Monday, June 29, 2009

Toward a Robust Rapid Transit Network: The H-Potrero Van Ness

Don't expect me to get in the habit of quoting Chuck Nevius, but this excerpt from his June 6th column about 49ers stadium negotiations rang a bell in my mind:
Public transportation is one of the team's major concerns with a San Francisco site.

Niners Chief Financial Officer Larry MacNeil said the Hunters Point proposal would require that 25 percent of patrons travel on public transit.

When asked what the percentage is now at Candlestick, MacNeil said 18 percent of fans arrive on buses.

Well, that doesn't sound so insurmountable. Add a few more buses. Maybe Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who wants the team to stay in San Francisco, would help find the cash for a light-rail line. -SF Chronicle

Big freaking 'maybe,' to say the least. But stadium or no, SF Lennar is building thousands of homes on HP come hell or high water (certainly the latter) and those people will need more transit options than currently exist in that corner of town.

Enter a blast from the past: Muni's old H line

Friday, June 26, 2009


It's slightly off-topic for this blog, but I ran across this Next American City piece questioning the value of convention centers yesterday. Today, the Chronicle Comical offered up its coincidental press release on expansion plans for Moscone Center.

Compare and contrast after the jump

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's Too Easy to Get a Drivers License

A woman accidentally put her car into reverse, sending it through a metal barrier and out of the fourth floor of a parking garage -The Springfield Republican

Apparently the driver is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

How much do you want to bet they let her drive home from the hospital. Scary.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Density and Pedestrianism Go Hand-In-Hand

The Overhead Wire has already written about this article, and it is indeed worth a read. Short and to the point, author Matt Fikse lays out several reasons why a lot of new development fails, and makes a strong implicit connection between the ambiguous measure of "success" and active pedestrian activity.

To paraphrase, the list of traits Fikse finds contribute to the "livability" of a neighborhood includes:
  • High density
  • Low-rise
  • Smaller linear scale of buildings, blocks, streets
  • More and smaller units in those buildings
  • High vertical ground level spaces
  • Mixture of uses in close proximity
Some of these ideas, notably mixed-use buildings and high density, have been fashionable in urban planning circles for a long time. But others, like small units and low-rise buildings, have still only been embraced by a tiny minority of policy makers. And most new development suffers for lack of those qualities

Some local examples after the jump.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

San Francisco's Phantom Rail Network

If you've never checked out the link list in the sidebar of this blog, please stop what you're doing and visit SF Cityscape. In addition to some cool photos, they have some remarkable and beautifully drawn fantasy maps of Bay Area transit.

The latest addition is called "San Francisco Main Lines" (PDF | GIF). The map shows all of SF's rail lines (BART, Muni, Caltrain) in addition to every Muni bus line that runs with headways of 10 minutes or less on weekdays. The idea being that if you know the bus is going to arrive at your stop less than 10 minutes after you do, most people don't feel the need to check schedules.

These bus lines are the workhorses of Muni's fleet; ridership on these lines constitutes a majority of Muni's ~700,000 daily trips. Many of the lines shown in this map suffer from chronic overcrowding and delays (I'm looking at you, 14-Mission!) and poor performance on these lines has a disproportionate effect on riders' opinions of Muni overall.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pedestrianism Vol. 5

Pedestrianism Vol. 5 - Sunday Streets on Vimeo. If you didn't watch it in HD, can you be sure you've seen it?

If you weren't able to enjoy San Francisco's third Sunday Streets event - this one through the Mission District - here's your chance to see what you missed. Thousands of people turned out to enjoy the beautiful weather on June 7th. This video traces the length of the route, from Potrero Avenue along 24th to Valencia and down to 19th Street, where it turns West again into Dolores Park.

Even though I filmed this during the last hour of the event, when crowds had thinned just slightly, it's evident that turnout was high. One really gets a sense for how dense the throngs were along 24th Street, which is a vibrant commercial corridor. Pedestrians were represented in higher numbers here than elsewhere along the route; much higher numbers than in previous Sunday Streets.

Along Valencia people spread out in the wider street, and bicyclists drifted happily through the crowd. Kids on training wheels were at home among roller bladers and skateboarders.

By the time I reached Dolores Park the streets were being turned back over to cars, but as you can see at the end of the video, there was still a demand for the space. Many folks have expressed interest in allowing the event to run later in the day. Who knows, maybe it will.

The next Sunday Streets will again wind through the Mission District on July 19th. I'll see you there!

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's Been Done!

Check out this photo I lifted from a Streetsblog commenter:

Image: Jamison

This shot is of a bus stop bulbout in Barcelona, Spain. Their solution to the potentially expensive prospect of uprooting utility lines and redesigning gutters and storm drains? Just drop a free-standing slab of concrete in top of the asphalt. Viola, instant bulbout!

I had a similar idea for bicycle parking, one that would allow DPT to add bike parking where it was needed quickly and cheaply. My artistically amazing sketch of that idea after the jump.

San Francisco is so sorely in need of bike parking that City Attorney Dennis Herrera went to court seeking an exemption to the bike plan injunction in order to install some new racks (he was denied). And the city is full of narrow sidewalks clogged with patient Muni riders waiting for the bus - sidewalks that need to be expanded.

If opponents argue that the cost of street redesign is prohibitive to implementing such simple complete streets features as bike parking and sidewalk extensions, let's remove that obstacle.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Standing Up For Something

According to The Transportationist, "A pedestrian asserts his rights."

Gives new meaning to militant pedestrianism, I suppose.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mission District Sunday Streets

I hope everyone had a blast at Sunday Streets yesterday! It was the third iteration of San Francisco's ciclovia, but the route through the Mission District brought out a huge, engaged crowd like I haven't seen at previous events.

I was on the street for the full four hours this time. There was so much to see and so many people to stop and talk to that the time flew by! At 10am the first cautious pedestrians and bicyclists ventured onto the asphalt, and before long the crowd had filled the streets.

After walking the length of the route and a brief break at Dolores park, I turned around and walked it again headed East. As I turned the corner at Valencia and 24th Streets i was amazed at the volume of the crowd on 24th. These are people who don't get the chance to appreciate the public spaces in between buildings very often, and who were taking full advantage of the brief opportunity.

Businesses on 24th and Valencia had tables on the sidewalk and people in their shops. Folks on their bicycles intermingled calmly and freely with pedestrians, roller skaters, hula hoopers, and at least one unicyclist.

If you missed your chance to enjoy the neighborhood, then mark your calendar for July 19th. On that Sunday the streets of the Mission District will be opened to people again.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Don't Forget Sunday Streets

This Sunday, June 7th, will be this year's third installment of Sunday Streets. This month's route: the Mission District!

I'm super excited about this route - I predict it will be packed with folks looking to enjoy some breathing room on these typically crowded streets. There are tons of events planned and if the weather holds up the party could overflow into adjacent streets and the three parks connected by the route.

The fun goes from 10am to 2pm this Sunday so don't miss it! Take BART to 24th Street station, the J-Church to Dolores Park, the 9, 12, 27, 48, 33, 53, 14, 49, 26 (while it lasts!) buses and enjoy the neighborhood from a windshieldless perspective.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Let Them Hear It

According to SFist, 311 is now on Teh Twitter. Those of you with that abomination on your telephone machines are encouraged to "report potholes in SF by tweeting @sf311."

I say let them hear about all the broken sidewalks and sidewalk parking, etc. These 'tweets' are publicly visible, so it will be hard for them to justify ignoring cars on the sidewalk if anyone can see how bad the problem is.

Parking Enforcement, Please!

The Bay Guardian's Politics Blog has a piece on the MTA's lax attitude toward parking enforcement, specifically the blind eye they famously turn toward people who double park on Sundays. Ostensibly, these people are going to church, so can't be law-breakers and shouldn't be ticketed. That's the attitude that the city has shown for decades. They even created special parking lot for them in the middle of Valencia Street (which will be eliminated eventually under the new Valencia Street design).

The MTA's lack of enthusiasm for imposing costs on driving and enforcing those costs is becoming famous for an institution bound by City Charter to dillegently "seek to develop new sources of funding for the Agency's operations." A City Charter that, not incidentally, also requires that "Parking policies for areas well served by public transit shall be designed to encourage travel by public transit and alternative transportation."

When it was discovered a couple years ago that DPT was collecting a fraction of the money that parking meters should be bringing in, former D1 Supe Jake McGoldrick uttered one of my favorite quotes on the topic.
Heck, if we got it up to a 50 percent collection rate, we could offer free massages on the buses -Jake McGoldrick
And there's a lot of truth to that. If the MTA made even just incremental improvements in its parking enforcement, it would see millions in new revenue. That's money that could prevent your bus stop from disappearing - or your entire bus line! Or could have prevented your Fast Pass from costing $60.00 ($70.00 if you want to use BART in the city).

But that doesn't seem to be something the MTA thinks is worth its while. (Oh look, Nat Ford's Facebook page...)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Quick Question

Does anybody know how the BART District boundaries are drawn? I just spent way too long Googling in vain for an answer.

I did, however, find a thought-provoking quote in an outdated Beyond Chron article covering the last BART D8 race:
And while [incumbent D8 Director James] Fang may be the last Republican in San Francisco, BART District 8 includes the most conservative neighborhoods – all of the Marina, the Richmond, the Sunset and West of Twin Peaks, while conveniently drawing the lines to avoid the City’s most progressive precincts. That was no accident, said Radulovich, because Fang had a big hand in “manipulating the district boundaries.” -Paul Hogarth (Beyond Chron)
For what it's worth, Fang is up for re-election again in 2010.