Wayfinding Signs: A Nice Touch for the Developing “Green Connections” Plan

Click ##http://www.sf-planning.org/ftp/files/Citywide/green_connections/GC_Wkshp2-3_Network_1.pdf##here for full PDF##.

City planners continue developing a vision for a network of lush, pleasant streets prioritized for walking and biking between the city’s parks and waterfronts. Staff from the SF Planning Department plans to present its draft network [PDF] for the “Green Connections” project at an open house next Wednesday, October 3, and the public is invited to weigh in on the selected routes.

Photo: SFMTA

Coincidentally, one tool that could be used in Green Connections was recently implemented, at least temporarily, downtown and along the Embarcadero: Wayfinding signs listing estimated walking times to major destinations. Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe said they’re an important way to help encourage walking, since many visitors (and residents) may be surprised to learn how quickly they can hoof it from one neighborhood to another.

“A lot of people might take the bus to North Beach, but they don’t know that they could get there in 15 or 20 minutes from downtown,” said Stampe. “Showing how easy it is to get from one place to another will help get more people walking.”

The idea of Green Connections is to lay out a plan of street routes connecting parks and waterfront destinations to prioritize for greenery, pedestrian and bicycle improvements over the next 20 years. In addition to the Planning Department’s community meetings, Walk SF has been leading park-to-park walks along with Nature in the City, and the SF Parks Alliance over the year to field residents’ thoughts on how the corridors can be improved.

The signs at the Embarcadero were put in by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency to help point visitors to, from, and along the waterfront during the America’s Cup yacht races this year and next summer. They were recommended in the People Plan, which is aimed at making it easier for visitors to walk, bike and take transit to the crowded events.

“It’s really powerful to put the distance in times rather than miles. I think it just makes it much more manageable to envision and plan for,” said Stampe. “You could wait five minutes for the bus, or you could take 15 minutes and walk and really enjoy yourself.”

Not only would the signs be useful along Green Connections routes in other parts of the city, said Stampe, but they could also be complemented with informational signs about the local vegetation and wildlife on streets near parks to add an educational touch to the stroll.

After Wednesday’s open house meeting, planners will refine the map and choose six priority neighborhood corridors for which to create conceptual street designs. Planning staffers say the plan, which is scheduled to be finished in about a year, would be used to help inform future street improvement projects, with the goal of revamping all 25 proposed routes, totaling over 140 miles, within two decades.

Living in San Francisco, “It’s easy to forget that we’re on the water,” said Stampe. “If you live and work in an area that’s not close to the bay or the ocean, you may never get there. This is a way to help encourage people to enjoy some of the great beauties of our city.”

Here’s a list from the SFMTA of all 14 wayfinding sign locations:

1. Civic Center BART
2. Grove/Larkin
3. 25th and 36th
4. Embarcadero BART
5. Market and Spear
6. Caltrain Depot
7. Ferry Building
8. Marina Green
9. Fort Mason and Van Ness/North Point
10. Townsend and Embarcadero
11. Market and Ferry
12. Embarcadero and Green
13. Embarcadero and Bay
14. Bay and Fillmore

The Green Connections Open House will be held on Wednesday, October 3, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Rainbow Room of the LGBT Community Center at 1800 Market Street.

  • Anonymous

    Good idea. I’ve also seen them on bike routes (I believe Oakland has them). That seems much more useful to me than the obscure route numbers.

  • Swell stuff, good signage completes a good network and makes poor networks tolerable, whether for walking or biking or transit-ing. See for instance this prototype bicycle route sign developed for the SFBC’s Connecting the City, riffing on the great work that Jason Patton and the City of Oakland has done for bike wayfinding (likewise refined by Portland and other smart jurisdictions):


    Key destinations and directions, with distances and average time-to-bike (or walk) — that’s all you need, no clutter or ornament required. Complement signs like these with pavement stencil versions for foot-printing the details (as through the Wiggle, before we got the jumbo greenbacked sharrows) and we’ve got ourselves a legible route for humans to enjoy and traverse . . .

  • mikesonn

    Do any of these people come to North Beach???

    Grant as the north/south route from Yerba Buena to Fisherman’s Wharf? Um, it’s one-way.

    Vallejo???!!! Whatever. That map is junk. Who is paying these people?

    EDIT: ok this is a “green” network. Partially forgiven. But still.

  • I think this a fantastic idea. People drive in this city when walking would take them less time than finding parking.  But locals and tourists may need signs geared to different places. Lately when I’ve had people visiting me from out of town I pretty much refuse to drive them around, so I’ve developed walks hitting touristy high points. (Sometimes I will break down and allow a pedi-cab or cable car to cover a portion of the distance.)  You see so much more walking than driving or taking public transit, you understand the layout of the city better, and you gain a much better understanding of the character of the neighborhoods (which is a big part of San Francisco’s charm.)

    Ferry building to Coit Tower (up the lovely Greenwich Steps):  25 minutes
    Coit Tower to the curvy part of Lombard: 17 minutes
    Top of curvy part of Lombard to Hyde Street pier:  10 minutes
    Heart of Chinatown to Heart of North Beach:  10 minutes
    Union Square to SF MOMA:  10 minutes
    SF MOMA to Ferry building:  17 minutes

    Coit Tower to Pier 39 is only 14 minutes, but there are some places I refuse to go.

  • Lancette0

    The only kind of signs which are helpful are those with destinations, directions, distances and time like the ones developed by the SFBC that Andy mentioned. This type of signs have allowed me to navigate places such as Lafayette and Palo Alto on my bike without being thrown into fast and heavy traffic and freaking out. As a result, that’s where I go on the weekends when I’m in need of sunshine. And guess what? That’s where I spend (a little bit!) of money too.

    I agree with baklazhan that numbers are pretty worthless, especially if you don’t have the corresponding map to use as a reference. And what about these cute but completely useless butterfly, bird and plant names?

  • skanger o’neill

    Hoping “names” are placeholders — I don’t see the non-English speaking tourists (or English speaking ones) really making sense of directions like ‘take the coyote until you hit the salt marsh harvest mouse… then you’ll want to keep your eye open for the anise swallowtail’…

    Sounds a bit like the interpretive displays gang was in charge of naming…. such a great opportunity tho, just hope it comes back down to Earth before it’s implemented!

  • Ted King

    Please post your source for the wayfinding sign locations. #3 and #11 don’t make a lot of sense. #3 might be “25th and Third” (near Muni’s East Yard) while #11 might be “Ferry Plaza, near Market and Steuart”. Also, #9 would easier to find if it read “Fort Mason, near Van Ness and North Point”. Fort Mason is a place while the other two are streets.

  • As stated, it’s directly from the SFMTA.

  • Ted King

     Okay, was this a hardcopy press release, an e-mail, or a document on their website (sfmta.com) ?

  • It was an email through their spokesperson, Paul Rose.

  • Ted King

     Thanks for your replies. Please let Mr. Rose know that the list could do with some polishing before posting on their website.

  • Looks like they’re planning on making 22nd street go through from Texas to Missouri (or open up some currently private stairs: http://goo.gl/maps/kVQkr ). I’m pretty sure the rest of the paths/stairs through there connect.

  • Anonymous

    What is the walking speed used to arrive at the times?  2 MPH?  There is a big difference between a slow amble and a brisk walk. 

  • Ted King

    1) Source, please ?
    2) The slope between the Texas / 22nd elbow and Missouri is very steep and is waste ground – a fenced off alley / driveway and a barren area to the west. There’s a housing project to the southwest perched on high benches above a mixture of businesses (e.g. the S.F.Food Bank on Penn. and 23rd). I think that the existing around-the-block (Texas / Sierra / Missouri) route is going to be the shortest route for the time being.

  • Source: the map provided in this story.  That’s why it’s ‘looks like’.  The red line runs from 3rd to Potrero straight through on 22nd. Maybe they intended that straight line to mean popping north up to Sierra?


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