Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Two-Way Fell Street is a Reality

I may be a few days late in noticing it, but the paint has now been applied and the block of Fell Street between Van Ness and Franklin is now two-way!  Restoration of this block to two-way flow was planned as part of the restoration of Hayes to two-way, helping to undo one more bad legacy of the old Central Freeway spur.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Check Out the New BART Car Designs

In case you haven't heard, BART will be completely replacing its fleet of cars within the next decade or so.  You may have even participated in one of the Seat Labs that BART put on to get public feedback on hew seat dimensions.

BART has just released the design options by BMW Group DesignworksUSA for the public to see.  Check them out at BART's website.  You can see these designs presented and give feedback at any of a series of open house meetings BART has organized, or at select BART stations.

A couple of my own thoughts?  While BART says "There are side panels where art from the community could be featured," it's hard to imagine it will take long for ads to appear there.  It's a shame that no seats were removed to make more room for standees, luggage, and bikes.  That said, however, the "party seating" in option B leaves more space open near doors, which will be good for circulation

Have a look at the designs yourself and submit your own feedback to BART.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fairness, Eh?

Image: dreyboblue
I know, I know, I should check my email more often.

While going through the spam tonight I noticed this gem from last Wednesday.  My first thought is that the "SF Small Business Owners for Fairness SF" may want to target their "outreach" a little more narrowly:
Have you ever been five minutes late to move your car...and gotten hit with a parking ticket? Are you sick and tired of forking over your hard-earned cash to the city? Don't have a $384,000 severance package to pay for your parking ticket like Nat Ford does?

If you've gotten a parking ticket in San Francisco within the past year, SF Small Business Owners For Fairness, an organization of San Francisco's minority and family owned local stores and businesses, wants to hear your story and wants to pay your ticket!

Click the link below to tell your parking ticket story and the best three stories will get their tickets paid!


Each year almost 2 million parking tickets are given out in San Francisco, so be sure to share the link with your friends and family!
If you've read any of my past entries it might be obvious that I see no benefit to making it easier for people to park in San Francisco.  Past that, one driver's "I was just five minutes late" is another's "there's never any parking in this neighborhood."  To what extent are these small businesses (taking them at their word that they are 'composed of minority and family owned local stores and businesses') working against their goals by limiting parking availability?

But my real objection is with the premise that making an area more accessible to drivers is good for business.  It's not.  Facts speak for themselves.


The Examiner reports that the organization is a front for a group that opposes SF's regulations against advertising.  Curiouser and curiouser...

I Park

Via Tom Vanderbilt.  I can't help noticing all the potential conflicts and negotiations between the pedestrians in the parking lot and the parking drivers.  I have a vague sense that drivers are generally more courteous to pedestrians in parking lots than they are once they get on the street.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Quote of the Day

In response to the Streetsblog article on the proposal to make Haight Street two-way:

Are streets still major arteries if they are all major arteries?  -Mikesonn

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

DeathRace 2011

You know you're in trouble when someone's grandmother scolds you.  The SF Weekly reports that tomorrow (Wednesday, June 15) a group of seniors will protest SF's pedestrian conditions by - gasp! - crossing the street.   The group will try to traverse the intersection of Third and Yosemite Streets in the Bayview in the event they're calling DeathRace 2011.

Best of luck to them!

Monday, June 13, 2011

More Ped Space Coming to Powell Street

Initially reported to be opening in April, the city's last Pavement-to-Parks project will finally be opening along Powell Street in mid-July.  The project will close the parking lane from the end of the cable car mall all the way up to Geary and Union Square.  With a six-month trial timeline, the extra space will be available to the crush of holiday shoppers at the end of the year.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Muni, Save Me From Your Riders!

The Bold Italic has infographic - er, photoessay ... whatever you'd like to call it - on Muni etiquette.  Lord knows there's plenty to say; I doubt I'm the only one who has felt like I was watching what must have been the first time a person has ever ridden a bus in their life.  Other contributors to the discussion include Muni Manners, which doesn't seem to be as active as it once was (I'm not one to talk).

Anyone have a favorite faux pas?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Walk SF Bartends at Elixir

This is just a quick shameless plug heads up about a fun fundraising event for Walk San Francisco.  From 9 PM until closing on Wednesday, June 22nd, a few awesome Walk SF members will be tending bar at Elixir on 16th and Guerrero.

Mark it on your calendars and invite your friends, because this will be a great chance to share a drink with the Walk SF board, transportation advocates, and other people who just love to walk in San Francisco.

Enjoy yourself and tip well; the tip money will go toward the work that Walk SF does to make San Francisco a safer and more pleasant place to walk.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Truly Green 'Greening'

It's a nuance not without its risk of controversy, as SF Citizen expressed in a recent post.  The movement to add more landscaping to San Francisco streets has been gaining steam and literally gaining ground in the last few years.  It think this is a good thing for a lot of reasons.  But almost  all of the square footage that's been de-paved and planted has been taken from our pedestrian space, and that's a distinctly bad thing.

Instead, we could plant trees in the road, or we could green a street as part of a more comprehensive repurposing of the space.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Such a Waste

And truly an avoidable one, at that.

National advocacy group Transportation for America has released its latest Dangerous by Design report, and with it an interactive map of pedestrian fatalities in the last 10 years.  Just type in an address to see the shocking list of places where someone has been killed while walking in the last decade.

Each black marker on this map represents a person, someone whose life was deemed to be just the cost keeping traffic moving in this city.  Whenever a pedestrian safety improvement isn't built because the cost of construction is too high, I'll remember this map.  What's the price of a bulb-out or countdown timer compared to the life of the person it saves?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

High Speed Road Block

Peninsula NIMBYs.

Go ahead and react.  We've been hearing this pejorative label since shortly after the residents of the peninsula voted overwhelmingly in support of the California high speed rail bond.  Wealthy residents of Palo Alto, Atherton, and Menlo Park don't want the fast train in Their Back Yards, and so want to scuttle the voter-mandated line to San Francisco.  Inexperienced, politically-connected HSR Board members are literally railroading peninsula citizens with a bloated, ill-planned waste of taxpayer dollars.  Pick a side, you're either fer it or agin' it.

This argument has gotten unnecessarily heated.  Remember, folks, we're all neighbors and our success as cities depends in many ways on our success as a region, which in turn depends on us working together.  If that seems too hard to do, let's take a step back and look at how other people managed to work out a very similar conflict right here in the Bay Area.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mid-Market Deconstruction

The Southwest-most entrance to the Civic Center BART/Muni station is being deconstructed.  I noticed this was closed about a week ago when trying to exit the station, but I didn't know they were doing this kind of work until my walk to work today.

It's possible they're replacing the opaque - if high-quality granite clad - railing with a stainless steel grill, like the one that opens onto UN Plaza North of 7th Street.  Anybody know for sure what's up?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Don't Be a Jerk

San Francisco has the same rules as NYC: you can't ride your bike on the sidewalk if you're over the age of 12. So, you know...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Power Walking

During Sunday Streets today, interim mayor Ed Lee picked up one of Walk SF's awesome I [walk] SF t-shirts. This strikes me as a refreshing change from the previous administration, and gives me some hope that walkers in our city will start to see some real improvements.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Welcome to Smart Parking

The SFMTA has officially launched its cutting edge SFPark program.  Linking thousands of sensors embedded in San Francisco streets with an online database, the program promises to make it easier to find parking without circling endlessly.

Further, the MTA has pledged to use the real-time availability data to set the price of street parking such that 15% of spaces on any given block are free at any given time.  In other words, if a block is consistently full of parked cars, the price of parking will be raised until an average of 15% of spaces are empty.  The prices will change no more often than monthly in order to avoid freaking the delicate motorist class out, but the website is already publishing parking data in real time.

And so I give you April 27th, 2011, as seen by SFPark.  Enjoy:

Friday, April 22, 2011

First Do No Harm

Every day, St. Francis Memorial Hospital pulls one or several large trucks up to its "loading dock" on Pine St.  I put loading dock in quotes because it's actually just a curb cut with a garage door cut into the side if the building.  The sidewalk here is all of ten feet wide.

So when a truck longer that ten feet pulls up, the sidewalk disappears.  And, as I said, that happens every day.

For the sake of completeness, I should point out that Pine Street is no lazy cul de sac.  It's been a traffic sewer since the '50s when it was made one-way and widened to four lanes.  But Pine is still a residential street.

A hospital like St. Francis provides an invaluable service to the city, but it should not get a free pass to put its neighbors in danger.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Support Walk SF and Uncover Hayes Valley History

On May 7th Walk San Francisco, SF's pedestrian advocacy organization, is hosting a special fundraising walk created by Joel Pomerantz of Thinkwalks.  The walk will combine a specially designed Thinkwalks tour of the Hayes Creek watershed with a cooperative game that offers a challenge of competitive deduction and recall.

It promises to be a fun afternoon for anyone interested in the history of our city, and anyone who loves to play games with friends!

For more information and to reserve your spot, visit the Eventbrite page.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Not Particularly F***ed

The Chronicle Comical, in its infinite condescension, can only imagine how awful it must be to take the bus these days.  Why, Muni's own study shows it's on-timeyness is down "nearly one point!"  On-timeyness being a measurement of how not-too-early or not-too-late a given bus is in comparison to an unpublished schedule that only drivers and people doing on-timeyness studies know.  It's a measurement that offers no insight into the quality of my ride home last night on the K/T, which came as soon as I hit the platform, or on the 47 this morning, which also arrived within minutes but took me to work at a pace barely above walking speed.

I mean, everybody loves to complain about Muni.  Sometimes it can ruin your day.  Sometimes, complaining about the bus can make you look like an entitled princess (and Metro riders - I'm looking at you, N-Judah! - remember that over two thirds of Muni riders take the bus, not your train).

Muni can't be everything to all people.  But is it serving its purpose well or, to put it another way, is it fucked?  A man named Sam Kimbrel put together a clever and attractive site to ask that question: howfuckedismuni.com.  The answer may surprise you.  Clicking through line after line, I keep seeing the message "not particularly fucked."  I do expect that will change from time to time, nothing is "not particularly fucked" all the time.  But maybe the buses are alright.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mayor Rides Public Transit

No, not our short-termed former Mayor, who famously never took a bus without a newsmedia photographer there to document it.

MYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg actually rides the Subway every day.  So maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise that he rode BART on the way in from SFO to meet our interim mayor Ed Lee (who, it seems, met him at the BART station - Civic Center, I presume).

I'd love to hear his thoughts on the ride.

UPDATE BART TV has a little video of the ride:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Everybody Drives

I'm occasionally reminded of how lucky we are to live in a city like San Francisco that has sidewalks, inadequate though many may be, on pretty much every street:
Pulte Homes, one of the nation's largest builders, says sidewalks aren't a given in all communities, although it has seen an uptick in localities requiring them to be. Active communities for the over-55 set and "move-up" buyers, meaning growing families, will very likely get sidewalks, says Pulte spokeswoman Valerie Dolenga. "Where you won't see it is in multifamily and entry-level buyers," she says.
Read the full article at the Wall Street Journal online.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Temporarily Stairs

Broken escalator at the Van Ness Muni station

Has anybody ever been on an escalator when it breaks?  BART and Muni escalators are old and live outside, so it's not too surprising that they're broken fairly often.  But given how common it is, why isn't it so common to see one in the act of breaking?  Or to be on one when it breaks?  Do they only break at odd hours, or when station agents go to turn them on first thing in the morning?

Has this happened to you?
An escalator can never break--it can only become stairs. You would never see an "Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order" sign, just "Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience. We apologize for the fact that you can still get up there."  -Mitch Hedberg, RIP

Sunday, February 13, 2011

So Walk!

On the way home from Walk SF's Russian Hill walk, I stopped into a hardware store on Fourth Street.  The woman who checked me out seemed concerned by whether the small paper bag she handed me was easy enough to handle.  "It's okay," I said, "I'm only going a few stops on Muni."  That didn't seem to convince her, so I added, "I'm pretty tough."

"So walk!" She said.  "It's only a few stops."

Color me moded.  And my jacket was zipped up so she couldn't even see the I [walk] SF t-shirt I was wearing.  So I'm walking home.  It's only a couple of stops.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I Just Keep On Rollin…

It's been linked in the blogroll in the side bar for some time now, but if you haven't yet checked out Bus Driver Stories, take a moment to see what you're missing.  Today's story resonates with me as someone who used to take the 9-San Bruno regularly:
The 9 San Bruno is one of those lines that picks up a lot of people at all times of the day. I remember I was doing a schedule on the 9 and it was like 11:30 am and I had a standing load. I mean PACKED. Like where did everyone come from?
Read the rest of the story...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Is a Slight Improvement Much of a Victory?

Streetsblog reported yesterday that the SFMTA Board unanimously approved the plans for a redesigned Western half of Cesar Chavez Street.  The redesign was prompted by a PUC sewer replacement project that will tear up the street anyway, presenting an opportunity to rebuild a more liveable - and above all a more safe - street than the one we currently enjoy.  But the multi-million dollar design for the new street falls short as I've written before.

To be sure, the redesign is an improvement over the status quo.  It removed one lane of vehicle traffic and replaces it with a median and left-turn lanes.  A small amount of the freed-up space will go toward new bike lanes.  But while this has been framed as a major improvement for bicyclists and pedestrians throughout the process and even now, I remain unconvinced. And apparently so do many of the bicyclists and pedestrians who read Streetsblog, judging from the comments section:
Only in California can a government official call $6,000,000 for 0.9 miles of painted bike lanes and sidewalk bulbs “cost-efficient.”  -SteveS
The doorage will be brutal.  -Brian
It’s an improvement, but it’s just plain wrong to only do that kind of bike lane. There’s really no excuse for it. It should be buffered. I don’t see why you’d have to remove anything, just reorganize it. And even if you do have to remove something, so be it. Remove one of the six lanes in the picture above dedicated to motor vehicles, which really have no place in almost any part of our city, anyway.  -Stuart Chuang Matthews
But the only street users that seem to have gained in any real significant way from the redesign are drivers in the left lane who will have some nice plants to look at when they’re stopped at red lights (the green space is not accessible to pedestrians, who can only look at it from across 33′ of vehicles) and drivers who use on-street parking who will now have a much nicer parking lane.  -SteveS
What do ‘underground sewer pipes’ have to do with the median? Is that what we’re saying — that the raised median, which prevents biking and speeds automobile traffic, has to be 14′-wide because there are ‘underground sewer pipes’ that can only be accommodated with a 14′-wide median?  -Peter Smith
I agree that this plan is already outdated, and it’s discouraging to think if it’s implemented, this is what we’ll be stuck with for the next 20 years. (Yes, it’s better than what’s there now, but what’s there now is truly awful.)  -taomom
There simply is no reason for us to accept second-rate solutions anymore.

Thanks should be due, in no small part, to Streetsblog SF and all the great work they’ve done in raising these issues and providing these forums.

Keep it up, everyone. We’ll probably lose this battle for Cesar Chavez, at least this portion of it, but I’m encouraged that soon we will begin winning the war, fought in similar battles all over the City and the Bay.  -Jake Wegmann
The overall theme of the comments tacks closely to my own thoughts, that this is an incremental improvement to an awful street, but a missed opportunity to improve conditions for the most vulnerable street users.  I'm surprised, given the strength of that reaction in the comments above as well as comments on other articles about the redesign, that these thoughts have received very little coverage.  While I look forward to any improvement on C. Chav, I can't help but see this as an advocacy failure.  Pedestrian advocates need to get louder and more bold in our efforts to create real pedestrian improvements.  If we don't, then more streets will be given the green lipstick treatment of planted medians and a few bulb-outs, while pedestrians squeeze past each other on the same narrow sidewalks and abuelitas take refuge on tiny islands of concrete between rushing traffic.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


It always felt like a Translink card reader trapped in a Clipper reader's body.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sunday Streets 2011 Events Lineup Announced

Like earthquakes and breakups, we find out about this via Facebook:
3/20 Embarcadero
4/10 Great Highway
5/8 Mission
6/12: Bayview
7/10: Great Highway
8/14: Civic Center/Tenderloin
9/11: Western Addition
10/?; Mission
The specific routes aren't up on their website just yet, but we can probably expect them to be just about the same as last year, albeit in a different order to spread out the risk of inclement weather.

Top Ten of 2010

Before the first week of 2010 is over I thought it'd be fun to look at the most popular posts of 2010:

#10 Toward a Robust Rapid Transit Network: The H-Potrero Van Ness
Everything old is new again.  Muni originally ran the H-line streetcar from the Panama-Pacific Exposition grounds in the Marina out to the edge of the mudflats at Potrero and 25th.  With the vast majority of new development in the city slated for the "Eastern neighborhoods" of the Mission, Potrero Hill, and Bayview-Hunters Point, I think Muni should look at reestablishing that cross-town corridor as part of an expanded high-capacity, rapid transit network.

If it looks like a driveway, and the property owners defend it like a driveway, and DPT tows cars parked in it like a driveway it must be ... a vacant office.

#8 Reconnecting the Grid in Potrero Hill
Developers announced that their plans to rebuild the Potrero Terrace-Annex public housing complex included reestablishing the grid through the property.  Technically posted in December of 2009, this post still received a huge number of views last year.

#7 The Oakland Streetcar Plan
Stanford student Daniel Jacobson's Oakland Streetcar proposal has blown up in local political and transit advocacy circles, and it's also gotten tons of national and international attention.

#6 Hello BART
Oh, The Simpsons.  Even after 20+ years that show can be very punny!

#5 Where the Riders Are
This one's a tiny bit embarrassing.  After crunching a set of ridership data from BART, I published this map of how many riders are on every stretch of BART track.  Then the BART rep who sent me the data wrote me back and said the set contained an error (damn Excel) and I should use a new set of more accurate data.  I promised to re-crunch and re-publish, but got sidetracked.

My new year's resolution: to follow up on this!

#4 Doors are Closing
...Please stand clear of the doors.

#3 Welcoming Division Back to San Francisco
Remember when they tore down the Central Freeway?  Remember how they stopped at Market Street and the North Mission and SoMa still have to suffer under its sooty turquoise oppression?  Caltrans should definitely tear that sucker down, but we can't stop there.  The street underneath is ugly even if you ignore the elevated structure.  Here's my idea for how to fix that.

#2 Google Demolishes the Central Freeway
Google Street View's 3-D building models create an eerily familiar computer-generated San Francisco.  But there's no 3-D model for the Central Freeway, which gives is a surprising peek at a world without that eyesore.