First Sunday Streets of 2009: “An Idea With Staying Power”

IMG_3236e2.jpgPeople instead of cars fill the streets in Fisherman’s Wharf. Photo by Bryan Goebel.

Today’s crisp, sunny weather and car-free waterfront drew thousands of people to San Francisco’s first Sunday Streets of 2009 along the Embarcadero from Aquatic Park to the Giants ballpark. Business seemed like it was booming in Fisherman’s Wharf, dispelling concerns among some business owners the opposite would happen.

"They’re really excited and they feel like there’s a ton of people around," said Wade Crowfoot of the Mayor’s office, donning an orange Sunday Streets volunteer t-shirt. "What you see is a good mixing of tourists who would be down here anyways and then a lot of locals and tourists that probably rented bikes specifically for this day."

He added: "This is an idea with staying power."

Hear a brief interview with Wade, as he was surveying the fun in Fisherman’s Wharf:


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  • I biked the whole route today. There were a ton of people out, and it looked like it got people thinking about the real value of the street, without cars.

  • It’s a step in the right direction, but it felt so half-assed, more symbol than any changed reality. The automobile traffic was still driving by in the southern direction which meant it felt like one was exercising on the side of a freeway. The event also needs to last the entire day. What self-respecting non-churchgoer gets up before noon on Sunday in San Francisco anyway unless there’s a good reason? Still, I hope it expands and prospers, and would love to see a monthly traffic-in-both-ways shutdown of the Embarcadero on Sundays.

  • I had a great time! I rode all the way into the wharf and saw the chapel there which I had never seen before. Its behind the parking lot which I never venture past. I also noticed part of the bay from the wharf that I’ve never really seen either. Again b/c its behind the surface parking lot. Jan Gehl was right, Jefferson is really cut off from the water.

    There were all kinds of folks out and booths with dancers and hola hoops.

  • Hey, wait a minute — the timing on these closures are useless to me because I am a churchgoer. They definitely need to go all day!

  • Brian

    What a wonderful day.

    My favorite part was buying lunch from the stand at Alioto’s. As we handed over our money, we said, “these are SF Bike Community dollars.”

    The man just smiled, and confessed how much better it was at Fisherman’s Wharf without all the cars spewing carbon monoxide all over his fresh crab. Everyone had a big smile on their faces, especially the businesses.

    He also said how weird and nice it was to have actual San Franciscans at Fisherman’s Wharf, because it is usually just tourists.

    Just goes to show, people fear change until they experience it. Then they start to wonder why they put up with cars ruining our public spaces for so long.

    Once people experience car-free spaces and Ciclovia/Sunday Streets, they are hooked for life.

    Thanks for documenting the change Streetsblog.

  • jdub

    While the hours are too short, the first Sunday Streets of 2009 was a great success. I went down to Fishermans Wharf and saw parts of it that I had not seen before. I was able to see the smaller crab places and thought that I would actually go there more often if I could access it more easily and it were not exclusively tourists.

    Even if the streets are not closed as they were yesterday we could improve the situation at the wharf by moving F line trolleys to the E line an encourage people to park at the empty ballpark lots and take the historic trolleys to Fishermans Wharf. Moving all trolleys to the (eventual) E line would get them off Market and provide enough service to Fishermans Wharf to cut thousands of car trips on Embarcadero.

    Instead of the F line on Market, we could have low floor buses or lrvs running up and down Market.

  • transitobserver

    Cutting the F-line in half, as jdub suggests, serves exactly what purpose? Just killing the most successful traditional streetcar line in America, that’s all. The whole purpose of the F-line was to tie the northern Embarcadero and Wharf to the Market Street spine. It has worked incredibly well. There’s plenty of track capacity on The Embarcadero for both an E and F line, and more cars are being renovated to provide the vehicles for it. We tried buses instead of the F-line. It was called the 8-line. The F-line carries almost double what the 8-line did on the same route segment. Why trade success for something less?

  • jdub

    @transitobserver: The purpose would be to connect remote parking at the Ballbark to Fishermans Wharf, the Ferry Building, the coming Exploratorium and other attractions, thereby saving thousands of cars from inching along the Embarcadero only to have to find parking once they arrive at their destinations. Rather than “killing” the line, it would enhance it, eliminating the cumbersome and time consuming turn from Market to Embarcadero.

  • Yes, it would kill ridership on the F-Line and would be a disservice to thousands more riders and the businesses along the F-Line than you would ever be able to make up for in the car owners you’d convince to park several miles and a ~30 minute streetcar ride away from Fisherman’s Wharf.

    While the turn from Market to Embarcadero is not direct, it’s not a point where ridership turns over and you would force thousands upon thousands of tourists to transfer to Muni Metro were you to force the tourists (forget the locals for a moment) in order to get back and forth between the Ferry Building and Union Square. If you have ever been on the Embarcadero Station platform before a ball game, imagine that level of crowding and the confusion of so many people who are not familiar with the system, but instead of trying to direct them on how to get to a single destination served by only 2 lines, they’d be trying to get to a number of destinations along 5 lines.

    And now, you’re placing an additional demand on Muni Metro at it’s Embarcadero, which is already over capacity and the bottleneck that constrains the entire system. And because not all passengers are going as far as Castro, some F-Line cars turn back short at Van Ness, but that’s not even an option for Muni Metro and when the T-Third Street line opened they did turn back trains at Castro, creating another bottleneck that acted like a multiplier to the delays at Embarcadero which means any extra cars (which we don’t have) you would add to Muni Metro would have to run all the way to the end of whatever line you’d add them to.

    Work is underway to restore additional streetcars, at a fraction of what new LRVs cost, in order to start both a new E-Line and future F-Line growth.

  • jdub


    1. I am suggesting using LRVs instead of historic cars on Market. Transfers would be from surface LRV to E line trolleys in either direction on Embarcadero. There would be no impact to businesses on Market since there would be no change in service, only the age of the vehicles. See the April 15 streetsblog article:

    2. The E line would add to existing Metro service on ballgame days, not detract from it. We need lots of capacity on the E line which is why all historic cars should be use on it while newer vehicles are used on Market.

    I like the historic cars and would like to see them used to their best advantage. Embarcadero seems like the best place for them while Market needs low floor LRV.

  • On that post you link to, I made a couple comments explaining how low-floor LRV service could be added on Market Street along with the F-Line. Before they were put underground, the Muni Metro lines used to share a single pair of tracks on the surface. Adding a second line, especially one that can board faster (assuming there are 3 doors along with being low floor) still won’t come even close to the number of cars that used to run on Market.

    The E-Line as a Ballpark Shuttle is going to be a problem because of capacity, boarding time, labor, and again that forced transfer at Market Street. During a game, Muni has one-car T-Third Street trains and two-car N-Judah and some shuttle trains. All of the board on the island platform while a historic streetcar or any new low-floor car would have to board on the side platforms and is going to create a lot of confusion by people not sure which platform to board at.

    That becomes a safety concern if people start running between platforms to get the next train. Then there’s the customer experience problem of having to figure out where to stand, possibly getting on the wrong train and ending up in the wrong place and there is the cost. Having two platforms would require more employees to monitor before and after games and a two-car light-rail train only requires one operator where many of the highest capacity of the historic streetcars require two operators to carry fewer people.


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