Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

It's been an eventful year for walkers in SF.  Some great moments and some frustrating, some exciting new projects and some aggravating heel-dragging by the windshield set.

Here's to more and greater success in the new year, and a more walkable city for years to come.

A festive agent booth at the Castro Muni Station

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bus Stop Derby

This is definitely worth a repost, since I haven't heard much at all about it!  Yahoo! has added a bunch of touch screen games to the ad space in some of the new bus shelters that have been going in.  Hurry to find one near you before they come down on January 26th!

Almost makes up for the bait and switch over solar panels in the new shelters.

Check out more at

Monday, December 20, 2010

Soon Enough

But that's not soon enough!

You mean we have to wait until April?!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Powell Street Sidewalk Widening

This.  Looks. AWESOME
Powell street is so thick with pedestrians, this space is badly needed.  Hopefully, bringing the level of the new space up to sidewalk height will lead to it being more well-used than the brief trial the city ran a year ago.

Streetsblog reports that the project will be finished and open in April.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ped Improvements on the Horizon for Haight and Fillmore

Haighteration brings us news of an upcoming redesign of the intersection at Haight and Fillmore Streets.  Elements of the redesign include bulb-outs at the corners, parklets, and "ergonomic crosswalks," which increase visibility and the safe crossing space.

There's a community meeting to discuss the project tonight (December 7th) at 600 Haight Street starting at 6:30 PM.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Now That's Marketing

In Boulder, Colorado stores along the Pearl Street Mall were doing well on Black Friday.  One shoe store in particular has come up with a great marketing gimmick for this pedestrian-only street:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Museums In Motion

With apologies to the Market Street Railway for borrowing their tagline for the F-Market streetcars, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on another vintage trolley line of sorts: the 49-Van Ness/Mission.

I'm not without a bias, I grew up riding the 49 home from school on Ocean Avenue near Balboa High.  My first job was at a movie theater on Van Ness, and the 49 was probably the last bus I rode before going away to college.

And Muni is still running those same 15+ year-old articulated trolley buses on the 49 today.  The one I'm on tonight has had a lot of work done recently and is now painted silver and red, but many others still bear the double orange Landor paint scheme - among the last in the city with that iconic livery.

It's kind of a trip to sit here and think that I might be in the exact same seat that I rode in back in high school.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It Should Be Free

A little late to the punch, the San Jose Mercury News published an article on SF's proposed congestion pricing plan.  The quoted reactions of Peninsula officials are predictable, but I love this one:
Where do you stop nickel-and-diming people? You should be able to travel from city to city without paying a toll.  -Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo
Sounds like an argument for free public transit to me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Enforcements Speeds Up Muni Buses

Tucked away at the end of an article in the Examiner is an encouraging few paragraphs on the enforcement of double-parking laws.  You might remember way back about three years ago State Assemblywoman Fiona Ma got us a law passed that allowed Muni to install cameras on buses to catch drivers who double park and slow down Muni vehicles.  Since then, according to the Ex, the program was not widely used and results - as you might guess if you've been on a bus int he past three years - haven't been overwhelming.

Apparently that changed three or four months ago, and riders have cause to be optomistic:

Through the first three months of this fiscal year that started in July, the enforcement cameras have issued 1,460 citations for double-parked cars and vehicles in tow-away and bus zones. In the entire 2009 fiscal year, 1,016 citations were issued for those violations.  -Will Reisman, The Examiner
I hope the SFMTA continues to maintain and expand a thorough level of enforcement, we've been waiting for signs of improvement for an awfully long time now.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Excuse me

Parking on the sidewalk was bad enough, but now we're driving on it?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

SFist gets it right on Prop L

In a summary of SF Appeal's post-mortem analysis of Prop L, SFist juxtaposes a story on last week's successful  measure to pass a Sit/Lie law - ostensibly to protect pedestrians on our city's sidewalks - with a photo of one of the more common and real threats to walking life.

While the get-off-our-lawn set is celebrating the passage of a law that will never be used to improve SF's pedestrian realm, hundreds of thousands of people are dodging the illegally parked cars and ever-proliferating curb cuts that really are lowering the quality of life.  Well done, SFist.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Doing Good on the 9L

Riding the 9L into work today, a group on fare inspectors boarded at 11th and Market.  One inspector caught a kid (who no doubt should have been in school but got away saying he had 'independent studies' ... I remember that one from when I was his age).  When he found out the kid was 16 he asked again what he was thinking, why he didn't pay his fare.  The kid said he didn't have change, only a five dollar bill.  The inspector explained that decision was supposed to get him a $150 ticket and a trip to juvenile court.  Then he pulled out five ones and said, "Gimme that five, and go up there and pay your fare.  I don't think it's right for kids to go to juvenile court over 75 cents."

Good man.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Today is Election Day, so please please please make sure you vote! On the off chance you haven't made up your mind, here are some thoughts on some of the measures on today's ballot:

Yes on AA
Increases the Vehicle Licence Fee in SF by $10 in order to fund road improvements. Raising the cost of car ownership (even by a barely-noticeable amount) is a good thing, and AA specifically allocates $1.25 million for Pedestrian improvements, and another $1.25 million for transit.

No on L
Sidewalks are for people, as the No campaign's slogan says.  Of course they ought to be civil - every corner of society ought to be civil - but measure L does nothing to make sidewalks more civil.  Every horror story proponents cite as a reason why SF needs a sit/lie law describes behavior that is already illegal.  Making it more illegal won't stop it because nobody's there to enforce the law in the first place!

If you're frustrated with bad behavior in public spaces, consider voting for Measure M instead.  Measure M would require the police to create a plan for running foot patrols city-wide, putting cops on the sidewalks instead of taking people off them.

No on 23 and 26
Statewide propositions 23 and 26 may not seem closely related at first read, but they're being funded by the same big out-of-state oil companies.  23 would suspend AB32, California's greenhouse gas law, whenever unemployment is above an arbitrary number.  26 would raise the number of votes required to raise or levy new fees.  26 especially would directly affect San Francisco's efforts to pay for improvements to its pedestrian environment by raising fees on car drivers.

Bert Hill and Robert Raburn for BART board
The entire Bay Area needs BART to do a better job of serving the urban core and promoting good land use.  Its Board of Directors, however, is dominated by representatives of suburban and exurban districts, more interested in running BART tracks to the moon at any cost than connecting to hundreds of thousands of potential riders in SF and Oakland.

Bert Hill is running to replace James Fang in District 8 (PDF) and Robert Raburn is vying for Carole Ward Allen's seat in District 4 (PDF).  Both oppose BART's trend toward expensive and ineffective "blingfrastructure," and would represent the interests of their urban districts well.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

World Series Ups the Shoupian Ante

Taken by a friend at Pier 38.  I wonder what SFPark is doing...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Our Muni

I'm writing this on an inbound M car, stopped in between Civic Center and Powell stations.  It's stopped here because of unspecified "mechanical problems."  While the doors were open, back at Civic Center, the operator encouraged everyone to get out and take a bus or streetcar down Market to their destinations.

By my count this is the third delay caused by 'mechanical problems' in as many weeks - and that doesn't count the residual delays that linger after the 'problems' are fixed.

After the operator made his announcement, most of the people on this car took his advice and left; a pretty apt metaphor for a system that's seen its readership shrink significantly in the last few years along with its budget.

Is this what we want for our Muni?  Or do we want to invest in a system that actually meets San Francisco's transportation needs?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

NLCS Brings Sane Parking Pricing to SF

Via a Facebook friend this morning, before game 3 of the NLCS.  This photo was taken two blocks away from the ballpark.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Last Chance to Register for the Peak2Peak

Today is the last day to register for this year's Peak2Peak walk.  This year's walk will take a new route from the 24th Street BART station to Land's End - across 13 miles and over 10 peaks.

Check out my review of last year's Peak2Peak for photos of some of the amazing sights to see along the way.  Registration gets you lunch in a peaceful meadow on Mount Sutro, and the chance to win some cool raffle prizes.  Proceeds go to support Walk San Francisco, which is an awesome organization that does a ton of great work to make SF a better place to walk (I'm on the Board of WalkSF so I'm totally not impartial, but I mean it).

Sign up now before it's too late, and I'll see you there!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's a Smaller System

Muni used to carry around 700,000 trips per day.  Well not anymore.  Have we reached the right size yet, Mr. Ford?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Race to the Bottom

Today Streetsblog featured this Urbanophile post in response to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's decision to kill the ARC rail tunnel into Manhattan.  It's a pointed denunciation of the cut-to-the-bone (or prune-to-the-trunk) governing philosophy of this generation's Republican Party, and one quote really stood out to me:
But as I noted before, if you can’t afford your infrastructure, and you can’t afford to provide basic services, what you’re really saying is that you can’t afford to be state and are holding a slow motion going out of business sale.
Worth remembering as Election Day nears.

Words to Live By

“You can’t spray people with pepper spray just because you’re having a bad day,”  - SF Police, via The Examiner
Hat tip to Mikesonn

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Walk to School Day

Posting is still slow, and I apologize to anyone put off by that, but I wanted to take a moment to remember that today, October 6th, is Walk to School Day.

If you missed a chance to join your neighbors walking to school today, then please try to make a point of practicing Walk to School Day everyday.  Safe, active streets must be safe and welcoming for the smallest among us, and an active childhood is much likelier to be a healthy childhood than one spent in the backseat.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Three Weeks in Europe

BART > United Airlines > Heathrow Express > London Undergound > First Capital Connect > EasyJet > Metro de Madrid > AVE > Metro de Barcelona > Eurolines Bus > TGV > Paris Metro > EurostarLondon Undergound > United Airlines > Tragically, a ride by car home, as my backpack containing my Translink card (and several much more expensive things) was stolen in Barcelona.

Europe was for reals, and as soon as I'm slightly less jet-lagged I'll do a decent writeup.

One random point about being without my Translink card for a few days: I got to use the new Muni ticket machines at Civic Center station today.  The machines are the product of Clipper maker Cubix, which also runs London's OysterCard system.  For a brief moment this morning, until the faregates closed behind me, it honestly seemed like I could have been in a Tube station.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Don't Be That Guy

Okay, one last gem before I leave:

Via Curbed SF, this former Angleno's guide to driving in San Francisco.  I'm not condoning auto use but, today at least, I'm not hating on it.  We all have friends who drive, and yet we still love them.  These ten points are solid pieces of advice to help the overly auto-dependent coexist peacefully with the rest of us:
Park in the street, and it’s totally legal here for anyone waking by to bash your windshield in with a bat. Really, it is. We’re very progressive and don’t have a lot of outlets [for] our stockpiles of rage. Do not tempt us.
Oh, he knows me so well.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Epic Slowness

Just outside Beijing there's a highway that's experiencing a bit of traffic.  In fact, the traffic jam just hit its ninth day.  Nine days of traffic - and you thought your commute was bad.

Speaking of slowness, I know I haven't posted in a while.  You hear it on blogs all the time, but I've been super busy at work.  And after this week I'm off to a much needed vacation in Europe.  I hope to see some shining examples of transit and urban infrastructure while I'm there - and I might have a chance to post some of it here while I'm over there.  But fair warning, I'm k-k-kinda busy.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sunday Streets Announces "Central City" Route

Again via the Sunday Streets Facebook page, we have word of October's Sunday Streets route, from Civic Center through the Tenderloin!  From Civic Center Plaza up Polk Street to Ellis and O'Farrell, then down Leavenworth and Jones, this route opens up a tight cluster of street spaces in San Francisco's densest residential neighborhood.  For many this will be a great chance to see the TL for the first time, and for the thousands of people who live nearby, it will be a welcome respite from the traffic sewers that burden this neighborhood.

Click through the image above for a closer look - I'll see you all there!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This. Is. Too. CUTE.

Via SF Appeal, a kid named Sam got a BART cake for his 4th birthday.  This would be evidence of reincarnation, except that I'm not dead yet.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Pulse of the City

The incomparable Eric Fischer has made his move into video, showing us the movement of every Muni bus in June all lumped together into one imaginary day:

Eric's work is at the forefront of public analysis of transit agency data.  By opening up its bus GPS data, the SFMTA has created a unique environment where smart and creative people like Mr. Fischer have the tools to do what it can't be expected to do itself.  That is to show us our Muni in novel ways that give us unexpected insight into its workings.

What a simple thing to do - to show us a video of where every bus goes in a day - and yet its effect is like the first time Google published a satellite view on its maps.  We now have a whole new perspective from which to view Muni.  Many perspectives, in fact, as Eric continues to come up with new ways to crunch and mash up the raw data to show us something that was never visible before.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sunday Streets Western Addition Route Announced

It's not up on their website yet, but the Sunday Streets Facebook page has posted a map of September 19th's Western Addition route.  Winding through a dense residential neighborhood and along part of the Fillmore commercial corridor, this event promises to be much more like the popular Mission District route than the next event in line, a Great Highway route scheduled for August 22nd.

The Western Addition route is a first for Sunday Streets, and will be followed in October by another new route - through the Tenderloin.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Rise Above It

Commenter Gary snapped this great panoramic shot of New York City's High Line park back in July.  Click through to Flickr to see the larger size.  The development/planning-minded person will recognize the potential infill site where that ugly parking lot is, and indeed the High Line is part of an impressive redevelopment of its surrounding area.

But this image also beautifully shows a woman enjoying the peace of the park, with great views of Manhattan, oblivious to the blight below.  You can get a feel for her perspective by watching around 1:48 of Pedestrianism Vol. 6.  Well done, Gary!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Walk Across America

With the weekend close enough to taste, here's a video my coworker sent me to pass the minutes until quitting time:

It's more like other Pixilation-style videos than my Pedestrianism series, and must have taken an incredible amount of work. The effect is totally amazing!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Last Train to Sparseville

Welcome to San Francisco, Jarrett Walker.

Anyone not familiar with Mr. Walker should definitely take the time to read through all the gold at

Published with Blogger-droid v1.4.8

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Google Demolishes the Central Freeway

As part of its ongoing effort to not be evil, Google has torn down the hulking Central Freeway in San Francisco.

Well, almost.

I was playing around with the Google Earth plug-in for Google's online maps, which lets you pan around and fly through 3-D buildings and topographic features, when I noticed they didn't include a 3-D model of the elevated freeway structure.  Comparing the resulting freeway-less images with the real-life Street View is like looking at before and after pictures of a future in which the skyway has been torn down.  One I hope we'll someday see.

 15th Street and San Bruno Avenue in Google's freeway-less future (top) and in real life (bottom)

Play around with it for yourself, it's refreshing to see what an improvement all that blue sky can make.  More pics after the jump.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pedestrian Removal Project

If you've walked down Van Ness between Market and City Hall lately, you've seen the results of a recent "Streetscape Improvement Project," new landscaping along the sidewalk planted with bamboo and London Plane trees.

Landscaping along the sidewalk can beautify a street and absorb stormwater but, if poorly designed, it can impede pedestrian traffic and lower the overall quality of the street. And these new plantings on Van Ness are poorly designed. They take up half the sidewalk and are surrounded by a raised lip of granite, which will prevent them from absorbing any rainwater that falls on the sidewalk around them.

Van Ness, particularly this section of Van Ness, is well-used by people on foot. These new plantings take needed space away from them in order to, in my opinion, make the street prettier to people in cars. Bad idea.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

$3 Per Person

I've been cleaning a bunch of old photos out of my cell phone, and I came across this one of the cable car information sign at the Van Ness terminal of the California line.

Of course, the fare for a cable car ride has been $5.00 since 2005 - this sign has been out of date for five years. 

While the price of a cable car ride won't be going down any time soon, the SFMTA Board just voted unanimously to restore half of the recent service cuts.  Starting September 4th service on some of Muni's most crowded lines will get moderately better than it has been for the last couple months.  It's a small step in the right direction.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Tea Party of Noe Valley

Regrettably, I missed last night's meeting of Noe Valley residents with members of the Pavement to Parks program.  At least I thought it was regrettable before I heard about what happened.

The video in the SFist post corroborates the first-hand accounts I heard.  Opponents of the trial stood up and shouted over Planning Department staff, as well as their own neighbors.  I'm not the first to compare the opponents to the  Tea-Baggers who interrupted a slew of town hall meetings last summer.  The behavior was way out of proportion with the perceived harm, completely inappropriate, and shockingly childish.  The grown people who treated members of their own community so poorly ought to be ashamed of themselves and, IMHO, they ought to apologize.

I'm a pedestrian and I support any project that increases the safety, or enjoyment of our pedestrian realm, so I support this trial.  But I don't live here, and I don't have a personal reason to support a plaza in Noe Valley over one in a neighborhood that will welcome it - or at least treat each other like humans when discussing the proposal.

Get it together, Noe Valley.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Es Ley

Yes, BART, Title VI is indeed the law.  It's comforting that BART got the memo, but this doesn't seem to be an accurate sign of what's to come.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Walk More

Today is the last Friday of the month, which means Critical Mass will be moving through city streets later this evening (so don't feign surprise).  Critical Mass has proven to be a popular way for self-identifying bicyclists to gain visibility and increase awareness of cyclists on SF streets.

So what about a pedestrian Critical Mass?  From the comments on a MissionMission blog post it seems somewhat popular at first glance.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't fantasize about having such a hard-to-ignore show of pedestrian support after narrowly avoiding a car or bike on the sidewalk or in a crosswalk.  And who knows, if someone gets one going it could be a good thing for pedestrians.

But for now I'm skeptical that's the best focus for our effort.  Let's not wait for someone to jerry-rig a boom box on a granny cart and tell us all to meet at Justin Herman Plaza.  Let's all just walk more.  Let's fill up the sidewalks, and then let's work to get the sidewalks widened.  Personally, I think it's better if drivers expect to see more of us everywhere than if we create an event that's an easy target of rage.  But if someone wants to get something started, let me know how it goes :-)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gentle Densification Follow-up

A year after Vancouver began a pilot program to allow small secondary units along its back alleys, or "lanes," some neighbors are finding problems with some of the development.  From the Globe and Mail article it sounds like the concerns center around a few buildings that may be pushing the limits of the program.

I first wrote about the laneway housing program over a year ago, and this is a good time to follow-up on the program - which seems to be quite popular - after the president of the SF Planning Commission and some SPUR members recently suggested adding new housing to the forbidden zone West side of town.

Vancouver's experience is still unfolding, but I see plenty of room to be optimistic that sensible planning can add density to otherwise phobic neighborhoods without drastically changing their beloved character.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Median Mistake

Michael Helquist at BIKE NOPA has a summary of Tuesday nights MTA workshop on redesigning Masonic Avenue.  (I wish I could have attended the meeting but Muni connections to that part of town are slow these days, and I had prior commitments).

According to Helquist, attendees broke into small groups to brainstorm designs for the street.  In summary, attendees wanted:
  • Smooth and steady flowing traffic lanes for vehicles and Muni buses
  • The current 25 mph speed limit
  • A designated bike route
  • Wide sidewalks for walkers
  • Curb-side parking
But they also wanted to re-design or at least enhance the corridor by
  • Improving safety and the perception of safety for all users on the street
  • Enhancing a sense of community or neighborliness that is blunted now by a corridor that separates east from west with several lanes of speeding vehicles
  • Normalizing traffic flow by removing the changes in number of lanes along the corridor
    Quieting the street with landscaping and other sidewalk features
  • Installing a new landscaped median with refuges for safer pedestrian crossings
  • Installing a dedicated, perhaps separated, bike lane on one or both sides of the street
  • Providing for safer crossings for people walking
(enphasis mine)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tow or Be Towed

There has been some renewed interest lately in the cars that park illegally along Guerrero, Valencia, and Dolores on Sundays.  At first, I thought that's why a tow truck was pulling up to a row of such cars around 7pm on Sunday June 13th.

But no.  After parking in the center lane, he walked into Tartine bakery and waited in line to order something sweet.  Nothing better to do, I guess...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Help Redesign the Bayshore Caltrain Transit Station

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority will be hosting a workshop next Saturday (June 19th) to give members of the community an opportunity to discuss some proposed changes to the Bayshore Caltrain station in Visitacion Valley.  Those proposals include:
-Extension of the T-Third light rail to Bayshore Station
-Bus Rapid Transit along Geneva Avenue, connecting to Balboa Park BART station
-New local bus and shuttle connections
-Significant new development for Brisbane Baylands, Schlage Lock, and other sites
Check out the Facebook event page for more information.  Deets for the Facebookless after the jump.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Quick News Roundup

I've never done a news roundup before, but three things came across my radar today and I'm running short on time.  Explore at will:
  • Anyone in the Portland area should check out Portland Afoot, a monthly guide to car-free and car-lite living.
  • Villaraigosa's "30/10" plan to cram 30 years worth of regional transit projects into 10 years with the help of Federal loans is moving quickly, apparently! Great news for LA - let's hope SF's leaders are watching closely.
  • A recent meta-analysis suggests that the intersection density of a city or neighborhood has the largest effect on its walkability.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Oakland Streetcar Plan

Daniel Jacobson hasn't been posting many new entries to 21st Century Urban Solutions as of late. Now it's clear why. Jacobson's just released his plan for revitalizing Oakland's downtown with a streetcar connecting Jack London Square with MacArthur Blvd via Broadway. Check it out at

In his proposal, Jacobson analyzes the potential economic development, environmental benefits, ridership, cost and funding, as well as the line's design and possible extensions. The analysis is meticulous, and the proposal is impressive.  Oakland officials should thoroughly read and seriously consider this plan.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sunday Streets 2010 Mission Route Announced

Last year's Mission District Sunday Streets event was easily my favorite. There's a real qualitative difference between a long, beautiful, but sparsely activated route like the Embarcadero or Great Highway, and this path through a dense residential neighborhood. The former gives bicyclists a chance to ride free from cars, but the latter makes one big pedestrian plaza out of two of the neighborhood's main commercial drags.

This year's event is bigger than ever, with the addition of Harrison Street to the car-free lineup and a later end time: 3pm. Read more at the Sunday Streets website.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Grid Talk

Jarrett Walker's posts at Human Transit are always insightful (and his last name's awesome too). In his latest, Jarrett speaks for the street grids, as the grids have no tongues. Have you hugged your four-way stop today?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Walking Men 99

I don't know why I hadn't heard of this before! Artist Maya Barkai has covered a construction wall near Ground Zero in New York City with 99 images of 99 different 'walk' signals from around the world. I'm fascinated by these different signals and I love this piece of public art!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Pedestrian Turn Signals

Because, you know, interacting with people is, like, gross. Sixty or so years of car culture and our sick minds come up with things like these:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

No, Parking

A couple months ago I wrote about new parking meters the city had installed along Brannan Street between 7th and 8th. 20 or so new revenue-generating parking meters is a small, but good development. Even smaller but very puzzling is the absence of meters at two spaces in front of a perennially for-lease building.

These two spaces are in front of roll-up doors that bear stenciled 'NO PARKING' signs and curb cuts. Naturally, these are driveways. Hence, no parking meters, right? Not so. Immediately behind the roll-up doors is a plate glass window.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Consider it Done

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority has created a Facebook page in order to relay announcements and gather feedback from the public. If only changing SF's parking policy was so easy.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rail-ready BRT

The Transport Politic follows up today on news of Ottawa, Canada's plan to convert it's bus-only Transitway to light rail. It's worth reading because the Geary BRT project here in SF is using exactly the same "rail-ready" model that Yonah Freemark attributes to Ottawa, a model that may not realize the kind of cost savings its proponents frequently cite.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hello BART

Did anybody catch the BART reference on tonight's new episode of The Simpsons? Hilarious!

Note, in the show's 20-year history this isn't the first reference to our BART, but there haven't been many.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I gotta say, it's really tough to be an advocate for Muni these days.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

TransForm Wants to Know How Low You Can Go

According to TransForm, The average American driver drives 250 miles a week. In an effort to get that number as low as possible, the local transit advocacy organization is holding its Car-Free Challenge the first week of June. Check out their first promo video:

And if, like me, you're already car-free you can and should still sign up!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Muni Do

My friend Lola snapped this photo a couple weeks ago. Apparently the skyline continued around this guy's whole head. I love the cellphone camera's depth of focus showing the packed bus (which will be increasingly less reliable and more crowded thanks to Gavin Newsom).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"My, That's a Lot of Blood! Can I Offer You a Band-Aid?"

"It will be a smaller system," says Muni chief Nat Ford. As a direct result of the 'leadership' of mayor Gavin Newsom and his appointees on the SFMTA Board, the San Francisco Municipal Railway that has served San Francisco for almost 100 years will be serving fewer people.

This meltdown is readily perceived by Muni riders, and there's a lot of political hay being made by claiming to know how to fix it. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd is riding a wave of bus driver and union contempt to push a ballot measure that he hopes will save Muni some money. And SF Weekly drew a lot of eyeballs with its thorough feature on a large number of ways that Muni wastes some of the money it gets.

Bad management takes its toll on the Muni system, but $3 million in wage cuts here and $7 million in service cuts there won't solve the real underlying problem: Lack. Of. Money.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Welcoming Division Back to San Francisco

Welcome to San Francisco

If I said it was the ugliest place in San Francisco, you'd be hard-pressed to prove me wrong. It's the aquamarine elephant in the room that's left standing whenever we celebrate the demolition of the Central Freeway. In fact, that stub of a freeway was only partially torn down, only as far as Market Street. And, today, the place where the freeway starts is where the urban renaissance of Hayes Valley ends.

Believe it or not there's a street under there, a street with more problems than just the shadows and noise of the elevated structure. Duboce Avenue, 13th and Division Streets have been combined into a six-lane expressway with narrow, incomplete sidewalks, cyclone fences and driveways, and piles of illegally dumped garbage. If this place is ever going to be a healthy thread in San Francisco's urban fabric, this corridor will need to become a walkable, livable street.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Minding Narrowness

Wow, this blog out of LA does some amazing work visualizing that city's wide streets as more urbane and pedestrian-friendly... in a word, narrower. SF has its share of too-wide streets, and my mind is already buzzing with visuals of how SoMa, for example, could look in this new and improved universe.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Noe Plaza Opponents Have Dufty on Their Side

It looks like Noe Valleys elected representative, Supervisor Bevan Dufty, is poised to quash the nascent pedestrian plaza in Noe Valley. There will be a community meeting on Thursday evening for neighbors to learn more and discuss the project but Dufty, as quoted in today's Examiner, sounds like he's already made up his mind:
I’m not closing the door forever. I’m just saying that at this stage I sense enough division and opposition that I don’t even feel that it can work on even a trial basis. The notion isn’t to create conflict, it’s to create more public spaces.
If you live in the neighborhood and care about public space there, you may want to send Dufty an email. Please also make sure to attend the meeting at 6:30pm on Thursday. It's been added to the calendar in the sidebar.

Please note that the dead-tree version of today's Ex contains an important error. There is no plan to close 24th Street. The proposed plaza would close a small section of Noe Street, just South of 24th. The online edition has since been corrected.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Dear God this is frightening.

Noe Valley's Pavement to Parks Drama

There's trouble a-brewin' high in Noe Valley. The intersection of 24th and Noe Streets was chosen by the Planning Department to be the site of an upcoming Pavement to Parks pedestrian plaza. In a bold move, Planning is planning to close a section of Noe Street at the Intersection to create a broad plaza in an area of Noe Valley that sees some really intense pedestrian traffic.

A few neighbors weren't too happy when they got word of the plans, however. They're trying to push Andres Power, manager of the Pavement to Parks program, to scrap the plaza design. Power has responded by drafting a second option for the intersection. Instead of a plaza, they could build a "parklet" (bulbout) on either side of the street, keeping Noe open for cars.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty will be holding a community meeting to gauge public support for the two proposals on April 8th at 6:30 p.m. at St. Philips Church Community Room (725 Diamond).

There's a group of neighbors working to demonstrate support for the full plaza. You should join their effort, if you're so inclined, and attend the meeting next Thursday to let Mr. Dufty know you support Noe Plaza.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Do Us a Favor

When forced to fill an unprecedented budget deficit over the last year, the SFMTA took some rare, if wobbly, steps toward bringing in new revenue from drivers in addition to their go-to fare hikes and service cuts. The political resistance to charging drivers bent slightly when confronted with the sheer size of gap, and for the first time the MTA Board was seriously considering charging more to park in SF.

Well now Governor Schwarzenegger has agreed to a (dubious) gas tax swap that will give the SFMTA $36 million dollars for Muni. My first reaction was not 'Hooray, no more service cuts or fare hikes.' It was 'Great, there go the revenue measures.' I had hoped I was wrong, but it's looking like the MTA staff is considering just what I was afraid of. Lame, lame, lame.

Walk to School

Via, an elementary school in Milton, Ontario has a new policy banning parents from driving their kids to school. Not sure why it costs $125,000 to ban parents from driving, but apparently it's been working well so far.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

SFTRU Ramping Up

Dave Snyder of the newly formed San Francisco Transit Riders Union sent out the group's first email to its members. If you haven't already joined their ranks yet, you can do so by filling out the form at (they also have a Facebook page). SFTRU is planning its first member meeting for this Thursday, March 25th.

Read the email message after the jump.

Stop Go

I spotted this bus stop driving away down Brannan Street this morning. It turned right on 5th and looked like it was about to turn right again onto Townsend as I walked away. I have no idea which line it could have been from because the numbers had already been removed from the sides.

It could either be from a stop that's been removed as part of the incessant service cuts we've seen, or one that's been replaced with a new solar bus shelter. (Only one of of the new shelters, deep in the Fog Belt of all places, seems to actually have solar panels. But hey, Clear Channel got their money already, aren't Public Private Partnerships the best?!)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

In Support of the Versatility of Pedestrian Space

If I didn't read the Chronicle Comical I'd probably have a very poor understanding of how visiting suburbanites view San Francisco.

You may have noticed I like to walk around this city, and I consider myself to be very familiar with its pedestrian realm. The sidewalk is my primary point of view, almost all of my interactions with public space are on the sidewalk.

And I'm not afraid of people sitting or lying down on it.

Streetsblog posted a piece on the Newsom-Gascon sit-lie law, which generated some controversy. And I'm glad they did because this law will directly affect the public space that Streetsblog and all livability advocates fight for. The law as proposed would prohibit behavior that's beneficial for such spaces because, ostensibly, the SFPD currently lacks the tools to deal with the bad behavior of a tiny few.

The proximate motivation for this law is a group of street kids on Haight who are harassing passersby. Gascon has told the Bay Guardian that he knows these street kids wouldn't be harassing anyone if cops regularly walked up and down Haight Street. So he acknowledges that adequate tools already exist to keep the peace. This law is not necessary to protect the citizens of the Haigh-Ashbury neighborhood, nor is it likely to be effective without the same increased police presence that Gascon says would solve the problem on its own.

Alley Love in Seattle

Seattle's Crosscut has a nice piece on that city's alleys. Alleys can provide a great pedestrian experience, and Crosscut gives some good examples around the world (including Maiden Lane here in SF) and discusses a design competition with the goal of improving the local alley environment and public awareness thereof.

SF has several dense pockets of narrow streets or alleys. Western SoMa, the Mission District (or what used to be the Mission District) near 16th West of Mission, The Mission District surrounding 24th and Mission Streets, and Hayes Valley come to mind. I'd like to see some minor improvements made to these pockets of walkable urbanity, and I'd like to see new pockets in areas of the city slated for future development.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sunday Streets: Embarcadero 2010

At the risk of jinxing it, Sunday Streets has an impressive track record for weather. Following are some photos I took at this past weekend's street opening:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

First 2010 Sunday Streets is This Sunday

My how time flies. The first of this year's 9 Sunday Streets events is already upon us! Check out a car-free Third Street/Embarcadero from Mariposa Street to Fisherman's Wharf this Sunday, March 14th, from 10am-3pm.

That's right! This year's events will last an hour longer - until 3pm! See you there! (map after the jump)

New Parking Meters on Brannan

I spotted these on my walk to work Friday. When I took this picture the North (Northwest, geographically) side of Brannan Street between 7th and 8th was dotted along half its length by the poles you see, while the other half had fresh holes drilled in the concrete. This entire block now has the poles which, based on their height and spacing, seem to be harbingers of parking meters to come.

I hope DPT plans to collect the money they're entitled to from these meters.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Save Muni

Dozens of Transit advocates and concerned citizens showed up bright an early at the Women's Building on 18th Street for the Save Muni Summit. The goal, according to the organizers, was to identify solutions to the problems that prevent Muni from meeting the transportation needs of the city of San Francisco.

Most people at the meeting came because of their involvement in one of a large number of organizations that signed on as co-sponsors of the summit. That's to be expected, but several commenters noted that the makeup of the group was not reflective of Muni's ridership. Indeed, more than one person who stood in front of the room to speak described themselves as 'lapsed Muni riders,' meaning they no longer ride the system.

The hour and a half or so of public comment was the most insightful. Commenters were encouraged to keep their statements positive and constructive, rather than to generally gripe about Muni service. I wasn't able to catch a lot of the names, but I tried to jot down as many of the ideas proposed, which you can read below:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

SFPD To Begin Ped Safety Campaign

We could all use some good news amid the SFMTA doomsday nonsense. According to KCBS, the SFPD is starting a year-long program to increase pedestrian safety in San Francisco.
With a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, the police traffic detail along with a civilian crime prevention unit are educating people and enforcing traffic laws. -KCBS
Imagine that, enforcing traffic laws. But before you get too excited, this is apparently what Captain Steve Tacchini means by 'enforcing traffic l
One of the things we see is people stepping off the curbs before the lights change, trying to run across against the reds, trying to catch Muni running up to buses or not looking for vehicles making right turns.
That last one is a gem. Mr. Tacchini doesn't seem to remember the section of the Driver Handbook on how to make a right turn (if he's interested in a refresher, I have a couple extra copies he can borro
To make a right turn ... Stop behind the limit line. Look both ways and turn when it is safe. Do not turn wide into another lane. Complete your turn in the right lane.

Right turn against a red light–Signal and stop for a red traffic light at the limit line or at the corner. If there is no sign to prohibit the turn, you may turn right. Yield to pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, or other vehicles moving on their green light. (emphasis mine)
But if you don't particularly feel like doing that we'll cite the pedestrians you threaten, apparently. Nice.

Bike NoPa reports that 14 motorists have already been cited new Golden Gate Park and the Panhandle, so here's to hoping that the upcoming yearlong campaign is lighter on the blame-the-roadkill nonsense than Mr. Tacchini's statement in the KCBS article.

In any case, Michael Helquist of Bike NoPa advises:
To report crosswalk incidents or red light running:call SFPD at (415) 553-0123 (for non-emergencies)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

SFMTA Doomsday

Well, tomorrow's the big day. The SFMTA Board of Directors is scheduled to vote on the package of service cuts and fare hikes that the MTA staff recommended in late January. According to the agenda, the directors will vote on whether to:
  • Require the Premium Fast Pass to ride express buses and cable cars
  • Reduce service by 10% across the board by by reducing the frequency of buses along some lines as well as shortening operating hours
  • Raise the fares for seniors, disabled and youth passes to $30/month, triple what it was just 6 months
Streetsblog is reporting that the third item above, the price increase for Senior/Disabled/Youth Fast Passes is off the table, but it will still be formally considered by the Board tomorrow.

And even without this latest fare increase, the cost of those Fast Passes will still go up by $5.00 in May as part of the last round of fare hikes (remember those? The ones that brought the Adult pass to $55.00 last July followed by the $60-M/$70-A pass split just under two months ago?) And all of this is to bridge a $16.9 million budget gap predicted between now and June 30th. On July 1st the new fiscal year will begin with an estimated $100 million hole. Make no mistake about it, what happens tomorrow is the tip of a very large iceberg.

For anyone who enjoys the mobility that Muni provides, or who cares about public transit or the state of government, this is really freaking depressing. And the insistence of the MTA Board to make up the budget deficit almost entirely on the backs of Muni riders is absolutely infuriating. The Board is obligated under the City Charter (SF's Constitution and the very same piece of paper that gives the mayor his executive power - in other words a seriously binding document) to diligently seek out new revenue sources for Muni. They have refused to do that because the Board members are appointed by the mayor and so feel they ought to carry his water.

Friday, February 19, 2010

More! Free! Parking!

Downtown Houston in the late 1980s, via The Overhead Wire

Many cities in America did it for office buildings in the '70s and '80s. If San Francisco does it, it will certainly be for condo parking.

Recent moves by the BOS to curb (to cut? to cut curb cuts?) the incessant expansion of parking in this city are certainly to be commended, but are we moving quickly and decisively enough?

OAC 2010, Port-mortem

Radio station KALW has an excellent summary of what went down between the FTA and BART in the last few months of the Oakland Airport Connectors all-too-long life.

Got questions about the project? Then read and listen to the piece above, as well as Transbay Blog's thorough writeup on this 'blingfrastructure' project.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Preview of Castro Plaza 1.0

Curbed has a sneak preview of the permanent design for the plaza at Market, Castro and 17th Streets, "subject, of course, to further modification and budgetary limitations."

My first reaction: maybe it's the drawing but it seems a little too fortressy. Dialing back some of those planters would give pedestrians more freedom to mill about in any direction. And with the entire space dedicated to pedestrians, it seems odd to me that we would still be funneled diagonally along the old crosswalk.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Only Economical, Practical Solution of Traffic Problem in San Francisco

Just in from Eric Fischer's photostream, This is the best picture I've seen of the 1937 rapid transit plan for San francisco.

Gotta love that H-line :-)

Friday, February 12, 2010

$70 Million of Federal Money Redirected from OAC to Struggling Transit Agencies

Word just in from Transform that the FTA has rejected BART's plan to bring its Oakland Airport Connector project into compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. From the FTA's letter to BART and the MTC:
Since my letter of January 15th, FTA staff and BART have worked diligently but unsuccessfully on the development of a corrective action plan that might be acceptable. I am required to now inform you that your plan is rejected.
This means that the $70 million of Federal stimulus funds will instead be distributed to regional transit agencies. Muni's chunk: $17.5 million rebuild the trucks on its light rail vehicles and add ADA-compliant voice announcements to those LRVs.

In unrelated(?) news, Rachel Gordon reports in today's Chronicle Comical that the SFMTA Board of Directors has postponed their upcoming meeting to discuss the doomsday fare hikes/service cuts. The meeting, which was to be held this coming Tuesday, will now take place two weeks from today at 9am, Friday, February 26th in Room 400 of City Hall.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pedestrian Spaces to Become Permanent

Two pedestrian plazas on opposite sides of the country - both of which opened last year as temporary spaces - have taken steps toward permanency recently.

Yesterday Curbed reported via the Castro Courier that the plaza at 17th, Castro, and Market Streets will likely become permanent after a vote by the SFMTA and BOS in May or June. This plaza has been wildly successful since day one, despite being cobbled together from some of the cheapest salvaged and donated materials. The plaza tames what was once a dangerous intersection for pedestrians, but its temporary materials are looking less and less civic after this season's rains.

And from New York we have word that the seven sections of Broadway at Times Square that were closed to provide pedestrian refuges and calm traffic on a trial basis have now officially been deemed a success. "The new Broadway is here to stay," said NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. And apparently work will soon begin on designing a more beautiful plaza to replace the temporary materials used at the crossroads of the world.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Good Day For Alleys

There's a couple pieces of good news in between all the bitchy comments over at Curbed!

The first concerns a parking lot at 17th and Folsom, behind the old Joseph Schmidt chocolate factory (thanks, HersheyCo!). This expanse of asphalt has, according to Curbed, apparently been planned for a park for some time.

Speak Out Against SFMTA Doomsday Cuts

Tonight at pm the SFMTA will be holding the second of two town hall meetings to discuss its proposed service cuts and fare hikes. The meeting will be held in the second floor atrium at One South Van Ness and will run from 6-8pm.

Please attend if you can to show support for your fellow Muni riders and let the MTA know we're watching to see if they will execute their Charter-mandated task of diligently seeking new revenue sources for Muni.

Also, if you haven't already, please use this nifty form the SF Bicycle Coalition put together to let the mayor and MTA Directors know how you feel.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Union Square Improvements

Cleaner streets, and more pedestrian-friendly, pedestrian-priority, and pedestrian-only streets are all good things.

'I Don't Respond Well to Threats'

You go, Bruce!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pedestrianism Vol. 6

Pedestrianism Vol. 6 - NYC High Line on Vimeo. If you didn't watch it in HD, can you be sure you've seen it?

It's been a while since my last Pedestrianism video. The spectacle of last June's Sunday Streets in the Mission District was hard to top!

But I took a trip to New York City over New Years and had the chance to see some of the cool new pedestrian spaces there (check out the photos in my Flickr stream in the sidebar). Despite the freezing cold, I walked the length of the first phase of the High Line. This elevated, linear park opened last year on an abandoned railroad track. The city of New York and its private partner have done an amazing job on the landscaping, and the space is well-used even on days as cold as the one shown above.

Be sure to watch in fullscreen with HD on (and scaling off if you have a larger screen) for the best effect.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Let the MTC Know: the OAC is not OK

As I hope you've heard, BART and the MTC are in some deep federal trouble as a result of their handling of the Oakland Airport Connector.

In short: BART mismanaged their planning of the project, changing it extensively over the years without adequately reviewing the changes. The MTC gave a large chunk of the federal stimulus money it received to the project, because the MTC totally hearts BART. Some local transit advocacy groups complained to the feds. The feds took a look at the project and were all like, 'Woah, we can't give money to a project that hasn't been thoroughly vetted under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,' and told BART and the MTC to meet the Title VI requirements by March 5th or give up the money.

BART has pledged to meet the March 5th deadline and proceed with the OAC as planned. But the MTC is really the agency with the right to the money. They could choose to stand with BART and risk losing the money if the feds aren't happy after the deadline. Or they could re-appropriate the money to other regional transit projects so agencies like Muni and AC Transit don't have to make some seriously awful service cuts.

What do you think they should do?
Tell the MTC Commissioners themselves:
Wednesday, January 27
MTC Headquarters
101 Eighth Street, Oakland
More info from Rebecca Saltzman after the jump

Doors are Closing...

...Please stand clear of the doors.

Image courtesy of my friend Brian.

Monday, January 18, 2010

SFMTA Board to Discuss More Service Cuts and Fare Hikes

Please let all your Muni-riding friends know about tomorrow's SFMTA Board of Directors meeting. The Board will be discussing ways to close a nearly $17 million shortfall in its budget before July 1st. Specifically, they will be responding to MTA staff recommendations to:

-Raise the cost to ride the F-line to $5
-Require riders to buy the $70 Fastpass in order to ride the Cable Cars and Express Buses
-Raise the fares for seniors, disabled and youth passes to $30/month (Triple what it was just 6 months ago)
-Reduce the frequency of buses along some lines as well as the operating hours.

Join the event on Facebook, and post it to your Facebook Wall to let your friends know. If you can attend the meeting at 2pm tomorrow, please do so! If, like many of us, you work at that time please send an email to and telling them:

-How the fare increases and service changes have affected you
-Riders should not bear the brunt of the current financial meltdown
-Extended hours meters and Sunday meters need to be a part of any solution

Stay tuned to Streetsblog's Facebook and Twitter pages; they will be updating them during the meeting so that you can figure out if its worthwhile to stop by City Hall after work to testify.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Where the Riders Are

Six months ago I highlighted a wonderful piece of work by Greater Greater Washington that took a look at ridership on the DC Metro. Well I finally got off my butt and did a similar thing for BART. I asked someone at BART who was affiliated with the recent rider survey for data on trips by station entry and exit.

Ask and ye shall receive; BART sent me an excel file containing average weekday origin/departure numbers for the spring and summer of 2009. I crunched the numbers a little and came up with the following

Monday, January 11, 2010

Department of Sidewalk Parking

Hat tip to Streetsblog for breaking word of the newly created San Francisco Department of Sidewalk Parking.

That number, in case you missed it, is 415-553-1200. Press 1 for English (if so inclined) followed by 6 to report sidewalk parking. Rinse, repeat.

Friday, January 8, 2010

SFMTA's Budget Drought

The link is currently in the blogroll at right, but it's worth posting to say 'happy New Year' and 'you need to check out Human Transit.'

Transit planner Jarret Walker offers a great metaphor for the health of transportation networks with specific regard to Muni and the looming specter of yet more service cuts. Must. Read.