Masonic Avenue Redesign Plan Seems to Be Fading as a City Priority

Image: SF Planning Department's City Design Group

On Bike to Work Day last May, Mayor Ed Lee told Streetsblog that he would look into speeding up funding for a sorely needed redesign of Masonic Avenue, one of San Francisco’s most notorious arterial streets. The project seemed to be a priority for him, especially in the wake of two high-profile collisions that took the lives of Nils Yannick Linke and James Hudson.

“It’s very deserving of attention, particularly when it comes to pedestrian safety,” Lee told Streetsblog on May 12.

“It’s time we take back Masonic Boulevard,” Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi proclaimed that same day at the Bike to Work press conference on the steps of City Hall. “It’s time that we actually step up the city’s game in making sure that Masonic is safe for bicyclists and pedestrians and that we all descend on this cause right now before anyone else gets hurt again.”

Now, nearly four months after the Masonic redesign was approved at an SFMTA engineering hearing, the plan is plodding its way through the vast city bureaucracy, its funding is uncertain and it is in danger of winding up on the shelf like so many other good projects unless City Hall puts some political muscle behind it.

The project hit a snag recently when the SFMTA was denied a $700,000 grant from Caltrans to pay for the design costs. A $41,000 request to complete an environmental impact report (EIR) is expected to be approved by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority soon. But a funding source for the biggest chunk, $18 million for construction, has still not been identified.

“The SFMTA is working with the Department of Public Works to refine the design cost estimate, and will apply to another funding source for design funds. A funding request made for construction funds is still pending. Meanwhile, other construction funding sources are being evaluated,” said SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose.

That doesn’t sound particularly hopeful.

Advocates who have been pushing for a safer Masonic for more than seven years now have widespread neighborhood support for the  redesign, which would dramatically re-engineer the street, adding a landscaped median, bus bulbs, a 6-foot wide raised cycletrack and other amenities to benefit pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders.

Just a few years ago a safer, more livable Masonic was a project that pedestrian, transit, and bicycling advocates – along with city officials — wanted to see implemented, but few thought possible. At first Masonic was part of the citywide Bike Plan that the SFMTA is now implementing, but the vital north-south corridor was dropped from the proposal, partly because it seemed unlikely to get broad public support. Yet nearby residents have surprised city officials with significant backing for a transformed street.

As early as 2008 more than 500 Masonic Avenue neighbors petitioned the city for a traffic corridor that worked better for all users. They ranked a dozen priorities to increase safety, traffic flow and improve the appearance of the street. The grass-roots group Fix Masonic rallied neighborhood associations, parents of kids at nearby schools, and district supervisors to support the plan. Together with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Walk SF, and other advocacy groups, Fix Masonic helped secure funding for a feasibility and design study. By June of 2010 the SFMTA started a series of three community meetings to get public input and support for a revitalized Masonic, employing many of the traffic calming strategies proposed two years earlier. By October of last year, Masonic project manager Javad Mirabdal described the Masonic design as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity.

Although some westside residents preferred a less ambitious version for a changed corridor, the majority who participated in SFMTA and neighborhood association surveys preferred the Complete Streets option known as the Boulevard.

If implemented, the Masonic proposal could transform city neighborhoods, ensure a safer, more attractive means of transportation for all users, improve environmental impacts along the corridor, and boost property values and city revenue. The redesign of Masonic could reflect a determination by the city to step up to a higher level of  livability in San Francisco.

It’s time for Mayor Lee, and others at City Hall, to put their words into action, and for new Transportation Director Ed Reiskin to use the visionary and political skills that got him the job at the SFMTA to ensure that the Masonic Avenue redesign gets implemented soon instead of it getting mired in city bureaucracy.

  • It’s a good thing money grows on trees….

  • It’s a good thing money grows on trees….

  • Not to distract, but to offer some $ perspective: If we pass Prop C in November, SF saves $59 million in city employee benefits in 2012-13 (and can pay for 3 Masonics). Or pass Prop D and save $107 million (and pay for 6 of em). 

  • Anonymous

    The CCDC wasn’t getting a chunk.

  • Anonymous

    Bike infrastructure is cheap compared with running more buses or accommodating more cars.

  • Anonymous

    The question is – would Lee prioritize 3 Masonics with that money?

    Or – cancel the Central Subway and we get 100’s of Masonics?

  • guest

    And said trees would also be the source of money for repaving the same crappy roads again and again, wouldn’t they? …Or! We could start implementing good street design, which would allow us all to be better road users (including bikes, who you spend a lot of time on all the blogs demonizing).

  • what, you want to cut down trees to get money to pay for it? the agency doesn’t have the money for it, the process of identifying funding sources and applying for grants is time-consuming. The application gets rejected, you start over. Just because funding hasn’t been found doesn’t mean it won’t be or that the project has

  • Masonic will be the death…

    Two deaths get the hearings rolling again, and the total cost for the plannings/hearings was somewhere around 20k if I recall. So that is a mere 10K per auto inflicted death. At that rate this will not be a priority again until another 130 people are splattered on the hoods of the self centered, “I’ll make up the lost time by speeding on Masonic”, nutters. 

    Or maybe we just need another parked car or two to be totaled by above mentioned speeding nutters to sway the minds of the “Don’t take MY parking spot away, and by MY I mean public space that I don’t actually pay to use to store my private property on, but am entitled to as I just shouldn’t be inconvenienced” that those precious parking spots aren’t so precious.

    Besides what would all us cyclists do for kicks once the SFMTA took away the daily ride for life that is the current Masonic, or San Jose, or Cesar Chavez, or Fell, or Oak or…?

    Finally it is well know fact that the past five years of exponential growth in cyclists is just a fad, and as soon as gas prices go back down they will all be in cars again.

    end rant.

  • mikesonn

    Once again, why did Lee get the 3rd endorsement from the SFBC??

  • mikesonn

    Once again, why did Lee get the 3rd endorsement from the SFBC??

  • mikesonn

    Once again, why did Lee get the 3rd endorsement from the SFBC??

  • mikesonn

    Once again, why did Lee get the 3rd endorsement from the SFBC??

  • Anonymous

    Why is this a surprise? The MTA is not a priority for Temp Mayor Lee – and he’s learned well how to talk big on a special day, then quietly back off and do something else. he doesn’t keep his word and only cares about money for his friends.

    City Hall is basically shut down now anyways what with so many incumbents chasing after another job. And would a Sheriff Mirkarimi be able to push this through any better than he can now?

  • Bryan

    I’d encourage someone to place a time-lapse
    camera near the radar speed signs to demonstrate the excessive speeding along
    Masonic. If that’s not enough, in the past few months it appears that large
    semi-trucks are using Masonic as a major transport artery and aren’t obeying
    the speed limits either. Can you imagine, a 20-ton 18 wheeler speeding 45 mph
    in a 25 mph zone. Well, it’s happening! Use the time-lapse video as a platform
    to communicate the dangers and challenge the city to do better, sooner.

     

    City of San Francisco, do the
    right thing, please. You have an opportunity to create a world-class boulevard
    that connects neighborhoods and creates a sense of community. I’m unaware of a
    mile-plus boulevard that you can see from end to end with such
    dramatic elevation changes. This boulevard can be something we’re proud of. 

  • Masonic will be the death…

    I filmed this back in June.

  • mikesonn

    @83b5031778ed3921e47c379daa4b4763:disqus Is there a “your speed” sign on the downhill?

  • The truth is that Masonic Avenue isn’t really a dangerous street at all, especially considering the volume of traffic it carries. You folks can whip one another into a frenzy over Masonic, but the facts simply don’t support you.
    http://district5diary.blogspot.com/2011/04/waving-bloody-shirt-on-masonic-avenue.html

  • Masonic will be the death…

    @mikesonn:disqus yes there is a sign heading south (downhill) however it doesn’t seem to be aligned properly as it rarely picks up speeds. I have not been able to figure which lane it registers at it will flash a speed when two cars are side by side, but rarely anything else. I asked an office about it one day when they were sitting at Fulton and Lyon waiting to catch stop sign runners (of the auto kind, mostly as it is near epidemic at this intersection), and he didn’t care and told me that speeding isn’t an enforcement concern for SFPD.
    SFMTA has not responded to my emails about the radar gun not being positioned properly.

    BTW the best part of the video I uploaded is the flagrant red light runner 8-12 seconds in, priceless. 

  • Masonic will be the death…

    2 fatalities, and at least 3 car on pedestrian incidences in the last four month that have resulted in hospitalization, along with a couple parked cars being totaled doesn’t register as a safety risk to you? You obviously don’t live in the area or if you do simply use Masonic to speed off to other parts of the city. Take four walking trips on the stretch of Masonic between Trader Joe’s and Haight, and cross Masonic a few times and then come back here preaching how everything is fine and dandy.

  • mikesonn

    Speed enforcement isn’t a concern for SFPD? Whatever man. These people are a joke. Sadly, our lack of safety is the punch line.

  • mikesonn

    This coming from the guy who says the bike plan will cripple the city and leave it in perpetual gridlock.

    Rob’s thought process: “Parking >> safety”

  • Masonic will be the death…

    @mikesonn:disqus The SFPD tagline for any crime/violation you call their attention to that is not being enforced is always the same. “We don’t have the resources”, “we don’t have the manpower”, “we have to operate on attrition, leaving resources for violent crimes”, and then in response to murders “The SFPD does not have a suspect or specific leads at this time”

    We need a city ordinance like LA just got today that allows cyclist to pursue unsafe/aggressive motorists in civil court. 

    I would ride with my GoPro everyday.

  • If you try to teach a pig to sing…

  • Jim

    Hi Rob, it’s been awhile.
    Dumb as usual.  
    I’ve personally seen two girls get hit there and a guy on phone running the red yelled I should be careful.
    Stats, schmats.  Take me up on my offer:  we’ll go for a bike ride.  Really.

  • mikesonn

    I broke my own rule, for that I am sorry, but it’s really best to ignore Rob. He feeds on the attention and, aside from his lawsuit which just delayed the inevitable at huge expense, he won’t impact any city policy. He’ll just get louder which is more reason to turn away and let him yell into the interwebs.

  • wellrounded

    Masonic,  Would you, could you please do 7 minutes at well,,, basically just about any intersection filming bicyclists running stop signs and red lights? And don’t forget those who ride on sidewalks as well.  Thank you so much!

  • Jim

    I know, the natural tendency to help a poor, lost soul is to gently guide him to the light…then you say, “Oh crap, it’s Rob.”

  • mikesonn

    wellrounded, would you, could you, take 30 seconds on Market and watch all the cars block the box at 3rd while Muni sits and idles away your tax dollars? Thank you so much!

    See, it’s fun to play this game of BS. First to the bottom wins!

  • peternatural

    For cyclists, Masonic between the panhandle and Geary is a deathtrap. That’s why so many avoid it… resulting in a low accident rate for bicyclists! If you think that means the street is safe, then maybe you think it’s also safe for children to play kickball on the interstate. After all, accident statistics don’t show a problem with that either!

  • peternatural

    On the internet, everyone loves to complain about red-light-running bicyclists. Too bad in the real world it mostly happens at deserted intersections. The more relevant question is: how often do cyclists fail to yield when they should yield? The answer is, not very often. (Granted, it should be never.)

    Go to any intersection and see for yourself.

  • peternatural

    On the internet, everyone loves to complain about red-light-running bicyclists. Too bad in the real world it mostly happens at deserted intersections. The more relevant question is: how often do cyclists fail to yield when they should yield? The answer is, not very often. (Granted, it should be never.)

    Go to any intersection and see for yourself.

  • peternatural

    On the internet, everyone loves to complain about red-light-running bicyclists. Too bad in the real world it mostly happens at deserted intersections. The more relevant question is: how often do cyclists fail to yield when they should yield? The answer is, not very often. (Granted, it should be never.)

    Go to any intersection and see for yourself.

  • wellrounded

    peter, Your “real” world is not real.
    mike and peter,  would you, could you not live in denial of the existence of stop sign and light running, riding on sidewalk bicyclists?  I don’t deny the car blockages as well as car drivers who run lights and stop signs and speed.  Could you just once acknowledge the truth?  Would you?  

    PS:  your game of BS is not mine, so don’t call it so.

  • mikesonn

    I said the game of BS because the substance of this post is about drivers actually driving very unsafely on Masonic. But, like most drivers or folks who say they are “well rounded”, you come to point out “facts” about cyclists breaking the law as if to say that cyclist safety isn’t deserved.

    That is BS plain and simple. Right now Masonic encourages fast, unsafe speeds and behavior that puts vulnerable road users at high risk. Just because a cyclists rolls a stop sign on the Wiggle doesn’t, in any way, take away from the fact that drivers on Masonic routinely act/drive in a very dangerous way.

  • I agree…….they ruined Arguello Blvd and Lake Street.  Reducing lanes, adding bikes and buses on a steep hill?  Are you kidding?  Who are these fools.  Separate the cars and bikes.  Don’t put them on the same busy streets and make them more crowded.  I have so many kids crossing the street at red lights almost getting hit by cars on Arguello trying to avoid bikes and getting hit by bikes.

  • As someone crosses this street both ways every day. I don’t believe it encourages high speeds, but what it does encourage is illegal U-turns and jay-walking.  This needs to be prevented.  I can’t tell you how many times I end up stopping in the middle waiting for a car making an illegal U-turn or some pdestrian illegally crossing.  Once coming over the hill I stopped to let a grandfather and daughter cross…..only to see them missed by the cars going around 20 who had to swerve out of the way as they crossed over the hill.This happens at least a couple times a week just for me.

  • Lmtra

    Sadly, the delay only prolongs the menace to both cyclists and pedestrians. More than once while walking have I been nearly run down by speeding cyclist on the sidewalk who have no doubt resorted to this due to the dangers of the street – a bad situation all around.

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