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Posts from the "SFCTA" Category

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Studies Show Car Traffic in San Francisco is Dropping

Car traffic at Mission and Third Streets has declined by 7 percent over the last few years, according to SFCTA counts. Photo: Sergio Ruiz/Flickr

Car traffic has dropped in San Francisco in recent years, despite an economic boom and a growing population, according to studies by the SF County Transportation Authority.

A newly updated study (reported by SF Weekly) by the SFCTA counted fewer cars at 11 of 15 intersections during evening peak hours this year, compared to earlier counts taken between 2009 and 2012. Driving speeds, meanwhile, are “increasing moderately.”

As SF Weekly’s Joe Eskenazi pointed out, the data fly in the face of anecdotes from drivers — who almost universally feel that car congestion is always getting worse. And given the city’s booming economy, population, and construction in recent years, that’s one scenario that certainly would have been plausible had the 20th-century status quo continued.

“Anecdotal evidence is hard to counter,” Eskenazi wrote. “But what statistical evidence does exist flies in the face of your well-worn anecdotes.”

SFCTA transportation planner Dan Tischler acknowledged that, despite the somewhat limited scope of the study, all of the evidence available indicates that San Francisco commuters are driving less, and likely switching to other modes to get around.

“We are not really sure if traffic conditions are worse now than they were a few years ago, but we do have strong evidence that transit is playing an increasingly significant role in handling growth in travel demand,” said Tischler.

Most importantly, Tischler noted, driving speeds have largely remained flat, or even increased slightly, from 2011 to 2013. That contradicts any notion that fewer cars were counted because congestion is causing them to moving through more slowly. (Slower speeds would actually increase throughput, since cars follow one another more closely at slow speeds.)

“Lower traffic volumes, combined with higher speeds, indicates that lower traffic volumes may be due to less demand rather than too much demand,” Tischler said.

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“Not a Freeway” — Re-Branding the Excesses of the $1.4B Presidio Parkway

A temporary bypass road, with a movable median barrier, runs by the Main Post Tunnels under construction for the Presidio Parkway early this year. Photo: Presidio Parkway

When visitors land on the front page of the Presidio Parkway’s website, they see an animated pelican emerging from beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, gliding across green hills and blue skies. When the bird lands, you can “Meet Parker” with a click and learn all about the Presidio Parkway Pelican.

The PR team for this freeway project wants you to know that Parker the fictional pelican is “very excited about the improvements the new Presidio Parkway will bring to his favorite national park!”

This “former military pilot” even has his own color-within-the-lines page [PDF] that parents can print out for their kids to fill in. Perhaps that helps distract the whole family from the $1.4 billion taxpayers will be forking over for the next 30 years to build a one-mile freeway connecting the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco’s Marina District.

The Presidio Parkway probably needs a re-branding campaign like this to make it palatable to the public. With the images of birds, clouds, and rolling hills, you can’t really tell that this project is about building a gargantuan concrete structure. In fact, the website insists that it’s “a parkway, not a freeway” with a logo depicting a quaint, narrow road, somehow free of motor vehicles, snaking through the grass to everybody’s favorite bridge.

Screenshot of the banner on PresidioParkway.com

There’s no doubt the depression-era Doyle Drive needed to be replaced, and there’s good reason the design of its successor has been deliberated since the 80s. The elevated highway was crumbling and would likely have succumbed to the next big earthquake. Designed to steer the motoring public around the former Presidio military base, it cut off the national park from the Bay.

The new road will be less of a monstrosity, and the temporary structure built in the first phase has already provided a “seismically safe” road for drivers. Car traffic is currently routed through the first of four planned tunnels via a temporary bypass road. In 2015, both pairs of tunnels are expected to open, and on top of them will be 13 acres of parkland that people and wildlife can traverse freely to Crissy Field.

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SFCTA: Geary BRT Will Take Hundreds of Cars Off the Street Every Hour

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Geary BRT is expected to reduce car traffic on the street in large numbers. This graph shows hourly car volumes projected in the westbound direction. Image: SFCTA

Once bus rapid transit is finally up and running, Geary Boulevard will carry thousands fewer cars every day in 2020, compared to a scenario where it doesn’t get built.

A rendering of the recommended plan for Geary BRT at 17th Avenue in the Richmond. Image: SFCTA

That’s according to a preliminary analysis [PDF] presented by the SF County Transportation Authority. The traffic counts vary, depending on which of several design alternatives are built, and some of the cars taken off Geary during rush hours would divert to parallel streets instead. Nonetheless, a Geary without bus rapid transit would have more cars than one with it.

Just how big is the difference? A traffic projection for the intersection of Geary and Divisadero Street shows about 2,200 westbound cars each hour — compared to about 1,000 fewer cars with the Geary BRT “3-Consolidated” option. However, the SFCTA doesn’t plan to build that option, as it would require the expensive undertaking of filling in the Fillmore underpass.

The SFCTA’s “preferred” option is the “hybrid” alternative, which only includes bus-only center lanes in the Richmond District. The other three quarters of the Geary corridor would get side-running bus lanes, many of which exist today.

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SFCTA Report: Expand Bike-Share in San Francisco ASAP

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The SF County Transportation Authority issued a new report Monday to guide the expansion of Bay Area Bike Share, which sees 90 percent of its rides in San Francisco, despite the city encompassing half of the system’s bikes and stations.

Among the recommendations in the “Strategic Analysis Report” [PDF] is giving the SFMTA greater independence to plan and manage bike-share in San Francisco while other Bay Area cities work on their own expansions of the system.

“This SAR makes smart recommendations: embracing a regional system while not waiting to expand in San Francisco,” said Kit Hodge, deputy director of the SF Bicycle Coalition. “Now it’s up to the city to really move forward. San Francisco residents and businesses have been very clear in their call from every corner of the city for more bike-share.”

The report notes that SF’s bike-share expansion is crucial to the system as a whole, given the high usage in SF by commuters who live in other areas: “As an indication of the regional demand for bike sharing in San Francisco, Alameda County has the second highest number of memberships in Bay Area Bike Share, even though there are currently no bike sharing stations or bicycles in the East Bay.”

The SFCTA also recommends that Bay Area Bike Share operations, currently overseen by the Bay Area Quality Management Distict, should be re-organized using “a hybrid model where a non-profit associated with or managed by a public agency administers the program and contracts with a private-sector operator.”

Here are the report’s full recommendations on bike-share expansion in San Francisco:

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Section of Arguello Blvd in the Presidio Widened for Sidewalk, Bike Lanes

Arguello, before (left) and after (right). Photos: SFCTA

City officials held a press conference yesterday to tout the widening of Arguello Boulevard in the Presidio to add sidewalks and bike lanes. Previously, the short stretch of road had only shoulders for people to walk and bike on, squeezing between guard rails and motor traffic. It’s one of the first projects to be funded by a local $10 vehicle registration fee increase which city voters passed under Prop AA in 2010.

Photo: SFBC

Supervisors Mark Farrell joined officials from the SF County Transportation Authority, the Presidio Trust, the SF Bicycle Coalition, and Walk SF at the event to promote the project  as an “expedited safety” improvement, though the road is used more for recreation than A-to-B travel, and planners didn’t face the challenges that come with reallocating space for walking and biking on city streets (the road was expanded on to park land).

“For years, bicyclists and pedestrians have traversed a dangerous stretch of roadway to travel on this route,” said Farrell in a statement, noting that private philanthropists paid for much of the project’s design and construction. Of the $1,120,769 in total, Prop AA revenue underwrote $350,000, and $750,000 came from other sources, according to the SFCTA.

“Not only have we managed to expedite the delivery of this important safety project thanks to Prop AA,” said Farrell, “but we’ve also done so by bringing together a federal agency, private philanthropy, and public dollars — a truly creative and collaborative approach to meeting the needs of San Francisco residents.”

There does seem to be a missed opportunity with the design of the bike lanes. The lack of driveways and car parking seems to provide prime conditions for raised, protected bike lanes on a curb, rather than painted bike lanes on the roadway.

Still, the SF Bicycle Coalition noted it’s “one more link in better biking and a crucial connector to the Golden Gate Bridge.”

Supervisor Farrell sits with Walk SF’s Nicole Schneider (left) and others as Presidio Trust Executive Director Craig Middleton speaks. Photo: Charity Vargas Photography

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Hampered by Tunnels, Center BRT Lanes on Geary Limited to the Richmond

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A rendering of the recommended plan for Geary BRT at 17th Avenue in the Richmond. Images: SFCTA

Correction 12/17: The next community meeting on Geary BRT is tonight, Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m. at the Main Public Library.

The latest iteration of the plan for bus rapid transit on Geary Boulevard includes center-running bus lanes only on the Richmond District segment between Arguello Boulevard and 27th Avenue — about a quarter of the street’s length. East of Arguello, where Geary’s center traffic lanes run through two tunnels designed to whisk cars past Masonic Avenue and Fillmore Street, planners say center-running transit lanes are too problematic and expensive to engineer. Instead, they propose side-running colored transit lanes all the way to downtown.

Planners from the SF County Transportation Authority maintain that their recommended plan [PDF] for Geary’s Richmond segment, previously called Alternative 3-Consolidated, will still produce significant gains for riders on Muni’s busiest bus line. Along that segment, the project is expected to cut travel times by a quarter, make the line 20 percent more reliable, and increase ridership by up to 20 percent. The current estimated cost for the project is between $225 million and $260 million.

That comes out to $35-40 million per mile, and with more than 50,000 riders every weekday already, planners say Geary BRT is worth it. “It’s a really cost-effective investment to make because people are going to start using it if we make this set of improvements,” said SFCTA planner Chester Fung.

Filling in the Fillmore underpass to raise Geary’s center lanes back to street level would cost an estimated $50 million and could add years to a project that has already been delayed extensively, planners said. Geary BRT was originally supposed to open in 2012, and the SFCTA says its current proposal could be implemented by 2018, the same year as Van Ness BRT — an improvement over the previous 2020 timeline.

“It’s not what I’d like it to be,” said Winston Parsons, a member of the Geary BRT Citizens Advisory Committee, though he said the SFCTA’s reasons for limiting the center-running lanes are “understandable.”

“I initially advocated that both tunnels be filled, but it’s simply not in this project’s budget and would drastically increase our timeline,” he said.

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SFCTA Considers Removing Freeway Ramps at Balboa Park Station

Photo: Aaron Bialick

Balboa Park may be a major transit hub for BART and Muni, but it’s hard to tell as you approach the station, which is surrounded by dangerous roads swarming with car traffic moving to and from six nearby freeway ramps. The design of the area around the station — not to mention the 24,000 people who use it daily — feels like an afterthought to a freeway exit.

The SF County Transportation Authority is considering options to remove some of the “redundant” freeway ramps to reduce the number of points where pedestrians and cars mix, while also simplifying traffic patterns and making the pedestrian environment less hostile. The agency has embarked on a study to explore how certain ramp removals or re-alignments would affect the area, and fielded input at a community meeting this week.

“If you change the circulation patterns around the station, you might shake loose a solution that would allow us to improve the current conflicts that are happening at certain hot spots around the station,” said SFCTA planner Chester Fung. “There’s no silver bullet solution.”

Robert Muehlbauer, chair of the Balboa Park Community Advisory Committee, said he wants “to make sure that we don’t just design for cars, that we design for people, too.”

“Sometimes, the best design for cars excludes people, and sometimes the best design for people excludes cars. Bicycles have to fit in there, too.”

Geneva at Balboa Park Station, where riders are greeted with a northbound on-ramp and off-ramp (out of shot). Photo: Google Maps

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Eyes on the Street: Bike Lanes on Cesar Chavez, Green Wave on 11th

Eleventh Street. Photo: Mark Dreger

Two bicycling upgrades were spotted in the eastern neighborhoods this past week: Preliminary striping for bike lanes on western Cesar Chavez Street and a “green wave” on 11th Street in west SoMa.

Cesar Chavez as seen last Wednesday. Photo: @dfro78/Twitter

The unprotected bike lanes being installed on Cesar Chavez are part of the ongoing rehab on the section west of Hampshire Street. A photo posted on Twitter last Wednesday shows temporary striping on fresh asphalt, and it’s unknown when permanent stripes will be laid down.

Construction on western Cesar Chavez was originally set to finish this summer, but the Department of Public Works website currently says it will be completed in the winter.

Meanwhile, the new green wave signal re-timing on 11th Street spotted by Mark Dreger comes as a bit of a pleasant surprise. The only other known green waves installed in SF so far are on Valencia and 14th Streets. The SF County Transportation Authority approved funds in April for green waves on five other streets, but 11th wasn’t on the list, and I couldn’t turn up anything on the project. The other five green waves are scheduled to be installed by next March, according to SFCTA documents [PDF]:

  • Arguello from Lake to Clement
  • North Point from Stockton to Polk
  • Folsom from 15th to 24th Streets
  • Fulton from Laguna to Steiner
  • Potrero from Alameda to 25th Street

We’ll keep you posted as we learn more about these projects.

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Tilly Chang Elevated to Top Spot at SFCTA

The next executive director of the SF County Transportation Authority will be Tilly Chang, who currently serves as the agency’s deputy director for planning, the SF Chronicle reported yesterday. Chang will succeed José Luis Moscovich, who resigned from the position last November citing health reasons, and Maria Lombardo, who has served as interim director since.

Tilly Chang with Tim Papandreou, SFMTA's deputy director of planning for the Sustainable Streets Division. Photo: SF Environment/Flickr

Chang was selected on Tuesday by a closed-session vote of the SFCTA Board, which is comprised of the Board of Supervisors. As many as five of the 11 board members voted instead to appoint Sonali Bose, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency’s chief financial officer, according to the Chronicle. Bose was voted unanimously to be the secondary candidate, meaning she would be next in line if Chang chooses not to fill the position.

Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich said Chang’s appointment was a “safe choice” that will probably “preserve a lot of the culture at the TA, good and bad.”

Bose would have been more apt to overhaul SFCTA’s planning practices, said Radulovich. “I think she would have been a really good choice… she really understands the SFMTA’s and the TA’s policy goals, and how to connect what she’s doing with that.”

Sustainable transportation advocates have said the most important goal of the next TA chief should be to improve the agency’s collaboration with the SFMTA and the Planning Department. The TA plays a key role in determining whether the city moves toward a livable future or continues the car-dependent status quo, because it manages the city’s transportation finances and plans some major projects, like the city’s two bus rapid transit routes, which are both expected to be transferred to the SFMTA for implementation.

In his article, Chronicle transportation reporter Michael Cabanatuan posed some burning questions:

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SFCTA Board Approves Van Ness BRT Plan With an Extra Stop

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Image: SFCTA

The plan for bus rapid transit on Van Ness Avenue was unanimously approved today by the SF County Transportation Authority Board, which is comprised of the Board of Supervisors. The plan, which includes transit lanes that run along a center median but converge to load at right-side boarding platforms, is generally the same design that received initial approval from the board in June last year, although a stop was added between Broadway and Vallejo Street after protests from members of a nearby senior center against the removal of the existing stop.

At the hearing, many elderly attendees called for the inclusion of the extra stop, while transit advocates supporting the project countered opponents who complained about the removal of car parking and traffic lanes, as well as what they perceived as a high construction costs for minimal gains in speed and reliability.

The BRT redesign is expected to shave seven minutes from bus travel times on the two-mile stretch of Van Ness and make service more reliable. Supervisor Scott Wiener, who said the time savings estimates are too conservative, lambasted opponents’ “completely misleading” claims that seven minutes were unsubstantial for the cost of the project, which will also include pedestrian safety improvements.

“It will probably get quoted in the press, and there will probably be some narrative out there about how this is $125 million to save seven minutes,” said Wiener, who pointed out that with 16,000 estimated Muni boardings on Van Ness (not including riders who board its lines on other streets), “you’re talking about millions of dollars of economic savings a year.”

“If we could have that level of savings all across our system, it would absolutely revolutionize Muni,” he said. “This is an extraordinary project — it’s not perfect — but it is very, very good and a positive step for the city.”

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