Lost Opportunity on Stockton Street

Another street is returned to the automobile

The dream of a pedestrianized Stockton. Image: The Plaza Perspective
The dream of a pedestrianized Stockton. Image: The Plaza Perspective

Calls to create a pedestrian haven on Lower Stockton Street went unheeded.

There was no ceremony and no fanfare, but at 1:25 this afternoon, a man in a gold Toyota became the first motorist to use Stockton Street, between Geary and Market, in seven years. Moments before, SFMTA workers removed gates, clearing the way for the newly paved street to be turned back over to cars.

At 1:25 p.m., this Toyota became the first car to drive down this section of Stockton Street in seven years. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
At 1:25 p.m., this Toyota became the first car to drive down this section of Stockton Street in seven years. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

The street was closed to traffic in 2012 to make way for construction of the Central Subway, now scheduled to open late this year, five years later than originally promised.

The closed stretch was also used for an open-streets event called Winter Walk, as seen in the picture below.

Winter Walk, a temporary closure of Stockton was so successful the city opted not to make it permanent. Photo: Tom Fitzgerald Photography
Winter Walk was so successful the city opted not to make it permanent. Photo: Tom Fitzgerald Photography

Advocates had hoped the success of Winter Walk could be used to win support for pedestrianizing the street for good.

“Stockton Street is a textbook example of letting an opportunity slip through one’s fingers. With the annual Winter Walk events, the City wisely took advantage of the Central Subway construction to pilot what a pedestrian-only street would look like and if it would work,” wrote Adam Greenfield, who advocated for the permanent pedestrianization of the street. “The results were clear: The public loved the results, business boomed, and traffic still moved.”

But, reported the Examiner, such proposals were shut down before they got very far by late Chinatown advocate Rose Pak.

The 8, 8AX, 8BX, and the 91 will be rerouted down the street starting on Monday. There’s still a construction crane working on Stockton alongside Union Square, so the 30-Stockton will continue to divert, according to SFMTA head Ed Reiskin, who was present for the re-opening of the street today.

Unfortunately, those buses will share Stockton Street with private, single-occupancy cars.

“It could have become a north-south bicycle corridor, the only decent one between the Embarcadero and Polk. It could have remained a pedestrian promenade, like the one we have enjoyed every December for the past few years. Or some combination of transitway, bikeway, and promenade,” wrote Livable City’s Tom Radulovich, in an email to Streetsblog. “Putting Stockton back exactly as it was before was the worst possible outcome, but unfortunately its the outcome we’re stuck with once again. For how long who knows, but hopefully not for too long.”

“The City should have seized this momentum and extended the Winter Walk pilot through the year, while continuing to collect data. Instead, it listened only to a subset of the population make unsubstantiated claims and ignore everything else,” added Greenfield.

Will SFMTA reconsider any of these possibilities? Is some kind of transit, bike and/or pedestrian treatment still possible? “Talk to Chinatown,” Reiskin told Streetsblog.

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