Presidio Launches Temporary Street Closure and Traffic Calming Study

IMG_0373.jpgPresidio Boulevard. Photo: Michael Rhodes

In an effort to make the Presidio function less like a traffic shortcut and more like a national park, the Presidio Trust is trying out an idea that’s caught on in the dense city that borders it: a trial street closure. From today until October 27, Presidio Boulevard will be closed to private automobiles between West Pacific Avenue and Upper Simonds Loop [map PDF], as the Presidio Trust and the MTA study traffic impacts. Muni and emergency vehicles will still have full access.

Traffic on Presidio Boulevard is about 60 percent cut-through, compared to 50 percent in the park as a whole. When the Doyle Drive replacement project is completed in 2013, that volume could go even higher, since the newly constructed Presidio Parkway will have a new interchange that will make Presidio Boulevard an attractive approach route for drivers.

The Presidio Trust wants to experiment with road closures that will train drivers not to use routes through the park once Presidio Parkway – the Doyle Drive replacement – opens. Planners are rushing to study the traffic impacts under regular circumstances since construction will begin later this year, altering the area’s normal traffic patterns.

IMG_0391.jpgOver half of Presidio Bouulevard’s traffic is cut-through. Photo: Michael Rhodes

About 35,000 automobiles use the park’s roads every day, half of it cut-through. That figure does not include traffic on the two highways through the park, CA-1 (Park Presidio Boulevard) and US-101 (Doyle Drive), which is almost entirely cut-through.

"We feel like, as a national park, we really need to prioritize our park users over folks who are just using us as a cut-through and maybe going a little faster than they should," said Presidio Trust spokesperson Dana Polk. While CA-1 and US-101 bring considerable noise and emissions to the park, their grade separation makes them less of an immediate safety threat to park users, she said.

"Our concern is, we’re putting in a lot of new trails, and we’re getting more and more recreational use," said Polk. "We really want to maintain the level of safety we have now for bikers and walkers, runners, hikers, and also just discourage people from using the national park as a shortcut." A majority of that shortcut traffic uses Presidio Boulevard, she said.

Some of the Presidio’s 3,500 tenants are concerned about the mobility impact the road closure will have. The Presidio Trust is considering adding a shopping shuttle to Laurel Village, and is looking at making immediate upgrades to the trails in the east side of the park, many of which are unpaved and unsuitable for bikes or strollers. "There were some people who live on this side of the park who could walk to the Julius Kahn playground but haven’t done so because they feel the trails would be hard to maneuver with a stroller," said Polk. "We’d want to do it right away so people could have that option during the study period."

IMG_0403.jpgCA-1, shown here passing next to Mountain Lake Park. CA-1 and US-101 will remain open during the traffic calming trial. Photo: Michael Rhodes

Unlike the city’s Pavement to Parks trial plazas, there are no plans for an extension if the trial succeeds. There has been discussion, however, of a Sunday Streets style event during the closure, if it can be organized in time. Similar to the temporary plaza in North Beach, it could provide an opportunity to make the most of a space freed-up for other reasons.

While the traffic experiments on Market Street are the big car-free news today, it’s worth keeping on eye on the Presidio, a national park where pedestrians and bicyclists ought to be able to find respite, but often find themselves in more conflict with cars than they do on some of the city’s most unreformed traffic sewers.

  • Although I know the Presidio is a national park and should be accessible to everyone, it would be nice if this traffic calming program was a more permanent arrangement. The problem is that the roads of the Presidio are so accessible that people forget that it IS a national park. That’s why I’m always amazed at how nasty motorists can be toward me riding on a bike within the Presidio or on a road entering it.

    The last paragraph of this post speaks to my experience. I regularly ride my bike on Presidio Blvd. to the YMCA. I find that people get really irritated that I’m in their way despite the 25 mph. speed limit signs posted and a speed indicator sign that displays to drivers how fast they are going. Because that part of the road is downhill, I regularly see my own speed (on my bike) posted at over the speed limit.

    I’ve had drivers cross the double yellow line with oncoming traffic ahead to get around me or just yell at me simply because I was on a bike in front of them. That particular road is too narrow to share side by side.

    I mostly travel on Presidio Blvd. in the morning at commute time. Most of the cars traveling through this area (with only the driver in the car) turn at Lombard to go out of the park and to other parts of the city.

  • Nick

    Has there ever been a survey of cyclists on what changes to the bike infrastructure they’d like to see in the Presidio? They are making improvements (like green bike lanes) but it seems that there’s been little input or feedback from the people who it affects.

    I read somewhere else that they are building SFSU student housing there and they are designing it so that there is access to the local bike routes in the city. Any merit to this?

  • jeff

    @ Nick: In 2002 the National Park Service and the Presidio Trust released a draft of their “Presidio Trails and Bikeways Master Plan and Environmental Assessment” for which they invited public comment. The time frame was “to guide management of Presidio trails and bikeways for the next 20 years”. I, like many others at the time, submitted my comments and suggestions. As you know, there have been many improvements since then, though I don’t know to what degree this plan was implemented, nor do I know the its current status. I’m sure a call or email to the relevant offices would get you all the info you need – the folks I talked with at the time were very appreciative of feedback from the public.

  • jim

    Just a point of clarification, since some of the police enforcing this particular closure didn’t seem to understand today:

    Presidio Blvd. is still open to cyclists.

    As a messenger I use it all the time, and today one of my co-workers was turned away by an officer at Presidio/Liggett twice. I talked to Chris at the Presidio Trust offices after hearing this and he reassured me that, yes, Presidio is still open to cyclists. If you’re cycling and are stopped by the law, get the officer’s name/badge # and call the Presidio Trust at 561-5300 to let them know who diverted you. I’m pretty sure the whole point of the closure is to make the park more hospitable for cyclists/pedestrians..

  • As an employee in the Presidio, this closure adds 15 minutes, each way, to my daily commute. Further, I have spoken with officials from the Presidio Trust, and it is clear that this is a first step in permanently close the Presidio Gate to traffic.

    Again, since I’m employed by the biggest tenant in the park, I think having access to my job site restricted is unreasonable.

    While the Presidio is a National Park, it is a COMMERCIAL park, unlike Yosemite or Yellow Stone. The Trust is making the park self-sustaining by providing commercial and residential rental properties, making this a very unique type of National Park. It is now more like an additional neighborhood in San Francisco and restricting access to it is not justifiable.

  • I drive into the Presdio through the Presidio gate in the am on at least a weekly basis, carpooling with four other people. On Tuesday, going via Arguello, it took me five minutes longer to get to the parade grounds. I didn’t like it particularly, but it didn’t kill me. I think it did seriously cut down on the folks who aren’t going to the Presidio but just cutting through.

    Driving a private car is not a right; it’s not even a good thing. I try to take my car only when other alternatives are excruciatingly inconvenient (i.e. they take three to four times as long, or I’m in between a rock and a hard place in how much time I have between appointments.) A major problem is that Muni doesn’t serve the Presidio particularly well at present. To get from Noe Valley to the parade grounds can take up to an hour, and it’s only four silly miles. (Involves 2 or 3 buses and multi blocks of walking.) It takes 15 minutes to drive. (Well, 20 now with the closure of Presidio gate.)

    Last year I emailed the Presidio folks requesting a physically separated bike lane from the Presidio gate to the parade grounds area. It’s the Presdio–there’s lots of space, they could make this happen. I personally do not go over 20 mph on my bike. I don’t feel safe. I am not a twenty-eight year old male dressed in lycra. I just don’t do it. So for me, “taking the lane” down that hill is guaranteed to make the drivers behind me bonkers. I don’t want to make them crazy–I’d much rather have my own lane. Someone from the Presidio answered me politely that because bicyclists can “take the lane” there is no reason to create a bike lane going down hill. My take on it is that the Presidio is interested in providing recreational bicycling opportunities for twenty-eight year old males but not transportation bicycling infrastructure for the majority of the human race. Although, if they keep the Presidio gate closed, then it all becomes a permanent bike lane and I’ll have no reason to complain. I have to say I did appreciate that a human actually responded to my request, even if negatively.

  • Charlie, a resident

    Approximately 50 of us met with Amy Marshall, a Presidio Trust traffic engineer, and Tia Lombardi from Public Affairs, last Thursday evening. While they went into detail on describing the purpose of the study (a bit late for the 140 of us residents who signed a petition in protest to the closure without public involvement), the details from previous traffic studies and the raw data gathered on cut through traffic is still not available. The Girard interchange was clearly designed (20+ years ago?) to bring traffic down Presidio and funnel it out of the Park. Trying to come up with ways to mitigate it now is wise but is going to be difficult without a higher level of involvement from residents, employers and employees. We’d like better, more liveable streets for those of us who walk/run (yes, with kids, strollers and dogs) and ride regularly and who also use Presidio Gate as our primary mode of egress. We’re paying a premium to live here and support the park and are strong stewards of the Park, but goodness sakes, when we signed our lease we didn’t expect to drive the long way around (more pollution, time, etc.) and to compete with diverted traffic on the return!

    This material below was sent to the formal comment email address at In addition, the number to call with comments is Public Affairs 415 561 5418.

    More detailed observations below and two immediate safety issues. These written observations are at Andrea’s request to reinforce the detail in my phone call.

    The safety issues are excessive lost, speeding traffic into the Liggett Residential Area and on West Pacific by Julius Kahn. Yes, this is the first day, but I’m sure this will continue for several. Armored cars, speeders going the wrong way on Liggett and people attempting to past left around those u-turning on West Pacific don’t bode well.

    Potential solutions:

    -Place a “NO OUTLET” sign on Liggett at the neighborhood entrance.

    -Place a “NO OUTLET TO PRESIDIO GATE” sign adjacent to Liggett at the four way stop at Liggett, Simonds Loop and Presidio. Similar to the one on Arguello saying, to the best of my recollection, “NO ACCESS TO LOMBARD GATE”. [this was done]

    -Traffic enforcement ticketing speeders on West Pacific must be stepped up to prevent an accident. A speed bump and two stop signs aren’t enough to protect the children visiting one of San Francisco’s best loved playgrounds. A few days of high profile radar guns will calm traffic quickly.

    -Immediately place a mobile radar unit next to JK on West Pacific.

    -On West Pacific: fix the parking, enforce the speed limit (and perhaps a temporary reduction to 10 or 15 mph), clearly mark the boundaries of the road and designate more crosswalks with stripes and stanchions.

    Thanks for your help in making the closure safe!

    Charlie and Beth ____
    ____ Liggett Ave
    415 ——–


    It was oddly quiet going out and around to the Arguello Gate — and only slower by the drive time — about 5 minutes. Coming back in was busier and added about 10 minutes due to traffic in the main post and some confusion near the Lombard three way stop but tolerable. The Westbound one way diversion around the main post is good, but directs it near the schools on the Eastbound return trip, which seems hazardous.

    JK from 10:30-11:15 am:
    I spent this morning at JK with the kids and had two speeders blast by **while I was talking to an officer** on the side of West Pacific. I’ve suggested to each officer (and to Amy Marshall, who I saw in passing on West Pacific) that they get a temporary speed limit at 10 or 15 MPH and a portable radar in place on West Pacific — and finally do some speed enforcement. Scary what’s going on at JK:

    -Mixed parallel and nose in parking

    -No additional markings or stripes to show where to park

    -Definitely no “sidewalk next to the wall”, though that’s not possible anyway given the condition of the ground near the wall

    -People up against the roadway between cars with doors open and two lanes of traffic

    -Vastly increased number of clueless speeders trying to make up for their lost time

    -Commuters/cut throughers trying to pass to the left or right around people slowing for speed bump and parking

    -As predicted, parallel parking results in much longer walks from parking to park for people with dogs and kids and more time in the roadway.

    -The mounted cop (on foot so no joy for the kids) giving mandatory tickets to nose-in parkers instead of warnings, though he was exceptionally nice about it and looked like he really regretted it!

    -In the space of three minutes, a limo driver and then an irate Pacific Heights woman stopped to berate the poor officer — who didn’t have the hand-outs they have at the Presidio Blvd barricades. Each time I suggested that the cut throughers call the Trust — they couldn’t understand why they, “just couldn’t go down the street — it’s only a block”.

    -At 10:15 am, a city bucket truck was just finishing putting up a tiny “road closed ahead” sign on Presidio at Jackson, twenty feet in the air. A police officer mentioned that more signs were coming but apparently they haven’t put the other diversion signs up yet.

    At Liggett/Simonds/Presidio, in just over an hour at lunch — not peak commute mind you — we can see both traffic entering and exiting from our house:

    -I lost count over at over 50 vehicles wandering through Liggett trying to cut around to the Presidio Gate, many speeding to make up for lost time.

    -They almost all stop at the cul-de-sac trying to figure out where to go next. Many do loops around the cul-de-sac with increasing anxiety.

    -Two speeding vehicles went the wrong way down Liggett — which I’ve only seen once before in almost a year.

    -Four heavy delivery trucks (much larger than UPS trucks), two armored trucks and two shuttle buses doing the loop.

    -Cut throughers looking to get up Liggett are honking at Trust workers and UPS trucks and waking up the kids.

    -Cars making u-turns at Lover’s Lane.

    -Officer Wu, half of a K-9 team (seriously, horse and dog cops working traffic — doesn’t seem like a good use of resources — maybe they could hire some temporary security officers?), was parked on Presidio Blvd. My son is obsessed with the street closure in the hope that it might lead to ‘struction (construction) and woke up at 5:45 to see if the ‘cades (barricades) were up and to his joy later saw flashing lights. He requested we bring the officer a snack, which we did. In only a few minutes, he waved off (and actually had to physically stop in one case) people driving past the third closure sign and trying to continue up Presidio.

    -From what I saw when I drove through, there is no signage to direct people how to get back around once they come to the four way stop. There is nothing to lead them to think that they couldn’t cut through via Liggett. In fact, half the people I watched come to the stop then went on to Liggett and turned left up the one way at Liggett.

    -I put a traffic cone and sign in the crosswalk.

    The Park Police officers are unfailingly polite — but they have challenges in making this work. Cudos to them for doing their best!

  • Charlie, a resident

    @taomom — the specific reason given by the Trust for not paving the parallel and separate path that has been created by runners/walkers next to Presidio Blvd is that it would lead to excessive speed and potential liability for the Presidio Trust. Widening the roadway would be a solution for downhill. It seems like there might be a solution with curves, shoulders or stop signs for bikes using separated paved lanes parallel to Presidio Blvd and indicated with adequate signage. I have no doubt that in this bike savvy, hilly city there are some people who could devise a clever solution! Reintegrating traffic at the four way Simonds Loop/Liggett/Presidio stop would be a bit of a challenge with space constraints but I’m sure it’s feasible.

    Lover’s Lane could be and is used for pedestrians, but isn’t particularly wide — and the signage isn’t great. It’s a hazard when bikes going down hill are mixed in with dogs and strollers.

    I understand why bikes take the lane going down and am often behind one and slow to shelter them. I would take the lane if I were them to make the situation slightly safer — but downhill deserves a dedicated space. The uphill bikers generally keep themselves to the right of the white line. Good for them making it up the hill!

  • jackie hullar

    I think that there is way too much randomness to the decisions made by the Trust over the last decade. The most glaring contradiction was to see roads calmed and closed to avoid too much traffic inside the Presidio, only months after a two-year battle by the Trust to push through plans to develop the Main Post and add attractions like a hotel and an art museum that promised to bring in thousands more cars every day.
    I do understand that the Presidio is in a unique and difficult position as it is a National Park for nature and recreation that must also support itself (lots of tenants to pay the rent.) That is a paradox, BUT the Trust WAY of handling this challenge is very insensitive to all the different parties they affect. Their actions do not make sense. How is closing one road going to really CALM traffic? Arguello is now very very busy, and slow- good, but the traffic did not go away. Why divert traffic into one of the most dangerous streets to pedestrians and children, ie West Pacific? Why not work more carefully with the Doyle Drive redesign and the temporary closures? Bicyclists and hikers may not really want to hear this, but people like me go into the Presidio everyday to do business (dry cleaners, trainer, physical therapist, restaurant, bank, school…) And the Presidio needs me to do that, so that their tenants can pay the rent. And residents who pay rent deserve a say on how things are changes there. So, sorry, there are many different interest-groups to serve. And the Presidio Trust is not handing this challenge well at all.
    Of course, reducing traffic in a park is an honorable goal. But it is not that simple with the Presidio.
    Unfortunately, the Trust has lost its credibility with me and many others as its actions are insensitive and do not follow any pattern, let alone a solid mission which all are informed of. That is why so many are outraged.


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