Skip to content

Posts tagged "GJEL"

23 Comments

Auto-Clogged Powell Street Could Be a Car-Free Haven

This post supported by

Photo: Aaron Bialick

It’s a wonder that anyone drives a car on Powell Street in Union Square. Yet along the busiest pedestrian thoroughfare this side of the United States, you’ll typically see the perplexing scene of drivers, sitting in a line heading down the hill, all seemingly going nowhere in particular and certainly not very quickly. These private autos block bustling crosswalks, jam up Muni’s world-famous cable cars and its busiest bus line, and make an overall shameful display out of what many see as San Francisco’s gateway.

Allowing cars on the two-block stretch of Powell, between Ellis and Geary Streets, has made even less sense ever since all street parking, except for loading zones, was removed in 2011 for the Powell Street Promenade, a “mega parklet” that extended Powell’s sidewalks using temporary materials.

Powell doesn’t connect drivers to Market Street either, since the southernmost block was turned into a plaza for people and cable cars only in 1973. The vast majority of drivers drive down the street only to turn off of it, squeezing through busy crosswalks and taking up a disproportionate amount of street space along the way.

Photo: Aaron Bialick

Read more…

1 Comment

Wiener Moves to Make NACTO Street Design Guides Official Policy for SF

This post supported by

Supervisor Scott Wiener has introduced a bill that would make the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ guides for Urban Streets and Urban Bikeways official city policy. The SFMTA Board of Directors already adopted the NACTO guides in January, but Wiener’s legislation would establish them as official guidelines for other agencies to use, including the Department of Public Works, the Planning Department, and the SF Fire Department.

Supervisor Scott Wiener riding on Bike to Work Day. Photo: SFBC

“The MTA is not the only agency that’s designing streets,” said Andres Power, an aide for Wiener and previously the Planning Department’s manager of the parklet program. “The idea is to have a sense of what it is that is our collective city policy.”

The NACTO guides provide the latest American engineering standards for city planners to use in building people-friendly streets. Notably, Caltrans recently endorsed the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, clearing the way for established standards for protected bike lanes in California.

Wiener hopes to have the legislation approved in time for the NACTO Designing Cities Conference, which will be hosted in San Francisco from October 22 to 25. It will be the first time the national event is held in SF, one year after SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin was named president of the organization.

Power said the NACTO guides will help complement SF’s Better Streets Plan, which was adopted citywide in 2010. Whether the BSP has been consistently implemented is an open question, but it mainly provides design guidelines for sidewalks, not roadways.

The NACTO guide adoption could provide more leverage for city officials to counter protests from the Fire Department against narrow roadways that create a safer, slower street environment. SFFD has fought projects that include roadways narrower than the minimums set in national fire code recommendations designed for suburbs.

Wiener plans to introduce further legislation to continue his efforts to reform the city’s street design and fire codes, Power said.

3 Comments

NYC’s Tom Maguire Expected to Lead at the SFMTA, if Mayor Lee Lets Him

This post supported by

Ever since we broke the news that New York City’s Tom Maguire would be hired as the new director of the SFMTA’s Sustainable Streets Division, we’ve heard only positive reactions. If nothing else, there’s a lot of hype building for this promising veteran of the livable streets renaissance seen under Janette Sadik-Khan‘s NYC Department of Transportation. On the other hand, Sadik-Khan and her executive staff had the full support of former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The SFMTA did its part for the hype with a press release that was rife with praise from officials in both SF and NYC. Here’s JSK herself:

From rolling out the fastest bus routes in New York City to devising groundbreaking parking policies, Tom Maguire worked on some of the most innovative changes to New York City streets over the last eight years. But the Big Apple’s loss is the Bay Area’s gain. With his one-of-a-kind mix of creative policy skills, technical expertise and political savvy, there’s no one better equipped to deliver world-class streets and chart San Francisco on a course to safer, more sustainable future.

Polly Trottenberg, Sadik-Khan’s successor at NYC DOT, said Maguire is “a remarkable leader [who] oversaw some of NYC DOT’s major initiatives from PlaNYC and post-Sandy resiliency to the Select Bus Service partnership and Freight Mobility. We will miss his vision and energy in New York.”

“The Giants moving to San Francisco in the late 50s had a big impact in the baseball world, and Tom Maguire becoming SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director is a big win for San Francisco in the transportation field,” she added.

While SF advocates don’t have experience with Maguire, they say his reputation holds a lot of promise, but that his ability to help the SFMTA make strides in advancing sustainable streets will depend on backing from Mayor Ed Lee and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin.

“The importance of this position cannot be emphasized enough,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum. “Mr. Maguire will need to bring a combination of high-level vision, and the ability to roll-up-his-sleeves, to ensure that projects get delivered in a timely way. And it’s critical that he has the support of MTA Chief Ed Reiskin. There’s never been a more opportune time for strong leadership to transform the SFMTA and help San Francisco’s transportation systems live up to their potential.”

Read more…

11 Comments

Tomorrow: Hearing on Traffic Signals to Speed Muni on Haight, McAllister

This post supported by

A snapshot of the SFMTA’s plans for Upper Haight. See the full plan here [PDF].

On the agenda [PDF] for tomorrow’s SFMTA public engineering hearing are proposals to speed up Muni lines with transit-priority traffic signals and bus bulb-outs along Haight and McAllister Streets. These types of changes are central to the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project, but some residents have voiced concerns about replacing stop signs with traffic signals and requiring pedestrians to wait before crossing.

The SFMTA plans to replace stop signs with signals at ten intersections on Haight and five on McAllister. These would be transit-priority signals, meaning that they will stay green when they detect approaching buses on the 5-Fulton, 71-Haight/Noriega, and 6-Parnassus lines.

On the 5, the SFMTA predicts that the signals alone will save 1.5 minutes in each direction, in addition to six minutes saved by adding bus bulb-outs, removing and relocating some stops, and adding right-turn lanes to keep turning cars out of the way. On Haight itself, those improvements are also expected to save three minutes for the 71 and 6, in addition to several more minutes of savings thanks to the contra-flow bus lane being constructed at Market Street. The SFMTA says intersections without signals or stop signs will receive traffic calming treatments, to encourage drivers to yield to people crossing.

Natalie Burdick of Walk SF said the Muni TEP proposals “should not conflict with the SFMTA’s own stated priority for ensuring the safety of the city’s road users.”

“Signalized intersections can support safer walking environments if they are designed effectively,” she said. “For instance, signals can be timed to calm traffic with lower speeds, and provide regular phases for pedestrian crossings.”

Read more…

10 Comments

Why 24th St Merchants Ditched Sunday Streets: High Fees, Too Many Events

This post supported by

Sunday Streets on 24th Street in 2011. Photo: geekstinkbreath/Flickr

People enjoying Sunday Streets in the Mission last weekend may have wondered why the route no longer ran on 24th Street, the most crowded street of any that see the event. Instead, the car-free Valencia Street route was complemented by an east-west leg on residential 18th Street, which saw sparse use compared to 24th.

Despite the boon to business Sunday Streets brings, it was 24th Street merchants who asked Sunday Streets to be taken off of their corridor.

Erick Arguello, president of the Calle 24 Merchants and Neighborhood Association, said merchants no longer wanted to pay high permitting fees to serve food outside, and that residents felt there are just too many events held on 24th.

“Twenty-Fourth Street has the highest concentration of events of any corridor in the city,” said Arguello. “There were some complaints from residents, and it was tougher for their customers to get there, [because] Sunday’s usually [the merchants'] busiest day. But mainly it was the cost.”

As we’ve written, organizers of Sunday Streets and other car-free neighborhood street events get slammed with questionably high fees from a slew of city agencies, including the SFPD, SF Fire Department, and the Departments of Public Health and Public Works.

“Although the route along 24th Street was incredibly popular, group members requested the event continue through the Mission on other streets in 2014,” said Beth Byrne, co-director of Sunday Streets for Livable City. “The challenges working with so many events that take place in the neighborhood throughout the year were overwhelming, and they decided to focus on other events and initiatives along the corridor.”

Read more…

2 Comments

After 50 Events, Sunday Streets Director Departs to Spread the Word

This post supported by

Sunday Streets on Valencia Street yesterday. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Susan King is moving on from her position at Livable City as director of SF’s Sunday Streets, after hosting the 50th open streets event yesterday in the Mission. King plans to bring open streets events to cities across the state by establishing the California Open Streets Network (CAOS).

Susan King yesterday speaking with SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin (right) and Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. Photo: Aaron Bialick

“I feel great that this program is so solid and successful, and there are really fantastic people pushing the ball forward,” said King.

To help other California cities learn from King’s experience in spearheading a nationally-renowned model for open streets, CAOS will provide services like a “calendar, shared resources, peer-to-peer advocacy, one-on-one trainings, regional trainings, webinars, and advocacy on the state level for a framework that addresses some of the barriers,” she said.

When Sunday Streets was first proposed in collaboration with then-Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office in 2008, it saw resistance from merchants who believed that their businesses would be hurt by opening streets to people and closing them to cars. The 50 events since have shown the opposite result, providing a boon for both business and public health. Merchants have since clamored for the event to bring customers to their neighborhoods, with as many as 75,000 regularly attending Sunday Streets in the Mission.

Today, San Francisco has held more major open streets events than any other American city, and Sunday Streets is “mundane, it’s part of everyday life,” said King. “That’s a good thing to create — as a fabric of what a livable community looks like.”

For today’s youngest San Franciscans, the ability to play in car-free streets may even be taken for granted, as a generation grows up with a fundamentally different experience of city streets. King told an anecdote about a woman who said her five-year-old grandson “didn’t know what life was without Sunday Streets.”

“I’m supremely proud to think about the generation that’s going to lead us, that are still in school and growing up in this city with the expectation that Sunday Streets is just part of city life,” said King. “The next generation really has a different idea of how we use and interact with our city streets.”

Read more…

21 Comments

Personal Garages Become Cafes in the Castro, Thanks to Smarter Zoning

This post supported by

This used to be a garage. Photo: Tom Radulovich

Three new cafes and restaurants in the Castro have been created in spaces formerly used as personal parking garages. Driveways and dark garage doors on 18th Street have been replaced with storefronts and inviting patios filled with people.

A few years ago, this would’ve been illegal.

Reveille Coffee Company and Beso, a tapas restaurant, were able to move in and convert these garages this year, thanks to changes in the SF Planning Code’s zoning laws in 2011 proposed by Livable City and former Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi. The provision to allow garages to be converted into shops, housing, and service spaces in “Neighborhood Commercial” zoning districts was part of a package of parking-related reforms.

In addition to the first two garage-to-business conversions on 18th, a third is currently under construction nearby.

“These new businesses are helping make a more walkable (and sittable), vital, and convivial 18th Street,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich. He pointed out that the curb space in front, formerly reserved to ensure private garage access, have also become public street parking spaces.

The idea seems to be spreading: Radulovich said the Ocean Avenue Merchants this week endorsed allowing conversions of garages to storefronts in their district, which is zoned as “Residential.”

Radulovich said the 2011 ordinance “also allows the addition of a single [residential] unit to an existing residential building without a new off-street parking space, so long as that unit meets the other requirements of the code, including density limits.”

The entrance to Beso. Photo: Tom Radulovich

13 Comments

Eyes on the Street: Buffered Bike Lanes for Students on Ortega in the Sunset

This post supported by

This school year, Ortega Street offers parents a safer street to walk and bike their kids on in the Outer Sunset, as seen here at 40th Ave. Photo: SFBC

The SFMTA has installed new bike lanes and traffic calming measures on Ortega Street in the Outer Sunset, bringing a safer commute for parents and students in time for the start of the school year. Ortega runs along Sunset Elementary School and AP Giannini Middle School, which occupy the four blocks between 37th and 41st Avenues.

The improvements, funded in part by a Safe Routes to School grant, include a bike lane with a buffer zone in the uphill direction on the stretch along the school, and a conventional bike lane in the downhill direction. Ortega also has new pedestrian islands, speed humps, continental crosswalks, daylighting, and sidewalk bulb-outs to calm car traffic and make it safer to cross the street. They were previously expected to be installed by the end of 2012, with the bike lanes in by summer of last year, and it’s unclear why the project was delayed.

The safety upgrades were championed by Nik Kaestner, the director of sustainability for the SF Unified School District, who bikes his kids to school on “a heavy Dutch cruiser,” he told the SF Bicycle Coalition.

Asked about the benefits of these projects, Kaestner pointed out that “walking school buses and bike trains also build community and allow students to arrive at school ready to learn… Ensuring that students have a variety of ways of getting to school means that students from disadvantaged areas have the means to get to the school of their choice.”

See more photos after the jump.

Read more…

77 Comments

Car-Free Households Are Booming in San Francisco

This post supported by

Image: Michael Rhodes

San Francisco is quickly adding residents, but very few cars.

Between 2000 and 2012, the city has seen a net increase of 11,139 households, and 88 percent of them have been car-free. That’s according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by Michael Rhodes, a transportation planner at Nelson\Nygaard and a former Streetsblog reporter. One net result of this shift is that the proportion of San Francisco households who own zero cars increased from 28.6 percent in 2000 to 31.4 percent in 2012, the fifth-highest rate among large American cities.

The stats show that the city’s average car ownership rate is declining, even as the population is growing. The data don’t distinguish where specific households are foregoing cars, so this doesn’t necessarily mean that the residents of all the new condo buildings going up are car-free. But the broader effect is reverberating throughout the city, whether car-free residents are moving in where car-owning residents previously lived, or residents are selling their cars.

This finding flies in the face of complaints from NIMBYs who protest new housing developments that forego parking, based on a faulty assumption that new residents will own cars anyway and take up precious, free street parking. That’s one of the arguments heard from proponents of the cars-first Proposition L, who complain that “the City has eliminated the time-honored practice of creating one parking space for every new unit.”

“A lot of people who are moving here are choosing it because it’s a place you can get around without a car,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich. “People will self-select. If convenience for an automobile is their criterion, there’s a lot of places in the city and elsewhere” to live.

Read more…

12 Comments

Feast Your Eyes on Beautiful Trip Data From Year-Old Bay Area Bike Share

This post supported by

The constellations of Bay Area Bike Share traffic in SF, as visualized by Bjorn Vermeersch [PDF].

Bay Area Bike Share fans created some pretty dazzling images and videos to visualize the system’s first six months of data, showing how this transportation system connects commuters’ dots in SF and four other cities down the Peninsula. BABS’ first birthday is approaching on August 29, and while the system isn’t growing as fast as many would like, it has certainly matured into a normal part of downtown streets. The system has seen over 250,000 trips so far, most of them in SF.

The visualizations were submitted for an “Open Data Challenge” contest sponsored by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which has taken over BABS management from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. From the MTC website:

In March, Bay Area Bike Share released a large, detailed set of anonymous data collected since the launch of the pilot program in August 2013. Users were invited to take the data, which included trip times, locations and bike numbers, among other information, and present it in a visually compelling manner. What resulted were 35 innovative and interactive entries. Five winners were awarded for best overall visualization, best presentation, best analysis, best data exploration tool and best data narrative.

One of the most informative and mesmerizing creations came from Bjorn Vermeersch. He won the “Best Data Narrative” award by painting bike-share trip patterns in various patterns: as a solar system, constellations, and inkblot patterns which resemble things like birds.

Read more…