Doctor in Shuttle Van Killed in Big Rig Crash at Octavia and Oak

Photos: Aaron Bialick

52-year-old Dr. Kevin Mack was killed while riding a UCSF shuttle van at about 6:20 am this morning when it crashed with a big rig truck at the intersection of Octavia Boulevard and Oak Street, said San Francisco Police Lt. Troy Dangerfield.

Mack was apparently ejected from the van and killed instantly. His body was removed from under the truck at 10:00 am. The driver of the shuttle van and two of the 15 passengers were also injured.

Mack, an associate professor at the UCSF Department of Psychiatry, was headed to San Francisco General Hospital where he was based.

“He had a strong commitment to global health and to medical education in resource-poor settings,’’ said Dr. A. Sue Carlisle, associate dean of SF General Hospital, and CEO Susan A. Currin in a joint statement. “He was an exceptional role model and inspiration for all of the educational community at UCSF.’’ He is survived by his husband and two children.

Police are investigating the cause of the crash, but the truck was traveling northbound on Octavia and was found at the scene veering across the divider into the local traffic lane. The van was traveling east on Oak Street. It’s the second fatal crash involving a UCSF shuttle since a woman was killed in the Tenderloin last November.

Dr. Kevin Mack. Photo courtesy of UCSF

According to data from SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose, there were four crashes at the intersection last year and only one in 2009. Those numbers are down from the 14 crashes in 2006 after the Central Freeway ramp opened, bringing high volumes of freeway traffic to the new boulevard.

“Since 2006, we have improved signal timing, provided upgraded signal hardware, provided more striping, better signage and added a red light camera at the intersection,” said Rose. “We continue to see a tremendous amount of traffic there, but the improvements have reversed the spike we saw in 2006.”

Supervisor Ross Mirkarami visited the crash site this morning and told the Huffington Post he gets “complaints about Octavia all the time.”

“I was just elected supervisor when they inaugurated the street after the freeway came down and it was really exciting,” he said. “But now the street is confusing, especially for people who aren’t familiar with San Francisco or are using GPS.”

Mayor Ed Lee, who also visited the intersection this morning, “wants to get some more information from the SFMTA on what the conditions are out there,” said Christine Falvey, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office. “This was an accident. I don’t know if somebody ran a red light, so whether the intersection contributed to the accident, we don’t know but we are looking into it,” she said.

Residents at the scene said the intersections along Octavia, which is a uniquely designed thoroughfare for the city, seem to confuse drivers and that illegal maneuvers are common.

Jason Henderson, a geography professor at San Francisco State University who lives near the intersection, said it points to the need for “a comprehensive re-envisioning of the Oak and Fell corridor.”

Oak and Fell Streets, he noted, are both one-way and expand to four lanes each in that area.

“I think the true long-term solution is to reduce the speeds on Oak and Fell, and use innovative traffic signal coordination and take a lane off Oak and Fell so it’s two lanes in each direction,” said Henderson. “It calms the street incredibly.”

Dangerfield said it was unknown whether any citations would be issued.

The shuttle van sits on the left.

Updated 3:44 pm.

  • Michael7820

    A very sad occasion. From press release: “Dr. Mack was an associate professor in the department of psychiatry. An expert in undergraduate medical education, he was based at San Francisco General Hospital. He was known as a gifted educator and became a member of the Academic of Medical Educators in 2008. He served as one of the Advisory College Mentors in the School of Medicine and as the Director of Educational Technology and Faculty Development in the UC Berkeley – UCSF Joint Medical Program. He also served as a champion for Problem-Based Learning through an initiative at the World Health Organization. He was a role model for his students and an inspiration for his colleagues. 
    Dr. Mack is survived by his husband and two young children.”

  • sara

    Dr. Mack was an extraordinary teacher, colleague and innovator of medical education. His students and patients are bereft.
    Like terrorism, this needless tragedy is more than a traffic intersection planning issue.
    The casualty leaves our community with a terrible vacuum, robbed of a crucial dynamic presence- generous, smart, dedicated and full of energy. His two small children will never be the same.

  • Anonymous

    That’s terrible. 

    That whole area is terrorized by motorized traffic of all kinds — the streets are set up to invite drivers to ‘go for it’ — the speeding, the screeching around the corners, the fleeing pedestrians and near-misses — it has to change.

  • Anonymous

    That’s terrible. 

    That whole area is terrorized by motorized traffic of all kinds — the streets are set up to invite drivers to ‘go for it’ — the speeding, the screeching around the corners, the fleeing pedestrians and near-misses — it has to change.

  • MARSupial_possum

    I don’t surmise there’s a major snafu with that intersection. Follow the rules, adhere to the lights, stay within the speed limit, and it should all be OK, even for newbies.

  • City Hall and progressives in general have long been in denial about what was created in Hayes Valley after city voters finally authorized the Central Freeway ramp be torn down. A lot of that traffic—east/west traffic—is now coming through the heart of the neighborhood on a surface street, Octavia Blvd.
    http://district5diary.blogspot.com/2006/08/octavia-boulevard-six-month-report.html

    City progressives hate to admit that taking down the freeway might have been a mistake.
    http://district5diary.blogspot.com/2010/09/octavia-boulevard-progressive-fiasco.html

    The intersection of Octavia and Oak has been a problem in the past.
    http://district5diary.blogspot.com/2007/08/octavia-and-oak-most-dangerous.html

  • odm2

    It’s not a mistake, it’s a work in progress.

  • The Greasybear

    Anderson smears today’s progressives for this accident because of prog support for removal of the freeway back in the ’90s–but how many times did Rob Anderson take personal responsibility for the cyclists killed and injured during Rob Anderson’s multi-year injunction against safety infrastructure for SF cyclists? None. The guy has zero credibility.

  • Where does it go from here?

  • odm2

    Here. And what Jason Henderson said – reducing lanes and calming Oak and Fell.

    Saying Octavia could’ve been designed better is not the same as saying taking the freeway down was a mistake. If anything, the mistake was not tearing the freeway down further back like so many people wanted to and dispersing/integrating the car traffic into the capacity of the street grid in a more comprehensive and safer way. That’s where it goes from here.

  • Jason Henderson is a bike guy who also happens to be a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Market and Octavia Plan, a group that, with the Planning Dept. and Supervisor Mirkarimi, has done a lot to screw up that area.
    http://district5diary.blogspot.com/2010/10/bike-guy-rewrites-history-of-uc.html

    His traffic “calming” prescription is to make traffic even worse in the area. City progs have always been in denial about what the area would be like once the freeway was torn down.

  • Anonymous

    Colleen McClain of Pittsburg said she had been two cars behind the big rig on Octavia and that they had the green light. “The UCSF shuttle ran the light and hit the big rig,” McClain said.

    Your conspiracy theories are amusing, but this came down to a driver who could not follow the law.

  • It’s not about a “conspiracy,” Murph. City progs—led by the bike people—created the awful Octavia Blvd. that now brings more than 45,000 vehicles a day through the heart of Hayes Valley on a surface street, incuding big rigs like the one involved in this accident.

  • Lovesinging

    I live on Page just west of Octavia.  We were all very excited when the City said it was going to clean up the street and make it a boulevard.  As soon as I began to understand the design, I realized it would be a nightmare.  Page used to be a quiet street.  Now it’s noisy and constantly clogged.  Pedestrians are always in danger crossing there,  It has to be the worst traffic planning job in the City in eons!

  • Lovesinging

    But people don’t.  I cross that street at least two times a day.  It is incredibly poorly designed and people run red lights nearly every time I cross.

  • Anonymous

    This is very sad indeed. It is such a great lost.

    Before people make all kind of conjecture and offer their pet idea to fix the intersection, why don’t they just get more fact about the accident first? From what I can see this intersection is not much different from any major street intersection. Very bad thing happens when a car runs red light.

  • Anonymous

    How is that awful? It works quite well as far as I can see. The problem is whenever there is an accident, people blame the design??? No design in the world that can be accident proof. This is just nanny state mentality.

  • John Murphy

    Easy answer. Ban the big rigs.

  • odm2

    tungwaiyip –

    The thing is is that red light running happens in patterns based on conditions at different intersections. No, ultimately you can’t stop anyone from running a red who wants to do it, but there are ways to minimize and discourage it, and it sounds like the MTA has made some headway in doing that. Who knows how many more crashes like this would’ve happened if they didn’t take the measures they listed? How can we do even better?

  • Anonymous

    odm2 –

    Sure we can tweak the timing. And that may help reduce accident rate a little bit. But that’s not the same as the design is faulty or plain awful. The same really happen for every intersection. Now a bad accident happen. Blame the road design! Then you get a rush of impractical ideas (like ban the big rigs).

  • steve k

    Terrible tragedy here. Condolences to all who knew Dr Mack.

    As for Octavia Blvd, I know a lot of people have strong opinions about it, versus the old central freeway. I don’t think you can make a convincing argument that the boulevard design played a role in this particular accident, as it seems that the shuttle driver simply ran a red light; presumably, he drove this route frequently, unless this was his first day, so while the stoplight configuration can be confusing to those unfamiliar with it (for part of the cycle east bound Oak has a red light at the same time that right turns from Oak have a green arrow and Octavia has green both ways) this shuttle driver would have been familiar with the set up.

    I was hoping, though, for some history of this area. From what I’ve heard, the central freeway days were bleak for the neighborhood. The areas under the freeway were where you’d go to do drugs involving needles and glass pipes, or to find cheap prostitutes who were into that. Since the freeway was torn down, Hayes Valley has blossomed, and become a much more livable neighborhood (though you may not have much need for the pricey boutiques that proliferate there). Considering how much traffic flows through the area, Octavia is actually pleasant to walk or bike on, and the mini park is a welcoming place. 

    People complain about all the cars that are backed up waiting to get onto the freeway during rush hour, but what street design has ever managed to prevent that? In the days of the central freeway, there wasn’t rush hour gridlock? Maybe it was a few blocks away, but when you have thousands of cars trying to get into 2 lanes at the same time, you get traffic. But I didn’t spend much time in this area while the freeway around, so if anyone can inform us as to how things worked better, traffic and safety-wise during that time, please let us know.

  • seeitandcallit

    Tungwaiyip, yet another keyboard jockey with a basic understanding of coding, who knows and sees all, and having seen all and knowing all tells all, the way things are is just fine.

    All the while never having grasped the concept of singular vs. plural sentence structure. Go back home, and take your permanently contrarian view with you.

    Roadway design is supposed to specifically account for inattentive drivers and inhibit their effects on others. Octavia and Fell needs to be re-worked.

  • The street design does make a difference on Octavia, since all the traffic that used to go over the neighbhorhood is now on a surface street in the middle of the neighborhood. Not surprising that there are few businesses located on Octavia itself. I’ve never seen anyone strolling along Octavia—or sitting on those ridiculous benches on the median.

    Most hookers in SF now use the internet and cell phones to do business. No need to stand around on street corners any more.

  • Anonymous

    Show me your accident proof design then. I am all ears.

  • steve k

    Yes, you can eliminate dangerous intersections by building elevated freeways, but cars have to get off the freeway somewhere. Then you’ve moved the dangerous intersection several blocks away. The big rig will still be on the street, an inattentive or reckless driver runs a red light somewhere else, and something like this happens, just at a different intersection.

    There doesn’t seem to be any storefronts or buildings suitable for businesses along Octavia. Anyway, there are not too many businesses that are clamoring to open up underneath freeways, either. The medians may be useless and if there are benches in between the main Octavia traffic, that was indeed ridiculous, but the quieter local side lanes and sidewalks are perfectly fine for walking and biking, considering the volume of traffic that moves through. The mini park at the north end, between Fell and Hayes gets a lot of use.

    I’ll have to defer to you on contemporary hooker marketing techniques. 🙂 But the TL and Capp St seem to prefer to do things the old-fashioned way.

  • John Murphy

     The DMV/PD is supposed to account for inattentive drivers, and inhibit their effects on others by impounding their cars.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. You have to understand the cause of issue and apply the right remedy. DUI (including lack of sleep) is a major cause of accident and should be deal with in its own way. Better road design can only go so far. And I see no convincing argument that it is a major contributor to this accident.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. You have to understand the cause of issue and apply the right remedy. DUI (including lack of sleep) is a major cause of accident and should be deal with in its own way. Better road design can only go so far. And I see no convincing argument that it is a major contributor to this accident.

  • The Greasybear

    For five years I lived on Elgin Park where the freeway darkened Market St., and I was there for the hellish demolition. Yes, under the freeway the streets were covered in permanent shadow, showered in black soot, and plagued with open prostitution, brazen crack smoking and sales, homeless camps, and lots of property crime like vandalism and theft from parked cars. No other nearby neighborhood was so blighted, not even the inner Mission, as was Octavia under the freeway monster. The demolition of the double-decker freeway removed the cover of darkness and filth that shielded all that crime and dysfunction from scrutiny and opened up the area to the rest of the city. With the arrival of eyes on the street, the crime melted away. The Internet, in its infancy at that time, had absolutely nothing to do with the decline of lawlessness in the area. It was the destruction of the CS that saved Hayes Valley.

  • Anonymous

    There is a new paper summarized on NPR yesterday which drew old conclusions: demand for roads increases almost 1:1 with increases in supply.  Increasing public transit doesn’t help: every driver who switches to public transit is replaced by a new driver on the roads.  Road capacity is essentially always used to capacity.

    The solution is to address congestion not with higher-capacity roads but with an increased cost of driving.  Congestion pricing is the suggested approach recommended by the author of this paper.   High fuel taxes are a simpler approach to the same end (they encourage use of more fuel-efficient vehicles and behaviors, although they fail to encourage drivers to shift their road use to off-peak times).  In either case, it’s a mistake to assume wider-capacity roads are the solution. 

    The rate of road deaths, per year, has been relatively constant.  Drivers ride to a certain level of risk, so trying to make it “safer” by making straighter, wider roads is offset by drivers going faster and paying less attention.  A fundamental tenant of traffic calming is by adding intrinsic risk, you retain more of driver attention and you reduce the externalized risk of their behavior.

    So the solution here is not more elevated freeways.

  • Sprague

    seeitandcallit:
    We’re all at home here.  No need to tell someone to “go back home”.

  • mikesonn

    I think this what is referred to by some (Rob) as “waving the bloody shirt”.

  • “I think this what is referred to by some (Rob) as “waving the bloody shirt.”

    Nope. No blood involved in my indictment of the awful Octavia Blvd. created by smug progressives who are still congratulating themselves on taking down the freeway and in denial about what they’ve created in its place.
    http://district5diary.blogspot.com/2010/09/octavia-boulevard-progressive-fiasco.html

  • mikesonn

    Not to feed the beast, but jumping all over this tragedy to post (and re-post) your position is the very definition of “waving the bloody shirt”.

  • Mike would like to redefine the “bloody shirt” term to fit his argument, but it’s his allies in the great bike movement who are the ones who try to deploy it on behalf of the anti-car movement in SF:
    http://district5diary.blogspot.com/2011/04/waving-bloody-shirt-on-masonic-avenue.html

  • mikesonn

    You can’t have it both ways is my point. You scream at the top of your lungs when Masonic is brought up and then turn around and do the same thing here. I’m just pointing out your hypocrisy.

    I have no iron in the fire that is Octavia Blvd.

  • H.S.

    These shuttle van drivers take the same routes single everyday and they should not be “confused” about maneuvering around these roads. If that was the case, I’d be very surprised. I completely advocate re-doing the road here, but I really think there are other factors more worthy of examining.

  • “Hypocrisy” isn’t the word you need, Mike, since it denotes talking one way and acting another. City progs screwed up Octavia Blvd. and they’re getting ready to do the same thing to Masonic.

  • mikesonn

    Whatever you say, Rob.

    Learn to hit the reply button.

  • mike

    seeitandcallit:
    This crash was caused by a red light runner.  If we apply your claim to urban streets, that “Roadway design is supposed to specifically account for inattentive drivers and inhibit their effects on others,” they will begin to look like freeways with barriers everywhere, wide lanes, and large “clear zones” alongside each road absent of trees.

  • I haven’t been to the place but I wonder why it would be confusing for GPS users. I believe the confusion could be causing these accidents. I feel sorry for the victims. My thoughts and prayers are with them.