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SFMTA Plans to Install Painted “Safety Zones” at 40 Intersections This Year

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A painted bulb-out, a.k.a. “safety zone,” at Sacramento and Stockton Streets, where 78-year old Pui Fong Yim Lee was killed. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA has ramped up its roll-out of painted curb extensions, which the agency calls “safety zones,” at some of the city’s most dangerous corners. Twenty-one have been installed at at least 11 intersections, and the tally should reach 40 intersections by the end of the year, said SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose.

Painted bulb-outs are a low-cost measure to slow down turning drivers, using khaki-colored gravel and epoxy to expand sidewalk corners. When the bulb-outs replace parked cars at street corners, they also make people more visible to drivers approaching intersections, a measure known as daylighting. Once funding becomes available, they can be upgraded to concrete sidewalk extensions.

“We are installing painted safety zones on the city’s pedestrian high-injury network, where just 6 percent of city streets account for 60 percent of pedestrian injuries and fatalities,” Jose wrote in a recent blog post. “Painted safety zones are one of the elements we are quickly installing to improve safety in support of our Vision Zero goal of eliminating all traffic deaths.”

So far, most of the bulb-outs can be found along Howard Street in SoMa and as part of the first phase of safety upgrades on Polk Street.

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Cars Will Remain on the Crooked Block of Lombard Street Until at Least 2016

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A dance mob makes its way down Lombard. Image via Youtube

Cars will continue to fill the crooked block of Lombard Street until at least 2016. Although the trial car closures last summer were seen as a success, the gears of city bureaucracy appear to have slowed the momentum for going permanently car-free. It will take until December for the city to issue a report on the restrictions. No timeline has been laid out for implementation.

Funding for the study was recently approved by the the SF County Transportation Authority board, comprised of the Board of Supervisors. Proposition K sales tax revenue will account for $100,000 in funding, and another $25,000 will come from D2 Supervisor Mark Farrell’s office.

The study will look at three scenarios, ranging from “limited access” to “car-free,” according to an SFCTA report [PDF].

Last summer, the SFMTA collected data on how the famous crooked block of Lombard and surrounding streets worked during the car restrictions. During the trial, all cars were banned except taxis and drivers who were accessing homes on the block.

The idea is to reduce the car queues that back up for blocks and make the street safer and more welcoming for people on foot. While it doesn’t take data to see that Lombard serves no transportation purpose for through-traffic and is a far better street when it’s open to families and dancing flash mobs — “chaos,” in the eyes of one reporter — challenging the primacy of cars apparently has to be a major undertaking, no exceptions.

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The Final Tally Is in From the 22-Day Muni Challenge

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The final score at City Hall for the 22-Day Muni Challenge, as shown in a screenshot from SFTRU’s “Leaderboard.”

The final score for the 22-Day Muni Challenge is in. Based on the ride tally, about half of SF’s elected officials took seriously their commitment to get the everyday experience of riding Muni. The supervisors who have a record of legislating to improve transit scored well.

Tomorrow evening, you can join five of the top Muni-riding supervisors in a celebratory wrap-up with the SF Transit Riders Union. On the bill are Supervisors Jane Kim, John Avalos, Scott Wiener, Eric Mar, and Julie Christensen — all of whom logged at least 20 rides during the challenge.

The event will include awards for the supes, and not just for the most rides logged. Trophies will go out for “best interaction with a passenger,” “best picture,” and “crankiest tweeter,” among other categories.

When it comes to quantity of rides, however, Wiener dominated with a grand total of 106. I ran into him last week as I exited a 38-Geary bus with my wife at Geary and Fillmore Streets. (Thanks, all-door boarding.)

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Parking-Protected Bike Lanes, Ped Safety Upgrades Coming to Division at 9th

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The bike lanes on a block of Division, between 9th and 10th Streets, will get a parking-protected redesign this fall. Photo: Google Maps

The bike lanes on a block of Division, between 9th and 10th Streets, will get a parking-protected redesign this fall. Photo: Google Maps

Bike lanes on the block of Division Street between 9th and 10th Streets will get some much-needed protection this fall. Earlier this week the SFMTA Board of Directors approved a design that will put people on bikes between the curb and parked cars. The massive 9th and Division intersection will also get safety improvements like large painted curb extensions.

The upgrades would complement other bike and pedestrian safety improvements going in along Division, which becomes 13th Street as it runs beneath the Central Freeway.

SF’s first parking-protected bike lane on a city street was expected to be constructed this spring on westbound 13th, from Bryant to Folsom Street. SFMTA officials haven’t explained why that project has been delayed, though some of the other striping improvements included in the package have been implemented.

Altogether, the upgrades along Division and 13th, from the traffic circle at Eighth Street to Folsom, will create a continuous curbside westbound bike lane that could set a precedent for how low-cost redesigns can make dangerous SoMa streets safer.

“It’s turning out to be a really good cycling route,” Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich told the SFMTA board on Tuesday.

Plans for Division near Ninth and 10th include large painted bulb-outs and a installation of a missing sidewalk on Ninth. Image: SFMTA

Plans for Division near Ninth and 10th include large painted bulb-outs and a installation of a missing sidewalk on Ninth. Image: SFMTA

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[Corrected] San Jose Ave Bike Traffic Jumps; More Traffic Calming Goes In

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San Jose Avenue seen last June, just after bike lane upgrades and a road diet went in. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr

Update 6/22: The SFMTA issued a statement retracting its report of a 651 percent increase in bike traffic on northbound San Jose Avenue in morning peak hours. We reported the statistic in an earlier version of this article.

Evening bike traffic increased by 62 percent on northbound San Jose Avenue after a traffic lane was removed and the bike lane was widened with a buffer zone a year ago, according to the SFMTA.

As part of the ongoing traffic-calming project, Caltrans last week also removed a highway off-ramp lane leading on to San Jose, a.k.a. the Bernal Cut.

The “incredible change” in bike counts reported by the SFMTA “shows the power of streets that make people feel safe,” SF Bicycle Coalition community organizer Chema Hernández Gil wrote in a blog post on Monday.

San Jose, which divides Glen Park and Bernal Heights, is the most direct route to downtown from southern neighborhoods like the Excelsior and Ingleside.

The SFMTA compared 72-hour bike counts on the Monterey Boulevard ramp, just before it merges on to northbound San Jose. The average bike counts were taken during morning peak hours in January 2014 and January 2015, according to SFMTA data [PDF]. [Update: The SFMTA said the bike counts included in that spreadsheet were not accurate. A new version is available in this PDF.]

The data was collected as part of a two-phase pilot project aimed at measuring how a road diet and better bike lane protection can help tame driving speeds and attract more people to commute by bike on San Jose north of Highway 280.

“San Jose Avenue has long been a pseudo-freeway with huge negative impacts on the surrounding areas due to over-the-top speeding,” said a statement from Supervisor Scott Wiener, who pushed for the safety measures. “This pilot program is designed to reduce speeds, improve neighborhood quality of life, and allow for diverse uses of the road, including both drivers and cyclists. The pilot also allows cyclists to safely use the bike lane, and an increase in cycling on San Jose Avenue is a good thing. I look forward to the results of the pilot and to having a safer, multi-modal San Jose Avenue for all users.”

When the first phase was implemented last June, the SFMTA and Caltrans removed one of three traffic lanes on northbound San Jose to match the geometry of the street’s southbound side. The leftover space was used to upgrade the existing narrow bike lane with a buffer zone and plastic posts to separate it from motor traffic.

As part of the second phase, Caltrans removed the second Highway 280 off-ramp lane last week, and will measure its effectiveness in bringing down excessive traffic speeds, along with that of other measures in the coming months. Caltrans added the second ramp lane in 1992 after the Loma Prieta earthquake, as a supposedly temporary measure to accommodate traffic re-routed away from freeway repairs.

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Fisherman’s Wharf Parking-Free Street Revamp Boosts Sales, Will Expand

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Photo: Aaron Bialick

Two years after the city gave Fisherman’s Wharf a people-friendly redesign on two blocks of Jefferson Street, business is booming. Despite merchants’ fears that removing all car parking on the blocks would hurt their sales, they now say it had the opposite effect.

The second phase of the project, which will bring a similar treatment to three blocks of Jefferson from Jones Street east to Powell Street, is taking a step forward. D3 Supervisor Julie Christensen and other city officials announced today that $1.7 million has been allocated for design and engineering for the expansion. The rest of the funds for the second phase, totaling $13 million, haven’t been identified, but it could be constructed as early as 2017.

Gross sales of businesses on Jefferson Street compared between 2012 -2013. Image: Fisherman's Wharf CBD

Gross sales of businesses on Jefferson Street compared between 2012 -2013. Image: Fisherman’s Wharf CBD

In June 2013, the two blocks of Jefferson between Hyde and Jones Streets were made safer and calmer with wider sidewalks, textured pavement to calm motor traffic, and the removal of curbside car parking. One-way traffic was also converted to two-way.

Since then, sales on the street have risen. The Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District surveyed 18 of the 33 businesses on those blocks, and they reported month-over-month gross sales increases between 10 to 21 percent on average:

From July through November 2013, these 18 businesses generated an additional $1.5 million dollars in gross sales from the previous year. This added approximately $140,000 more in sales tax for the city during this 5 month period.

“People are staying longer and spending more money,” said Troy Campbell, executive director of the Fisherman’s Wharf CBD. “Drivers are a little more cautious, I would say.”

Removing car parking to widen sidewalks provided more room for crowds and made storefronts more visible, said Campbell. “You look down the street, and you don’t have a string of cars that are part of the landscape. The businesses become the landscape.”

“A lot of the merchants came back to me and said, you know what, I thought losing the parking was going to be a problem, but I feel like people can actually see my windows now, and they’re engaging with us more.”

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22-Day Muni-Riding Challenge, Day 10: Checking the Score at City Hall

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A screenshot of SFTRU's "Leaderboard" showing ride scores, as seen this afternoon.

A screenshot of SFTRU’s “Leaderboard” this afternoon.

We’re nearly halfway into the 22-day Muni riding challenge. How seriously are SF’s elected officials taking their commitment to get familiar with the everyday experience of riding Muni?

Eight supervisors and Mayor Ed Lee signed up for the challenge by the time SFTRU kicked it off on June 1. Based on the tally of onboard tweets reported on the SF Transit Riders Union “Leaderboard,” the ride tally is shaping up about how you’d expect.

The most vocal transit supporters are way out in front: Supervisors Scott Wiener and John Avalos have 38 and 35 rides, respectively — nearly four per day (both started early). In third place is Supervisor David Campos, with 23 rides, followed by Julie Christensen (17) and Eric Mar (8).

On the other end of the spectrum, Mayor Lee and Supervisor Mark Farrell have yet to make good on their last-minute sign-ons. Mayor Lee hasn’t logged a ride since he rode a Muni train with a photographer on day one, and Farrell hasn’t logged a ride at all. Supervisors Malia Cohen and Katy Tang declined to take the challenge.

All told, most officials at City Hall don’t seem to follow the advisory measure enacted by SF voters 22 years ago stating that city officials should ride transit at least twice a week.

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Supe Kim, SFMTA Get Tips From Copenhagen on Creating a Bikeable City

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Supervisor Jane Kim (left) rides in Copenhagen with SFMTA officials. Photo: People for Bikes

Supervisor Jane Kim and SFMTA officials took a trip last month to learn about best practices from two leading bike-friendly cities: Copenhagen, Denmark, and Malmö, Sweden.

“I’d assumed that [Copenhagen] always had a bike culture,” Kim told Streetsblog. “I was surprised to learn that they also had a cars-first culture through the 60s and 90s. They’ve actually spent the last 25 years working to shift that.”

Kim joined a delegation including SFMTA Chief of Staff Alicia John-Baptiste, Communications Director Candace Sue, Livable Streets planner Mike Sallaberry, and board member Gwyneth Borden. The trip was organized by the national advocacy group People For Bikes.

“Not only are senior citizens getting around in a healthier way,” noted Kim, “they feel safe doing it. And that’s exciting.”

The delegation met with Copenhagen planning officials and a former mayor to learn about how the city made bicycling the most convenient way to get around.

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TSP Rebooted: Bureaucratic Revamp Could Boost Transit and Livable Streets

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Photo: Sergio Ruiz via SF Planning

Photo: Sergio Ruiz via SF Planning

San Francisco agencies have re-introduced the Transportation Sustainability Program, a bureaucratic overhaul that could dramatically expedite improvements for walking, biking, and transit, while discouraging car parking in new developments.

In developing the program, SF planners are also nearing completion of the nation’s first major study showing that dedicated car parking encourages driving.

The TSP is three-pronged: It would overhaul SF’s development fee system to fund sustainable transportation upgrades, set mandated targets for developers to reduce driving caused by their projects, and replace the automobile-centric metric known as Level of Service (LOS), which would make environmental reviews both faster and more “meaningful,” planners say.

“If you’re moving people out of cars, you need to have the infrastructure for them to do things otherwise,” said Sarah Jones, the SF Planning Department’s director of environmental planning. “Each of these components can operate on its own, but we are working on them in an integrated way, because each of them really enhances the other.”

Originally expected to be adopted in 2013, the program has been fine-tuned since it was put on hold in late 2012 primarily for two reasons. At that time, the Board of Supervisors rejected a new fee system after a misinformation campaign, and the California legislature since passed a bill calling for the replacement of LOS as the state’s transportation metric.

The SFMTA, the Planning Department, and the SF County Transportation Authority are preparing to launch public outreach on the TSP within the coming months and institute the program in stages by the end of the year, said Jones.

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Applying the Parklet Strategy to Make Transit Stops Better, Quicker

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Planners are looking to use the parklet model to deliver bus bulb-outs at low cost. Muni and AC Transit (shown) are developing programs with different takes on the concept. Image: Ben Kaufman

San Francisco’s parklet revolution has broadened the possibilities for how curb space can be used. Now, city planners in SF and the East Bay are taking the idea in a new direction: using temporary sidewalk extensions to make transit stops more efficient and attractive.

Three different names for the concept have emerged from planners at three institutions where it was conceived independently — “temporary transit bulbs,” “multi-purpose parklets,” and “stoplets.” Those terms come from, respectively, SF transportation agencies, Alameda-Contra Costa Transit, and Ben Kaufman, a graduate student at the UCLA Department of Urban Planning.

Whatever you call it, the method could allow transit agencies to much more rapidly implement transit bulb-outs — sidewalk extensions at transit stops — and reap the benefits at about one-twentieth the cost of pouring concrete, on average, according to Kaufman.

For his UCLA graduate project, Kaufman is wrapping up a stoplet design guide for AC Transit, which received a Safe Routes to Transit grant to study the idea.

Kaufman sees stoplets as a way to re-invent the bus stop. “Why can’t we create a space that people actually want to sit at, that would make people excited to wait for a bus?” he said. “Instead of being a waiting experience, it can be a relaxing experience.” Like parklets, stoplets would be “adopted” by merchants who want to improve bus stops in front of their storefronts.

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