Two-Way Hayes Extension is a Step Closer, Though Obstacles Remain

Mom_and_child_peds.jpgCars whipping around the corner of Gough and Hayes, where pedestrians can only cross three ways

There was widespread government and public support for a two-way, traffic-calmed Hayes Street between Gough and Franklin at the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Economic Development Committee meeting today, but there is a fundamental disagreement with the MTA on how to get there.

Julie Kirschbaum of the MTA presented two options for altering the street (PDF). Option A would change the one-way traffic pattern to two-way, increase sidewalk widths by three feet, provide bulb-outs at corners for easier pedestrian crossings, and require an evening rush hour bus-only tow-away zone in the Westbound direction.  Option B would preserve the one-way flow, take away one travel
lane and widen sidewalks by five feet.  The MTA stressed that Option B was only being studied in case vehicular traffic diversions
were too onerous under Option A.

Nearly 15 people spoke in favor of Option A, including neighborhood residents, the president of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, the president of the Hayes Valley Merchants Association, and a representative speaking for the San Francisco Symphony, Opera and Ballet.

None of the public testimony supported the evening tow-away regulation in Option A, which the MTA considers necessary to make the change.  Merchants were worried that without the buffer of parked cars in the parking lane, commuters would race through the neighborhood within inches of pedestrians on sidewalks, making the retail environment much less comfortable. 

"Without the tow-away zone, it’s two-to-three minutes of delay," countered the MTA’s Kirschbaum after the hearing.  "The costs of delays to Muni are tough to deal with, though we’re committed to working with the community and the policy makers." 

When pressed whether the MTA would assent to completing the two-way conversion without a tow-away option, Kirshbaum said the agency would leave that decision up to policy makers. 

MTA Communications Director Judson True added that small delays at one point on a route like the 21 Hayes can add up to significant delays to the surrounding network.  "One of the main priorities of the TEP is to reduce Muni travel times to better serve our customers and operate more efficiently.  We need to work very hard not to further delay Muni while balancing improvements to the pedestrian environment."

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who had originally introduced the two-way option at the Board level, said he was uncomfortable with the tow-away provision and would call a meeting between the stakeholders and the agencies to come up with a solution.

In the interim, the MTA promised to restore the four-way crosswalk at Hayes and Gough by April 1st, and start the MTA Board approval process for approving a two-way plan.  The MTA also committed to collaborating with the Planning Department and the SFCTA to analyze all the technical factors involved in the transformation, including a traffic study.  The agencies will pay for the planning with a $200,000 allocation of transit impact fees.

The MTA didn’t set a precise deadline for design and construction, however, citing the uncertain timetable for board approval and technical analysis.

Photo: Matthew Roth

  • Great to see this moving forward after so many years. It’s a difficult balance with MUNI functionality in these situations, but the first priority must be the pedestrians and the local neighborhood livability and health.

    There is so much that could be done by sacrificing auto capacity to allow MUNI to function better that creates unacceptable LOS levels under our current illogical carbon production maximizing environmental analysis standards, soon to change due to the new state level CEQUA guidelines. Go AB-32!

  • Yay! Walking down Hayes from Alamo Square to Van Ness station is a (dangerous) maze these days… good to see people are working to fix it.

  • Just imagine how much worse it would have been if the city had followed through on the full 1948 Transportation Plan and destroyed additional entire blocks to build diagonal connections from westbound Hayes to Fell and eastbound Oak to Fell!

    I’m really looking forward to seeing this and similar mistakes of the past finally corrected.

  • L

    They do the rush hour tow-away zone bus lane in Vancouver on main shopping streets (i.e. Robson St.) and it’s not bad at all. (Drivers in Vancouver are very good about not driving in the bus lane though, so it’s not commuters whipping by close to pedestrians, it’s a mostly empty lane with the occassional bus.)

  • “Merchants were worried that without the buffer of parked cars in the parking lane, commuters would race through the neighborhood within inches of pedestrians on sidewalks, making the retail environment much less comfortable.”

    So, why not ban cars from that towaway lane and make it an exclusive bus lane? And instruct the buses to go slowly enough that they wouldn’t make the retail environment too uncomfortable – which would still be much faster than they could go in mixed traffic.

    Remember that this would only apply from 4-7 pm – and presumably only on weekdays.

    Not the perfect solution, but perhaps better than any alternative.

    I agree with David Baker (above) that the best solution would be to forget about LOS and stripe an exclusive bus lane – but I don’t know if that is politically possible.

  • CBrinkman

    Great news, I hope it can go through without the tow-a-way zone and we can instead find a way to reduce the auto traffic delay of Muni. How about making a right turn required from westbound Hayes at Laguna or Buchanan except for Muni: that will get rid of some through traffic on Hayes and speed up Muni but not affect people parking for the retail district. Make it a Muni priority street.

  • Adam

    I’m skeptical of the peak-hour tow-away lane. If transit-only lanes on Market and Mission are anything to go by, enforcement will be a huge problem, both to prevent cars driving in the lane and illegal parking/unloading.

    Any proposal to restrict traffic on transit streets will run into the same challenges. We need to think about how to shave 2-3 minutes (or more) from Muni travel times while gaining the benefits of 2-way conversions. Queue jump lanes (further back, e.g. at Van Ness) and transit signal priority would be possibilities.

  • It’s good to see two-way Hayes moving forward. The wider sidewalks are a welcome change.

    MTA could have a two-way, two lane Hayes *without* the tow-away if they were smarter about managing traffic on the City’s street network. One of the problems with Hayes is that it has a massive, high capacity traffic sewer (9th Street) pouring cars onto it. Managing 9th Street better could create less congestion on Hayes.

    As my transportation-planner friend often says, MTA is really bad at deciding where they want congestion. There are always bottlenecks in a system; MTA too often lets the traffic pile up where it does the most damage to transit, bicycles, and pedestrians. Think about how Caltrans manages the Bay Bridge; they meter cars coming on the bridge through the toll plaza to keep it moving at most times. MTA could do the same for our streets by modifying the progression of traffic signals to keep auto congestion away from the places where does the most damage to transit, pedestrians, and cyclists.

    It would also be great to see the two-way Hayes go all the way back to Market; this would allow the 21-Hayes to run on Hayes in both directions, rather than make the time-consuming dogleg onto Grove. Making lower Hayes two-way, as well as lower Haight would also allow Hayes and Haight to become better transit streets, while allowing Grove and Page to become great bicycle boulevards.

    Smart transportation planning allows us to decide how much congestion we want. Smart streets management lets us decide where we want that congestion, and where we don’t.

  • More anti-car nonsense from the city. Deliberately creating traffic congestion is a poor way to do traffic planning. The Muni #21 line runs on Hayes here, which will only make it slower. The city should leave Hayes Valley alone, especially after the disastrous Octavia Blvd., which is now carrying 45,000 cars a day through the neighborhood. Coming soon: thousands of more cars and residents with the Market/Octavia Plan and UC’s massive housing development on lower Haight Street. Why is this good planning?

  • Like Charles said, if you ban cars from the lane then you’ve got the buffer. Since the lane would never be drivable, and only ever parking or Muni, it could be striped in a way that makes it look unusable. The TA suggested hashing for the bus only lanes on Market Street to discourage people from driving in them since until recently the MTA/Muni used the diamond used everywhere else to mark commuter lanes.

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