Skip to content

Posts from the SFMTA Category

10 Comments

Two Horrific Bay Area Crashes Highlight Need for Faster Action

Fulton Street in Berkeley near where Schwarzman was severely injured while cycling. Image from Google Street View.

Fulton Street in Berkeley near where Schwarzman was severely injured. Image from Google Street View.

Megan Schwarzman, 42, a research scientist at the Berkeley School of Public Health, was riding her bike southbound on Fulton Street near Bankcroft Way on Tuesday around 5 p.m. when she was hit and dragged under a car driven by Berwick Haynes, a Sunnyvale resident. Haynes remained at the scene and was later arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs, according to reports. Schwarzman’s injuries were so severe that the Berkeley Police sent its “Fatal Accident Investigation Team.” Fortunately, Schwarzman is expected to live, reported Berkeleyside, an independent news site.

It’s difficult to see what, if anything, Schwarzman could have done to ride more safely. Reportedly, she was wearing florescent green safety gear, a helmet, and she had lights on her bike. She was struck from behind. There’s no way anyone can call this an “accident,” given the conditions on Fulton—its design encourages dangerous speeds and provides no protection for cyclists.

According to the Daily Californian citing data from the California Highway Patrol, there were ten reported bicycle-versus-motor vehicle collisions at the intersection of Fulton Street and Bancroft Way from 2001 to 2014. Meanwhile, Berkeley’s Mayor Tom Bates has declared that he wants to make Berkeley the most bike-friendly city in the US.

Then why do such conditions persist? It wasn’t a cost issue: the city repaved Fulton last year. “We asked them to put in bike lanes and got our usual response that they need to do a traffic study,” said Dave Campbell, Advocacy Director for Bike East Bay. “We were told both would take time and they didn’t want to delay the paving. It would have been very easy to do.”

Campbell said it’s a problem endemic to Berkeley and other cities: the paving engineers work in a different department from the city planners. Putting protected bike lanes on Fulton “was in the 2000 bike plan. It was in the 2005 bike plan. It was in the 2010 downtown plan — every five years the city says ‘yes, do this’ and then they repave without doing it,” said Campbell. He hopes that with the end of CEQA’s car-centric “Level of Service” (LOS), things might improve, but he’s fears the foot-dragging and excuses will continue.
Read more…

8 Comments

Streetsblog Talks with San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener

Supervisor Scott Wiener

Supervisor Scott Wiener

Scott Wiener, who has served District 8 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors since 2011, was re-elected this week as chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. The Authority was created in 1989 and it works closely with the Municipal Transportation Agency, funding and shepherding long-term projects such as the Van Ness and Geary bus improvements and the Central Subway. Wiener has long been a leader in transportation issues—probably because, unlike some elected officials, he actually rides the trains and buses.

Here’s what he wrote in a post about his reappointment as chair of SFCTA:

    “I’m deeply honored that my colleagues just reelected me as Chairman of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. I will continue to work very hard to improve transportation options as our city and region grow. We have so many needs – increased frequency and reliability of service, more subway lines, a complete revamping of BART and Caltrain, a second transbay tube, and high speed rail to downtown San Francisco. We have huge challenges, and with aggressive and innovative work, we will meet them.”

Streetsblog talked with Wiener about cycling, his goals for improving Muni, and general mobility in San Francisco. But first, late last December Supervisor Wiener pulled out his phone to check an appointment and got robbed. The thieves took his phone and then demanded money. Wiener got his phone back and managed to maneuver them in front of an ATM camera. Streetsblog started by asking him about that encounter and what it says about personal safety in San Francisco.

*

Streetsblog: So you got the thieves on a security camera?

Scott Wiener: It was either an incredibly smart move or an incredibly stupid move, but I got my phone back and the people are in custody. I was walking down 16th Street at Valencia and I had briefly taken my phone out to look at my calendar to see where I was going. A woman who was with two guys snatched the phone out of my hand and I was able to get it back from her by paying. So I got them to an ATM machine so that they would be on video; two of the three are now in custody.

Read more…

21 Comments

North of Panhandle Meeting Stressed Data and Parking Parking Parking

This post supported by

Supervisor London Breed talking at the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association. Photo: Roger Rudick

Supervisor London Breed talking at the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association. Photo: Roger Rudick

Thursday night, I was exhausted from covering so many stories in this crazy city that I love. So I grabbed my laptop and headed out to my favorite Divisadero coffee shop to catch up on Facebook and maybe look at some funny cat videos.I walked in the door, ordered, and heard: “Hey Roger! So glad you could make it!”

It was Janice Li, Advocacy Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. She’d given me a tour of bike projects on Market Street and the Wiggle just the week before.

In my attempt to escape, I’d walked into the monthly meeting of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association. No sooner had that registered, when I turned around and found myself face-to-face with SFPD Park Division Captain John Sanford. Janice started to introduce us. “I know who he is. Glad to meet you Captain,” I said, shaking his hand. “I’m the new editor of Streetsblog.” I wondered if he’d read my piece where I jokingly compared his bicycle crackdown logic to the Spanish Inquisition.

Sanford and Captain Greg McEachern gave presentations about policing and crime levels in the area. They both asked that residents contact them immediately about any “quality of life” problems. They also talked about crime stats. McEachern mentioned that they’d start a foot beat on Divisidaro. It seemed odd there wasn’t one already on such a busy street, but I’d already heard that SFPD is not big on getting out of their cruisers.

Cathy DeLuca, Policy and Program Manager for WalkSF, gave a great presentation about Vision Zero and their goals for making streets safer. First, she helped get the audience up to speed on the current situation.

“At least three people walking every day get hit in this city,” she said. “One-quarter of all trauma patients are pedestrians hit by cars.” She explained that by focusing on the most dangerous activities on the most dangerous streets, the police and SFMTA can start to bring those numbers down.

“The city has gathered data and crunched the numbers: six percent of city streets are responsible for 60 percent of crashes. The top five things that cause injuries and deaths are speeding, not yielding, not stopping at stop signs, not stopping at red lights, and improper turning,” she said. “They’re not accidents. They are predictable events.” Above all, she stressed the importance of using data to dictate policies for law enforcement, speed limits, and street designs.

Next, Oliver Gajda, a planner from SFMTA, presented on the Masonic Avenue Streetscape Project, which is slated to start construction in a few months. The project will add a landscaped median, bus stop enhancements and raised bikeways. But instead of talking about the great things the project will bring, he focused on how the city will make up for lost street parking on Masonic.

 

Raised bike lanes and landscaping will eliminate street parking. Image: SFMTA

Raised bike lanes and landscaping will eliminate street parking on Masonic. Image: SFMTA

To add more parking, the city is considering blocks of nearby Turk, Central, Lyon and other streets for 90-degree, angled parking. An audience member brought up that she doesn’t like angled parking, because it’s hard to see oncoming cyclists. At that point, I chimed in. It occurred to me that if they’re re-configuring parking, why not add a cycle path between the curb and the parked cars, to created a simple protected bike lane? It would require blocks to make sure cars don’t pull up too far, but that’s cheap. Not exactly a ground breaking idea, so I thought.

Gajda was emphatic that there wasn’t room, and besides, they were building a bike lane on Masonic. I kept pointing out that building a raised bike lane on Masonic, as part of a relatively complex and expensive street improvement project, is not an argument for not building a simple parking-protected bike lane on another street. After all, the city is spending the money to reconfigure the parking regardless. Somewhere between 90 degree parking, which the city is considering, and parallel parking, there has to be an angle that will make enough room for a bike lane along the curb without blocking the car lane, even if that costs a handful of parking spots.

“You should suggest that,” said another representative from MTA.

“I just did,” I answered.

It’s unfortunate, but much of SFMTA is in a mindset that all safety improvements are necessarily complicated. They’re not. The agency also thinks safety improvements can only happen if the overall number of parking spaces is maintained. That’s an attitude that has to go. After that, Supervisor London Breed talked about the housing crisis. I was going to make a suggestion that if the city didn’t allot so much land to parking, there would be more for housing. But I decided it was time to move on to funny cat videos.

My takeaway from my first, impromptu community meeting: San Francisco is a city full of super smart, wildly dedicated, and truly awesome people. And Streetsblog, WalkSF, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and other groups for street safety have their work cut out for them.

See you tonight, Monday, Jan.25 at the Streetsblog Happy Hour at Virgil’s.

9 Comments

San Francisco MTA Backpedals on Powell Safety Improvements

Workers push a cable car on a soggy morning. SFMTA is already rolling back safety improvements on Powell. Photo: Roger Rudick

Workers push a cable car on a soggy morning. SFMTA is pulling back safety improvements. Photo: Roger Rudick

The SFMTA Board passed a partial rollback this afternoon of the “Powell Street Safety & Improvement Pilot,” an 18-month test project to evaluate banning private vehicles on the particularly busy stretch of Powell Street between Ellis and Geary.

The change, based on staff recommendations, took a plan that reserved the street for “Muni, paratransit, taxis and commercial vehicles only” and changed it to also allow private vehicles “picking up or dropping off passengers at the loading zone in front of 230 Powell Street.” Nicole Ferrara, Executive Director of Walk San Francisco, said it will be impossible to enforce that private cars are only loading at that location and not driving through. “You can’t have a cop there all the time. It undoes what the pilot did and is pretty disappointing.” The decision was part of SFMTA’s “consent calendar,” meaning it was passed without discussion or a vote.

It was only last December that the city started the pilot. Given that Powell–between the cable cars, delivery trucks, taxis and private automobiles–was a virtual parking lot, safe-street advocates have long argued that the street should be transformed into a transit and pedestrian promenade. Powell doesn’t even connect to Market Street, since the southernmost block was turned into a plaza in 1973. As a result, drivers end up doing u-turns, further jamming up the street. It’s also a concern for maintaining San Francisco’s iconic cable cars, which aren’t able to handle stop-and-go traffic, because it wears out and frays the cables.

Either way, it should be self-evident that there’s no room for private cars on this stretch of street, just from looking at photographs from past issues of this publication and others. And SFMTA is trying to reduce the number of cars through incremental changes. For example, in 2011, all parking was removed from Powell south of Geary. But not everyone is keen on getting cars off of this stretch of Powell.

“Several Powell Street property owners came forward and asked that we also include the northbound side of the street [accessible to private vehicles] as a condition of their support for the project legislation,” explained Paul Rose, a spokesman for SFMTA. “Staff agreed to this change, and the Board directed staff to return in January with the requested modification, as long as staff was confident that the ‘less restriction’ regulation would still achieve the pilot goals.”

“Our role in this process was to convene stakeholders that would be impacted by the change,” wrote
Union Square Business Improvement District (BID) Executive Director Karin Flood. “In the case of Powell Street we had to balance the need to accommodate the large number of pedestrians walking up Powell with the loading and unloading needs of the individual hotels and merchants.”

Safe street advocates, meanwhile, were frustrated. “It’s pretty disappointing to see this street opened up to private vehicles again without a complete evaluation of the pilot program,” said Ferrara. “This will impact pedestrian safety.”

“This is a really old system,” explained a cable car conductor on Powell who asked Streetsblog to withhold his name. He motioned to a cable car he just helped push across Ellis. “It’s much better, much safer with the street closed [to private cars].”

10 Comments

“Just Transit” Contest Winner to Straighten Out Caltrain Station Mess

Back in October, the Schmidt Family Foundation announced its “Just Transit SF Challenge,” a contest to come up with good transit improvement ideas that can be implemented quickly. The three winners were announced this month.

Bike lanes as currently configured at Caltrain. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The current street situation at Caltrain. Photo: Bryan Goebel

The $125,000 first prize went to RideScout and TransForm, which are partnering to improve transit using financial incentives. In many cities, off-peak transit tickets are discounted to encourage people to ride trains and buses when they are less crowded. This project exploits modern technology to take things further, offering discounts for people to ride when loads are light or even encouraging them to use a less direct route if it will reduce crowding.

The grant will pay for the fare discounts the first year, during which the grantees will study to what extent financial incentives can work, using smart phone technology, to change travel patterns. After that, they’ll have to get SFMTA and BART to buy in. That may mean charging more at peak times and on heavily-crowded routes to offset the expense. Either way, it should bring in more revenue by making sure trains and buses have fewer empty seats on off-peak routes. In this sense, the project is trying to apply the kind of math airlines use to make sure planes don’t fly with empty seats.

Another winner addresses a problem that’s all too tangible to anyone who has ever used Caltrain’s King Street Station.

“Curbing the Caltrain Cluster,” which won a $50,000 award, is a joint project from Livable City and Lyft. How will it work? Suppose you get off your Caltrain and need a Lyft. The way things work now, you end up wandering past Muni buses, bikes, cars, and through the taxi queue trying to find your ride. “Curbing the Caltrain Cluster” proposes numbered stalls, so that when you call your Lyft, Uber, or whatever service, it also tells you to go to stall number 9, for example.

So when a Lyft driver heads over to Caltrain and looks at his app, “It will say your rider will proceed to ‘X’ location,” explained Scott Reinstein, development and communications director for Livable City. The plan is also to separate cars, buses, and bikes as much as possible.

Read more…

8 Comments

New SFMTA Safe Driving Video Is Required Viewing for City Truckers

The SFMTA has produced the city’s first training video to teach truck and bus drivers safe urban driving practices and highlight the extra care needed to operate in close proximity to people walking and biking on city streets.

The video will be required viewing for all truck and bus drivers employed or contracted by the city, as well as companies that operate under the SFMTA’s private shuttle regulation program. “A variety of private companies will [also] share it with their employees, and the Teamsters union will share it with their locals,” the SFMTA wrote in a blog post.

The video explains bike and pedestrian infrastructure like bulb-outs and protected bike lanes, which are relatively new features on SF streets. It also notes the heightened responsibility of truck drivers to keep people safe, due to the weight and blind spots of vehicles like garbage trucks and big rigs.

From the SFMTA:

Although just 4 percent of collisions in San Francisco involved large vehicles from 2007 to 2011, these collisions accounted for 17 percent of all traffic fatalities. Collisions between large vehicles are eight times more likely than collisions involving small vehicles to result in death to people walking or biking.

Most of the people killed while biking in San Francisco in recent years were run over by truck or bus drivers, including Amelie Le Moullac, Diana Sullivan, Robert Yegge, Dylan Mitchell, and Cheng Jin Lai. In the past two years, truck drivers have killed 61-year-old Rose Kelly in a Richmond crosswalk and a 91-year-old woman on Fillmore Street.

Tricia Decker came across an all-too-common scene this morning at 14th Street and South Van Ness Avenue, where a truck driver had struck a female cyclist who “was sitting on the curb surrounded by police officers with her twisted bicycle nearby,” she wrote in an email to Streetsblog. “She was sitting upright and appeared to be conscious and responsive. The mangled bicycle was still partly under a Recology flatbed truck.”

Read more…

24 Comments

Signs of Lax Enforcement of Car Restrictions on Market Street

SFMTA parking control officers posted to instruct drivers not to turn on to Market at Eighth Streets. Photo: Aaron Bialick

SFMTA parking control officers posted to instruct drivers not to turn on to Market at Eighth Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Nearly two weeks in, the bans preventing private auto drivers from turning on to most of lower Market Street have, by all accounts, made the street safer and more efficient.

But at an SFMTA Board of Directors meeting this week, member Gwyneth Borden noted that officers posted on Market “don’t seem to be as vigilant as one might like,” particularly during the evening commute.

Enforcement is provided by SFPD officers posted at some intersections, in addition to SFMTA parking control officers (who can’t ticket moving violations) stationed to provide guidance.

While there are no stats available yet to evaluate Borden’s observation, I also noticed two separate instances at Market and Eighth Streets last week where SFMTA officers posted at the corner weren’t paying attention to oncoming car traffic. On two different days when I passed through the intersection, I stopped to get photos of the officers facing traffic to help illustrate the enforcement for a post. But both times, I watched the officers talk to each other for several minutes without looking for turn ban violators.

Read more…

31 Comments

Supe Kim, SFMTA Get Tips From Copenhagen on Creating a Bikeable City

This post supported by

Supervisor Jane Kim (left) rides in Copenhagen with SFMTA officials. Photo: People for Bikes

Supervisor Jane Kim and SFMTA officials took a trip last month to learn about best practices from two leading bike-friendly cities: Copenhagen, Denmark, and Malmö, Sweden.

“I’d assumed that [Copenhagen] always had a bike culture,” Kim told Streetsblog. “I was surprised to learn that they also had a cars-first culture through the 60s and 90s. They’ve actually spent the last 25 years working to shift that.”

Kim joined a delegation including SFMTA Chief of Staff Alicia John-Baptiste, Communications Director Candace Sue, Livable Streets planner Mike Sallaberry, and board member Gwyneth Borden. The trip was organized by the national advocacy group People For Bikes.

“Not only are senior citizens getting around in a healthier way,” noted Kim, “they feel safe doing it. And that’s exciting.”

The delegation met with Copenhagen planning officials and a former mayor to learn about how the city made bicycling the most convenient way to get around.

Read more…

35 Comments

SFMTA Says It’s Just Getting Started on Protected Bike Lanes

Mayor Lee rides with SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire (behind) and SFBC Executive Director Noah Budnick (right) on Valencia Street this morning. Photo: Volker Neumann, SFBC

City officials gathered for another Bike to Work Day rally at City Hall today to cheer for bicycling, celebrating a 206 percent jump in ridership since 2006, according to a new annual bike count released by the SFMTA today. There was the usual citation of bike traffic on eastbound Market Street at Van Ness Avenue: 76 percent of all vehicles between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. were bikes.

So, was it another feel-good event in lieu of action? Maybe not…

After significant wins at the ballot box in November, these Bike to Work Day festivities felt a little different. There was legitimate cause to believe the city will accelerate its progress on bike infrastructure.

In 2015, the SFMTA expects to implement or start construction on an unprecedented 23 miles of bikeway upgrades, Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire told Streetsblog. Then the real boom in bike infrastructure is expected to start in 2016, when “we’re going to look back and say, that was nothing.”

“We’re definitely going to be seeing more, better, and faster,” said Maguire. “That’s where we want go with the Bike Strategy.” As someone who helped deliver improvements at a rapid clip in New York City, Maguire’s word carries weight.

At the rally, Mayor Ed Lee touted the planned ten-fold expansion of Bay Area Bike Share and noted the need for “more sustainable ways to get around” as development and population increase.

“We are making it easier and safer to bike around our city with improved bike infrastructure and bike-share opportunities,” Lee said in a statement. “Biking isn’t just fun, practical and healthy; it also helps cut down on congestion. Every person on a bike is one less person in your traffic jam or fighting for a parking spot.”

A fine speech, but one that the mayor has given before without making the necessary decisions to back it up. It was only two months ago that Lee refused to say that protected bike lanes, which encourage bicycling and save lives, are more important than car parking.

Here’s the roster of officials who biked to City Hall this year along with Mayor Lee: SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, and Supervisors Eric Mar, Mark Farrell, Julie Christensen, Katy Tang, Jane Kim, and Malia Cohen. Absent were Supervisors Scott Wiener, David Campos, Norman Yee, John Avalos, and London Breed.

What’s different this year is that voters sent some clear signals at the polls. “Every neighborhood in San Francisco is asking for safer streets,” said Maguire. “What the design looks like on every block is going to be different, but there were victories for Prop A and Prop B, [voters] defeated Prop L — it was proven at the ballot box. That’s the kind of momentum we want to go by.” Proposition L, a cars-first advisory measure, was funded last year by Lee backer Sean Parker.

Read more…

39 Comments

SFMTA Shows Off Vision Zero Upgrades, Promises Quicker Implementation

SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin leads state and national transportation officials on a tour today at deadly Market and Sixth Streets. Photo: SFMTA

SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin leads state and national transportation officials on a tour today at deadly Market and Sixth Streets. Photo: SFMTA

Several top officials from state and national transportation agencies were in town today to see some of the SFMTA’s latest street safety measures. Meanwhile, local street safety advocates continue to push the SFMTA to pick up the pace on delivering pedestrian and bike safety infrastructure.

At a City Hall committee hearing yesterday, SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire reported on some solid steps the agency is taking to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that holds up street safety fixes.

While the reforms are “definitely a work in progress,” Maguire told Supervisors Jane Kim and Scott Wiener that the SFMTA has adopted new processes and hired new management to speed up the delivery of safer streets.

“There does need to be a bit of a culture change and a raised expectation that we do need to be doing more, better, faster within MTA if we’re going to reach the Vision Zero goal,” Maguire said.

In recent weeks, he said, project managers at SFMTA and SF County Transportation Authority have attended an “intensive training course” focused on rolling out a “capital project control system,” so that managers at both agencies “are on the same level.” The SFMTA is also hiring a project delivery director to “re-engineer and streamline the project delivery process across the entire Sustainable Streets Division” while “providing a single point of accountability.”

Read more…