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Posts from the "Transbay Terminal" Category

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SFMTA Extends Howard Bike Lane to Embarcadero But Leaves a Gap

Howard looking east between Beale and Main. Sharrows are now in the left-most lane on this block, where the Bike Plan originally called for a continous bike lane. Photo: Google Maps

SoMa’s westbound bike lane on Howard Street was extended east to the Embarcadero last week, creating a link from the waterfront to 11th Street. However, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency apparently left a gap on the block between Main and Beale Streets, where Howard passes the temporary Transbay Terminal. According to tipster Hank Hodes, the SFMTA painted only sharrows there, forcing bike commuters to ride in a lane with motor traffic, even though a continuous bike lane was called for in the SF Bike Plan.

The Howard bike lane serves as half of SoMa’s east-west bike corridor, along with the eastbound bike lane on neighboring Folsom Street, and is “a route preferred by many riders over Market Street for its minimal transit and straight angled intersections,” noted Hodes. But commuters hoping for a continuous bike lane that doesn’t suddenly dump them in motor traffic are apparently out of luck.

Howard at Steuart Street. Photo: Hank Hodes

We have an inquiry in with the SFMTA as to why the change was made, but one possible explanation is that curbside bus parking for the temporary terminal ate up space that would have been allocated to the bike lane, and no alternative plan to allow for the bike lane was created. Under the SFMTA’s Bike Plan design [PDF], the space for the bike lane on that block would have been carved from a 12’6″ traffic lane (and part-time parking lane), but that lane doesn’t appear to exist today. The “existing configuration” shown in the Bike Plan design, it seems, was altered to create room for a wider bus stop lane on the opposite side of the street.

Since most of the real estate for the new bike lane (including the originally planned section between Main and Beale) comes from reallocating the excess width of existing traffic lanes, no car parking was removed. A one-block eastbound traffic lane was removed between Steuart and Spear, however, which should help calm car traffic.

Bicycling on Howard has increased dramatically since the SFMTA implemented the main stretch of the bike lane between 2001 and 2006. During that time, the number of bicyclists at Howard and 5th Streets climbed 300 percent, according to city data provided by the SF Bicycle Coalition. From 2006 to 2011, the number of bicyclists at Howard and 11th Streets increased by an additional 104 percent, according to the SFMTA’s 2011 Bicycle Count Report [PDF].

See more photos after the break.

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Transbay Transit Center to Fill Downtown With People, Not Cars

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The new Transbay Transit Center is expected to transform San Francisco’s downtown core by focusing new development around a massive regional transit hub in eastern SoMa. Scheduled to open in 2017, it will link 11 transit systems and eventually CA High-Speed Rail. Some have called it the ”Grand Central of the West.”

Renderings via TransbayCenter.org

The SF Planning Commission last week approved an influx of high-density office and housing redevelopment, including the West Coast’s tallest skyscraper, in the neighborhood surrounding the new station at First and Mission Streets, known as the Transbay Center District. To ensure that new workers and residents come by transit, foot, and bike instead of clogging the streets with cars, the plan would make sweeping streetscape improvements and limit the amount of car parking in the area.

“This is going to be one of the best examples of transit-oriented development in the world,” said Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of the SF Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR). “We’re going to be putting in $4 billion in transit infrastructure and then putting our tallest buildings right on top of it. It’s going to be studied and emulated all over the world if we get this right.”

The hub, which replaces the old Transbay Terminal, would connect to transit systems in all nine Bay Area counties, including Muni, BART, AC Transit, SamTrans, and Golden Gate Transit. Caltrain would operate on an electrified system connecting directly to the station, thanks to a recently-approved plan to extend tracks from the 4th and King station. Caltrain would share those tracks with high-speed rail trains.

Streets within the plan area — bounded by Market Street to the north, Steuart to the east, Folsom to the south, and just short of Third to the west — would be transformed with improvements for walking, bicycling, and surface transit.

Major streets — Mission, Howard, New Montgomery, Second, First, and Fremont Streets — would get wider sidewalks, road diets, transit lanes, and boarding islands. The planning department is also looking at creating a transit-only plaza on Mission between First and Fremont.

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Protest Over Parking Lot at Transbay Center Site

workers_small.gifTeamsters Local 665 workers protest a parking lot at the future site of the Transbay Transit Center. Photos: Matthew Roth.
Despite a stated Transit First policy, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) are encouraging solo drivers to bring their cars into San Francisco's downtown and park all day at low prices, according to a parking union who has been picketing in front of a temporary 250-space parking lot at 80 Natoma/81 Minna Street, the site of the future Transbay Transit Center.

Teamsters Local 665, which represents city parking workers and some private sector parking workers, has been picketing this week in front of a parking lot administered by ABC Parking, a non-union company, demanding that TJPA and Caltrans shut the parking lots down and use the property for open space.

"If you are going to drive into San Francisco, it’s the premium way to get into town and [it should] not be subsidized by Caltrans," said Local 665 President Mark Gleason, who asserted that Caltrans and TJPA lots were half the price of nearby municipal parking facilities. Gleason argued the MTA, which runs Muni, could be getting a lot more money from parking if those facilities were not in business and drivers had to park in municipal lots. Even if they chose to park in private facilities, said Gleason, they would pay more money and the city could collect more parking tax revenue.

"The service they are providing should dovetail with the Transit First Policy and should not be adversarial to it," said Gleason. The union estimates there are at least 7,000 parking spaces in more than 15 Caltrans easements that could be closed.

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SF Transbay District Plan Offers Lofty Vision for Growth and Livable Streets

transbay_park_small.jpgElevated Transbay Park. Images: Planning Department
The recently released Transbay Transit District Draft Plan is the culmination of two years of detailed work by the many city agencies and consultants that had a hand in it, and its objectives for creating a vibrant, walkable public realm and its goals to promote transit and reduce automobile traffic make it a valuable mission statement for growth in San Francisco's downtown over the next 25 years.

The Planning Department's Joshua Switzky, one of the lead authors, said like any draft plan this one will fluctuate based on the public and the Planning Commission's feedback, but the principles espoused in it should remain intact.

"The plan that we put out is clearly the one we think is the best plan. Depending on what the Commission wants to do, we will potentially make changes. It's kind of really open to the process," said Switzky.

Switzky pointed to several key recommendations, ones that could prove contentious several years down the line when more detailed proposals are hammered out. One is assuring the quality of pedestrian accessibility with the objective in the plan to maintain, on average, 21-foot sidewalks, 15 feet for circulation and 6 feet of curbside amenities, such as bike racks, benches, street trees, or news boxes.

"That will mean different things on different streets," said Switzky. "On some streets, the only way to achieve that will be to eliminate on-street parking. Sometimes it might mean eliminating a travel lane." Sometimes, he said, it could be a combination of both. "The future of this area is probably a lot less on-street parking than there is today."

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