Supes Urge Regional Funding for Complete Street Redesign of Masonic

Supervisors Eric Mar, Mark Farrell, and London Breed.

The plan to overhaul deadly Masonic Avenue with pedestrian safety upgrades and raised, protected bike lanes could get much of its funding from a regional grant program. The Masonic project has received a strong endorsement from three members of the Board of Supervisors, who sent a letter last week to the head of the SF County Transportation Authority, urging the agency to make Masonic a priority as it decides which projects it will recommend to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for funding.

Image: SF Planning Department's City Design Group

Chances that the $20 million project will get a substantial chunk from the MTC’s “One Bay Area Grant” are promising. When the SFCTA presented [PDF] its initial list of ten potential OBAG projects in December, Masonic was in the “upper tier.” It remains to be seen how much funding will go to Masonic, which along with other projects, such as the redesign of Second Street, is in the running for a limited pool of funds. The SF Municipal Transportation Agency applied for $16 million in OBAG funds for Masonic, but the SFCTA says only $35 million will be available for $54 million in funding requests citywide.

In their letter to SFCTA Acting Executive Director Maria Lombardo [PDF], Supervisors Eric Mar, Mark Farrell, and London Breed pointed to “a number of high-profile collisions and fatalities on this route in recent years,” asserting that “we must act fast to improve this corridor.”

We recognize there are multiple candidate projects with needs exceeding the total available funds, but we ask you to prioritize Masonic Avenue. We consider it a matter of public safety. The project will rectify what is now a fundamentally unsafe street design. It will also improve transit on a major north-south corridor, reduce environmental impact, and increase livability, thus meeting all the criteria established in the Transportation Plan.

Masonic is the only north-south bike route in the area, but is currently very unsafe and unappealing for most riders. The sidewalk bulb-outs, grade-separated bikeways, and tree-lined median are desperately needed on Masonic Avenue.

Along with Masonic, the upper-tier projects competing for OBAG funds include the planned redesign of Second Street, which is slated to receive similar improvements, such as parking-protected bike lanes, a road diet, and pedestrian bulb-outs. The SFMTA applied for $11.6 million in OBAG funds for that project, which is projected to cost $13 million. Also on the list are pedestrian safety improvements on Broadway in Chinatown, and pedestrian and bicycle improvements around the Transbay Transit Center. (See more on the selected projects in this presentation [PDF], and all 12 projects that were submitted for OBAG funds here [PDF].)

The SFCTA expects to issue its final project recommendations and funding requests to the MTC in May. From there, the MTC must approve the funding list of SF projects along with those from elsewhere in the Bay Area. In total, the OBAG program will provide $800 million to street improvement projects throughout the region over the next four years. Priority is given to “Complete Streets” (improving conditions for walking and biking) and “shovel-ready” projects.

With its extensive community planning process and a plan unanimously approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors, the Masonic project certainly fits those criteria.

In their letter, the supervisors praised “the work of the neighborhood associations and SFMTA staff,” noting the project’s overwhelming community support:

Community members have been working together for the past six years to make Masonic Avenue safer for residents and commuters… The unanimous approval at the SFMTA Board of Directors hearing in 2012 is a testament to the level of support this project has garnered.

  • What a terrible design.  This will increase car-bike accidents and pedestrian-bike accidents.

    Car-bike accidents will come from cars making right turns and not seeing bikes that are moving on the other side of the bus stop island.

    Pedestrian-bike accidents will come from peds stepping out into the relatively narrow bike lane without looking — will be especially dangerous in the downhill direction.

  • Gneiss

    Typical VC response.

  • Dbfaia

    Great to see thus critical project moving forward.

  • amy s

    What Eugene was probably referring to is if a car and bike are traveling Northbound on Masonic and the car makes a right turn onto Fulton, it is possible (esp. if a bus is at the bus stop) to not see a cyclist to your right at all and right-hook a cyclist who is continuing straight. 
    What would help somewhat is for the bus stop to be moved more mid-block. At least that way cyclists traveling straight would have a chance to take the lane.
    What else would work?

  • Richard Mlynarik

    Facts are stupid things.

  • Jim

    The northbound 43 stop could be moved to the far side stop (after the light, next to the Lucky’s) from the current near side stop (before the light, next to the Starbucks).  I’m guessing the proposed design retains the near side stop because the current stop doesn’t have an incline rather than having an incline for a near side stop.

  • The current design (Masonic St. today) minimizes bicycle accidents using one simple rule. Make the experience so hellish that almost anyone trying to bike there quickly gives up and rides on the sidewalk. The pedestrians don’t mind if you go slow and keep out of their way.

  • Gneiss

    Richard – what facts?  Like people die when bicycle infrastructure is right next to speeding trucks and cars?  Like no one cycles because it’s unconfortable being next to them?

    We’ve seen over and over how separated infrastructure saves lives and encourages cycling.  Thanks to guys (and I say that literally, because it’s an all male club here) like you, we’ve had no progress in making our streets safer for over 40 years.  The intersections can be designed with daylighting and rasised crosswalks to encourage motorists to slow and look.  Pedestrians and cyclists can mix next to bus stops.  Just look at how they are designed in Europe  and you can see co-existence of those structures.  Sheesh.

  • mikesonn

    If a driver doesn’t have a clear view of their turn, then they shouldn’t make said turn. QED.

  • reality check

    Sure, that’s great on paper but what happens in reality?

  • How does this project compare in importance to whatever else MTC has the opportunity to fix?

  • mikesonn

    I think it ranks under the MTC moving their offices…

  • Gneiss

    reality check – there are tons of youtube videos on how separated infrastructure works in Holland.  I’ve advise watching a few of them, and then you’ll see how the work ‘in reality’.

  • reality check

     Sorry Gneiss, the question was in response to mikesonn’s assertion.

  • mikesonn

    Reality is that we give any dumbass a license, don’t train them properly, and never give any follow instruction/retests to ensure they know what they are doing. Instead, we build our world so that these people feel forced to own/operate a vehicle at the peril of everyone else (driving or otherwise).

    That’s the reality.

  • According to the city’s own accident figures, Masonic Avenue is not unsafe at all, but that won’t get in the way of this “improvement.”

  • mikesonn

    101/280 rarely sees a pedestrian death on that same line of reasoning.

  • So the absence of accidents is evidence for…a safety problem? I live in that neighborhood and often cross Masonic and/or walk on it. It’s not unsafe at all.

  •  “Not unsafe at all” means “No injury accidents”. Do those figures show “No injury accidents”?

  • Murph: Is there any street in the city that has no accidents? According to the city, Masonic now carries more than 32,000 vehicles a day with relatively few accidents and 12,000 passengers a day on the #43 line. This project will screw up traffic for 44,000 people on behalf of a small minority of cyclists. What’s wrong with that picture?

  • Mom on a bike

    Ah, @002ec2dcc5273303fbfd34e45385ab64:disqus , now I understand what your comment meant (your comment isn’t threaded as a reply to @facebook-631671056:disqus ‘s). 

    Not to take away from your points, but though @f84b22d3acf35e1589e626b8e51fe1a4:disqus is puzzlingly dogmatic about vehicular cycling, you can’t really say it’s because of VCs like him that we haven’t made progress making our streets safer. Heck, if more people want to ditch their cars and be VCs, that works for me! The more, the merrier! If they want to come on here and bitch about separated cycling facilities for the rest of us, well, I certainly disagree with them too. And I too don’t understand why they don’t see how well it all works in Europe. But no harm, no foul.

    Now, those people writing to SFMTA and the BoS protesting the JFK bike lanes, on the other hand–THOSE guys are the ones causing problems for all of us. And some of those guys are VC’s. Those guys suck.

    VCs, come on here and tell us why you can’t just go ahead and ride with the cars and let the rest of us worry about using the desperately-needed cycling infrastructure our city needs.

  • Jesse

    I don’t remember you bringing this up at the 3 meetings.  I guess we’ll see how much good complaining on a blog will do.

  • James

    How do you report nearly being ran over by a car on Masonic?  

  • I blogged about the first meeting on Screwing Up Masonic Avenue:

    But no, blogging doesn’t seem to do much good—yet. But City Hall was surprised at the negative feedback they got on the Fell/Oak bike project. Since the Masonic project will take away even more street parking, they should brace themselves for even more pushback from the neighborhood.

  • You just reported it, Jesse. Somebody give that guy a hanky.

  • Bob Gunderson
  • Gneiss

    The city has already adjusted the the light timing on Masonic to slow people down to 25 mph, so an percieved issues with travel times have already taken place.

    I don’t see how removing parking to install bike lanes is going to ‘screw up traffic’.  In fact, without parking on those blocks, traffic will flow more smoothly, because you won’t have people backing in/out of parking spaces while buses are trying to crawl up and down the hills.  The biggest impact would be to people from outside the neighborhood trying to find free parking. 

    What I see from you – Rob – is someone who can’t stand the idea that people on bikes – maybe even children who go to school along those blocks, might have greater subjective safety and an easier route to the northernart of the city then what exists currently.

  • mikesonn

    Remember that parking in this area still isn’t fully RPP, just like Fell/Oak.

    STOP THE MADNESS! RPP these areas ASAP.

  • mikesonn

    FTFY “blogging doesn’t seem to do much good—ever”

  • City Hall is well aware that there are a few cranks out there that will complain about everything

  • Gneis:

    You don’t seem to be familiar with the actual project:

    Signal timing is not the point, since the project will eliminate all the street parking on both sides of Masonic from Fell to Geary. Those parking lanes are now used to create traffic lanes during commute hours in the morning and the evening. Once they are gone, the commute hour traffic bottleneck will linger throughout the day, making traffic worse for the thousands of people who now rely on Masonic. Even worse the project will create bulbouts at the bus stops—like on Divisadero now—that will back up traffic behind the #43 line whenever it pulls over to a bus stop.

    All this will be done to benefit a completely unknown and speculative number of cyclists on a future “improved” Masonic. Encouraging children to ride bikes to school on city streets just shows that everyone/everything is an accessory to your risky hobby.

  • Mom on a bike

    Well, just because we’ve had a couple deaths and numerous serious injury crashes on Masonic in the past 5 years doesn’t mean it’s dangerous. But man…jeez…ONE child on a bike involved in a car vs. bike accident in the last 10 years in SF (child, not a scratch)….we biking parents are accessories to murder! Murderrrrrr!

    Ah yes, it’s time for another rigorous data analysis brought to you by Rob Anderson!

     @2f8320f2f04a04fcab24d67fe8a3bd5b:disqus I think you have some new material here.

  • Gneiss

    Risky hobby indeed.  What’s the number one killer of people between the ages of 5 and 25 in this country?  Not bicycles but… Automobile crashes.  If there’s a risk here it is with the cars rather than those ‘risky’ kids on bikes.  But according to you, all parents who teach their kids to bike in San Francisco are part of some kind of bizarre cult.  Please.  Go back to your blog.

  • Mom on a Bike:

    The two deaths on Masonic were caused by drunk drivers and had nothing to do with bike lanes. The cyclist, however, might have survived if he had been wearing a helmet.

    But there are very few cyclists are killed in SF—only one or two a year. But injury is much more common. And it’s head injuries to children that are the real problem with encouraging children to ride bikes.

  • Gneiss

    Actually the number one and two causes of head injuries according to the CDC are 1) Falls (35.2%) and 2) Automobile crashes (17.3%).  If anything, we should all be wearing helmets when we take a shower and in buses, trucks and automobiles.

    To say that ‘drunk driving’ is the only cause is refusing to admit that high speed on residential streets is a contributing factor to the crashes that kill people.  If the road was designed to keep speed below 25 mph, the likelyhood of fatal crashes, even if the driver is drunk would be far lower than it is now.

  • mikesonn

    This whole not being able to keep a thread together HAS to stop. Reading the comments of a post that Rob has graced with his presence is beyond frustrating (the content is hard enough to deal with).

    Aaron, there has to be something that can be done.

  • Mom on a bike

    Rob, stop putting your comments at the top by failing to click on the ‘Reply’ link.

    Rob, stop spamming us with links to your rant-box that no one in their right mind will read.

    Encouraging children to ride bikes will court head injuries? Rob, stop. Just stop.

  • “Keeping a thread together”? This thread is about redesigning Masonic Avenue to make bike lanes by removing 167 street parking spaces based on a bogus “safety” claim. That that’s a terrible idea is of course a minority opinion on Streetsblog, but your readers need to be aware of contrary views.

    Gneiss: There are links in the post I linked that contradict your claim on children and head injuries.

    The whole concussion issue is becoming more apparent to everyone in the sports world. The NFL is trying to deal with its serious concussion issue. When I was a lad, boxing was a lot bigger in the media than it is now, with national telecasts of boxing matches on Wednesday and Friday nights. That boxing causes brain damage became increasingly obvious and impossible to ignore. Something similar is happening with football and hockey.

    Yes, riding bikes has long been part of childhood, but the dangers—especially head injuries—are undeniable, which is why children must wear helmets.

  • mikesonn

    You are posting to the top and not within threads. Learn to use the Internet, it isn’t hard. Until then, stop commenting and making this difficult to follow, your opinions aside.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed with @mikesonn:disqus. As soon as @ea1809617b00430091318d0e92a6ef00:disqus jumps in, this whole thing gets scattered and ridiculous. Can Streetsblog have a policy that your posts will be removed if a post which is clearly a response to another thread doesn’t use the “Reply” button?

    Rob: are you intentionally avoiding using the “Reply” button? Or can you seriously not find it? You run a blog, so don’t you have some idea how all this works?

  • @ea1809617b00430091318d0e92a6ef00:disqus We have talked about this before and I have warned you that if you keep doing it, you will be banned. I’ve seen you use the “reply” button before, and just about every other regular commenter does it. You even write your own blog, so I doubt that you’re unable to figure it out. This a last warning: If you keep starting new threads every time you leave a comment, you will be banned.

  • The street design in this area–that there are no other through north-south streets for half a mile in either direction–is just very unfortunate. It funnels everyone and everything to this one road. Add to this the fact that the lights are timed on Masonic and not on Divisadero or Stanyan (the other major car traffic arterials) and you have even more traffic volume pushed onto Masonic. Add to this that Muni fundamentally does a much better job moving people east-west than north-south, which encourages north-south movement to go by private car, and you get even more traffic. Add to this that the Presidio has become a higher frequency destination with more and more jobs and a school located there, (and Masonic to Presidio Ave is the best way to get there from many parts of the city,) and you’ve got even more traffic on Masonic.

    There are a few streets in San Francisco I go to great lengths to avoid when bicycling. Fulton and Lincoln west of Stanyan are two, but in those cases I have the far better alternative of GG Park. Masonic I will avoid at all costs–except when I just can’t. When I absolutely have to get somewhere between Turk and Geary on Masonic, I will ride on the sidewalk. I hate doing it, but it’s just an awful, awful stretch of road. I honestly don’t know how anyone bicycles to the Trader Joe’s on Masonic just north of Geary. That store is lost to me as a bicyclist.

    But as a car driver, I love Masonic. It’s one of the best north-south streets in the city.  The timed lights combined with no left-hand turns during commute hours move a lot of volume. However, although I may love timed lights as a driver, I admit that even ones set at 25mph encourage cars to go fast, especially those at the back of the pack. I have often seen cars go anywhere from 30 to 45 trying to make a light on Masonic. And this kind of speed is highly unsafe for bicyclists without clear separation from cars. (Even with this separation, it’s not exactly pleasant.)

    A road diet for Masonic is appropriate given all the various constituents the street needs to serve. However, some thought should be given to mitigating the traffic volume on the street. One possibility is to have Divisadero shoulder more traffic. This could easily happen just through eliminating left-hand turns during commute hours. Plus the 43 on Masonic needs to be beefed up so it runs more frequently into the Presidio. (Lack of frequency just before and after school hours induces lots of parents to drive.) During the morning commute I’ve seen a lot of people taking Masonic to Bush which then is a fast route downtown. Though it might not seem obvious, less parking available downtown, increased parking rates for the space that is available, combined with increased speed and frequency of the N line and adding some more expresses buses, might very well reduce traffic on Masonic. Or we could make Pine and Bush two way streets again, eliminating these mini-freeways to and from downtown. This would probably quash half the traffic on Masonic overnight. (Though I would shed big tears because, as a driver, I love, love, love Pine.)

    In the end, what we design for is what we get. What is more important–a livable neighborhood in the center of the city or faster commute times for people in the outer avenues? (If you live in the outer avenues, you’re going to say commute times.)  Do we frustrate people who’ve been driving for twenty years in San Francisco, or do we frustrate those who want to bike and walk safely and pleasantly? (If you’ve been driving 20 years, you’re going to say frustrate the bicyclists.) Do we make driving less convenient which will create demand for improved transit, or do we wait until we have better transit before making driving more difficult? Should our cities require as little physical exertion as possible if that’s what people want, or does basic health so require walking as a daily experience that it should be obligatory by design, no less a public health issue than seatbelts or smoking regulations? These are not easy trade-offs by any means. And perhaps we can accommodate both opposing sides more than seems apparent on the surface. But again, what we design for, what we build out, is the city we get.

  • No – Rob cannot figure out the reply button – the tin foil hat he is wearing is messing with his brain. He stopped taking comments on his blog because “My computer was hacked” which is code for “too many people were making fun of me on my blog”.

  • James

    How fast do you think the average speed is on Masonic? Check out that speed counter one time and tell me if you see anything under 25 miles per hour.

  • Bob Gunderson
  • The 50 Jobs Project

    That is incorrect. My friend was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was the victim of an unfortunate accident. Her death was not caused by a drunk driver.

  • The 50 Jobs Project

    It is stupid to say ONLY 1 to 2 deaths a year. That is careless and insensitive. I am sure you would feel differently if that one person a year was your sibling, friend or child.


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