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Posts from the "Embarcadero" Category

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Temporary Bikeway Provides Glimpse of Bike-Friendly Embarcadero

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KTVU: “So far, it seems to be working, and that has critics concerned.”

A temporary, two-way bikeway put in place on a short stretch of the Embarcadero last week provided a brief glimpse of what a permanent, safe bike route along the waterfront could look like.

Bicycle traffic signals were temporarily installed for the bikeway. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

The bikeway was a measure to encourage attendees of the America’s Cup races to bike to the event, repurposing a north-side traffic lane and car parking lane for bicycling space separated from motor traffic using metal barricades. SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose said agency staff “will be evaluating how this temporary bikeway changed travel behavior along the Embarcadero and how it minimized conflict.”

The SFMTA also installed bicycle traffic signals “to ensure safety and to control traffic,” Jose said, though they will be removed. Traffic signals normally seem to require a significant amount of time, funding, and engineering to install, and it’s unclear why the SFMTA was apparently able to implement and remove these ones so swiftly.

While the protected two-way lane was in place, biking on the Embarcadero seemed to be more popular than ever. ”Last week’s pilot of the Embarcadero on-street bikeway showed how well-used this space would be by the growing number of people biking along our waterfront,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition. “This was a win-all-around, with more bike space, more dedicated space for people walking along the promenade, and more people visiting the businesses and attractions along the waterfront.”

Of course, the installation wasn’t a perfect, complete model for a protected bikeway along the length of the Embarcadero. It ran less than half a mile, from Washington to Green Streets, outside of which people on bikes were dumped back into the Embarcadero’s regular configuration with green-painted bike lanes on opposite sides of the street, which are frequently blocked by drivers. Most southbound bicycle riders continued to use the regular south-side bike lane, rather than the temporary bikeway, as crossing over to the opposite side of the street to use the temporary bikeway was, for many people, counterintuitive and inconvenient.

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SFMTA Upgrades Embarcadero Bike Lanes to Green Status

Photo: Sunny Angulo

The SFMTA painted the Embarcadero bike lanes green yesterday, which will hopefully help signal to drivers that it’s not a parking lane. The SFMTA Livable Streets team wrote on its Facebook page that the Port of SF helped get the paint on the ground in time for the Fourth of July and America’s Cup later this month.

Update 6:50 p.m.: In a press release, the SFMTA said “the new green bike lanes are next-generation bikeways that offer a convenient, comfortable and safe place for people from ages 8 to 80 to ride a bike.”

“With more people traveling to and along the Embarcadero,” said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin in a statement, “the SFMTA is excited to welcome them with great transit options and new green bike lanes that create a safe and comfortable space for not only those who bike, but for all residents and visitors in our city.”

The green paint is certainly a step up — don’t get me wrong — but these bike lanes are still unprotected and squeezed in the door zone between parked cars and moving cars. So if we’re expecting to see parents and kids riding the lanes, I’m not going to hold my breath.

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Livable City: Ticket Fee a Smart Way to Fund Transit to Warriors Arena

A rendering of the proposed Warriors basketball arena on the Embarcadero. Image: Golden State Warriors

Transporting folks to and from a new Warriors arena, condo, and hotel development planned for Piers 30-32 along the Embarcadero will require smart planning and the money to fund improvements for transit, walking, and biking to avoid clogging the waterfront with cars.

But Muni typically gets shorted when it beefs up transit service to bring fans to major sports and music events around the city, says Supervisor Scott Wiener, who yesterday proposed adding a $1 to $3 transit surcharge to tickets for such events. Wiener asked the City Controller’s Office to study the impacts of such a fee, and he says preliminary estimates indicate it could bring in anywhere from $3 million to $22 million per year for Muni, depending on the size of the fee and which venues pay it.

“Muni doesn’t have enough light rail vehicles, its vehicles frequently break down, and service has degraded,” Wiener said in a statement. “With a growing population and a possible new sports/concert arena at Piers 30-32, now is the time to ensure that Muni can meet not only today’s transit needs, but also the transit needs of the future.”

“Currently, the Muni underground is overwhelmed whenever there’s a Giants game. With the addition of the new arena, the strain on Muni service will be even more severe.”

Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City and president of the BART Board of Directors, said the proposal “would certainly help Muni run the extra service,” for which the agency often pays transit operators overtime.

Radulovich pointed out that the surcharge wouldn’t necessarily come out of fans’ pockets, since venue managers would likely lower their ticket prices to match the going rate. “If they could charge two bucks extra on a ticket already, they’d be doing it,” he said. “They price them to fill the seats.”

An even better proposal, Radulovich noted, would be for event tickets to include a free Muni ride to encourage attendees to take transit instead of drive.

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Livable City: Parking Lot on Ferry Terminal Plaza Would Be Shameful

Equity Office's rendering of a parking lot in the middle of the plaza with temporary improvements around the edges. (Pay no attention to the cars!)

The plaza behind the Ferry Building, known largely as a farmer’s market venue and a place for ferry commuters to pass through, could be temporarily turned into a 64-space part-time parking lot during weekdays under a plan being considered by the Port Commission. Equity Office, which leases the Ferry terminal, is pushing the 18-month proposal as a way to generate revenue to underwrite pilot public space improvements around the plaza’s edges during that time.

“To turn this open space into a parking lot is just shameful. No city worth its salt would do that,” Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich told the Port Commission at a hearing on Tuesday. The proposal, he added, would draw more traffic to “one of the most transit-rich places on the continent,” while running “completely contrary” to city and port policies to expand open space at the waterfront and to remove, not add, car parking (especially over water). Furthermore, he argued, past cases have shown that “temporary” parking is rarely temporary.

“If the proposal before you today were an authentic proposal to activate this public space, we would laud it, but it is not,” Radulovich wrote in an email to the Port Commission. “At most times, this plaza will be used to store private cars, which at most times blight and deaden this space, increase traffic along our waterfront, and impose new dangers on pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders in the surrounding streets and public spaces.”

This isn’t EO’s first attempt to turn the plaza into a parking lot. Radulovich said livable streets advocates managed to convince the Port Commission to reject a similar proposal in 2009.

The new proposal was presented to the commission for informational purposes; it wasn’t up for a vote this week. Commissioners won’t voice positions on it until they have more information to consider how it would fall in line with Port plans and policies. EO didn’t say how much revenue would be generated by the parking.

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Mayor’s Transpo Chief: “Let’s Be San Francisco and Take Down the Freeway”

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The 280 freeway looking from Potrero Hill, where it divides the neighborhood from Mission Bay. Photo: Michael Patrick/Flickr

The idea of removing the northern section of Highway 280 near Mission Bay is gaining more traction as planners look for ideal ways to usher in high-speed rail and transit-oriented development in downtown San Francisco.

At a SPUR forum yesterday, Mayor Ed Lee’s transportation policy director, Gillian Gillett, sketched out a proposal to follow in the footsteps of the removals of the Embarcadero Freeway and a section of the Central Freeway, which revitalized the neighborhoods the roads used to divide. As Adina Levin at Green Caltrain reported, Gillett argued that replacing the elevated portion of I-280 with a street-level boulevard, from its current terminus at 4th and King Streets south to 16th Street, would improve the livability of the area, open up land to develop new neighborhoods, provide funding through real estate revenue, and open up engineering solutions to facilitate the extension of Caltrain and CA High-Speed Rail to the planned Transbay Transit Center.

If the freeway is left to stand, its pillars would present an engineering obstacle to running the train tracks undergound, meaning the only other feasible way to allow rail tracks to safely and expediently cross 16th Street would be to dip 16th underneath the tracks. And that would make the intersection — a gateway to Mission Bay — even more hostile for people walking and biking than it already is.

As past cases have shown, creating a surface street where that part of I-280 now stands and integrating it into the neighborhood would actually reduce overall car traffic. In a moment that would make the city’s mid-20th Century freeway protesters proud, Gillett told the crowd, “Let’s be San Francisco and take down the freeway.”

Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe called the proposal “an exciting opportunity to re-orient our city around sustainable public transportation and create a more walkable city.”

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Trial Bikeway on the Embarcadero Next Month Will Be One-Way Only

The SF Bicycle Coalition's vision for a protected two-way bikeway on the Embarcadero. Image: SFBC

We reported last week that the SFMTA is considering testing out a two-way bike lane on the Embarcadero during the next America’s Cup races in October, according to an agency report. However, America’s Cup spokesperson Jane Sullivan tells us that the lane will only serve one-way traffic in the northbound direction, and no trial bike lane will be provided in the southbound direction.

Essentially, the trial will be limited to designating one northbound traffic lane for bicycles only. It would begin just north of the Ferry Building and end at Bay Street, said Sullivan. Bicycle riders would then be routed on to Bay, then North Point, to avoid major cruise activity at Pier 35, she said. Sullivan also noted that the bike lane will provide emergency vehicle access.

The possible two-way bikeway noted in the Bicycle Advisory Committee report [PDF] was considered at one point, but the report may be “outdated,” said SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose. Only a one-way, northbound trial lane was approved in the America’s Cup environmental impact report, he said. A trial two-way bikeway could still come during next year’s races, though a decision has yet to be reached, he said.

It’s encouraging that the SFMTA and America’s Cup are testing out bicycle infrastructure during the events, but without providing a safer, more convenient two-way protected bikeway, they might be missing out on a massive segment of visitors who would potentially come by bike, if they were provided with better bicycle facilities. Let’s hope that the trial bike lane this year leads to a top-notch bikeway along the SF waterfront in the near future.

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SFMTA May Test Two-Way Bikeways on the Embarcadero

SPUR's vision for an "EmBIKEadero." Image: Carrie Nielson

A two-way protected bikeway along the Embarcadero could get a trial in the coming months. The SF Municipal Transportation Agency is considering implementing a temporary two-way bikeway along the waterfront during the next America’s Cup events in October, according to an agency report. The agency is also developing plans for a more permanent bikeway along the Embaracdero near Pier 39, from Kearny to Powell Streets.

During the next America’s Cup yacht races, which are scheduled from October 2 to 7, the SFMTA “is investigating the feasibility of a trial two-way cycle track on the east side of the Embarcadero,” according to an agency report to the Bicycle Advisory Committee [PDF]. “A lane of northbound traffic could potentially be converted to a temporary two way cycle [track]. Staff is working with the Port and local merchants to develop the concept further.” No details on the length of the bikeway are currently available.

A two-way bikeway on the Embarcadero, or an “EmBIKEadero,” was recommended in a report [PDF] from the SF Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) and in the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Connecting the City campaign. “Creation of a separated two-way bike path alongside the Embarcadero would enhance the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and motorists alike,” SPUR wrote on Streetsblog last year. “Promoting multi-modal connectivity along the Embarcadero will help ensure that the public can access and enjoy its waterfront for the duration of the America’s Cup and beyond.”

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Sunday Streets Returns to Chinatown (But Not North Beach) This Weekend

Sunday Streets returns to Chinatown this weekend with a car-free route running along Grant Avenue and east toward the Embarcadero. It’ll be Sunday Streets’ second run in Chinatown, following a highly popular event last year, but the route will be different: Rather than running into North Beach all the way to Coit Tower, it’ll turn east at Jackson Street toward the waterfront.

Sunday Streets organizer Susan King said the route was changed to avoid disrupting Muni service on Columbus Avenue, which will help accommodate the crowds headed to the America’s Cup yacht race this weekend. On a block of Battery Street, where the route jogs over from Jackson to Washington Street, King said a temporary transit-only lane will be created to allow Muni and Golden Gate Transit buses to run through. “I am curious to see if this helps speed transit up since there are no cars to compete for road space with,” she said.

However, while King said organizers would aim to include North Beach in the following years, the neighborhood’s exclusion from the event was a surprise and a disappointment to local residents and merchants, said Mike Sonn, head of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers Parking and Transportation Committee.

“Sunday Streets provides an excellent opportunity to experience a great neighborhood in an exciting new way and to expose our unique collection of local businesses to thousands of visitors and residents alike,” he said. “We look forward to working with Sunday Streets in the future to ensure that North Beach becomes a staple in the annual line-up.”

To be sure, folks from around the city will be coming to the area for the usual abundance of activities, including the annual ping pong tournament at Portsmouth Square, Tai Chi classes, a preview exhibit of the new Exploratorium, and, of course, free bike rentals and bike riding lessons for kids. Unlike last year, bicycle riding will be allowed along the entire route.

See you out there.

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Planning Commission OKs Parking-Saturated Condo Project at Embarcadero

Not pictured: a 400-space undergound parking garage and all the car traffic it will generate. Image: Hutner Descollonges via 8Washington.com

A luxury waterfront condo and parking garage development is on its way to the central Embarcadero, even though it would add three times the number of residential parking spaces allowed by law, plus 255 public spaces, to one of San Francisco’s most transit-rich destinations.

The SF Planning Commission approved the environmental impact report for the 8 Washington Street project in a 4-2 vote yesterday after a joint hearing with the Recreation and Parks Commission that lasted seven hours. The project must still be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

The garage would include a parking spot for each of the 145 units (three times what the planning code permits) and 255 public spaces, which the Port claims are needed to replace other nearby parking being removed. The project would bring some park space and pedestrian enhancements, but the enormous underground public parking garage will wipe out any benefit by serving as a magnet for car traffic in an area that already caters too much to the automobile, even after its revitalization following the removal of a freeway.

“We think it’s a terrible idea,” said Livable City Director Tom Radulovich, who argues the area already accommodates excessive amounts of car parking given its proximity to multiple downtown transit options. “With the exception, maybe, of Midtown Manhattan and the Chicago Loop, I can’t think of a place in the United States that has got more transit service.”

8 Washington will be located within walking distance of numerous neighborhood amenities and transit lines, including Muni light rail and BART stations. Radulovich also noted that future transit projects like high-speed rail are poised to make it an even more ideal spot for reliable car-free travel.

Jonathan Stern, the Port’s director for waterfront development, argued to the Planning Commission that the parking is needed for Ferry Building customers who drive to “carry large objects” and who compete with driving commuters for spots, also noting that the underground garage will be “out of sight.” The Port says that 961 parking spaces within a 15-minute walk of the building, including the 105-space parking lot currently located on the 8 Washington site, have recently been removed or will be removed in coming years.

Advocates who’ve looked at the numbers say the Port’s parking supply analysis is severely flawed. Existing parking garages and lots in the area are poorly utilized, according to Radulovich, who says that more than enough parking would be provided by converting underused commuter parking spaces to short-term parking for Ferry Building visitors who drive, though that could be challenging to do in private garages.

“The Port’s taken this position that the high watermark of parking, the maximum number of historic parking spaces, is the natural or logical number of parking spaces,” said Radulovich. “We think that’s kind of a bogus approach.”

A 2005 study [PDF] by the SF County Transportation Authority found that despite “a perceived shortage” of parking in the area, off-street lots and garages were occupied at a rate of just 21 percent and on-street parking 70 percent. “This could be because some garages are less visible or in areas that less familiar to tourists,” the study says, “which implies that better driver information systems, even just better signage, would improve the parking situation today.” It also noted that luring drivers into garages with comparatively lower prices, as the SFPark program is currently doing, would help optimize use of the existing parking.

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City to Expedite Two Blocks of Fisherman’s Wharf Redesign for Summer 2013

A "stripped down" version of the street plan showing the basic geometry of changes planned on Jefferson Street between Jones and Hyde. See full PDF here. Image: SF Planning Department

As the plan to revamp the public realm on Jefferson Street in Fisherman’s Wharf develops, planners recently announced that two blocks of the project could be brought to life by summer of 2013 in time for America’s Cup.

At a recent public meeting, staff from the San Francisco Planning Department’s City Design Group presented the latest designs for the Fisherman’s Wharf Public Realm Plan. Some changes have been made from concept designs presented as late as last year, including the decision to rescind a proposal for a curb-less “shared street” where cars are allowed, but people are granted priority. Instead, the project will feature curbs as conventional streets do, though it won’t include curbside car parking.

Despite the change, the project is still intended to transform Jefferson into a “beautiful, lively and memorable street that strengthens the identity of Fisherman’s Wharf,” planner Neil Hrushowy told the San Francisco Chronicle:

The work will include adding 15 feet to the sidewalk along the water side of the street, where visitors now must wend their way past crab stands, street vendors, entertainers and outdoor dining tables that take up much of the walkway.

On the other side of Jefferson Street, current plans call for the removal of parking meters, trees and other sidewalk obstacles.

The biggest changes will be to the street itself. The wider sidewalk will mean a narrower roadway, with no street parking and traffic limited to two 11-foot-wide lanes. For the first time in decades, Jefferson will be opened to two-way traffic, dramatically slowing the cars and trucks and making the road safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

“This is a way to show San Francisco as a model for a pedestrian-priority city,” said Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe. “I look forward to more projects like this throughout the city to benefit residents as well as visitors.”

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