Improving Daly City’s “Top of the Hill” for Walking and Transit

John Daly Boulevard and Mission Street are still car-centric roads, but that is starting to change for the better with the completion of the Centennial Transit Plaza, shown here under construction earlier this year. Photo: City of Daly City

Last Saturday, Daly City officials and residents convened to celebrate a newly built transit plaza, the centerpiece of the long-awaited $3.4 million Top of the Hill project, which includes a series of pedestrian and streetscape improvements along three blocks of Mission Street between John Daly Boulevard and Parkview Avenue. The project was constructed with $2.3 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and $700,000 from the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans).

Wider sidewalks, curb extensions, and new red-brick crosswalks on Mission Street at Vista Grande Avenue in Daly City. Photo: City of Daly City

Top of the Hill is the most significant street re-design project carried out to date as part of the Grand Boulevard Initiative, a collaboration between 19 different public entities that seeks to improve walking, biking, and transit, and to enable transit oriented development that can help reduce traffic congestion along El Camino Real from Daly City to San Jose.

Because San Mateo and San Francisco counties operate separate transit systems, bus riders traveling between Daly City and San Francisco are forced to transfer at the county line (except those riding SamTrans Bus 391, which serves downtown San Francisco). The new Centennial Transit Plaza, named in honor of the city’s 100th anniversary in 2011, is located on the northwest corner of John Daly Boulevard and Mission Street. It’s one of two important transfer locations in Daly City, serving 600 to 800 SamTrans bus riders every day. The other transfer location – between the SamTrans, Muni, and BART systems – is the Daly City BART Station, located a half-mile to the west.

People can now walk across Mission Street on the north side of the intersection, where a red-brick crosswalk replaced "No Ped Crossing" signs, to access the new transit plaza. Photos: Google Maps (left), City of Daly City (right).

The transit plaza replaces a single bus shelter, which included only three seats and blocked half the sidewalk, with a much larger green-roofed pergola structure that includes more plentiful seating and new bike racks. The structure features roof-mounted solar panels and digital displays that provide real-time bus arrival information. A new bus shelter was also added to the southwest corner of the intersection, replacing one in a less visible and secure location.

On average, one person per month is injured in a traffic crash on Daly City’s one-mile long Mission Street, which is the northern end of El Camino Real in San Mateo County. One-third of those injuries are sustained by pedestrians or bicyclists, and  between 2009 and 2012, more people walking and biking were injured on Mission Street than on any other street in the city, according to the Daly City Police Department. To improve safety for pedestrians, the Top of the Hill project includes a series of sidewalk, crosswalk, and median upgrades.

The new wider, landscaped medians on Mission Street from John Daly Blvd to Parkview Avenue. Photos: Google Maps (left), City of Daly City (right).

The sidewalk on the west side of Mission Street was widened from Theta Avenue to Parkview Avenue, and trees were planted along it. The sidewalk on the east side of the same section of the street had already been widened when the eight-floor, 95-unit, mixed-use Landmark Plaza development was completed in 2009. Curb extensions were installed at each of the Mission Street intersections in the project area — at John Daly Boulevard, and Theta, Vista Grande, Alp, and Parkview avenues — reducing crossing distances for pedestrians and improving their visibility to motorists. The central medians along Mission Street were also widened and planted with trees and shrubs.

On the north side of the intersection of John Daly Boulevard and Mission Street, “No Ped Crossing” signs — which previously forced pedestrians to make three street crossings in order to get across Mission — have been replaced by a new crosswalk. A crosswalk was also added across Mission Street on the south side of Vista Grande Avenue, where identical “No Ped Crossing” signs had prohibited crossing there as well.

Mission Street in Daly City is part of El Camino Real, which is a state highway, meaning Caltrans review and approval is required to make any changes to the street’s design, including adding crosswalks.

The Grand Boulevard Initiative’s Complete Streets Project, currently underway and managed by SamTrans, picks up where Top of the Hill left off, calling for similar but even more effective streetscape and transit improvements on Mission Street from Parkview Avenue to School Street, a section twice as long as Top of the Hill. That project requires more extensive collaboration with Caltrans because it will include several proven safety improvements that are nevertheless prohibited by the agency’s Highway Design Manual. These treatments include narrower travel lanes, smaller curb radii, and narrower curbside planting strips and planted medians.

“These are simple improvements that really make it easier for everyone, especially young and elderly people, to cross the street,” said Daly City Council Member Mike Guingona of the project. “We’d like to slow the traffic down on Mission Street and make it more pedestrian-friendly, and these efforts will help do that.”