It’s Time to Turn Oak and Fell Into Slow Streets

2891325030_b8a04e45f0.jpgFlickr photo: pbo31

The SFMTA’s plans to install freeway-style traffic information signs on Oak and Fell Streets were not very popular, to say the least, at last week’s meeting of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association.

The signs, two of seven the MTA plans to install around the city, are part of the SFgo program that will upgrade traffic signals on Oak and Fell by interconnecting them with fiber optic cables and controlling them by central computer. The MTA staff at the meeting presented the plan as part of the city’s transit-first policy, but they acknowledged that the choice of Oak and Fell Streets makes that claim look less than sincere. They also offered little in the way of optimism that the new signals and signs might prevent last week’s tragedy, when a motorist sped around a stopped car on Fell Street at Broderick and drove into Melissa Dennison, killing her instantly.

The tragedy prompted City Traffic Engineer Jack Lucero Fleck to join his staffer Cathal Hennessy at the neighborhood meeting. He was compassionate, echoing the sentiments of SFBC Program Manager Marc Caswell in pointing out that it’s illegal and dangerous to move around a stopped car at an intersection and that a green light does not mean you have the right of way but rather that you may proceed if the intersection is free of pedestrians and other traffic. Police Lieutenant Lon Ramlan, on the other hand, was irresponsible, implicitly exonerating the motorist by stressing that “it’s an accident” and asking people to be careful when they cross the street because there might be a car passing that stopped car.

Since the tragedy and the meeting, conversation in the neighborhood has centered around what can be done on Fell and Oak Streets to calm traffic and restore some of the safety and civility that the neighborhood knew before the last half century of work by traffic engineers to cram more and more cars through the neighborhood. Based on conversations with many local leaders, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi who represents the district, and transportation professionals, here are some ideas that might provide a consensus.

1. Forget the signs. They make the street look more like a freeway and less like a quiet neighborhood street that it once was and could be again. The Fell Street has the bona fide benefit of telling motorists when the Concourse garage is full (which frequently occurs on weekends) and directing them to the mammoth (and empty) garages at UCSF (which should have been used in lieu of the Concourse Garage in the first place, but that’s another story). The Oak Street sign has no benefit, even for motorists.

2. Slow speeds to 18 mph or less. While state law prevents the city from reducing the speed limit to less than 25 mph (except on alleys), it does not prevent the city from timing its lights for very slow speeds. Arguably this would do more for pedestrian safety than restoring the streets to two-way operation, and it would almost certainly do more for neighborhood livability as slower speeds result in much quieter traffic. Portland, Oregon times its lights on certain downtown one-way streets for speeds as slow as 12 mph.

3. Use pricing at the freeway on- and off-ramps to reduce congestion at peak hours. The Transportation Authority’s congestion pricing study was focused on preventing downtown congestion, when a fairer and probably more effective focus would be a citywide pricing scheme focused on the freeway on- and off-ramps.

4. Admit that even with pricing, and certainly before pricing takes effect, car congestion is a fact of life in San Francisco (and any city worth living in) and seek to manage it smartly. This is in contrast to dealing with it by increasing capacity at choke points, which just has the effect of moving the problem elsewhere. In the case of Fell and Oak Streets, this means different things for the morning and afternoon commute periods.

In the morning, the choke point is Octavia Boulevard, and backed-up cars on Oak Street divert to Haight and Page Street, important bicycle and transit streets. Using the signals to reduce capacity before it gets near the freeway will spread out the congestion and ease the movement onto the freeway at Octavia. This ought to be coupled with measures to reduce through automobile traffic on Page and Haight Street.

In the afternoon, the congestion takes place mostly on the freeway itself, out of the way of city streets. The problem occurs when motorists enjoy the wide-open expanse of Fell Street after Octavia Boulevard, and especially adjacent to the park. Why does Fell Street need four lanes next to Golden Gate Park when only three lanes feed it? Fell Street along the Panhandle would be a perfect location for a cycle track. It would reduce the lanes to three, still plenty, and take fast-moving cyclists off the crowded mixed-use path on the Panhandle. Doing the same treatment on Oak Street would help the morning congestion problem, for that matter.

The SFgo program as originally conceived is definitely a product of the old Department of Parking (Lots) and Traffic (Congestion), and much of its focus now seems like the last gasp of the DPT, whose logo adorned the informational placard Hennessy brought to show the neighborhood audience. The technology could be used to promote safety and the city’s transit-first policy as its proponents currently claim it does, but so far on Oak and Fell Street there is little evidence it is being used that way.

  • How about displaying on the illuminated signs “This is a residential street– drive accordingly”? I’m a long-time Oak Street resident and it seems like people drive like they’re already on the freeway.

  • ZA

    Nice series of consensus-building suggestions.

    I suspect those signs are going in regardless of what the community wishes, but if they can be used to deploy residential messages, that could be useful. I don’t know how pixel-rich these signs will be, but in addition to your suggestions, here are a few more:

    Large images of neighborhood kids and families with the message “I Live Here, Slow Down” or a stern-faced grandma “Slow Down, Child”

    Install more sidewalk seating. It’s a subtle way of communicating a residential neighborhood feeling to drivers. The community will need to debate it, but additional benches and chairs at key points along the way reinforce the pedestrian claim.

  • Inner Richmond and Inner Sunset neighbors are concerned about overflow traffic on their streets when the concourse garage is full and motorists seek parking on neighborhood streets. Is the freeway structure sign the only way to alert Fell Street drivers of the garage status? Why not portable, road-side message signs for the weekends? If the MTA is serious about this problem, why aren’t there portable signs out there right now when the deYoung and Academy are getting overflow attendance? Also, place a hold on the Fell and Oak SFgo signs — don’t install the message display panels or get them online — until after the Octavia traffic review task force completes its work.

  • And make the streets two-way.

  • patrick


    They actually already use the portable messaging signs, and I definitely think they are perfectly sufficent, and in fact probably better than a permanent sign. Unlike a permanent sign they can be moved to whatever location is most beneficial, and they are lower down, so a driver doesn’t have to raise their eyes to the sky to read them. It really makes no sense to install the permanent signs when the portable signs are clearly the better solution.

  • Kevin Sheehan

    Fell Street location is already at a late location to make plan changes. Put the freeway sign ‘on the freeway’. The Oak Street sign will hurt the bike traffic by moving traffic onto Page & Haight Streets. Bikes are safer on those 2 streets without adding more cars onto them. We live on Fell (Central & Masonic) cars race to make the Masonic light.

  • janel

    Excellent points Dave! I especially like the idea of a cycle track on Fell but bring it down to Scott St too by positioning the parked cars to the right of the bike lane like Portland recently did

  • Here is a great idea for what to put on the sign.

  • Nick

    It would be pretty ironic if SF built a Class 1 bike path next to an existing Class 1 bike path. If it’s going to be built, it has to extend east of Baker where it’s truly needed.

  • pat

    Such a necessary article.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    They should put the signs way back on 80 and 101, where drivers can still make a meaningful decision about how to get to the park museums. Once you are on Fell, you are already committed. If you are alerted earlier that the concourse garage is full (which it invariably is) you can choose to park elsewhere and ride the N to the museums. You can park practically anywhere downtown, especially on weekends, with no problem. A driver who chooses to park at 5th and Mission and ride the N saves a car trip down Fell, giving the neighbors a little break.

    And of course Muni needs to fix the N so it’s a reasonable method of getting from downtown to GGP.

  • Panhandle Resident

    I live in the Panhandle. I attended the SFGO meeting for the neighborhood. We are all very concerned about what we heard. There is no common sense in this initiative. Huge, electric signs on two residential streets. To place freeway communication instruments in a residential neighborhood is going in the WRONG DIRECTION.

    Forget that it is an eyesore, foget that it is a visual distraction to drivers. It is also an overkill remedy for MUSEUM PARKING? It is an outrage to deliberately and recklessly change the face of our neighborhood and streets (where we pay dearly for in property taxes and rent) for the sole reason of “letting drivers know that the garage in the park in full.”

    They are called TEMPORARY TRAFFIC SIGNS. They use them everywhere but suddenly we need a multimillion dollar steel dinosaur erected on two streets in order to pacify tourists or worse, justify grant money from the government. SFGO made it clear that their funding is from government grants. So if you don’t spend the money – you lose it. Never mind our streets, our safety, our community, our rights and taxpayers and rent payers in SF.

    TAKE A STAND TO THIS BUREAURACRATIC INITIATIVE. If you don’t – know this. They will be doing the same thing in your neighborhood. In fact SFGO stated this at the public meeting. They said that this initiative is to be rolled out across the city.

    It not only brings in more grant money for SFGo but it also allows them to: 1) Build ugly infrastructure that will evenually support advertising on these big electric signs; 2) Decrease safety by making streets look like freeways and distract drivers and illuminate neighbor’s windows and 3) impact our privacy as citizens as they add cameras and fiberoptics to these signs allowing for more surveillance of our streets. Sound good? Think again.

  • ZA

    Lessons from other ‘traffic sewers’ …

    Consider the beautification, calming, and turning lanes changes planned for, or are underway, on Cesar Chavez and Divisadero.

    In the same way that these sorts of medians have been put in place on Embarcadero and Van Ness, why aren’t we seeing a similar treatment for Fell and Oak, from Octavia to Masonic?

  • Sasha

    Remember the ballot wars several years back over the fate of Octavia Street and the Fell/Oak offramps? As I understood things, one of the main forces pushing back against the (ultimately successful) Octavia Boulevard that we now enjoy was organized residents who live on the West side of the city (Sunset/Richmond), and I think any solution we’re talking about for the Fell/Oak mess has to include West side voices and concerns. As the city is laid out right now, Fell and Oak are main thoroughfares to get between downtown and the avenues. I agree that it’s ridiculous that they’re both urban expressways and residential streets, but that’s the mess we’ve inherited (similar to Cesar Chavez St.).
    Any plans for traffic calming on Fell and Oak and returning them to livable streets for their residents will require a coordinated plan, not just a single-issue focus on Fell and Oak. I ride my bike on Oak from the Wiggle to the Panhandle, and I can’t wait for the day I don’t feel like I’m committing some death-defying feat in those two blocks. But we have to think big picture and come up with a plan that answers the question “How will people get from point A to point B?”
    That probably includes fixing the N, and perhaps the dream of a Geary subway. In the meantime, there are reasons a lot of people are driving, and we do well to consider ourselves advocates for better transportation options for everyone, rather than digging in as enemies.

  • Troy

    SFGate has posted an article about this mess. Please check it out and consider rating up some of the better comments:

    Those freeway signs need to COME DOWN first. I think the debate should be how far to go in calming traffic, but there is no doubt the signs make things worse, not better. Call Mirkarimi as well. He seems to support the Fell sign.

  • These are great consensus-building suggestions and I really appreciate the idea of slowing down the inbound Oak St traffic in the mornings. It’s worth a try to see if it reduces some of the diversions you described.

    There’s also increasing demand for the cycle-track along the Panhandle. We’re getting more users of all kinds on the path, and while it may be “Class 1”, it’s narrower than a multi-use path should be. And as a result we’re hearing from more neighbors who are uncomfortable using it. That includes some walkers with low tolerance for the less cautious cyclists, and some cyclists who are concerned about bringing their kids out on bikes on the weekends or rush hour.

  • I heard a lot about this two way street idea. But I totally at lost. Why do people think two way street is better than one way street? What is the problem they are trying to solve?

    Cars going too fast? What does this mean? Does it mean 25mph is too fast? Or does it mean too many cars don’t observe speed limit? Or is it simply because non-car driver want to screw car drivers?

    As a driver, I think the most important thing on Fell is the synchronized signal. This is the most important attribute that maintain the high traffic flow. It is far worst to messy around with the signal timing that to lower the speed limit to 18mph.

    For better or for worst, Fell and Oak are designated as traffic corridors, like Van Ness, like Geary. Stop think like if every street in the 7×7 mile are residential St it will be ideal. We need these traffic corridor for efficient transportation! Even when I’m riding a bicycle I still favor a traffic corridor to residential St. I want smooth traffic flow, not stop sign on every block.

  • zsolt

    @Wai Yip Tung: I bet you’d sing a different tune if you actually LIVED right next to this street. Use your brain, man.

  • Dave Snyder

    Glad this has generated so many thoughtful comments.

    Regarding two-way streets vs. slow-speed one-way streets, I think the latter is often preferable, and is in this case. Two-way streets take away capacity and don’t slow speeds (people will go 25-30 mph between the lights). And as some commenters have noted, these streets carry a huge amount of traffic. I want to reduce capacity for cars as much as the next livable city advocate — it’s definitely the path to a more sustainable future — but we have plenty of opportunity to do so *incidental* to making the alternatives work better that I don’t think it makes social or political sense to take capacity just for the sake of taking capacity. I would rather keep some of our one way streets and have more bike lanes, bus lanes and wider sidewalks, and time the lights for very slow speeds, than turn every one-way street into a two-way street.

    Reducing the speed of the lights to 18 mph would add just 90 seconds off-peak and 126 seconds at peak to the trip between Octavia and Stanyan.

    @Dale re the Panhandle path, your statement is supported by the 1997 bike plan, which had standards for how wide a shared-use path should be for certain ped volumes; the Panhandle path is not wide enough according to those standards.

  • eugene

    @zsolt: I live within a block of Fell, and I’m ok with a higher capacity street carrying traffic swiftly out west. It means fewer vehicles use my local street (which occationally has more traffic when there is an accident or congestion on Fell or Divisadero).

    Yes, I agree that we need to make the couplet safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, especially around Divisadero, Baker, Masonic and Stanyan. But any reduction in capacity to either Oak or Fell should be be done in tandem with a concerted effort to improve transit efficiency/ridership to and from the Sunset and Richmond.

  • Yes sir

    All great points Dave.

    If DPT is adamant about installing the message signs, then the trade-off for pedestrian safety should be synchronizing the signals for 18 mph. This will not reduce capacity–it would only slow down traffic to a safer, quieter speed.

    Traveling 18 mph without stopping would still be faster than 25 or even 30 mph with stops on Haight, Hayes or Page, so cars would not divert off of Fell and Oak.

    And removing the 4th lane to make a cycle-track is such a no-brainer—the Panhandle ped/bike trail is really crowded! This would simply involve restriping the travel/parking lanes. Easy!

    Get to it MTA! Don’t botch the neighborhood.

  • zsolt

    @eugene. If we have learned anything in the last century, it’s that higher capacity streets never mean fewer cars or less congestion. And I don’t think anyone here is against better transit, FWIW.

  • @dave, “Two-way streets take away capacity and don’t slow speeds”

    That’s what I think. I don’t get the rationale that why some people thing it is an improvement over one-way street.

    18mph is fine by me. But honestly, it is not going to happen. I will be happy enough if police hand out a lot of tickets to speeders and red light runners.

    @zsolt, use your brain, don’t live right on a busy street if you can’t stand the traffic.

  • MTA Director Nat Ford and Traffic Engineer Jack Fleck have indicated a willingness to reconsider the Fell and Oak SFgo signs — more easily the one on Oak but perhaps the one on Fell also. And they hope Supe Mirkarimi will give them the guidance — or go-ahead — to dismantle or move them if the neighbors wish.

    For brevity or a shameless plug: see tonight’s (Thursday) post on

  • “Regarding two-way streets vs. slow-speed one-way streets, I think the latter is often preferable, and is in this case. Two-way streets take away capacity and don’t slow speeds (people will go 25-30 mph between the lights).”

    If Fell/Oak were converted back to 2-way, it would be incredibly difficult to speed at 30mph. Moreover, I’m stunned to see our otherwise well-informed bike advocate expert write such a thing.

    Using standard road-diet configuration (1 travel lane each direction, center left-turn pockets, bike lanes), maximum velocity is determined by the slowest drivers. Whereas in 1-way configuration it is the opposite (maximum speeds determined by most aggressive drivers; PLUS the added bonus of dangerous passing and weaving in and out of traffic thanks to the multiple travel lanes.

    Using standard traffic engineering metrics, and plugging in typical automobile volumes in the Fell/Oak corridor, it is unlikely that speeds would exceed 25mph during most times of the day for a 2-way lane configuration.

  • Filamino

    This. Is. REALLY. RIDICULOUS. I can’t believe this discussion about the STREET-style electronic signs is still going.

    @Dave Snyder: “The Oak Street sign has no benefit, even for motorists”

    1. Show when the peak hour lane is open or closed. Perfect placement. I’ve seen my share of near rear-enders when people don’t realize the lane is closed and continue east in the left lane. If a car rear-ends a parked car, they could ricochet into the sidewalk. I think it will make the pedestrians waiting to cross Oak feel safer if drivers clearly know to merge right. The static signs don’t work.

    2. Street closures. For bicyclists like me who brave downhill Oak, I can make a decision which route to take to get downtown – via Baker/Fulton or Page. For example, one time, I needed to get to Leavenworth/McAllister quickly, so I bravely biked Oak, and turned onto Baker/Fulton/McAllister. However, I didn’t realize it was Gay Pride Weekend and all the Civic Center streets were closed. Although there were emergency lanes open, there were still a lot of people, so I quickly walked my bike instead through the area. Unfortunately, I was too late to the meet my appointment. I think I would have gotten there faster if I knew about the Gay Pride Event and avoid it by taking Page/Market instead.

    I, as a bicyclist, want to avoid them street closures/events just like drivers. I don’t understand why bicyclists want to go through street closure events unless they are going to the events themselves. Do these SFBC bicyclists want to mow pedestrians down going through the event area? I don’t get it. That’s another reason why people hate bicyclists. Of course, NOPA/Alamo Square NIMBYs will shrug it off like that it doesn’t matter – I’m only one bicyclist from the Sunset/Richmond.

    3. Public Service Announcements. IE Bikes Belong – Share the Road, Slow it Down – Watch for Peds, etc. They can be valuable in emergencies too.

    “…will spread out the congestion and ease the movement onto the freeway at Octavia. This ought to be coupled with measures to reduce through automobile traffic on Page and Haight Street.

    This just shows the hypocrisy of these NIMBYs. They push for using the grid network to spread out traffic and now they say they don’t want traffic on their streets. HUH? This exactly what will happen too if Fell/Oak are converted to two way.

    @Kevin, Jeffrey: Moving the sign is a bad idea. You’re forgetting the people who come from Gough/Hayes. Not everyone on Fell comes from Octavia. If it really needs to be moved, it should be in front of the DMV or in the Panhandle itself.

    The sign diverting driver’s attention is not true. I do not see how it’s not much different from reading any other permanent or temporary static sign.

    @patrick, michaelSF: “Why not use portable messaging signs?” Because…

    1. They are UGLY. Put the ugly orange next to the cool silver and the cool silver will win every time.
    2. They are easily vandalized. It’s kind of hard (but not impossible) to spray paint something that’s 20 feet high.
    3. The batteries don’t last as long as they claim. How many of those message boards have you seen blank when they should say something. Chances are, the batteries died even though they are suppose to recharge by solar power.
    4. Who’s going to change the message every time it needs to be changed? Sending someone out there every is time consuming.

    I’m all for traffic calming the streets, increasing enforcement, and other safety improvements mentioned here, but I am not convinced by any argument here that the new STREET-style electronic signs will increase speeding or detrimental to the neighborhood. These are NOT “freeway-style” signs! They are MUCH, MUCH smaller. MANY other major cities around the world use them.

    This deal with the STREET-style electronic sign has NIMBY-ism written all over it. NOPA/Alamo Square/Hayes Valley has done everything to screw Sunset/Richmond District residents from getting downtown/Bay Bridge/Peninsula by car, bike and bus. Now they are making up this false, ridiculous idea that these small STREET-style electronic signs will increase speeding by giving drivers and bicyclists from the Sunset/Richmond valuable information on what is happening ahead. Damn NIMBYs….

  • Fundamentally we have too many cars driving to, and in, the city. Any kind of electronic sign is just a band aid. People drive cars because it is more convenient, more pleasant, faster, and often, for a group, cheaper than taking transit. We need to make transit better, faster, cheaper, or make driving worse, slower, and more expensive.

    Real solutions:

    1) If the parking garage under the concourse is routinely filling up, obviously it is not priced correctly. Up the rates. If out-of-town cars are parking in the neighborhoods around the park, install 2 hour parking unless a car has a neighborhood sticker. Let people know they really will get a ticket if they pass the time limit.

    2) Because Muni so poorly services the Caltrain station, the de Young and Academy of Sciences should sponsor free shuttles that *meet the trains* and whisk people quickly to the park. Then they need to advertise it massively to their potential visitors. (Yes, I know the culture bus was a failure because a) it was expensive and b)absolutely no one knew about it.) On weekends, Caltrain should be free to children under 12. (This would really get families to consider taking the train.)

    3.) Most people on the Peninsula have little or no idea how to take Bart and then use Muni. The park’s museums need to educate their members and potential visitors far more than they do now and severely, drastically encourage them not to drive to GG park. (SF Opera and SF Symphony should do the same for folks coming to the Civic Center.)

    4.) Golden Gate Transit does not stop anywhere near GG park. Why? On weekends there should be a way for Marin folks to get to the park without their cars.

    5.) The city should place the highest tax on gasoline that it’s legally capable of and use that to increase the reliability and pleasantness of Muni. It should also create a large ad campaign directed towards the suburbs of SF on the joys and benefits of using public transit in San Francisco. The message should be–we want you, not your car. While the improvements San Francisco has made in terms of the environment are laudable (composting rate, solar incentives, etc.) the number one thing the city can do to help the environment and avoid catastrophic global climate change is make Muni work. Period.

    We need to get serious about reducing car use. We are not serious yet.

  • g

    to implement these ideas you could have the supervisors comment on the street’s danger in a way that gives notice to the City and requests specific changes. then if the changes don’t happen there is a basis to hold the city liable. the main problem with automobile street design forgetting or neglecting ped/bike is that the supervisors don ‘t want this but often aren’t saying so or saying so clearly enough.

    the supervisors should be making such decisions anyway if it weren’t for prop. A. just holding board meetings about it might get the mta to respond. in particular the extra 4th lane is useless. classic put in as many lanes as possible mentality.

  • How Signal Synchronization work on an one way street

    1. The diagrams below shows 3 traffic signals. 4 cars are stopped at the first traffic light. The Signal synchronization scheme will turn each traffic light to green in succession in a finely timed manner.

    1. __*_*_**R________R_________R_______

    2. ____*__*G*__*____R_________R_______

    3. ________G__*__*_*G*________R_______

    4. *_______G_______*G*_*_____*R_______

    5. ______*_R________G___*_*_**G_______

    2. The first signal turned green. Cars are moving to the right, heading toward the next red light.

    3. The second light turned green precisely after the time it takes to travel from light 1 to light 2 at 25 mph. The light turn green for the first car just in time. This is the optimal condition when every car travels at 25 mph.

    4. The first car speeds and pull away from the pack. It hit the third light too soon before it turns green. It has to come to a complete stop at the red light.

    5. The third light turns green. The first car have to start from a complete stop, slowing down the entire pack.

    Because of the signal timing, it is optimal for every car travels at precisely 25 mph. At long as there are enough traffic, it is almost impossible for cars to go much faster than 25 mph.

    This scheme is impossible on a two way street. The light cannot be set to turn green at the right time for traffic coming from both direction. Therefore signal timing cannot be used to regulate the traffic speed as in a one way street. Instead, they will probably keep the signal green for a longer period to maintain the traffic flow. This will probably make it easier for speeding. You can see plenty of evidence of this on 19th ave. Now imagine if 19th ave were designed as two separate one way streets with signal synchronization.

  • I pass the 10th and Fulton entrance to the concourse garage almost every day on Muni, and it rarely has the “garage full” sign on. I’d like to see some facts about how often the garage is full, which would demonstrate whether the sign is necessary in the first place.

    Octavia Boulevard is a bottleneck now because city voters chose to tear down the Central Freeway overpass there. City progressives and the anti-car bicycle movement—a lot of overlap there—are still congratulating themselves for getting rid of the freeway but are in denial about the trade-off: a lot of that East/West freeway traffic—45,000 cars a day according to DPT—is now on Octavia Blvd., which is jammed up most of the day.

    A contributing factor to the Octavia Blvd. bottleneck: the ban on right turns onto the freeway from the Market/Octavia intersection.

  • @rob, you cannot right turn onto the freeway from Market St back then when there was a freeway overpass either. Doesn’t sound like it should contribute to any new problem.

  • patrick


    you can say street style all you want, it’s still a load of BS.

    why don’t you google image search “street sign” and “freeway sign” and see which these sfgo signs are more like?

    you said regarding mobile signs:

    “1. They are UGLY. Put the ugly orange next to the cool silver and the cool silver will win every time.
    2. They are easily vandalized. It’s kind of hard (but not impossible) to spray paint something that’s 20 feet high.
    3. The batteries don’t last as long as they claim. How many of those message boards have you seen blank when they should say something. Chances are, the batteries died even though they are suppose to recharge by solar power.
    4. Who’s going to change the message every time it needs to be changed? Sending someone out there every is time consuming.”

    1. The signs being proposed are uglier
    2. They are correspondingly easier to repair. Sometime vandals prefer less accessible places, then their vandalism is harder to correct.
    3. Use bigger batteries
    4. Use WiFi.

    Mobile signs can provide all the benefits you mentioned, they can alert you of street closures just as well as a permanent freeway style sign, plus they are not even needed when there are no issues.

    Ultimately it’s a safety issue, these sfgo signs will be taking driver’s eyes off the road and direct them to the sky, just when approaching a dangerous intersection, for very dubious, and infrequent benefits.

  • “@rob, you cannot right turn onto the freeway from Market St back then when there was a freeway overpass either. Doesn’t sound like it should contribute to any new problem.”

    In combination with the horrific traffic on the new, unimproved Octavia Blvd., it’s another contributing factor, since the ban on the right turn forces drivers to go all the way to 13th and South Van Ness to get on the freeway. As recent traffic studies by DPT have shown, all the nearby streets and intersections have a lot more traffic since Octavia opened up in 2005.

  • Elias

    taomom, you listed some good ideas for discouraging car use. There is one more thing you can add to the list: charge a higher price for residential parking permits. This will discourage owning a car in the city, and raise more tax money, mostly from people who can easily pay it.

    It is ridiculous IMO that they are only charging $74 per year. There are people on Craigslist willing to pay $100 to $500 per month for a parking space. The city is renting its parking spaces for less than 10% of their market value. You can see my source at . They can charge $1000 per year and still probably fill up most or all of the spaces.

  • SFCTA über Alles

    Note that empire-building SFCTA capo Jose-Luis “Doyle Drive Central Subway” Moscovich just loves SFGo.

    We have the usual perfect storm where the agency that benefits from the cash grab is the same one that is allocating the cash. More staff, more “program oversight”, more power. There’s no way out.

    Wake me up when any bus anywhere in San Francisco reliably receives any priority at any intersection in the city.

  • Pan Handle Resident


    We are wondering where YOU live and more importantly who you work for. We LIVE HERE. We interact with these streets everyday. We know first hand, from the ground what the impact will be.

    Folks, neighbors and countrymen, lend me your common sense. These days, financial and political motivations are trying to talk us out of common sense based reactions to a BAD IDEA.

    I’m not going to get sucked into a PC debate where everyone takes a contrarian position just to be different. There is power in numbers and your local politicians care a lot about what we think.

    Let’s stop this deconstructionism and just GET IT FOR WHAT IT IS – A BAD IDEA BEING FORCED DOWN OUR THROATS.

    When everyone who is going to be impacted takes a different position and argue among themselves – guess what – they get their way because there is no consensus. Next thing you know the signs go up.

    The City is us, the neighborhood is us, the local govt is for us. So speak up and please trust your common sense, support your neighbors, think of the people living along Fell and Oak and ask yourself why we need an electric sign in a residential neighborhood.

  • Taomom for Mobility Czar! Serious.

  • Filamino

    @patrick It’s obvious you don’t work with these electronic signs, nor do you ever drive, because, on the contrary, every one of YOUR responses is BS. I deal with these mobile signs all the time setting them up in my construction job (no, I am not affiliated with this sfgo project or anything other project on this site).

    Your responses:
    1. The signs being proposed are uglier.
    2. They are correspondingly easier to repair. Sometime vandals prefer less accessible places, then their vandalism is harder to correct.
    3. Use bigger batteries
    4. Use WiFi.

    1. Whatever. If that’s so, then why does the silver/black design of say, an Apple MacBook, continue to garner industrial awards? I’ve never heard anything positive about orange/black (except strangely, here). In fact, when when these signs are left out there by accident, I’ve gotten complaints “to get that ugly thing outta here”.
    2. What kind of logic is that? So, for example, on a bus, you’re saying more vandals are willing to spray paint the front of a bus near the driver rather than the back of a bus? Try riding MUNI for once.
    3. Wow. More vandal targets! They can now steal the extra battery packs attached to the signs.
    4. You still have to be near the sign.

    The higher position of the proposed signs above the road are much easier to see and help keep the driver’s eyes on the road ahead which makes it safer. I’m sure most any other driver (except you) will agree with the above. Try driving for once.

    If I did live on Fell/Oak or any other major thoroughfare, I don’t have a problem. I have lived in all over the City (including I guess what you call NOPA). Unlike the NIMBYs here who look all these types of signs as “freeway signs”, I look at the complete picture of the need, purpose, impacts, etc. of these electronic signs, and recognize that are useful for the entire city AS A WHOLE. That’s common sense. These signs are NOT the big monsters that you people make them to be. They are made smaller to fit the urban city neighborhood atmosphere that is along the Fell/Oak corridor. Compare the proposed sign with the one that used to be at Oak/Laguna. The Oak/Laguna sign WAS a “freeway-type” sign, which I agree, was way too big and is now gone.

    It’s unfortunate that Fell/Oak is THE only way to get from east to west and vice versa, but the electronic sign is still the best way to warn people what is happening up ahead. You continue to fail proving that this street-type electronic sign will tarnish the neighborhood by creating more traffic and speeding.

  • patrick

    If your job is placing and removing temporary signs, then do it and stop complaining, or get another job.

    1. Sure, these signs look exactly like an apple mac book, how could I have been so mistaken!?

    2. I said more inaccessible, not easier to get caught. The front of a bus is much easier to get caught, and is actually more accessible. Ever notice how graffiti up at the top of a building never gets fixed, but graffiti on a low wall next to the sidewalk quickly gets painted over? That’s what I’m talking about. But on the other hand even if it’s easier to vandalize the portable ones, it’s also correspondingly easier to fix, for exactly the same reasons. Plus the money you save on not putting in giant freeway style signs means you can buy plenty of extra portables.

    3. Your response makes no sense.

    4. Use an extender antenna, or use a different wireless technology, like cellular or a radio antenna that has no range issues. It’s not difficult, nor expensive.

    I agree that electric signs can be useful, but mobile ones are much more useful as they can easily be placed where needed when needed.

    Ultimately vandalism is no excuse to not use the temporary signs. Whoever is managing needs to keep them properly maintained, just like the city would need to keep a permanent sign properly maintained.

    A taller sign keeps eyes on the road? sure, that makes sense.

    “It’s unfortunate that Fell/Oak is THE only way to get from east to west and vice versa” is BS. It’s the only way for a small corridor to get east and west on 1 way streets with timed signals.

  • The North Panhandle and Alamo Square neighborhood associations have launched a “No on SFgo” campaign and have sent letters to Supervisor Mirkarimi and to MTA officials expressing their opposition and requesting a reconsideration of the signs now on Fell and Oak. Leaders express optimism that a win-win alternative solution can be found for the Fell Street sign and that the Oak Street sign will be removed altogether.

  • MTA decides to remove the Oak Street SFgo sign and considers moving the Fell St sign.

    Friday afternoon, Oct. 2, SFgo project manager, Cheryl Liu, replied to neighbors’s questions posted on BIKE NOPA about the Fell and Oak Street signs and in a preface announced the decision on Oak and Fell Streets. One down, one to go….does the sign on Fell just west of Divisadero become more acceptable one block further west between Baker and Broderick along the DMV site? see MTA’s five page response to questions on BIKE NOPA.


NoPa Neighborhood Fights to Calm its Residential Freeway

Cars regularly block the bike lane on Fell Street near the Arco Station. Photo: Bryan Goebel In a city where people and cars regularly jostle for space, it’s not uncommon to have speeding traffic just inches or feet from pedestrians, homes, and parks. This spatial conflict is especially pronounced on Fell and Oak Streets, which […]

Neighborhood Outreach Continues for Fell and Oak Bikeways

Fourteen years of community-driven efforts to improve conditions on Fell and Oak Streets around the Panhandle are finally paying off. The outreach continues on a vision for separated bikeways that would provide San Franciscans safe access to the flattest route connecting the western neighborhoods to areas east while making the neighborhood more livable for residents and businesses. […]

SFMTA: Fell and Oak Bike Lanes Are Yielding Promising Safety Results

The SFMTA has released some preliminary survey results showing that the three-block bike lanes on Fell and Oak Streets, along with other safety measures, have resulted in calmer motor traffic, an increased sense of safety among bicycle commuters, and a decrease in illegal bicycling behaviors. On Fell and Oak, between Scott and Baker Streets — the connection from the […]