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    SFMTA makes the Street more crowded mean more people going keep blocking and this time is not the driver to be blamed.


    Jeffrey Baker

    I think what he’s saying is that cars turning right from one street to another can starve out the people who just want to go straight, depending on the signal timing. This frustrates the straight-going drivers and so they just jump out into the box to get their turn.



    I have seen SFPD starting to ticket red light runners along Division, whereas they would never have even given a stern look to those drivers before.



    PCOs are able to enforce double parking laws. However, most drivers will return to their car and/or pull away once they see an officer nearby. There’s no incentive for this behavior to change when a ticket cannot even be written up. Which is why a camera would potentially be much more effective. However, since state law requires a PCO ticket have the VIN, a camera would be rather useless at the moment.

    Most SFPD officers will just flash their lights and make a quick honk to get drivers moving, rather than writing a ticket.



    That requires a change in the CA vehicle code, which needs to be done at the state level. This law also prevents moving violation citations from being issued by cameras on Muni buses.



    Drivers are still not supposed to make the turn if they cannot clear the intersection in a safe manner and without blocking the crosswalk. Why should one driver do something illegal and potentially get fined just because some impatient drivers behind him or her unlawfully honking their horns?



    One problem with the no block zone is you leave it open and those wanting to turn/merge from say the left, just pulls into the block and blocks it anyway.



    Even if one chose to wait because there was not enough space, and one obeys traffic laws, everybody behind starts honking and yelling expletives and the “learn how to drive”. That psychological stress and social pressure on the one obeying the law driver is very difficult to overcome.



    Good. Maybe we can channel their frustration to call for undergrounding automotbile thoroughfares for grade-separated pedestrian and bicycle facilities.


    Andy Chow

    There are consultants at other agencies as well as they are hired to some one time tasks and can move on once the project is done.

    The reality is that the cost will rise overtime. The cost was updated 5 years ago before the most recent one. What about other projects like the Bay Bridge replacement which costs continue to rise during construction.

    As for the transfer, you should know that both BART and Caltrain both run on a schedule that has been largely on effect for years. So what is the specific gap that is longer than 20 minutes? People can always take an earlier train to avoid transfer thats too tight. Millbrae is complex since people have to walk up and down and unless they have Clipper they will have to spend time to get tickets.

    I dont think Caltrain doesn’t want to work with anyone else but there should be realistic expectation of what can be done.


    Andy Chow

    The proposed service cut at the time was a response to shortfall from local taxes and a significant funding cut from the state (which it was trying to fill budget gap of its own). We averted that by bring in one time funds from different sources.

    We no longer have that problem since revenues have been restored at many levels. But if the politics are not transit supportive, it wont be enough (see the huge transit cut in Seattle, which just occured last month).

    101 may still be jamed, but since 2000, the freeway is wider.


    Dave Moore

    Many of the drivers affected by this action were already careful and lawful. Now they’re careful, lawful and late.



    “everyone slows down… defeating the purpose.” That is a great deal of the purpose. To have drivers be more careful and lawful in their driving.



    The timing of lights on eastbound Division is the same. It would be better if they were timed randomly. Instead, it is that you can usually make the lights if you drive 40mph, but not if your drive 25.



    Also southbound Van Ness at Grove, Hayes and Fell.



    double parking… why don’t they enforce that? This surely doesn’t require a change of law for PCOs to enforce.



    The speed of trains is mostly a function of the curvature of the tracks. Take your watch and see how fast BART goes from West Oakland to downtown where the tracks have a series of turns – slows to a crawl.

    BART might drop you off in downtown SF but most of the origin stations are in freeway medians near nothing. Every Caltrain station is in a fairly dense residential/retail/office section. Saying Caltrain is not near Google is like saying BART is not near USF.

    BART has the money because it started that way – it was originated as a highly funded government agency. Caltrain just took over the SP passenger service without a solid funding plan



    Why not change the law to give PCOs authority to write tickets for certain moving violations?


    Dark Soul

    Even with TSP for Traffic Lights,it does not speed the muni route up..Instead it slows it down most of the time. Stop signs are more reliable and safer than traffic lights,which can sometimes get power outage that traffic light get turned off.



    Maximum speed is far less important than average speed, which is much more closely related to how long your journey will take. Let’s stay focused on what matters to passengers. (For what it’s worth, Caltrain’s top speed is 79 mph, similar to BART’s.)

    Average speed is largely determined by acceleration times. BART trains are much better than Caltrain in that regard, but once Caltrain is electrified, the new trains will be just as quick to accelerate as BART trains, if not faster. The new BART trains will have similar acceleration rates to the old ones. You need to be comparing how Caltrain will look in 10 years to how BART will look in 10 years once both agencies have completed their current projects, as any theoretical project to replace Caltrain with BART would take place more than 10 years in the future.

    I agree that Caltrain sucks as it is right now, but replacing it with BART is the wrong solution.





    I believe the theoretical top speed of a BART train is 80mph. I’ve watched the speedometer on BART going under the Bay and they regularly hit 70mph.

    Now, admittedly that’s a perfect situation with several miles and no stops. But the suburban stops can be a few miles apart, although obviously not in SF or Oakland.

    I just looked at the CalTrain schedule and there are 21 stops between SF and SJ. That’s a distance of about 40 miles so there is a stop every 2 miles. What is the maximum speed that a CalTrain train can reach with that many stops and starts?

    Yeah, I know that not every train makes every stop. But I have to believe that the average speed of the average BART train is faster than an equivalent CalTrain. And of course CalTrain drops me off a mile from where most people want to be, at lest pending HSR which will probably never happen.

    And yes, BART is non-standard but Cal-Train is over-engineered, and cannot easily be under-grounded the way BART is.

    Both systems are flawed but BART seems a better Bay-Area wide solution, which is presumably why BARt always gets the money for extensions.



    Oh, I agree, and in fact the light sequence along much of Masonic is bizarre. For instance if you catch the Fell light just before it turns red, you can also make it across the green Oak light, but only just. Such a phasing encourages speed and recklessness.

    And in my experience you can quite often catch every green from Geary to Haight, but only by breaking the speed limit in a couple of places and then slowing down in other places.

    Whoever designed a phasing that rewards breaking the speed limit needs to go back to traffic signal school. Did they ever change the phasing when they changed the speed limit?

    One last thing, going south between Fell and Oak, there is a “phantom” right lane that (I presume) is for the 43 bus to get to the stop just south of Oak. But in reality cars use that lane and then try and merge back into the middle lane where the bus stop is. While the left lane traffic sometimes turns left and sometimes does not. It’s a mess. If there’s a bus at the stop you can have three lanes of traffic merging into one.



    Given that a speeding car can do a lot more harm than a walking pedestrian then, yes, most drivers would choose the cross-walk over a 3-lane quasi-highway like Oak.

    If you were on a bike and had that same two choices, you’d do the same thing.

    And generally when a driver is forced onto a cross-walk, there is still room for a pedestrian to get around it. That’s not true for a car. When the only choices are bad, you try and choose the least bad one. And prioritize safety over speed and convenience.


    Dave Moore

    Can we not find common ground in the number of our wheels?



    I drive through some of the mess in SOMA, but on a scooter, giving me a lot of ability to get around the worst of it

    Presumably not by using the bike lanes like so many of your scooter brethren :)



    So all I can do is move forward to get out of the Oak Street traffic
    when the lights change, and that means blocking the crosswalk.

    Blocking pedestrians good. Blocking cars bad. Got it.



    What? This is completely backwards.

    BART tracks and trains are inferior to Caltrain because they are non-standard. This means that BART runs into procurement problems and long lead times. Caltrain has decided to run longer trains – so they just bought some extra rolling stock from LA.

    BART is not faster. Caltrain is faster.

    At peak hours, Caltrain runs at higher frequency (5 trains per hour) than BART goes on the spur lines (4 per hour). The secure source of funding is a political issue.

    Caltrain can rarely get to such speeds because of the frequency of stops? There are 4 stops in SF within a total distance of 2 miles. And every BART train stops at every BART stop – Caltrain runs express trains – enabled because Caltrain has passing tracks that BART does not.



    Caltrain doubled ridership in 10 years despite themselves, not because of themselves. As ridership was increasing, they CUT service. They threatened to cut service drastically to commute hours only no weekends. Don’t confuse the demand caused by the debacle that is US-101 with supply created by excellent service.

    And now, the trains are breaking down *DAILY*. I only ride it once a week and have yet to be on time – even after Caltrain padded the schedules and defined “on time” as within 5 minutes. Note that Caltrain supposedly takes 5 minutes to go from 4th to 22nd Street but 7 minutes the other way, the same effect happens at Diridon. They then measure on time performance only at the (padded) end of the line, not how late they are at intermediate stations.

    If they were doing an excellent job Caltrain would not be going from crisis to crisis.



    SamTrans rely on outside consultants and contractors for everything related to Caltrain, as they don’t have enough in-house experience. This results in huge cost overruns and schedule delays – electrification and CBOSS are each costing twice what they other agencies spend on similar projects, and should have been done decades ago. Another delay and cost increase to the electrification project was announced just last week!

    Timed transfers are massively important. If I’m in the Mission on an evening or a Sunday and need to get to Berkeley, it’s easy, even though there are no direct trains. But if I need to get to San Mateo, I have to factor in a 0-60 minute wait at Millbrae, because of the infrequent untimed transfer. Most people will just drive instead.

    Seems to me that your focus is on defending Caltrain from having to work with anyone else (BART, HSR) rather than figuring out how transit agencies could be working together better to get people where they need to go.



    Thanks for the e-mail. I will send them an e-mail.



    To be clear it is the southbound traffic here I’m talking about. The problem is that the light at Fell turns green first, so the traffic on Masonic fills up between Oak and Fell. Then the light turns green on Oak. Cars continue to go through the intersection but are stuck on Fell street. They should wait to enter the intersection until it is clear for them to do so (as required by law). Most often it’s cars on a yellow light who enter and get stuck. That is a clear violation and they should be ticketed. They continue to do it because there is no enforcement.

    The worst is then they pull as close as they can to the car in front of them completely blocking the crosswalk. If I ran with my cell phone I’d take pictures. It’s gotten worse as traffic has increased in the area.



    As things stand, BART is better than Caltrain, but it has little to do with the tracks.

    BART trains are faster (more precisely, they accelerate and decelerate quicker) because they are electric multiple units rather than diesel locomotives + cars, and also because they have an automated control system. In less than 10 years Caltrain will be also be running electric multiple units on an automated control system, and the two systems will be very similar in terms of performance. Caltrain will actually become better than BART as they’ll still have the ability to run express trains, which BART does not.

    Everything else you mention is related to regional transit politics and agency culture rather than technology. Caltrain could already run more frequent off-peak service if they had the funding to do so, and if they thought it was important. They don’t have stable funding because the regional political consensus for decades has been to expand BART rather than inprove Caltrain. And creating a broader network is exactly why I want to see Caltrain and BART combined together; you’d essentially be adding a Peninsula Line to the BART system, without any capital cost.

    The shorter answer is that even if replacing Caltrain with BART from San Jose to SF did provide better service than an upgraded Caltrain, the ~$40B it would cost would be much better spent on other projects. You could build a new Transbay tube plus new BART lines under Geary and through Alameda for that sort of money.


    Dave Moore

    Traffic direction does seem a lot more effective. To give a ticket in some of those situations requires getting a car that’s stuck in the middle of the intersection to the side. That can be especially difficult when it’s one of the on ramps to a bridge. Even if you get it there, it’s probably blocking a lane while the ticket is issued, and everyone slows down to watch, defeating the purpose.

    I drive through some of the mess in SOMA, but on a scooter, giving me a lot of ability to get around the worst of it, and observe a lot. When there are traffic directors everyone seems to be on better behavior. The problem described above about leaving slots that are taken by others happens all the time. It’s basic Prisoner’s Dilemma. One person deciding to be good doesn’t help, and they end up worse off than if they had acted badly. That’s the reason many do it. If they believed in fairness, that they would still proceed in turn even if they had to wait out one light, they wouldn’t be nearly so aggressive. The traffic directors give them that confidence.



    It would be really cool to have an annual aerial 24 hour video survey of the city to really see what’s changing and happening. We all have our own opinions created by our experiences and bias. But in recent block the box hearings, supervisors were saying congestion now is worse than they have ever seen or expected. My own the street experience and friends agree it’s much worse. My bias says it’s due to construction, SFMTA’s engineered congestion changes to roads, and just more people in the city (pedestrians, Ubers, big buses, etc). Also, part of the perception of congestion is from drivers that extend their drive time and complexity by rerouting through other streets and neighborhoods to avoid pinch points. Avoiding congestion feels like congestion too. Increased traffic on my own formerly quiet street adds to the perception. All of this activity is not captured by a few survey points in the city. So I can easily accept all this data and agree that congestion is getting worse.



    The weekday jam of cars trying to get on the freeway, specially the ones leading to the Bay Bridge, is an absurd site to witness.



    Good description. Too many people don’t understand that much of the time, blocking is not intentional. No amount of tickets can prevent those situations and camera tickets would be unfair in this situation. I do support enforcement and ticketing by PCO’s and police because they can see the situation, not just the outcome. Even the city’s study showed PCO’s directing traffic or controlling signals was more effective than ticketing. Until engineering improves these intersections PCO’s directing traffic is the best solution for all.


    Max Cantor

    Also, how about a process where civilians could email in video of drivers blocking the box and if there is sufficient evidence – license plate visible and traffic light, a citation could be issued.


    Max Cantor

    I see this all the time in SOMA and good for the SFPD and SFMTA to take this seriously. Supe. Kim is right that PCOs would be far more popular if they enforced this with the same gusto as parking meters, but isn’t this a moving violation which requires SFPD To write a citation?



    Jonobate, why do you think that BART tracks and trains are inferior to CalTrain?

    It seems to this casual user of both systems that BART is faster, more frequent, has a broader network and a more secure source of funding. Theoretical top speeds are similar although CalTrain can rarely get to such speeds because of the frequency of stops.



    I drive along Masonic twice a day, and the intersections with Fell and Oak are difficult for a very specific reason. As an example, assume that you are going northbound and waiting just south of Oak Street. You would normally only proceed on a green if the lane ahead is clear. So far, so good.

    However what has screwed me over a few times is that another car also going northbound on Masonic, or turning left from Oak, will suddenly switch lane and jump into the space ahead that I was heading for.

    At that point I have no good option. I cannot go back because another vehicle has already taken my waiting space. I cannot switch lane because of other vehicles. So all I can do is move forward to get out of the Oak Street traffic when the lights change, and that means blocking the crosswalk.

    I hate to do it and I don’t want to do it. But in a situation like I described, there is little choice. If you just sit at Oak and wait for a clear lane, people will constantly take advantage of you by jumping ahead, and/or get impatient from behind. The real ticket should go to the vehicle that took my intended space, but that’s a lot harder to see than the sitting duck on the sidewalk.

    It’s a road design problem as much as a behavior problem.


    Upright Biker

    I believe that PCOs can only issue tickets for parking violations, not moving violations. Is that right? So, even though cars blocking the box aren’t technically moving, the PCOs are actually paper tigers in this case.

    Maybe a better and more productive method would be to set up temporary “photo enforced” intersections, where the PCOs have one stationary video camera capturing all the action, and then they go around and photograph the cars of specific offenders, who get a ticket in the mail.

    They could harvest dozens of scofflaws an hour. We could use the revenue to pay for some much needed therapy for SFParkRipOff.


    David Baker

    I work on Second Street and this issue is egregious with crosswalk blocking rampant every workday afternoon. With pedestrian volumes increasing every year it’s become a serious public safety problem. It would be great for the SFMTA to institute some consistent (or any) enforcement but it seems that enforcement is difficult to maintain for many reasons, mainly that it’an expensive limited resource. Proven physical design solutions such as Barnes Dances at critical intersections such as where Second crosses both Bryant and Harrison seem to be off the table because it would increase car LOS significantly. After the pro transit and pedestrian mandate of L being trounced it would be a great time for the SFMTA to assume a leadership role here and deal this this proactively.


    Andy Chow

    What does it mean by excel at running Caltrain? Caltrain has a pretty ambitious upgrade program and has doubled its ridership in 10 years without system extension.

    Timed transfer (actually more like a policy to hold trains for a late BART) and integrated fares (it shouldn’t be only on Caltrains part) would alone somehow make a difference? 10 years ago, there was no need for an upgrade for fast pass holders to ride BART in SF. 10 years ago, BART plus ticket was good for most local bus system connecting with BART. Now it is much for costly. On the other hand, Caltrain monthly passes are still good on SamTrans and VTA.



    Unfortunately, the amount of connectivity between SamTrans and Caltrain is minuscule. There are two boards, and they manage the services for different customer bases and goals, despite sharing staff.



    It happens there as well as masonic and hayes. I emailed the Park Station police department and they promised action, but I have yet to see it. Maybe if a few more of us email them they’ll take these areas seriously and not just wait until the next collision.



    Back in 2012, I was in the City for the Muni Centennial. I had heard that a power house built in the 1890s was still in service as a Muni building (although the smokestacks and generating machinery were long gone.) I walked from Market & Van Ness and found the building at Bryant and Alameda. It was getting dark, but I got some photos and looked for a 27 Bryant bus to get back downtown. When the bus showed up, it had a standing load, so I joined the crowd as we crept along Bryant. When we got to the turn at 5th St., it took four or five traffic light cycles before we finally went around the bend. I sighed and said “Finally!” and one of the regulars (figuring me to be a visitor) said, “It’s like this every day.”



    Where it happens, it tends to happen over and over, day after day. Ticketing these entitled drivers should be as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.



    This happens everyday on my way to and from work. Also when I run the panhandle at Fell and Masonic. Cars on Masonic constantly try to get across Fell before the light and stop in the crosswalk. NEVER a police officer around and I’ve been almost hit plenty of times. Honestly there is so little enforcement it’s laughable. Who’s accountable?


    Miles Bader

    A tempting target for burly guys in hobnail boots…