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Posts from the "Market Street" Category

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Eyes on the Street: Progress on Market/Valencia Turn, Green Paint on Fell

Green paint now highlights the Fell Street bike lane from Scott to Divisadero. Photos: Mark Dreger

Improvements on two of San Francisco’s most important bicycling links continue to take shape: Green paint now graces the first block of the Fell Street separated bike lane, and much of the visible construction has been completed on the left-turn bicycle lane and traffic signal going in at Market and Valencia Streets.

Streetsblog reader Mark Dreger sent in photos of the improvements today, noting that the green paint on Fell highlights the beginning of the bike lane west of Scott Street, and there is now a longer segment of dashed green markings extending from the area where bike riders merge with drivers queuing up at the Arco gas station. SFMTA crews laid down the basic stripes of the bike lane last week, including the outline of a bike box and an advanced stop line for cars at the Divisadero intersection.

At Market and Valencia, Department of Public Works crews appear to have mostly completed the concrete work, which involved cutting out a section of the sidewalk (formerly an unused curb cut) and installing an island that sets off the area where left-turning cyclists queue up. Bike traffic continuing straight through the intersection will be routed around the left of the island, according to the project plans, meaning there will be a short stretch with no buffer zone. One of two bicycle traffic signal heads has also been installed. SFMTA crews still have to add markings for the left-turn lane and activate the new traffic signals.

Update: Mike Sallaberry of the SFMTA’s Livable Streets Subdivision said the traffic signals are expected to be activated this week.

See more photos after the break.

The left-turn queuing area at Market and Valencia.

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DPW Begins Pavement Fixes on Market Street

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One of the hairier spots on Market Street at Fremont. DPW plans show that this spot will be re-paved. Photo: Steven Vance/Flickr

The SF Department of Public Works began making major pavement improvements along lower Market Street this week.

The awful state of Market’s pavement has for years made the street a labyrinth for bike commuters, who must often swerve to avoid potholes while looking out for motor vehicles and trolley tracks. Nonetheless, Market has become San Francisco’s busiest bicycling street. Not content to wait for the scheduled street reconstruction in 2016, the SF Bicycle Coalition has pushed DPW “for quite a while” to smooth out some of the most dangerous stretches, said Executive Director Leah Shahum.

DPW crews at work on Market Street Monday night. Photo: SFBC

“The terrible pavement quality on Market Street is one of the things we hear the most,” she said. “It’s more than an inconvenience — it really is a safety issue, because so many times, you look down and realize you’re about to go into a pothole that is literally so dangerous that you are forced to swerve in an unpredictable way.”

DPW is re-paving large patches on Market, which “sticks much longer” than just filling potholes, said Shahum. Crews are working at night to avoid disrupting commuters. DPW spokesperson Greg Crump said work began Monday and is expected to be finished by September 20. The agency is targeting 25 trouble spots [PDF] spread out along Market from Octavia Boulevard to the Embarcadero, with a total of 15,230 square feet to be paved. Ten spots have already been completed.

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C.W. Nevius’ Fact-Free “Concerns” About Bike Lanes

A green bike lane on Market Street. Photo: Bryan Goebel

Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius took another shot at stoking some bicycle controversy today with his latest fact-free piece sharing his “concerns” that bike lanes “may be on [a] crash course” with cars.

“Bikes and automobiles are still crashing into each other,” as Chuck breaks it to us. ”Part of the problem is simply sharing the street. But there’s also a concern that the green bike lanes may actually be encouraging collisions,” he wrote.

Since Nevius doesn’t actually provide any evidence for this “concern,” we can’t really be sure why he’s publishing another article on the matter of bicycle safety. But taking even a surface-level look into his baseless claims only seems to reveal yet another attempt to ruffle some feathers around bike lanes.

While the bike lane examples Nevius chooses seem largely arbitrary, he does point to the intersection of Market Street and Octavia Boulevard, which had the highest number of pedestrian and bicyclist injuries in 2011, with a total of ten (Nevius probably would’ve done well to actually cite the numbers). But the vast majority of bicycle crashes there are caused by drivers making illegal right turns onto the freeway.

State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano has pushed for a change in state law to allow camera enforcement, and the SF Bicycle Coalition said violations have dropped since a concrete island and other improvements were installed there. Still, Nevius somehow names the bike lane as the problem. (Quick fact correction for his piece: The SFBC confirmed that Nevius misquoted Executive Director Leah Shahum as saying they were illegal left turns. Also, this section of bike lane isn’t painted green.)

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On the Horizon: A Car-Free Market Street With Raised, Protected Bike Lanes

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A rendering of a possible future for Market Street. Image: Better Market Street

Note: The Better Market Street Project will hold two public workshops on July 17 and 21, where you can provide feedback on the proposed concepts.

The future of lower Market Street seems more likely than ever to be unencumbered by cars, freeing up space for effective transit and raised, protected bicycle lanes.

The latest update [PDF] on the Better Market Street Project includes three possible scenarios to lessen the impact of private automobiles on Market, Department of Public Works Project Manager Kris Opbroek told the SF Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors this week. The proposals range from banning cars east of Franklin Street to using more forced turns to reduce through traffic. The scenarios that do allow cars could include car-free zones on pedestrian heavy blocks like the one between Fourth and Fifth Streets, Opbroek said.

The plan is being developed by a team of city agencies and design consultants who are drawing inspiration from the world’s most celebrated streets. Among the design features under consideration, Opbroek said, are bike lanes separated from motor vehicles by a raised curb, which have been employed to great effect in the world’s most successful cycling cities. (SF’s first raised bike lanes are included in the plan for Masonic Avenue.)

The raised bike lanes were praised by board members, including Joél Ramos, who recently visited Copenhagen with SFMTA staff on a trip funded by the Bikes Belong Foundation. On Nørrebrogade, which Copenhagen claims as the busiest bicycling street in the Western world, Ramos said he saw how the lanes “work as a phenomenal placemaking opportunity” to help make the street “a thriving corridor.”

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Muni’s New “Twitter Bus” Opens While SFMTA Faces Yawning Budget Gap

Twitter user Joseph Cutrona posted this photo of a mostly empty "Twitter bus" on its first morning.

A new Muni line went into service today: the 83x, which runs during peak hours between downtown Caltrain and mid-Market. It’s been dubbed the “Twitter Bus” and the “Hashtag Express” by those who see its launch as part of the city’s efforts to accommodate Twitter’s move to the resurgent area.

But after a new labor agreement signed by Mayor Ed Lee last week stuck the SFMTA with a $14.6 million deficit, the agency is once again looking to make ends meet. The agreement was made after the Board of Supervisors Finance Committee passed an SFMTA budget that banked on $7 million in reduced labor costs. The union deal includes a pay raise instead.

The 83x hasn’t been indicated as a target for cuts yet, nor is it clear how much it would save the SFMTA (an agency document [PDF] about the route only says its costs will be offset by “operations and maintenance efficiencies”). However, some transit advocates have questioned whether the resources devoted to the 83x could be used more effectively.

The cuts will have to come from somewhere, and the SF Transit Riders Union is launching a “rider revolt” to urge the SFMTA Board of Directors next week to steer clear of service and maintenance cuts for Muni riders.

A list of budget cut options will be presented at next week’s board meeting. Should the 83x be the first to go, or should it stay to make it easier for new mid-Market employees to commute on transit?

Regardless, people who already rely on Muni can’t afford to pay for this unexpected budget gap. After a round of service cuts in 2010 and rapid-fire fare hikes (adult monthly passes cost $45 in 2009 and $72 today), it’s imperative that the SFMTA avoid balancing its books on the backs of transit riders.

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Traffic Engineer Jack Fleck Looks Back at 25 Years of Shaping SF Streets

Jack_Fleck_1.jpgJack Fleck, who retired yesterday after 25 years with the SFMTA, has been pondering the city's streets from his 7th floor office above Van Ness and Market Streets. Photos by Bryan Goebel.

Editor's note: This is the first of a three-part series on the past, present and future of traffic engineering in San Francisco. 

Jack Lucero Fleck remembers his teenage years as a sputnik, the kind of kid who was as "nutty as a slide rule," loved math and science, and knew he was headed in that direction. It was the summer of 1965, and living in Peoria, Illinois, the same town where US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood grew up, Fleck couldn't quite peg what he wanted to do in life. And then there were the Watts riots.

"I got kind of interested in, 'well, what caused that? Why were people burning down their neighborhood?'," Fleck, 62, explained during a recent interview. "I decided I would go into civil engineering because I liked to do math and science and engineering and I would combine it with city planning to make cities better places to live, so people wouldn't want to burn them down."

For the last 25 years, Fleck, who retired yesterday from his job as San Francisco's top traffic engineer, has had a hand in almost every major transportation project in San Francisco, from the demolition and boulevard replacement of the Embarcadero and Central Freeways, to helping in the design of the T-Third line and Central Subway, to crafting a controversial proposal to remove the bike lane at Market and Octavia Streets.

He has sometimes been the bane of transit advocates for defending post-World War II traffic engineering orthodoxy favoring one-way street networks, such as those that roar through neighborhoods like the Tenderloin and SoMa. While some advocates have been working to dismantle some of the one-way arterials, Fleck, who became lead traffic engineer in 2004, is a firm believer in them. Still, those advocates and transportation professionals who have worked with Fleck (none we contacted would go on the record with their criticisms) say he has been a true professional and easy to work with.

"His views are very progressive and he's very environmentally conscious," said Bond Yee, the interim Director of Sustainable Streets at the SFMTA who has been at the agency four years longer than Fleck. "He epitomizes what the new generation of transportation professionals is becoming. He's a little bit ahead of his time."

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Reaction to Market Street Pilot Seems Overwhemingly Positive

IMG_5167.jpgAt Market and 7th Street, people already greatly outnumber cars. Photo: Michael Rhodes
The series of trials scheduled to begin September 29 on Market Street are still seeping into the public's awareness, but so far, pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders seem to share an excitement about the plan, which will reduce traffic by forcing eastbound private automobiles to turn right at 6th and 8th Streets, and enliven the city's main thoroughfare with art projects, mini-plazas and entertainment.

"I think overall it would be a good idea," said Jerry Chung, who rides Muni to work from his Richmond District home, and also takes the bus during lunch to go shopping. "Sometimes it takes several minutes just to move a few blocks" on Market Street because cars hold up buses, he said.

Nicholas Whitacre, who rides up and down Market constantly in his duties as a bike messenger, said the changes would be very welcome. "I think it's awesome. I hope that that happens," Whitacre said.

Fewer private vehicles would make Market much safer for him, he said, and cars have little use for Market anyway. "Unless you're a delivery truck or a taxi, you're wasting your time" on Market Street, Whitacre said. "It's also got to be safer for cabs, buses, and delivery trucks."

Kit Hodge, Director of the Great Streets Project for the SFBC, said the the vast majority of people surveyed about the project wanted to see a change on Market. "Overwhelmingly, people are responding to the idea of wanting to see a better place for Market Street overall," said Hodge. "What's really striking is that people are already talking about wanting the street to be a better place. It's all about placemaking for them, and they're open to the idea of trying things. They recognize it's not what it should be right now."

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San Francisco Moves to Remake Market Street

market_street_simulation.jpgA highly conceptual image from the SFCTA of what a re-visioned Market Street could look like.
Five San Francisco agencies, together with a number of community partners, will initiate a series of bold trials this month, which they hope will eventually help transform Market Street into a revitalized, thriving city thoroughfare, bustling with "activated public spaces." In addition to altering traffic patterns, the project intends to convert the streetscape, with art projects in empty storefronts, new mini-plazas and entertainment venues.

Starting at the end of September, officials will begin restricting traffic on Market Street with forced right-turns, similar to the recommendations in the 2004 Market Street study conducted by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) (PDF).

From the new Better Market Street Project website:

Beginning Tuesday, September 29, private vehicles on eastbound Market Street will be required to turn right at 8th and 6th Streets. The purpose of the trial is to determine if discouraging through traffic on Market Street can improve transit and pedestrian conditions along the corridor. Signs will be installed along eastbound Market Street starting at Van Ness Avenue encouraging drivers to turn off of Market on 10th Street in advance of reaching 8th Street, where the right turn will be required.

  • This trial will be effective all day, seven days a week.
  • Pedestrian, cyclists, public transit vehicles, taxis, emergency vehicles and delivery vehicles will still have full access to Market Street.

This pilot program is the first of several pilot projects designed to determine how best to improve transportation conditions on the Market Street corridor. The City will closely monitor the changes to determine its impacts and will be refined as needed.

Details of the plan are just being made available tonight. We'll have more coverage tomorrow. 

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Eyes on the Street: A New Crosswalk at Market, Golden Gate and Taylor

2.jpgThe new crosswalk surface at Market, Golden Gate and Taylor. Flickr photo: geekstinkbreath

Hot on the heels of a mystery stenciler who couldn't wait for bike lane improvements, the Department of Public Works has done some stenciling of its own at one of the city's most hazardous intersections for pedestrians. On Thursday, crews worked to paint in brick-like patterns on two of the intersection's three crosswalks, increasing their visibility while also making them a bit more attractive.

Most of the three-way intersections on the north side of Market Street downtown are scary places for walkers: drivers are often confused or aggressive and lights are poorly timed. According to the MTA's 2007 traffic report, with eight injury collisions in 2007, this intersection is one of the worst in the city. Even more concerning, the intersection has seen a sharp increase in collisions since the beginning of the decade.

DPW Spokesperson Christine Falvey said this is part of a pilot project that also includes the intersections of Taylor and Eddy and Turk and Golden Gate. The treatment uses an inlaid thermoplastic, is "quick and easy to install" compared to brick or pavement stamping, and is "typically used in high traffic areas to delinate area for pedestrians to improve safety," said Falvey.

"We will evaluate to see if it is effective in improving pedestrian safety and to note any maintenance issues," Falvey said.

A similar crosswalk treatment was done in Noe Valley last year, at the urging of the Noe Valley Association. Would pedestrians be safer if all crosswalks were this well marked?

Frank Chan of the SFBC shot these great construction photos from the SFBC's 15th floor offices. See the completed crosswalks and a close-up after the jump.

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Happy Memorial Day Weekend

CarFreeBway-TSQ_1.jpgThe full transformation will take a few months to set up, but come Memorial Day, pedestrians will finally have some breathing room in New York's Times Square.

This is a really exciting weekend for our Streetsblog colleagues in New York City, as Ben Fried writes: 

When Memorial Day weekend rolls around, here at Streetsblog we usually take the opportunity to note the advent of the summer driving season -- and all the waste and violence that entails. This year's going to be a little different, because we've got a major livable streets milestone to celebrate in New York City.

With all those cars headed out of town, DOT is going to re-route traffic at Times Square around Broadway and onto Seventh Avenue. Come Memorial Day morning, New York City will have brand new public spaces carved out of the street, smack in the middle of Midtown. If you're staying in the city for the long weekend, it's time to party.

The Times Square Alliance will be out bright and early Monday setting up beach chairs. Virgil's Barbecue will be firing up the grill. At some point, a giant movie screen will get unfurled for a noon showing of "On the Town" (it's the last day of Fleet Week, folks). I suspect that I won't be the only New Yorker heading over to Times Square for the first time in ages.

I wish we had something as grand to announce, like come Monday we'll have a car-free Market Street. Wouldn't that be sweet? We're taking the day off anyway. Have a great Memorial Day weekend! We'll be back Tuesday.