except between midnight and 5 a.m., when cable cars don’t operate. This aligns with how “most business who responded” to an SFMTA survey already handle their deliveries. According to the SFMTA flyer, these businesses “indicated that they conduct their loading on a side street or during late night hours when the cable cars are not running.”

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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This Is What Passes for Traffic “Justice” in America

The "mob" was actually a group of people on bikes trying to flag down a motorist who had hit one of their friends and driven off, dragging his bike. Image: <a href="" target="_blank">KGTV San Diego</a>

The “mob” was actually a group of people on bikes trying to flag down a motorist who had hit one of their friends and driven off, dragging his bike. Image: KGTV San Diego

Here’s a great example of how American law enforcement tends to produce perverse results when it comes to traffic collisions.

A cyclist in San Diego was hit by a driver and managed to avoid more serious injury by jumping off his bike. Prior to the incident, the motorist had been honking repeatedly at the group the victim was riding with, according to this report from KGTV San Diego.

Although she struck a person, dragged his bike for blocks, and only stopped when confronted by the victims’ friends, the driver will receive no ticket and face no criminal charges. In fact, one of the friends who chased the driver down may be charged with a misdemeanor for banging on her window and breaking it. In KGTV’s telling, that makes the cyclists a “mob” and the whole incident “a tussle” between them and the driver.

That’s how it goes on American streets: Harming a person with your car carries no penalty but harming someone’s car most definitely does.

Hat tip Shane Phillips