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