Skip to content

13 Comments

How Many People Will Get Hurt If the Masonic Redesign Gets Delayed Again?

Opponents of the safety overhaul of Masonic Avenue complain in particular about removing nine trees on a concrete triangle at Masonic and Geary Street, where a plaza with many more trees (shown) will be built. Image: DPW

Another sorely-needed street safety redesign could be threatened by neighbors protesting the replacement of trees, even though, when all is said and done, the number of trees in the project area will double.

The overhaul of deadly Masonic Avenue could be delayed or altered if the SF Board of Appeals upholds an appeal against tree removal permits at a hearing on Wednesday

The redesign, which was supposed to start construction this summer, was recently delayed by at least six months, the SF Examiner reported earlier this month. The addition of underground utility upgrades to the scope of work pushed back the start of construction to 2016, with the project scheduled for completion a year later.

The Masonic plan requires the removal of 49 trees, 17 of which are unhealthy and “unsafe,” and the planting of 185 new trees. It’s “a more than three-to-one replacement ratio,” Department of Public Works landscape architect John Dennis said in a statement. Overall, the current count of 145 trees will increase to 282.

“In order to construct our project some trees need to be removed and replaced,” Dennis wrote in an email blast to supporters of the redesign, encouraging them to urge the Board of Appeals to approve the permits. “This is unfortunate, but a small price to pay in exchange for a safer Masonic Street for all users.”

“We have been diligent in our efforts to save existing trees along the corridor,” he added.

As with the Van Ness Avenue Bus Rapid Transit project, which 16 speakers protested last week over tree replacements, a handful of neighbors are threatening to slow down the Masonic plan, which has been in the works since 2010. The Masonic tree removal permits were issued in May, but they were appealed by two neighbors.

If the tree appeal does delay the Masonic projects, it will be another case in which the city’s appeals system has enabled a small group of people to obstruct or delay a project even after extensive vetting via publics meetings, analysis, and city approvals. All it takes is one appellant to bring a major safety effort to a halt.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

Here They Are — The Sad Benches Where No One Wants to Sit

CNTVsL8UcAAppOz

This lovely “place I don’t want to sit” comes from Drew Ackermann in Gambrills, Maryland. His wife tested it out just for laughs.

Last week, Gracen Johnson over at Strong Towns introduced the phrase “places I don’t want to sit” to describe the lousy, leftover public spaces where someone has plopped down a bench or two as an afterthought. The seating, in these cases, helps crystallize how unsalvageable our public realm becomes when everything else is planned around moving and storing cars. Who would actually want to sit there?

So Strong Towns and Streetsblog encouraged folks to Tweet their own examples at #PlacesIDontWantToSit. You all dug up some hilarious-but-sad places — here are some of the lousiest ones.

This submission comes to us via Kansas City-based Tweeter The Pedestrian Path, who added the helpful white arrow to point out the sitting space:

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 9.51.31 AM

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Jersey Pays Subaru to Bring Another Parking Crater to Downtown Camden

Camden, New Jersey, took home the 2015 Golden Crater award for the nastiest parking scar in the country, and it looks like state and local leaders aren’t about to let the city rest on its laurels.

Subaru plans to bring a suburban office complex to downtown Camden, New Jersey. Image via South Jerseyist

Subaru plans to bring a suburban office complex to downtown Camden, New Jersey. Image via South Jerseyist

Joseph Russell at South Jerseyist reports that, thanks to over $100 million in tax breaks from Governor Chris Christie and the state legislature, Subaru is preparing to move its North American headquarters from nearby Cherry Hill to downtown Camden. Russell says the Subaru project was billed as “a game changer for the city” — a development that would bring jobs while revitalizing the downtown Gateway District. But the site plans, revealed last week, depict a low-rise office building surrounded by asphalt.

The plans call for a building shorter than the current headquarters in Cherry Hill. Brandywine Realty Trust, which has developed some wonderful buildings in Philadelphia, wants to build a squat suburban headquarters located in a sea of over 1,000 parking spaces.

From the perspective of those who thought, maybe, these tax breaks might actually lead to positive change in the city, as everyone working toward them has claimed, disappointment is the kindest word for what we are feeling. Devastation, bewilderment, and disgust are far more apt. This project could not be more disengaged from the city. Those parking spots guarantee that every single Subaru employee will drive in to work in the morning, stay on campus to eat lunch, and drive home at night. They will not interact with the city. Even if they wanted to, they are hardly given the chance. Employees would have to traverse a punishing sea of asphalt to get out of the suburban-style office park.

This plan, should it get built, will set the city back decades. Successful cities and towns all around the country are working to undo the harm caused by sprawling development. Here in New Jersey, office parks like this are going empty as people seek dynamic, urban environments to work in. What Subaru is doing here is guaranteeing that South Jersey will pay for the privilege of living in an increasingly obsolete development model, truly a dying past, for decades to come.

As for local access to jobs, Russell cites a Philadelphia Inquirer story by Inga Saffron, who points out that, though only 65 percent of Camden residents have access to cars, the Subaru site will be separated from the downtown transit hub by a mile-long walk along a “mini-highway.”

Elsewhere on the Network: The Political Environment says Milwaukee traffic congestion doesn’t justify spending billions on new roads, and Bike Delaware explains the problems with “Share the Road” signage.

61 Comments

Today’s Headlines

  • Lyft Driver Crashes Into F-Line Streetcar After Making Illegal Right Turn (SF Weekly)
  • SFMTA Launches Pilot Program to Let Scoot Park in Permit Areas Citywide (SF Examiner)
  • Sept. Muni Upgrades Include 27 New, Eco-Friendly Buses and 5-Fulton Restructure (SF Appeal, SF Exam)
  • Metal Breaks Off Interior Escalator at 24th Street BART Station and Injures Woman (Mission Local)
  • Sinkhole Reopens on Street at 33rd and Balboa (Richmond District Blog)
  • Two BART Safety Monitors Suspended After Sitting Down on the Job (Matier and Ross)
  • Burlingame 101 Reopens After Crane Collapses Transmission Tower (CBS, SF Gate, The Daily Journal)
  • …Reopens Again After Utility Crews Replace Damaged Power Lines (ABC)
  • Santa Cruz Plans Public Workshops to Develop “Active Transportation Plan” (Cyclelicious)
  • Big-Rig Driver Strikes Motorcyclist Outside Livermore and Flees Crash (SF Gate)
  • Caltrans Offers $25,000 to Resident With Best Idea to Fix California Traffic (CBS)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

12 Comments

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

This post supported by

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
View Comments

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…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

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…

28 Comments

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

29 Comments

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
View Comments

Talking Headways Podcast: Remaking California Transportation

podcast icon logo

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.