Skip to content

Posts from the "Complete Streets" Category

21 Comments

Spectacular New Devil’s Slide Trail Difficult to Reach Without a Car

A 1.3-mile section of abandoned Highway 1 south of Pacifica was converted into the new Devil’s Slide Trail, seen here just before its grand opening to the public on March 27. Photo: Andrew Boone

The 1.3-mile “Devil’s Slide” segment of Highway 1 just south of Pacifica is the latest addition to San Mateo County’s 20 parks. The freshly-paved walking and biking trail offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and its coastal cliffs, and it’s by far the widest trail in the San Francisco Bay Area, with 12 feet striped for walking and 12 feet for bicycling.

“This is inarguably one of the most beautiful segments of the California Coastal Trail,” said Coastal Conservancy Executive Officer Samual Schuchat at the trail’s ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday. “It’s incredibly exciting to open it, after years of driving through here and wanting to take in these views but being afraid that you would crash.”

The geologically hazardous section of highway was closed to cars in March of last year with the opening of the twin Tom Lantos tunnels, which Caltrans constructed to bypass this stretch. As Deidra Kennedy of the Pacifica Historical Society told the SF Chronicle last week, Caltrans originally planned to build an inland bypass and bury the Devil’s Slide highway, but local activists persuaded them to instead build a tunnel and re-purpose the coastal road.

Construction included re-paving the road, building parking lots, bus stops, and public restrooms at both ends, and adding three overlooks, 12 benches, and a variety of educational panels alongside the trail to help visitors learn about the area’s geology and ecology. The San Mateo County Parks Department spent $2 million on the highway-to-trail project, and will invest another $492,000 per year to maintain it, or roughly 5 percent of the department’s annual budget.

Getting to the new trail without a car, however, is a challenge. Since the trail was carved from Highway 1, the highway remains the only way to get there.

Read more…

Streetsblog NYC 18 Comments

Meet Streetmix, the Website Where You Can Design Your Own Street

Streetmix lets users mix and match design elements to create the street of their dreams. Image: Streetmix

Last fall, Lou Huang was at a community meeting for the initiative to redesign Second Street in San Francisco. Planners handed out paper cutouts, allowing participants to mix and match to create their ideal street. Huang, an urban designer himself, thought the exercise would make for a great website. Now, after months of work beginning at a January hackathon with colleagues at Code for America, it is a great website.

The principle behind Streetmix is simple: it brings drag-and-drop functionality to a basic street design template. Users select a road width and add or remove everything from light rail to wayfinding signs, adjusting the size of each feature meet their specifications.

“It’s a little bit like a video game,” collaborator Marcin Wichary said. ”We were very inspired by SimCity.”

But Streetmix is more than just a fun way for amateur street designers to spend an afternoon. “What we want to focus on is, how can this enable meaningful conversations around streets?” Wichary said. “For many people it’s a kind of entry point.”

The first version of Streetmix went online in January, but the latest version, which has new features and a slicker design, launched less than two weeks ago. In that short time, advocates have used the website to illustrate possibilities for Dexter Avenue in Seattle and Route 35 on the Jersey Shore. Streetmix has profiled how people from Vancouver to Cleveland use the website. Residents of Sioux Center, Iowa, even used Streetmix illustrations in their campaign to stop the state DOT’s road widening plan in their town.

“It’s giving power back to the people, allowing them to vocalize what their streetscape priorities are,” Huang said.

Read more…

10 Comments

Streets Bond Measure Headed to November Ballot

Photo: ejbSF

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of occasional stories on the “2011 Road Repaving and Street Safety Bond.”

A $248 million streets bond measure being pushed by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other electeds is on its way to the November ballot after being approved this week in a 9-2 vote by the Board of Supervisors. The “2011 Road Repaving and Street Safety Bond” would provide funds over three years to repave the city’s crumbling streets and fix cracked and buckling sidewalks. Streets with high volumes of transit, bicycle and pedestrian traffic would be prioritized.

“With more than half of our 850 miles of roadways deteriorating, we must confront the crisis in the condition of our streets now or we will face even greater costs and threats to public health and safety later,” Lee said in a statement released yesterday.

The San Francisco Department of Public Works (SFDPW) recently posted maps online that give a citywide breakdown of which streets stand to benefit from the bond money. The final list of streets would be “geographically equitable” and the SFDPW would “ensure that projects are evenly distributed to all parts of the city” without raising property taxes.

The agency’s outgoing director, Ed Reiskin, recently appointed to head the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said funding sources to improve street conditions have gradually declined over the years, and the measure is urgently needed to rebuild a growing backlog of streets in poor condition.

“We have a huge need. That backlog is maybe three quarters of a billion dollars, and there’s just no way that we can dig out of that hole using the operating dollars that are funding police and firefighters and library services and health and human services,” Reiskin told Streetsblog in a recent interview.

Read more…

9 Comments

Eyes on the Street: Valencia Gets Trees and Decorative Streetlights

trees_and_light_small.jpgNew trees and new roadway scale lighting. Photos: Matthew Roth

Now that the Valencia Street sidewalk reconstruction between 15th Street and 19th Street has given us sparkly new pedestrian space, the Department of Public Works (DPW) has begun putting on decorative touches. The DPW has planted two types of trees as well as pedestrian and roadway scale lighting, all of which reflects the decision from the community outreach process that began in 2004.

The DPW said the two types of trees are the deciduous London Plane (platanus acerifolia) and the evergreen Brisbane Box (lophostemon conferta). The DPW is planting 96 new trees across the length of the project, which project manager Kris Opbroek said were "just a hint of things to come."

The streetlights are two different heights: The teardrop shaped fixtures are approximately 27 feet tall for roadway scale and the harp-shaped pedestrian scale fixtures are approximately 14 feet high.

Now if they could just clear the bike lanes of gravel and fix that dangerous pavement edge near Mission police station!

Read more...
Streetsblog NYC No Comments

Streets for Walking, Part 2: Dan Burden on Building Support for Change

Calgary.Afternoon.night__11_.jpgBurden leads a workshop helping a hospital in Calgary design its pedestrian space. Photo: Dan Burden.

Last week Streetsblog spoke to walkability expert Dan Burden about how new design guidelines for urban streets can replace the suburban, car-oriented standards that have become the norm throughout America (read the interview here).

Burden has been advocating for walkable neighborhoods for more than 30 years, including 16 as the bike and pedestrian director for Florida's Department of Transportation. He's traveled to over 2,700 communities across the United States and Canada to help them figure out how to build safer, more sustainable transportation systems. So while we had him on the phone, we wanted to pick his brain a little more.

In the second part of our interview, we discussed why transportation reformers shouldn't recoil from public process, as long as that process is well-designed. Burden has faced more than his share of what he calls "the screaming meanies" over the years, and here he talks about some of his experience building a base of support for livable streets that can withstand the inevitable opposition.

Noah Kazis: A lot of your work focuses less on generating the content of planning, but on getting people to collaborate. What is the role of public process in designing walkable communities?

Dan Burden: In about 1978, after I’d been out trying to promote bicycling, I realized that there is a huge pressure just to keep doing the same thing that others did. When we got to a public meeting, we couldn’t get enough people to show up. I realized that everything that we want to do to change America had to revolve around good quality public process. The product, the technical side of things we did, was the easy side; it was the public process side that’s the real tough ingredient. 

Read more...

7 Comments

Eyes on the Street: A New Sidewalk Emerges on Valencia Street

IMG_1333.jpgOn the west side of Valencia between 16th and 17th Streets, a widened but unfinished sidewalk is now open to pedestrians. The original sidewalk and the blacktop will be replaced with shiny new tiles. Photo: Michael Rhodes
Business owners on one block of Valencia Street can see the light at the end of the tunnel after months of painful construction that made their stores less accessible to customers. Street trees, bicycle racks and pedestrian-scale lighting haven't arrived yet, but between 16th and 17th Streets, a sparkling new widened sidewalk is beckoning shoppers and diners back even before DPW crews have finished resurfacing it.

Construction on the Valencia Streetscape Improvement Project started in early August, and is bringing wider sidewalks, additional street trees, additional street lighting, sidewalk bulb-outs, and art elements to Valencia between 15th and 19th Streets. While bicyclists are still waiting for the bike lane to be repainted, pedestrians are starting to see the fruits of the DPW's work, and multiple business owners on the block between 16th and 17th Streets were feeling relieved this week as customers returned from holiday travel and no longer found narrow sidewalks and construction barriers.

During construction, "our sidewalk was barely two-and-a-half feet wide, so people were not coming to this side," said Adam Hernandez, a design consultant at Z-Barn Interiors. When the construction barriers were cleared from the sidewalk recently, that all changed, he said. "I'll tell you, since they took this off just before Christmas, it's been a huge difference."

Read more...
2 Comments

CNU Summit to Focus on Reforming Transportation, Planning Principles

cnu_banner.jpg

The Congress for the New Urbanism will meet in Portland, Oregon, in early November for the annual Project for Transportation Reform, a summit to further define and clarify emerging urban transportation policies that embrace entire networks, rather than interdependent transportation segments, and that seek to balance modal transportation splits and reduce overall vehicular miles traveled (VMT).

Summit attendees and partners, including Streetsblog, will participate in discussions on emerging network planning and develop a strategy for informing the national transportation infrastructure debate, of particular significance as the climate and transportation bills move forward. As the draft CNU Statement of Principles on Transportation Networks notes [PDF], climate change and infrastructure problems in the US continue to intensify:

The US now has the world’s highest level of VMT per capita, while simultaneously experiencing the highest traffic fatality rates of any developed nation. Per capita traffic delay has more than doubled in the United States since 1982. This deterioration in transportation system performance has occurred in spite of an ongoing public investment of more that $200 billion per year in transportation infrastructure."

CNU President John Norquist said the current focus by transportation professionals on road capacity gives us cities like Detroit, where consistent spending to widen roads has destroyed communities.

"Federal and state DOTs don't understand how cities work. They still want to take rural forms and jam big roads into cities." he said. "Rather than measuring projected traffic flow, they should be measuring how much value it adds to a neighborhood. The US can't afford to be energy wasting and spending money on projects that destroy the value of neighborhoods."

Read more...

4 Comments

Layoffs Hit Street Cleaning, Gardening Crews at DPW

DPW_P2P_Crew_.jpgDPW landscaping crews who've been working on the Pavement to Parks plazas are among those being cut. Flickr photo: Jamison
San Franciscans are likely to see slower response times to street cleaning requests and a reduction in landscaping and tree maintenance in their neighborhoods following a number of layoffs announced this week at the Department of Public Works. Twenty four street cleaning positions are being cut along with 15 gardening and arborist positions.

"This was our share and it's unpleasant," said DPW Director Ed Reiskin. As a result of the city budget crisis, the department was forced to slash its street cleaning budget by $2.7 million and trim its landscaping budget by $800,000. A reduction in street sweeping services was announced last month.

The cuts come right as San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's office embarks on a number of new projects to green space and improve the public realm. The landscaping positions being eliminated include crews who've been heavily involved in the Pavement to Parks projects. Reiskin predicted the cuts wouldn't have a direct impact on those efforts, but rather, would affect the agency's ability to maintain landscaped medians, trim trees and respond to service requests.

"Nobody was spared and this just challenges us more to figure out how to be more efficient and use more in the way of low-maintenance planting, which we're trying to move more towards, so we need less gardening."

Read more...
2 Comments

San Francisco Moves to Meet Its Complete Streets Obligations

contruction_small.jpgPhoto: j@ys0n

While San Francisco Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Ed Reiskin has quietly pushed behind-the-scenes to accelerate Pavement to Parks plazas, the recently announced Market Street trial changes, and other visible projects that reclaim street space for green space and people, some advocates are concerned with how well his agency is coordinating around an arcane, but important process: DPW's five-year repaving plan.

Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich said that at a meeting last month about capital planning he attended at the SFCTA, only four people gave feedback and he was the only one that addressed the problem with inter-agency coordination around the repaving schedule. He believes the city needs to do more to successfully build complete streets under the Complete Streets ordinance and the Better Streets Plan.

In your five-year planning, you have the Complete Streets ordinance, which says if you're doing major street rehab and it's on a transit street, a bike street or a ped street, you ought to have the complimentary project, you ought to build it out as a complete street. Unfortunately they're not dealing with the Complete Streets Ordinance in the way that they ought to, which is coordinating the bike, ped and transit improvements at the same time as they do the repaving.

MTA spokesperson Judson True defended his agency's record, saying that "there is constant coordination looking at the paving schedules. Not just at DPT, but Muni as well." True pointed to Cesar Chavez, Divisadero, and now Market Street as positive examples.

Read more...
14 Comments

Valencia Businesses Hope Customers Keep Shopping During Construction

3834539087_dd4b695d92.jpgAt 16th Street and Valencia, the first signs of streetscape improvement work. Photo: Bryan Goebel
The Valencia Streetscape Improvement Project will bring major enhancements to Valencia Street that will benefit all of its users. To get there though, bicyclists and businesses will have to weather a nine-month storm of construction, which began three weeks ago. At a press conference today at ArtZone 461 Gallery, Supervisor Chris Daly and the DPW's Alex Murillo vowed to do everything possible to help make the process less painful, and business owners sought to remind residents that they will remain open throughout, even if work crews are right outside their door. 

Businesses are "basically looking at a double-whammy over the next nine to twelve months," said Daly. "The double-whammy being, obviously, the economy that's down, tough times for everybody here in San Francisco, and then looking forward to living through a construction project. So, I wanted to come here and help put this together to put the word out that Valencia Street is open for business, that you're going to find no better commercial corridor in all of San Francisco."

The enhancements on Valencia, from 15th Street to 19th Street, will include sidewalk widening, additional street trees, additional street lighting, sidewalk bulb-outs, and art elements. While business owners expressed concerns about maintaining access and parking during construction, there was broad support for the project on the whole.

Read more...