Some community members in the Mission are upset that the MTA has proposed building a fence along a median on Potrero Avenue between Cesar Chavez and 25th Street to prevent jaywalking.
Owing to the success of the recently reopened Rolph Playground and Potrero del Sol Park in the Mission, the first with playing fields and basketball courts, the second with a popular skateboard park, pedestrian traffic has burgeoned. Though the closest crosswalks are a block in either direction, the most direct route between the two destinations is a straight line across six lanes of traffic, some of which speeds as it enters the Highway 101 on-ramp.
The MTA, the Department of Public Works (DPW), and several other agencies will discuss the proposal Thursday at a meeting of the Transportation Advisory Staff Committee (TASC), which serves to resolve transportation issues across multiple agency jurisdictions.
Fran Taylor of the community group CC Puede sent out an alert to the group’s listserv asking why the MTA doesn’t transform the de facto crossing point into a formal crosswalk with a pedestrian signal.
“It’s a long distance between the crossings at Cesar and 25th, so people are crossing at the point where 26th Street would be,” Taylor said. “Instead of helping people cross by doing a crosswalk, the response by Jack Fleck is to build a fence. It seems more like pedestrian apartheid, rather than making it easier for pedestrians.”
Taylor sent a letter to Fleck pointing out that the pedestrian activated signal at Cesar Chavez doesn’t work all the time and pedestrians still have to cross a freeway off-ramp with limited visibility and hope vehicles slow down for them. She also said the median doesn’t extend all the way north to 25th Street to enable emergency vehicles to make U-turns, and contends the fence would just move foot traffic further down the line without resolving the problem.
Several other factors complicate the crossing at 25th Street, according to neighbors, particularly as eastbound drivers on 25th Street make a right turn onto Potrero and look for to their left for southbound traffic, routinely ignoring pedestrians to their right.
One neighbor, Shannon Dodge, sent a letter to the MTA pleading for a mid-block crosswalk and traffic calming:
Please consider installing a new, safe and legal pedestrian crossing here (such as a red light triggered by a pedestran pushing a button) instead of a fence, which is not an improvement at all. The slower traffic resulting from a pedestrian crossing would also calm our neighborhood street, reducing noise and making the parks pleasanter places to be.
Walk SF director Manish Champsee was not convinced the proposal would satisfy the city’s commitment to its Transit First policy, which should prioritize pedestrian safety before vehicles. “We’re all concerned about keeping people safe, but we shouldn’t stop people from walking.”
And in his formal letter to Fleck, Champsee pointed out a disturbing fact: “As we both are aware, crossing at a signalized intersection is no guarantee of safety, especially in a city where the largest cause of pedestrian crashes is drivers failing to yield to the pedestrian’s right-of-way.”
MTA Spokesman Judson True said the agency typically avoids mid-block pedestrian crossings because he says they promote a false sense of confidence and drivers routinely ignore them. He also said a signal would cost around $300,000 and that Proposition K money only affords six new signals annually.
Within ten minutes of taking pictures of the median, I witnessed more than ten jaywalkers, many of them young skateboarders, riding their boards or darting across the street. When I asked one skater what he thought of the fence, he said, “what, they’re trying to make us cross the street at the intersections? That’s a bunch of bullshit! Why don’t they make a crosswalk?”
A group of three boys who were stranded on the median for more than a minute while cars sped past were equally defiant. When asked what they would do with a new fence, one started to say he’d go around, then changed his mind. “I’ll just run out and hop it.”
Correction: The TASC meeting is not open to the public, but is a closed meeting of agency staff.
Photo: Matthew Roth