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    I haven’t driven since I moved to SF. In fact one of the main reasons I moved here was because I hate driving and wanted to get rid of my car and live in a walkable & transit-friendly city. The N Judah stops right outside of my apartment, and when it isn’t having one of the frequent meltdowns, it gets me downtown in about 10-15 minutes.



    Crazy? What was crazy about it? Stockton was a major road connecting North Beach & Chinatown to 4th St and the freeways.


    Mario Tanev

    I believe in the ancient chicken and egg question. The answer really is evolution. Neither would exist without the other. There is a feedback loop that leads to a final product.

    Likewise here, creating an area that incentivizes use of transit, also incentivizes pressure on transit to improve. That can be a virtuous cycle.


    Mario Tanev

    Sometimes, that’s how things start. Humans are risk averse. They don’t see opportunities until they try them. Let’s hope both the business owners and the people will demand this to become permanent (not necessarily just in this area, Powell St, Grant St are also good options).


    Bob Gunderson

    Festive holiday motorists congestion is a tradition! Cancel Christmas.



    I don’t like tolls or toll roads either, but at least those are limited in space. Congestion pricing spreads that logic.



    Actually, congestion pricing does help get away from car-centric design, because it allows a city to reduce the total amount of street space that needs to be devoted to cars, since fewer cars will be using the roadways. In addition, by reducing congestion, you allow transit to flow more freely – how can that not be a progressive goal?

    As to saying “build more public transit” that’s the absolutely most expensive option, and won’t work if the roads are already clogged with cars. A more cost effective approach is to better optimize our existing street grid with modes of transport that don’t require as much space as cars. To do that, you need to reduce the total number of cars on the road. Congestion pricing is one way you can do that.

    Honestly, what’s the difference between congestion pricing and paying for tolls on bridges? Are you going to argue that the Bay Bridge toll is also a regressive tax on poor people?



    Did you guys miss a memo? Because I read in SFGate comments that traffic is definitely getting worse, and it’s all because of those dam dirty hippies. No, wait. The other one. Bicyclists.



    See what I mean? What kind of progressive approach embraces stratification?



    Wow sure looks like a thriller with potential, it fits perfectly in a dense compact downtown environment like Stockton St and the whole shopping area though too bad it won’t be a permanent thing, would be nice though if it was




    This is the model of the future. Good work, sir.



    You pay for the buses, you know. Use them and avoid the “congestion pricing”.



    (Slower speeds would actually increase throughput, since cars follow one another more closely at slow speeds.)

    This has been shown in practice on freeways to be true only above 42 miles per hour. At speeds slower than that cars cluster closely enough together that the “fewer vehicles can pass in a given amount of time” effect begins to exceed and eventually overwhelms the “cars stay farther apart at higher speeds” effect.

    Just think about it. If one slows traffic down to 1 mile per hour (88 feet per minute or 1.47 feet per second) it will take almost exactly ten seconds for one fifteen foot long car to pass, If you observe for a minute, you’ll count six average cars. At ten miles per hour (880 feet per minute or 14.7 feet per second) you’ll observe one car every second. They won’t be exactly nose to tail, so you won’t count 60 of them in a minute, but even using the very conservative-at-ten-miles-per-hour two second rule, you’d count twenty, three times as many as you would at 1 mph.

    But that’s absurd on its face. If traffic is moving ten miles per hour people are only slightly worried about banging into the person ahead of them. Instead they’re fending off the jerk in the next lane trying to squeeze in on them, so they’re as close to the bumper of the car ahead as possible. They’re not “maintaining a two second following distance”.

    At twenty miles per hour (1760 feet per minute or 29.3 feet per second, if they were nose to tail you’d count two per second. Continuing with the two second rule, you’d count a car every two and a half seconds, instead of every three seconds. You’d count 24 of them.

    At thirty miles per hour (2640 feet per minute or 44 feet per second and still using the two second rule, you’d count a car every two and a third seconds, or 25.7. You can see we’re approaching an asymptote. No matter how fast the cars go, with the two second rule they can’t pass more frequently than every two seconds.

    At forty miles per hour (3520 feet per minute or 58.7 feet per second) and still using the two second rule, you’d count a car every two and a quarter seconds or 26.7 of them per minute.

    But the truth is that as speeds increase, so does adherence to the two second rule. Most drivers file down a 30 mile per hour single-lane street with less than two seconds of clearance between their car and the one preceding it.



    Sure, but you’ll have a better success rate at the garages than trying to find street parking, and SFpark data backs this up.



    “underused garages” ???
    I would never drive close to Union Square but have been turned away from one of those “underused” garages more than once.



    Now how am I supposed to park my Ferraris in front of the Ferrari store???



    > Seriously, who is crazy enough to drive there?

    People going into the parking garage underneath? Totally crazy theory, I know.

    Also, Jack Frost better keep his festive icicle to himself.



    Who is “demanding” anything? And I believe the entire area should free of private cars, not just these two blocks.

    But thinking that somehow a better transit system is going to evolve because of these pedestrian plazas is ridiculous.



    That’s ridiculous. As things currently exist there is no reason for anyone driving to the Union Square area to drive on the last block of Powell, or the last block of Stockon. They’d be much better off heading to one of the huge, underused garages a couple of blocks away, where parking is easier.

    So improving public transit is not required before pedestrianization; but demanding that public transit improves before we can improve the pedestrian environment is a sure way not to get anything done.



    Yeah, I argue against congestion pricing and that makes me a “troll?” Smooth. I’m sorry but I’m not alone in the belief that these market-driven approaches have no real place in green thinking.

    This is not about parking at all — I’d be happy to see less street parking.

    Yes, working people often do need cars, especially those who now have to commute into the city, from areas without good public transit. Building more public transit is the solution, not making working people’s lives more difficult than it already is.

    Congestion pricing also does nothing to get away from car-centric design, and the unequal access this provides to the city — to the contrary, it ENSHRINES this inequality as a “solution” to congestion.

    That is not a “progressive” answer to the problem.



    Maybe. But closing the street isn’t going to give us clean and well maintained busses, it isn’t going to solve the problem of so many busses being crammed with people, and it isn’t going to make MUNI management more accountable.



    One very good way to get decent public transportation to a plaza is to … close off the street leading to the plaza to private cars. QED


    Karen Lynn Allen

    As Steve says below, the city should also pedestrianize Powell between Geary and Market (allowing cable cars, of course), and Geary, O’Farrell and Ellis between Stockton and Powell (still allowing buses and bikes). Then we would be approaching European pedestrianization levels that exist not just during holidays, but all year around.

    This would actually be a great kindness to drivers. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas they are far, far, far better off parking in the monster parking garage between Bush and Sutter and then walking than driving anywhere near Union Square. (Or park at the 5th and Mission garage. Or take a taxi. Or bike. Or take BART/Muni. Or parachute from a plane. Anything.)



    While I agree with having more pedestrian plazas, the comparison with European cities falls short because of our lack of decent public transportation. Pedestrians have to get to the plazas.

    I spend a lot of time in Europe, especially Barcelona, and in the midst of their worst financial crisis, their public transportation is so much better than ours in every way measurable.

    Ditto for bicycle infrastructure. But many among us cannot ride bicycles and that is why we need a robust and safe public transportation system.



    Glad to hear this. I’ve always thought that the area around union square should be closed off to cars (at least private cars) permanently. Seriously, who is crazy enough to drive there? All great European cities have successful pedestrian plazas and it’s something sorely lacking here.


    robert bardell

    I’m glad you agree with me (point 1) that most bike riders lack the skills to ride Van Ness safely. I guess this makes you a clueless elitist too.

    The suffering involved in walking your bike 3 whole blocks is almost inconceivable. It makes the Bataan death march look like a walk in the park, but who in their right mind takes their bike for 3 block journey?

    Is your conditioning so bad you can’t hack a one block ride up a 14% grade? Is your skill set so weak you can’t handle a 13% down grade one block? Perhaps you should rethink your commitment to bike riding or practice, practice, practice.

    Too bad your bike riding skills aren’t as great as your sense of entitlement. You want to go from point A to point B on Van Ness, but you’re not skilled enough to ride on the Avenue itself and are too wimpy to pop up one block to Polk, so you’ll ride on the sidewalks, pedestrians be damned. After all, the only thing that matters in this world is what you want.

    The Van Ness BRT project will fix the infrastructure on the Avenue: new pavement, new bulb-outs and bulb-ins, new signals, and a center-running BRT line. It will not be a bicycle-friendly place though unless a bike rider is good enough to “be a vehicle.” Low-skilled, poorly conditioned bike riders should put the bike away for Van Ness trips and walk or take the BRT. They should save the bike for rides consistent with their skills and conditioning.


    Dark Soul

    Widen Sidewalk Good idea for this route. Let see how slower can the 28 move.



    This reminds me of the concern trolling some of the Columbus Ave merchants did against a proposed road diet there–that removing some parking spaces would somehow hurt the working class.

    Despite the fact nearly 90% of people already arrive at Columbus Ave via a non-car means anyway and those 10% that do are disproportionately of privilege. Yet the public right of way devotes far more than 10% of space to the free movement and free/cheap storage of private autos for people mostly of above-average socioeconomic status.

    That’s your *actual* regressive economic model. And it’s everywhere in this city.



    How is charging car drivers that create congestion on city streets “regressive”? Let’s say this all together again – people who own cars are not the poorest among us. By and large, the people who don’t own cars and take public transit are, and they get shafted by every car driver that blocks a bus during rush hour. If you really want to be “progressive”, level the playing field by taxing the people who slow down transit.



    Congestion pricing is what I was criticizing. It’s the point where this blog veers away from ecological consciousness, into a fetishization of market solutions.

    I.e, the same kind of thinking that got us into this crisis in the first place. And yes, imposing regressive taxes that privilege the wealthy would certainly do nothing to impede gentrification.



    I’m not sure that the car manufacturers agree with you.

    Are you sure these aren’t weapons?



    Mario Tanev

    Congestion pricing in fact limits the driving to a constant rate. Which means any population growth would be for the pedestrian and transit benefits, not because of driving ease.





    Oh, sure, I supported pulling down 101 back to Bayshore 15 years ago but the political support wasn’t there, I guess.

    But right now access from the NW to the 101 spur is fairly limited – Octavia or Van Ness, unless you want to thread your way through SOMA to 280 or 80.



    Yeah, I was thinking that was a part of it, too.

    Though with how well Civic Center is connected via transit I wonder how many workers there actually drive to work? I mean, this dude certainly does:

    Except for his once-yearly photo-op:

    “Whoa, our bike strategy on Bosworth is a sharrow?! This is terrible. Can’t wait to get back in my Volt tomorrow.”



    Bay Bridge bike path? Maybe we can have nice things!



    So, basically you’re saying we shouldn’t take too many cars off the road or take too much pollution out of the air or reduce too many car-related deaths because Gentrification.

    Wow, that’s some really cynical fatalism.

    By that logic we could *really* hamper gentrification by going ahead and suckifying as many neighborhoods as much as possible. Maybe reintroducing that old Freeways Everywhere plan again?

    Or how about demolishing 50% of all buildings to replace with parking lots to really kill the cool urban vibe?

    That’ll show those gentrifiers! And will *definitely* help the socioeconomically disadvantaged, for sure. Especially by making snooty transit and snobby walking less viable and totally egalitarian driving easier. Because people of lower socioeconomic status in SF are the ones driving everywhere, of course, unlike those selfish transit-taking, elitist walking gentrifiers.

    Whatever we do, let’s *definitely* make sure this never changes!

    Whoa, too nice, Van Ness–no thanks!

    Let’s keep it like this:

    Take THAT, gentrifier 47-takers! Let the *REAL SAN FRANCISCANS*–the selfless drivers in their cars–go FIRST!



    Through the neighborhood, not the street. As opposed to driving around it, or stopping in it.



    The perception of traffic and the reality of traffic don’t always coincide. Traffic for me the few months has been awful due to constant construction in my neighborhood, but in reality, there were probably few cars overall. People who could divert, did. That being said, I think the major reason is more related to the shuttle busses removing cars from the roads, and the fact that many of the tech companies and workers who have recently moved to the city have done so to avoid commuting by car. It would be really interesting to see traffic stats, public transit ridership, and economic growth in the city all plotted together. I suspect that there are probably some areas where traffic got better, and some areas where traffic got worse.



    Probably particularly noticeable on Van Ness because of all the government workers there.


    Bob Gunderson

    Up is down, cats are dogs, parking garages are car-free homes. It’s MADNESS!!!



    Palo Alto RPP was just planning commission, it will need Council approval.



    Also, all these new bike lanes are killing the manufacturing jobs! (sarcasm)



    How exactly would congestion pricing impact the lower income portion of the citizenry which doesn’t own a car, or drive it downtown because of the cost of parking?

    I guess your point is that by implementing congestion pricing, San Francisco would become so much more pleasant that the demand for living here would go even higher, drawing more higher income people into the city, thus driving out lower income people who can’t afford to live in such a desireable place?



    “Of course, if we really want to accelerate this virtuous trend, SF could finally implement congestion pricing, which is a proven strategy to make everyone’s trip faster, safer, and more reliable.”

    While of course putting the last gentrifying nail into the city’s coffin. No thanks.


    Upright Biker

    I’m not saying there’s a _better_ route, although 280 to Embarcadero is also an option.

    What I’m pointing out is that this is a stub of the Central Freeway (not part of 101 — that’s Van Ness) that was intended to cut through SF, including through GG Park. It was stopped as part of the Freeway Revolts in 1955, but this legacy route remains despite how deleterious it is to the communities through which these cars travel…and idle.

    If it hadn’t been for the Central Freeway, this wouldn’t be an issue at all. But that’s what we’ve been left with so I suppose we just deal.



    How exactly would drivers go “around” Octavia if they do not take it? They are presumably going to 101 from the north or west of the city, or the reverse. What’s the alternate route that is better?

    19th Avenue to 280 might be an alternative if you happen to start and finish on the west side, but that’s hardly less congested anyway.

    Octavia was built to replace the elevated section of 101 that really didn’t cause congestion to Octavia nor congestion trying to get across Market Street. We all voted (eventually, after three ballots) to instead provide local access to 101 via Octavia, and that is exactly what we’ve got, with all the congestion there that that implies.


    Upright Biker

    Ask and ye shall receive:

    This is two years old, but it shows that 70K+ vehicles per day clog that area, and the vast majority of them have neither final destinations, nor do they even stop in, SF.

    They are simply driving through, rather than around.



    “Of course, this will lead to conflicts between pedestrians and bicycle scofflaws, who, lacking the skills needed to ride on Van Ness,”

    Oh, please. Clueless elitism alert. Something’s wrong with the *public right-of-way* when only those with elite skills need apply. Btw, even that doesn’t always work out so well:

    “take to the sidewalks instead one block down to Polk.”

    And what if your point of origin and destination are on Van Ness?

    This kind of thing happens all the time. Let’s say you’re on Lombard/Van Ness and need to go 3 blocks south to Union/Van Ness. If you’re on a bike you have three main choices:

    1) ride on Van Ness. Few opt for this, for very understandable reasons.

    2) Be forced to walk your bike the distance despite being in possession of a bike and the only hindrance to actually using your bike as intended being the utterly hostile infrastructure.

    3) Bike the 14% grade up Lombard to Polk, bike 3 blocks south on Polk, then cut back down a 13% grade on Union to Van Ness. Of course parallel Franklin is flatter but it’s a one-way street so no dice (btw, the near-lack of contraflow lanes in this city is yet another common reason for sidewalk riding).

    4) Realize the infrastructure doesn’t serve your mode so use coping strategies such as sidewalk riding.

    Let’s fix the infrastructure instead of blaming the victims here. Build good infrastructure and if someone still ends up on the sidewalk *then* throw the book at them.



    Btw, even moderate drops in car modeshare can lead to disproportionate drops in congestion for various reasons. One might be the fact that up to 90% of car traffic in some neighborhoods is simply due to drivers endlessly cruising around and around for on-street parking. This kind of heightened concentrated repetitive searching around the block creates a *lot* of congestion per car. So going by another mode not only takes away a moving car on the way but takes away a lot of that endless circling at the end.

    I was actually just thinking how noticeable even slight traffic drops are. Yesterday was Veteran’s Day, which is a day some offices take off but probably a majority don’t. Yet the difference during rush-hour was palpable on Van Ness. There were still plenty of cars, but everything was very free-flowing instead of the normal constant stop-and-go backup. So the moderate (5%? 10%?) drop in traffic made a world of a difference, especially being on a bus.