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SFMTA Takes Public Input to Make SoMa Safer

Bicycle advocate and sometimes Streetsblog contributor Adam Long at the curbside access table at SFMTA's SoMa open house. Photo: Streetsblog.

Bicycle advocate and sometimes Streetsblog contributor Adam Long at the curbside access table at SFMTA’s SoMa open house. Photo: Streetsblog.

Last night, SFMTA held an open house at the Bayanihan Community Center in the Mission to get input on the 7th and 8th Streets safety project, which will include parking-protected bike lanes on both streets on the six-block stretch between Market and Folsom. Some 45 people showed up to learn about the designs and give feedback.

Streetsblog readers will recall that as part of Mayor Ed Lee’s Executive Directive, SFMTA is supposed to complete these bike lanes in the next nine months. The open-house was a step in the process. “It’s to share recommendations for conceptual designs and collect input on curb management and accommodating loading and parking,” explained Jen Wong, a transportation planner with SFMTA’s Livable Streets division.

Curb loading issues–which were literally front and center in the room–at first seemed a bit over prioritized, considering the project’s new time frame and that the Mayor’s Directive, of course, was a response to the deaths of Heather Miller and Kate Slattery, who was killed at 7th and Howard. But an SFMTA official at the meeting explained they are trying to get in front of curb loading issues and “address people’s needs” to avoid the kind of blowback that came with street and transit improvement projects on Taraval and Mission.

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Eyes on the Street: The Kinda Raised Crosswalk at Duboce Park

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SFMTA's first raised crosswalk on a through street. Photo: Streetsblog

SFMTA’s first raised crosswalk on a through city street. Photo: Streetsblog

Streetsblog was thrilled to hear about the quiet unveiling of San Francisco’s first raised crosswalk on a through city street, at Steiner and Hermann, across from Duboce Park.

For a safe-streets advocate, raised crosswalks represent a clean break from the auto-über alles perspective that has so dominated our streets. By keeping the crosswalk at the level of the sidewalk, it sends a message: this is pedestrian space. Motorists–yeah you! Slow down! Be safe. Because if you try to race across one, not only are you going to drop your cell phone and spill your latte, but you might even damage the undercarriage of your car.

And unlike a normal speed hump, raised crosswalks slow cars down exactly where they should–where walkers need to cross.

Now, technically, the Duboce Park crosswalk isn’t the first raised crosswalk in San Francisco–but the existing ones are on backstreets, such as Pearl where it meets Market. The handful that exist are in low traffic areas/places where cut-through traffic can be hazardous, such as in the designated “home zone” around Marshall Elementary in the Mission. There’s also one on Nancy Pelosi Drive, but that’s deep inside Golden Gate Park.

And there’s one other that sometimes gets overlooked. More on that below.
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Guest Editorial: Safety Must Come First on Taraval

croppedTaraval

Concrete boarding islands (right) make streets safer than letting people board in the middle of the street (left). Photo: SFMTA

Every day 29,000 Muni riders and countless walkers travel on Taraval Street, one of the city’s 12 percent of streets responsible for over 70 percent of traffic deaths and life-changing injuries. On average, every five and-a-half weeks someone is hit while walking on Taraval.

This afternoon, walkers and MUNI riders will have a once-in-a-generation chance as the SFMTA Board of Directors considers a proposal to reshape this deadly street into a safe place for everyone.

But whether the SFMTA will deliver a life-saving project, or a watered-down conciliation that will continue to put our fellow community members’ lives at risk, is yet to be seen.

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Vision Zero Committee Hears Radio Spot and Other Efforts to Curtail Speeding

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Supervisors Yee and Campos at the Vision Zero Committee of the Transportation Authority. Photo: Streetsblog

Supervisors Yee and Campos at the Vision Zero Committee of the Transportation Authority. Photo: Streetsblog

Note the ‘call to action’ at the end of this post.

Thursday afternoon, Supervisors Norman Yee and David Campos, commissioners on the County Transportation Authority Vision Zero Committee, heard updates from SFMTA officials on plans to install safety infrastructure and increase educational awareness on the dangers of speeding. They also discussed Mayor Ed Lee’s Executive Directive to, among other things, install speed humps in Golden Gate Park and protected bike lanes South of Market. Safety advocates also spoke, keeping up the pressure on city agencies to follow through on promised improvements.

John Knox White, Transportation Planner at SFMTA, gave a detailed update on the status of the Vision Zero Communications Outreach Program. “We’re trying to change San Francisco’s culture,” White told the committee. “We’re trying to change to a culture that embraces public safety.” Read more…

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Push Continues in City Hall for Safer Bike Infrastructure

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Supervisors John Avalos, Jane Kim and David Campos hear testimony from SFMTA to the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee about efforts to accelerate street improvements. Photo: Streetsblog.

Supervisors John Avalos, Jane Kim, and David Campos hear testimony from SFMTA to the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee about efforts to accelerate street safety improvements. Photo: Streetsblog.

Note the ‘call to action’ at the end of this post.

Yesterday afternoon, some 30 officials, police officers, advocates, and other members of the public joined the regular meeting of the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors at City Hall to discuss how to get protected bike lanes installed quickly on San Francisco’s most dangerous streets.

“It is incredibly frustrating to our city and residents to continue to see people killed and injured on our streets,” said District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, “Are we working with the urgency that we need to take?”

The people killed whom Kim was referring to were, of course, Kate Slattery and Heather Miller. They died while riding their bikes in San Francisco on the evening of June 22. Over a month later, Mayor Ed Lee issued an Executive Directive instructing “SFMTA to deliver near­-term safety improvements on 7th and 8th Streets in the next nine months” and the SF Recreation & Parks Department “to deliver near­-term safety improvements to reduce speeds and vehicular through-traffic on JFK Drive in the next six months,” among other things. The hearing was part of an ongoing effort to check up on and make sure agencies followed through.

“It’s not just engineering. And it’s not just enforcement. It’s those two plus education,” explained Tom McGuire, Director of Sustainable Streets for SFMTA. “We believe you should be able to ride safely if you’re 80 or eight or anywhere in between. Kate Slattery and Heather Miller remind us we’re not there.”

Indeed, San Francisco is not there, but the question Kim and other members of the panel and public demanded to know is, “Why not?”

Patrick Traughber and Jay Harris wait patiently for their turns to speak. Photo: Streetsblog.

Patrick Traughber and Jay Harris wait patiently for their turns to speak. Photo: Streetsblog.

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SoMa to Get SF’s First Protected Intersection…in One Direction at Least

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Existing Bike and Pedestrian Infrastructure on Division Street | February 4, 2015

Existing Bike and Pedestrian Infrastructure on Division Street. Photo: SFMTA.

SFMTA announced late last week that San Francisco will soon break ground on the first protected intersection in San Francisco. From the agency’s web article:

A new type of safer intersection design for San Francisco breaks ground this week: The city’s first “protected intersection” treatment is coming to 9th and Division streets.

Protected intersections use a simple design concept to make everyone safer. Under this configuration, features like concrete islands placed at the corners slow turning cars and physically separate people biking and driving. They also position turning drivers at an angle that makes it easier for them to see and yield to people walking and biking crossing their path.

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SFMTA Wants Your Help Planning San Francisco’s Subway Future

A rendering of Muni's new rail cars, coming soon. Image: Siemens.

A rendering of Muni’s new rail cars, coming soon. Image: Siemens.

Now’s your chance to go full transit geek.

SFMTA has launched its “Subway Vision” web page as a first step in developing a long-range transportation plan for the next fifty years. Or as they explained it in their release:

We want you to help draw the San Francisco subway map of the future.

We’ve teamed up with the San Francisco Planning Department and other city partners to launch a new website where you can help shape the city’s plan for future subway — our Subway Vision for the next fifty years. It’s part of the foundation we’re laying for an effective, equitable and sustainable transportation network for the future of San Francisco.

To get this right, we need your input on priorities – whether it’s extending the Central Subway to Fisherman’s Wharf, building a second Transbay Tube for BART into Mission Bay or extending the Market Street subway across the city to allow for longer trains.

Streetsblog took a quick and dirty stab at it (see the results below).

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Guest Editorial: Eisenhower’s Parking Policies No Longer Work for San Francisco

Street parking on Nob Hill. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Street parking on Nob Hill. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The last time San Francisco looked comprehensively at how we plan for parking, Eisenhower was president, gas was 25 cents a gallon, and we hadn’t even started building BART. It was an era when cities came to be dominated by drive-ins and drive-thrus, when streetcar lines were were being torn up, and new freeways were bulldozing old neighborhoods. As a result, our city’s parking policy still acts as a viagra for traffic, pollution and unaffordability.

As the City debates a Transportation Demand Management ordinance aimed at taming traffic congestion, now is the time to update San Francisco’s parking requirements, from the ground up. The City has decided it’s time to tackle congestion, and commissioned a survey of research on what works. The research concluded that “available parking is perhaps the single biggest factor in people’s decision to drive. The research shows that just building housing on a transit line doesn’t reduce automobile use, but reducing parking does.” We’re also in the city’s worst-ever housing affordability crisis, and parking requirements are a key culprit in driving up housing costs. Refreshing San Francisco’s parking policy critical to growing an affordable, sustainable city with vital and dynamic neighborhoods.

San Francisco should stop forcing parking on homes and businesses that do not need or want it. Paying for superfluous parking drives up housing and business costs, and worsens the city’s housing shortage and our escalating commercial rents.

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Streetsblog Talks with Scott Wiener

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Streetsblog sat down with Supervisor Scott Wiener in an unofficial district office (Casto Tarts) on Friday. Photo: Streetsblog.

Streetsblog sat down with Supervisor Scott Wiener in an unofficial district office (aka: Castro Tarts) on Friday. Photo: Streetsblog.

On Friday, Streetsblog caught up with District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener. Readers may recall that Streetsblog last interviewed the then newly re-elected chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority back in January. Since that interview, much has changed. The mayor has a new Executive Directive on Vision Zero, a new city sales tax initiative is scheduled for the November ballot that will be integral to the budget and transportation investment, and there is a new interim police chief. Moreover, Wiener is now locked in a close fight for the State Senate District 11 seat for San Francisco and San Mateo County with Supervisor Jane Kim. Given all that, Streetsblog thought it was time to get the latest from Wiener.

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Streetsblog: You recently wrote an editorial advocating for late night service on BART and Muni. I know you’ve been working for some time on late-night service options. Do you envision that as bus-only, bus-plus-Muni rail, or do you see a scheme of, say, single-tracking through the Transbay, so it would include some BART service too?

Scott Wiener: Obviously, the easiest late-night transportation expansion is going to be a bus service and that’s been a big focus. Improving the owl service—making it more frequent and expansive; not having to tour the whole city to get home. And we want to increase Transbay late-night service to make it truly usable. We’ve made progress, and there will be more.

I’d absolutely like to see overnight rail service. I’d like to see Muni run the subway later too—at least on the weekends until 2 a.m. In terms of BART—we’ve been struggling for so long. They insist they can’t do 24-hour service.  I’ve heard conflicting things about whether BART has enough of  a “can do” attitude. But they are emphatic about the impossibility of running overnight. So we need to keep a second Transbay tube on track, which will allow for 24-hour BART. Of course, it’s not just about 24-hour capacity; it’s about redundancy. It’s about connecting Caltrain, the Capital Corridor, and getting HSR over to the East Bay and Sacramento.

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SPUR Talk: Transportation Challenges for Downtown Tech Companies

A SPUR panel discussed how downtown Tech companies Airbnb and Salesforce help their employees get to work . Photo: Streetsblog.

A panel at SPUR discussed how downtown tech companies Airbnb and Salesforce help their employees get to work . Photo: Streetsblog.

The San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), hosted a lunchtime talk in downtown San Francisco today, with representatives from Salesforce and Airbnb, about how the companies help employees commute between work and home. Unlike tech giants based outside of downtown San Francisco, neither company makes heavy use of private buses–so-called Tech Shuttles–and instead depends on public transit such as BART, buses and Caltrain.

“Our San Francisco campus is right down the street,” said Lauren Bennett, Senior Program Manager for Transportation at Salesforce. Her company has seven buildings in downtown San Francisco with nearly 7,000 employees, she explained, adding “That gives us access to two BART stations and the regional Transbay Terminal…we don’t have a last-mile problem.”

That’s probably why a third of its employees get to work by BART, with another 20 percent getting in by various bus and other transit providers. That’s part of a corporate strategy. “We think our employees want to work in urban areas and like the city as an amenity,” she said. And they don’t try to insulate their employees from the surrounding area. “We don’t have a cafeteria. We want people to get out, walk around and spend money in small businesses,” she said.

Airbnb has a similar strategy. “Airbnb was born and bred South of Market,” said Rob King, Facilities Coordinator at Airbnb. “It was started with air mattresses on the floor in SoMa; we’ve always been an urban company right in the heart of cities.” But the SoMa location comes with its own last-mile challenges. “The Caltrain station and BART are both .8 miles away,” said King, “Transbay is 2 miles and it’s 2.5 for the Ferry Terminal.”
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