Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quote of the Day

Regarding the letter about parking in Menlo Park ("A better deal," Dec. 25): I could park for free in Modesto, too, but why would I want to? -Jeff Doane via SF Chronicle

Monday, December 28, 2009

Going... Going...

Some awesome pictures of the big old warehouse at Third and Mariposa Streets on the edge of Dogpatch and Mission bay. The old building is being systematically dismantled so that the site can become the new home of a UCSF hospital. The way they're taking it apart it almost appears to be fading away.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Wider Sidewalks on Valencia

City workers have been tearing up four blocks of Valencia Street for the Valencia Streetscape Improvement project for about six months now, and concrete results are now underfoot. The first blocks of wider sidewalks have opened and Pedestrians can now enjoy the extra space as well as the safety of some new corner bulbouts. Click through for a larger picture; you can follow the white line of the crosswalk to see the difference between the old sidewalk width (foreground, South of 17th Street) and the new (North, across 17th Street in the photo).

It's clear that there remains some more work to be done on these first blocks: pouring more concrete, installing street furniture, and planting a row of new trees in what was once the parking lane. And work has yet to begin on most of the blocks in the project area (Valencia from 15th to 19th).

But two blocks are open and usable right now, and the rest will follow before you know it. Go out and see for yourself what a difference a few feet can make.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

M is for Muni-only

My monthly commuter benefit arrived in the mail today, and with it was an extra special reminder that the cambios significantes to which we're all still adjusting will soon be joined by a new fare increase in just over a week.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Reconnecting the Grid in Potrero Hill

According to Curbed SF, the plans for replacing the Potrero Terrace-Annex housing projects on the Southeast side of Potrero Hill call for re-establishing the street grid on the hilly property.

The maps above compare the street grid as it was planned from the 19th century and the streets that exist today. The map on the left was made in 1907, but doesn't differ significantly from earlier maps. North-South streets were named for states, and East-West streets were named for the original counties of California (most changed to the numbers they currently bear when the Potrero Hill grid was merged into the existing grid of the Mission District in 1895. The weird little jogs many streets make as they cross Harrison show the boundary between these two almost-aligned grids).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

2010 Sunday Streets Schedule Announced

Streetsblog reports that the city has announced the schedule for 2010's Sunday Streets events:
  • March 14: Embarcadero, starting at Fisherman’s Wharf and PIER 39, south to China Basin and Terry Francois Blvd.
  • April 11: Along the Great Highway, coinciding with World Health Day's “1,000 Cities, 1,000 Lives” international event, as one of thousands of cities hosting simultaneous car-free events worldwide.
  • April 18: Bayview, along 3rd Street from King and 4th (Caltrain Station) to Bayview Playground.
  • May 23: Bayview, in conjunction with the 3rd Street Corridor Project and Bayview Merchant’s Association’s “3rd Street Festival.”
  • June 20: Mission, along Valencia and 24th Streets.
  • July 11: Mission.
  • August 22: Great Highway/Golden Gate Park.
  • September 19: NEW: Western Addition, exact location TBD.
  • October 24: NEW Civic Center/Tenderloin, exact location TBD.
-Streetsblog SF

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

(Long) Quote of the Day

When was the last time you heard anyone calling for a freeway to be profitable? (Or, for that matter, even unsubsidized?) When did we build our airports and overpasses to provide the best ROI? No, we build all these other transportation projects to provide the most public benefit possible. According to the CA-HSRA's own Business Plan, the way to do that is to set fares at 50% of airfare, producing nearly double the ridership in the first year, and around 30% more by 2035. This gets the most people off our roads and out of our airports as possible, and moves more people by clean, renewable electricity than any other option studied. Fares at 50% of airfare keeps the train operations sustainable while providing the most return-on-investment for the taxpayers, the citizens of California, who asked for this thing to be built. As far as I'm concerned, that ought to be the only criteria evaluated, and Wall Street can suck it. -Riding in Riverside

Monday, December 14, 2009

Breathing Room

Powell Street near Union Square was the latest street to get a temporarily more livable trial project over the weekend, just in time for the holiday shopping rush.

The parking lanes on both sides of the street were removed to create an expanded pedestrian walkway from the cable car turnaround to Union Square (the block of Powell between the turnaround and Ellis Street is already pedestrian- and transit-only).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quote of the Day

gay marriage and parking: a generation from now we will look back at this time period in disgust and shame. -Anonymous commenter on Curbed SF

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cambios Significantes

As we wrap up week one of "the most significant changes to Muni's network in 30 years" (ZOMG!!!1!!) I thought it was worth remarking on what those changes have meant. News reports and my Facebook News Feed have largely agreed that the changes were without significant disruption.

Muni deserves congratulations for pulling that feat off. Even loyal Muni riders love to gripe about every little thing, so it's almost inconceivable that there would be this little grumbling. Muni win.

That said, however, there are a couple of bad side effects of the changes that have made me spend more time on the corner than I'd like to during this cold snap.

The above picture was taken at 2nd and Brannan Streets. It's where I've always waited for the bus, so I was sad to see this sign announcing the stop had been removed.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Happy Birthday :-)

Today marks the 1-year birthday of this blog! It started with a post of my first Pedestrianism video, chronicling my walk to work through SoMa. I had initially intended to give this blog the same name as the video but, since another blogger.com user had already claimed that URL, I went with Pedestrianist. One year and some 200 posts later, here we are!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Space in the Heart of the City

Rachel Gordon has a piece in today's Chronicle Comical on a plan to do something with Hallidie Plaza, that expansive void in the middle of downtown SF.

I imagine anyone with any amount of urban awareness has had their own ideas of what to do with this space as soon as they first laid eyes on it. It's clear the first time you visit that the plaza is just not working right. Crowds choke the area around the cable car turnaround and pedestrians avoid the relatively broad walkways along the old Bank of America building and along Market Street. BART and Muni riders hurriedly pass through the sunken area in the middle, and the area West of Cyril Magnin is an afterthought if it's thought of at all.

And any amateur urbanist's bright ideas for the plaza would probably be an improvement. The plan discussed in Gordon's article, which is apparently being seriously considered by the city, calls for that Western segment to be decked over and converted to a reservoir. That's a very practical use of the existing volume, and it would improve the plaza, to be sure. One disadvantage is that the plan would cut off access to the Powell Street Station from West of 5th Street. Riders coming from, say, the Warfield theater would need to cross either Market of 5th Street to get underground.

I confess to having my own daydreams of what Hallidie Plaza should look like. I can't say I've ironed out the details yet but in response to Gordon's article I'd like to mention some things I think are important to consider in any overhaul plans, vaguely in order of importance.

Monday, November 30, 2009


A not-so-gentle reminder that you're not even safe on the sidewalk.

Quote of the Day

"Adding highway lanes to deal with traffic is like loosening your belt to cure obesity." -Lewis Mumford (via comment on The Overhead Wire)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quote of the Day

More transit means more pedestrians, more people who pay attention to the shape and design of the city up close. That, in turn, means a growing constituency for shared space in Los Angeles and new interest in our long-neglected streetscapes and public sphere.

To put it another way: Transit and the life of the street are inextricably intertwined, and a boost to one is almost always a boost to the other. -

30 Years in Review

Hat Tip to The Overhead Wire for posting this video:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Article 5: Section 96

This is a personal response to the bicyclist who literally hit me on my walk to work today, as well as his friend. It is illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk in San Francisco. You asked me to show you the law, here it is:


It shall be unlawful to ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk area, except at a permanent or temporary driveway or on bikeways heretofore or hereafter established by resolution of the board of Supervisors; provided, however, that juveniles under the age of 13 and riding a sidewalk bicycle, exercising due care and giving the pedestrian the rightof-way, may ride and operate their sidewalk bicycles upon the sidewalk, except such sidewalks as are in front of schools, stores, or buildings used for business purposes.

(Amended by Ord. 394-78, App. 8/29/78)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Better Practices

Somewhat recently, Streetfilms did a short piece on where we plant our street trees. Specifically, why don't we plant them in the road?

Without question, street trees fundamentally improve the pedestrian experience along city streets. Their canopies provide shade and shelter from the wind and rain, but they take up a small amount of valuable street space. This space is almost always taken from the sidewalk. Pedestrians can maneuver around tree trunks better than cars, so this makes some sense.

But cities around the world (the Streetfilms piece is about Melbourne, Australia) and those close to home are trying something that might be a lot better, at least along streets with narrow sidewalks.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

SF is a Cheaper Place to Live than the Suburbs

Well I could have told you this! I cringe when I hear people say San Francisco is such an expensive place to live. Yes, rents are higher on average and there are a lot of pricey restaurants around. But, as the Urban Land Institute reports today, you will save around $500 per month if you move from Livermore to SF.

This is something a lot of us know implicitly. I lived for almost three years making no more than $18,000 per year and I always knew I could only do that in a place like SF, where I didn't need a car. Sure, my rent was around $75 or $100 per month higher than friends' in the East Bay, but they ate through those savings and then some on insurance, gas, and maintenance of their cars - to say nothing of parking.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Muni Announces Upcoming Service Changes

The SFMTA has released its planned changes to Muni service. The changes are scheduled to begin on December 5th. Click the link to view each of the changes, including maps of affected routes.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blast From the Past

Hat-tip to The N-Judah Chronicles: Apparently someone's selling an old Muni farebox on Craigslist!

Man, that picture takes me back. I remember putting my quarter in one of these on the 49 when I would head home from school back in fourth grade. I can't remember exactly when they switched to the new fareboxes - I think some time around when the adult fare hit $1.00.

If only I had an extra $325 lying around...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Peak to Peak!

This past Saturday was Walk SF's Peak to Peak, an annual hike from West Portal up ~15 of SF's hills, ending at Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. It was billed as a 12-mile walk but one participant's GPS-enabled cell phone recorded it at 14.9 miles, with something like 4,500 feet of climbing, if memory serves.

I had an absolute blast, although my walk to work today was a bit slower and more stiff than usual as I recover. Take a look at the photos above for an idea of how beautiful, and worth the pain, the walk was. Here's a map of the route annotated with some of the photos I took:

View Peak to Peak in a larger map

If you went and took your own pictures, consider uploading them to Walk SF's fan page on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Quote of the Day

In Manhattan, creative jaywalking is an environmental positive, because it makes traveling on foot easier: it enables pedestrians to maintain their forward progress when traffic lights are against them, and to gain small navigational advantages by weaving between cars on clogged side streets - and it also keeps drivers on their guard, forcing them to slow down. -David Owen (via Living Car-Free in Big D)
I definitely agree with this statement, and not because I like pedestrians more than drivers and somehow feel that rules shouldn't apply to everyone. Legally, of course, traffic laws do apply to everyone. But there is a difference in justice of those traffic laws, a difference that reflects the natural hierarchy of vulnerability among road users.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More on the MTA's Parking Meters

Paul Hogarth has some thoughts at BeyondChron.

He tips his hat to Melissa Griffin, who rightly notes that May's emergency budget was only 'balanced' if you include money from the proposed meter changes.

And Streetsblog has its usual high-quality coverage of this important issue.

It's not too late to head to City Hall and put your 2¢ on the record. Room 400.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Paper Whose Time Expired

So The Chronicle Comical has decided to campaign against rational pricing for parking meters in SF. In doing so they reveal themselves as tireless advocates for those few privileged enough to drive in San Francisco.

Where was their outrage when Muni fares went up in May? A bus ride now costs twice what it did when our spokesmayor took office and, come January, so too will your Fast Pass if you want to use it on BART. Newsom voicebox Nathan Ballard, who apparently has the ear of the Chron's Editorial Board, reacted to the MTA study thusly:
In this economy, we can't ask people to pay more for parking. Our small businesses don't need one more reason for people to stay away.
Read the report, Mr. Ballard! Businesses don't get their customers from on-street parking. Across SF, only 14% of customers at local businesses drove to get there, and they spend less per capita per month than any other group of shoppers. These are people you want beating a path to your door, I suppose, as long as you're not interested in making money.


Ballard, Newsom, and the Comical's concern for the plight of the private motorist is especially insulting given their apparent disregard for Muni riders.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Quote of the Day

If they use the money to make sidewalk improvements, one of the most important transportation pieces of infrastructure in San Francisco. I think the sidewalks are almost as important as the bus system. If they said we'll use some of the money to improve the sidewalks and the streetscapes on the metered streets, everybody would see that the city is giving back something and not just taking. I think if you give back something that's very visible and very valuable, the metered communities will see the benefits right in front of their eyes. --Donald Shoup (via Streetsblog)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

SFMTA Releases Overdue Parking Meter Study

Streetsblog has a great writeup of the report, which is overdue by a couple months. My favorite part:
When pressed whether the MTA Board would stand up to Mayor Gavin Newsom if it believed extending meter hours was better for the MTA and the city, [MTA Board Chairman Tom] Nolan admitted the board hadn't opposed the mayor "really in much of anything." But, he added, "We keep turning down revenue options, if it's not going to be on the revenue side, it's going to be on the service side." -Matthew Roth
I can almost hear Tom Radulovich gently reminding him that the City Charter requires him and his colleagues to "diligently seek new revenue sources" for the MTA.

The SFMTA will discuss this study at its upcoming meeting on Tuesday, October 20th at 2pm. If you can, you should absolutely attend and let the MTA know you support the fair parking meter prices this study recommends.

Scenic Route

The Chronicle Comical has a piece in today's Datebook section about a new web application called Scenic Route. The app lets you pick a starting and ending point, as well as the amount of time you have for your stroll. Then it spits out something of a walking tour that leverages the comments of other users to find interesting hidden gems along the way.

There's historical trivia and architectural points of interest, as well as some bizarre entries like this one from user 'paugsburger,'
sometimes I drive, I love the view from 280 (at 6th and Townsend)

The more time you give yourself, the more meandering the route this app returns. It's definitely designed to be used on an iPhone's web browser, but you can also launch it from your computer.

Check it out!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Speed - Comfort - Convenience

God bless Eric Fischer, who finds the best ghosts of Bay Area transit past. Por ejemplo:

"San Francisco's plan for progress calls for modern, computer-controlled, 80-mph rapid transit cars to speed Bay Area residents to their destinations."

"Transit cars on exclusive rights-of-way will operate at 90-second intervals during rush periods."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Quote of the Day

[Note: I apologize to anyone who has been looking for more meat in my posts recently. I've been very busy as of late, so I've made an effort to post more but shorter items relevant to the pedestrian experience. I hope to provide more in-depth content soon]
I do not believe that you guys scared everybody out of Oakland's parking spaces, I believe [Grand Lake Theater owner] Alan Michaan did by getting on the 6 o'clock news and telling everyone to be terrified of parking in Oakland. One of you ought to scold him for the level of invective he brought out here. You guys were accused of extortion for raising the fee from $1.50 to $2, but you were accused of extortion by a man who charges $3 for a small coke. -Max Alstott, to the Oakland City Council at their October 6th meeting (via Streetsblog)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Vision for the Future

There's an interesting model of downtown SF at SPUR's new building on Mission Street. The model shows the proposed or approved new development in the Transbay and Rincon Hill areas.

But upon closer inspection, the elevated freeway to and from the Bay Bridge has been removed Southwest of 4th Street. Now that's 'urban renewal' I can get behind!

Quote of the Day

In a post about the Oakland Airport Connector:
[BART] couldn’t care less whether Oakland gets trashed, as long as they can whisk suburban commuters to downtown San Francisco or the airports with minimal contact with Oakland soil. Elevated BART tracks carry passengers over Oakland’s neighborhoods while elevated freeways carry drivers over Oakland’s streets—a separate transportation grid several dozen feet above ground level, which “sidesteps the mess” below. -Fragmentary Evidence

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Distracted Driving Summit - Today and Tomorrow

Thank you Mr. Solomon for the note in my inbox alerting me to a summit that US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is hosting on distracted drivers.

From the Secretary's blog, the Fast Lane:
So today, we’re kicking off a two-day summit that’s going to look at this deadly epidemic from every angle.

We’re bringing together top experts in safety, transportation research, regulatory affairs, and law enforcement to help us identify, target, and tackle the fundamental elements of this problem.
Watch the webcast of both days' events here, or the live-blog at the Fast Lane.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Better Market Street

The six-week trial program to reduce car traffic on Market Street begins today. So far, according to the folks as SFist, things are pretty alright.

I'm stuck in an office in SoMa, so I have no eyewitness account to add. Any comments with your own experiences are appreciated!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Middle of the Road

When Jim Hightower says, "There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos," he's talking about centrism in American politics, but I'm instantly reminded of the real-life streets down which we all travel. Armadillos are rare in San Francisco, of course, but yellow stripes are also missing from far too many of our streets.

The city of Minneapolis is about to return two of its downtown streets to two-way traffic after nearly 30 years of one-way flow. Those streets, like many in downtowns across the country, were converted to one-way couplets by auto-centric traffic engineers in the middle of the last century.

Their goal was to squeeze more cars through older, narrow streets as fast as they could. And that's exactly what happened. The problem is that the fast, thick traffic along these one-way streets has proven to be dangerous to vulnerable road users, especially pedestrians, and has often pushed away much of the street life.

Friday, September 25, 2009

9X becomes 11X

According to the Ex, Muni is slightly rerouting the last bit of the 9X to touch down in the sliver of Daly City near the Cow Palace. And with that change, they're going to call it the 11X.

Not sure why the designation change was necessary, but this extra extension makes a lot of sense for this heavily-used downtown feeder express. The new terminus at Geneva and Schwerin streets is technically in Daly City, but that's something of an arbitrary distinction in this part of town. In addition to the operational improvements that the Examiner article mentions, the extra few-block-jaunt will connect downtown SF to a new pool of residents near the Cow Palace.

Of course, it only makes perfect sense for the T-Third to be extended past this stop and down Geneva to the Balboa Park-plex. But this is a small step in the right direction, all the same.

Quote of the Day

The pedestrian is the indicator species for a healthy, vibrant community. - Beth Osbourne, Deputy Assistant Director for Transportation Policy USDOT (via pps.org)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Breathing Room in Chinatown

Via Curbed, apparently pedestrians in Chinatown are getting some much-needed space along Wentworth Street. Nice!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy World Carfree Day!

Who knew?! Thanks to Streetsblog for pointing out that today is World Carfree Day. According to its organizers,
World Carfree Day was established in 2000 as a grassroots movement by the World Carfree Network to coincide with the European Mobility Week. It has grown to involve official and unofficial participants in over 1,000 cities in 40 countries. -World Carfree Network
So if you haven't already - and, so we can still be friends, I'll assume you have already - ditch the car and take the BMW (BART, Muni and Walk) around town today. You couldn't ask for better weather!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Quote of the Day

After all, people don't come to San Francisco to watch other people drive their cars around. -Tim Holt

Happy Park(ing) Day!

Check out this map of SF's newest limited-time-only parks! If you see any cool ones in your 'hood, walk around and take some pictures. Upload them to Flickr if you want.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sad News, Everyone

Thanks for the Alert by Walk SF's Facebook page. The SF Appeal has good coverage of a woman who was hit and killed this morning at Fell and Broderick Streets.

While details are apparently hazy since the crash was so recent, the Appeal reports that, according to police spokeswoman Sgt. Lyn Tomioka,
Apparently, another car had stopped (for the woman) at the intersection and this vehicle went around it.
If true, that's a pretty clear violation of CVC Section 21951, which states:
Whenever any vehicle has stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.
According to the Examiner's writeup, 'San Francisco Police Officer Barcena' described this as "not an arrest situation." But the Appeal quotes Sgt. Tomioka as saying that prosecutors "could weigh charging him 'because the driver is required to drive with due caution.'"

My thoughts go out to the family and friends of the victim of this driver's negligence.

Friday, September 11, 2009

16th Street Upgrades?

If you've been down 16th Street lately you've probably noticed these new poles being installed. They seem to be replacements for the poles that currently support Muni's overhead wires (for the 22 and 33 lines) rather than utility poles.

I haven't been able to Google up any info on this project, but I suspect it might have something to do with Muni's planned (TEP) re-routing of the 22 down 16th to Mission Bay.

Anyone have details?

The Origins of the Sidewalk

Just found out about a great SoCal pedestrian blog via Streetsblog LA. Brush up on your party trivia with this interesting history of the sidewalk.

OMG, Walk SF is on Facebook!

So become a fan already!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Eagerly Awaiting the New market Street

Even if it is just temporary. As you've probably heard by now, five city agencies have announced that they will change the traffic patterns on Market Street on a trial basis starting September 29th and lasting at least six weeks, according to the Chronicle Comical.

The traffic changes to be made during this trial are notably stronger that the SFCTA had proposed back in May. The new configuration will leave a virtually car free road Eastbound, East of 8th Street.

Bridge Work Time Lapse

God bless Facebook, bringer of Internet distractions:

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Preview the New Showplace/Potrero Hill Plaza

I hope everyone's enjoying their big car-free weekend!

I took a minute to check out the progress on SF's next Pavement to Parks pedestrian plaza at 16th and 8th streets. Work on what the Planning Dept calls 'Showplace Triangle' is ongoing, but one can already get a sense of the final product.

Some pics and descriptions after the jump.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Big Weekend

Well, today's the day. Caltrans closed the Bay Bridge last night and the whole region clenched in anticipation of Carmageddon this morning - the first weekday commute without bridge access in just under 20 years.

Many folks expected the areas around the bridge approaches to see light traffic, and they are. But as it turns out, traffic was lighter than usual everywhere this morning, including the other bridges expected to absorb some spillover traffic. The traffic guy on KRON this morning relayed an anecdote from a Dumbarton Bridge toll-taker who said it seemed like a Sunday morning.

Clearly, an awful lot of the trips people make across our bridges are not necessary. To me, that indicates our transportation policies make driving too appealing an option for transbay travel. The moral of today's story is that the subsidies of driving across the water ought to be minimized. Obviously the sky won't fall if you can't drive across the bridge.

On a related note, BART wants to know how and why you're riding this car-free weekend.

And this year's last Sunday Streets will take over the Great Highway again. Looks like a beautiful weekend in the walkable neighborhood!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Then and Now - Pine and Hyde

What a difference 50 years can make to the quality of our streets. Below are two photos of the intersection of Pine and Hyde, looking West

Left: 1954 ; Right: 2009

The image on the left is from Walt Vielbaum via the Market Street Railway blog. MSR's caption:
Downtown-bound O'Farrell, Jones & Hyde cable car No. 57 swings 'wrong-way' from Hyde into the oncoming traffic of Pine Street, (1954). The overhead neon sign warns motorists that an eastbound cable car is invading the one-way westbound street for two blocks, before it turns south on Jones Street. This mechanism was set up when the City made Pine one-way. Downtown interests longed to do the same with O'Farrell Street where two automobile garages were being built. The pressure for a one-way downtown street grid helped doom this fabled cable car line, which shut down two weeks after Walt Vielbaum took this great photo. -Market Street Railway
It's interesting to see what's changed and what has stayed the same. The buildings on three of the four corners are still there, but are now fronted with trees. The St. Francis Memorial Hospital has replaced Thomas Coffee Shop on the Southeast corner.

Traffic is still one way, now unperturbed by that pesky cable car.

Friday, August 28, 2009

First Look at Mason Street Plaza

It's taken way to long for me to finally get myself over to North Beach to see first hand what life is like there with one tiny block of Mason Street closed. Streetsblog had some great photos of the temporary plaza being installed at the beginning of the month, but I'd never seen it myself.

Similar temporary pedestrian spaces implemented under the city's Pavement to Parks program have been wildly popular in the communities that surround them. But I have to admit I was worried this plaza would become an exception to that experience after a reader left a couple comments indicating the situation in North Beach was bad.

Specifically worrying to me was his assertion
Come by any morning and you'll see a huddle of junkies and alcoholics who have a daily jamboree. -Karl B
Since this plaza was between a surface parking lot and a library, and not directly adjacent to cafes or other businesses that could participate in its upkeep, I was a little concerned that the plaza might be run down after only a month.

So I took Mr. B's advice and went down there this morning. Pics after the jump.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Kill the Street

A great post by Tom Vanderbilt on How We Drive, pointing out what hindsight has made glaringly obvious: all those matte paintings of streamlined towers separated by wide open expressways during the mid-twentieth-century modernist/urban redevelopment era were lying about the freedom of the automobile. In real life, there just isn't enough room on even those spacious roads for all the cars you'd need.

Some choice quotes after the jump.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Thanks to BART's Blog for posting this. Check out BARThood for detailed maps, video, and analysis of BART's effect on the neighborhoods surrounding its stations.

Bikes on the Sidewalk :-/

SFist touched on a hot topic yesterday. Experientially, there seem to be more bicyclists riding on the sidewalks these days. I've mentioned it before, but it's not a subject I feel comfortable going off on because
  • Tempers get hot, which is bad for reasoned debate
  • I like people who ride their bikes instead of driving cars, and I want more people to do more of that
But I'm 100% of the opinion that bicyclists should not ride on the sidewalk. Apparently so are a lot of SFist readers, and you can read what they have to say without getting mad at me. One comment, however, roughly sums up my opinion:
So you don't like cars, therefore you punish pedestrians?
Your logic is infallible.
I like walking around San Francisco, and I like not dying. It directly follows, then, that I want fewer people to drive, and for those that do to drive slower and more carefully. Riding a bicycle legally in the road encourages safer driving, improves bike and ped safety, discourages some driving trips and encourages other people to bike.

Riding your bicycle on the sidewalk does more to encourage the status quo of driving than would not riding a bike at all.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Laying Better Plans

The Planning Department's City Design Group has been working on its Mission Streetscape Plan for some time now. They've just released the presentation materials from the fourth Public Workshop and the concepts they outline are very encouraging!

I think the grid of the inner Mission District is one of the most pleasant environments for pedestrians in the city. Most intersections have four-way stops, the streets have wide sidewalks, low car traffic and are lined with trees and beautiful houses. But there's definitely room for improvement, especially along the streets that were handed over to cars during the 20th century (So. Van Ness, Guerrero, 16th and especially Potrero).

Check out the PDF, and continue after the jump for my first impression.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Who Stopped The Trains?

The SF Comical Chronicle proudly announced today that the BART strike was averted because tough economic times are finally putting the nails in the labor movement's coffin. A dubious conclusion that was deftly slapped down by SFist.

Beyond Chron has been pillorying this article's author, Carla Marinucci, recently and for good reason. The article is a set of facts artfully arranged to support a preordained conclusion. Contrary to what Marinucci would like us to think, public opinion is not dramatically lopsided toward the BART unions or management, the public was not terribly outspoken, and the strike was averted at the bargaining table, not the breakfast table over copies of Chronicle editorials.

But her loud propagation of this meme got me thinking, if the prospect of a strike pisses her off, why isn't she mad about the recent BART service cuts?

Oh Chuck

Walnut Creek resident Chuck Nevius has one of his typical poorly-researched and poorly-attributed column in today's Chronicle Comical (newspaper columns are not newspaper articles, and columnists are not reporters, Jon Carroll's breaking cat news not withstanding).

This blog cares, however, only because a third of this column is about vocal neighborhood opposition to the Mason Street plaza/horseman-of-the-apocalypse in North Beach. The plaza is formed by a temporary closure of a short block of Mason Street, which is part of a Branch Library Improvement Program project in North Beach.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Translink on BART - Followup

I recently made a weekend trip to Southern California. Aside from worrying about the narrowly-avoided BART strike, my trip to and from SFO gave me the opportunity to test first hand BART's progress with Translink.

The results: mixed.

On the way to SFO on Thursday, I tagged my green wondercard only to hear the turnstile screech and display the 'See Agent' message. Not wanting to bother, I used the regular paper floppy plastic BART card instead.

Today, however, on my way back from SFO I entered the BART station to find the trains mercifully running. This time, when I tagged the card the fare gates parted and displayed my Translink balance. The exit at 16th Street was equally smooth, and showed me the new balance after it calculated and deducted my fare.

I continue to recommend that everyone get a Translink card and try to use it as often as possible.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Kudos to FutureOakland for an insightful, local rebuttal to Oakland's parking meter hand wringing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Central Subway Perspective

Ah, the Central Subway.

What more can be said about the Central Subway? Conceived in some form at least 80 years ago, and put into motion by a vote of the people 20 years ago, the project seems like a done deal despite protests from some transit activists and NIMBYs alike.

One major concern is that the CS as currently planned is less than optimally designed, and way too expensive. Opponents point to the price tag of $1.58 billion for 1.7 miles of rail as ridiculously prohibitive.

Without disagreeing on those points, I'd like us all to pause, stand back and get a little perspective.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sign of the Times

Over the weekend I noticed this notice on a telephone pole at 17th and Potrero. Click through the jump for the complete list of improvements to be discussed.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Showplace/Potrero Ped Plaza Visualized

Streetsblog has the scoop. The Planning Department has released the design for one of the next Pavement to Parks plazas, this one on 16th Street, adjacent to Showplace Square and Potrero Hill:

View Larger Map

Streetsblog doesn't give a date for the opening, but according to the Planning Department's website, both the Showplace Square plaza and the one planned for San Jose and Guerrero Avenues are slated for sometime in September.

Monday, August 3, 2009

BART Takes translink With a But

BART announced today that it will begin accepting Translink. Translink on BART. Now! Like, for reals!

If it sounds too good to be true, well, maybe it is. BART says a small group of BART-only EZ Rider cardholders are being asked to try the futuristic green transit card as part of the agency's test phase. Translink differs from EZ Rider cards only in that it works on other agencies (Muni, AC Transit, Samtrans, GG Transit right now) and BART doesn't have 100% complete control over it.

But if, like me, you already have a Translink card:
Anyone else with a TransLink card is welcome to use it on BART during this limited rollout period, as long as they have a TransLink card loaded with sufficient e-cash (electronic cash) ... Because passengers are always responsible for fare payment, please be sure to bring along other means of payment such as an EZ Rider card, a BART blue ticket or cash as a backup during the limited rollout of TransLink on BART. -SFBART's Blog
That means I'll be tapping my card every chance I get, and only maybe using my paper floppy plastic BART card if I absolutely have to.

The future is here!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Urban Mole

I'll believe it when I see it, but this article about a (purely conceptual) method of delivering packages through city sewers is fascinating. This line from the opening paragraph is especially smirk-inducing:
UPS trucks have nowhere to double-park, and obnoxious bike messengers can’t even ride on pedestrian-jammed sidewalks.

North Beach Library Plaza Opens This Weekend

San Francisco will add a new (albeit temporary) pedestrian space to one of its densest neighborhoods tomorrow when a section of Mason Street in North Beach is closed to car traffic. I won't be in town to see its first weekend myself, but I look forward to visiting soon - and taking pictures.

If you can, stop by the new plaza at Mason and Columbus Avenue, in front of the North Beach Branch Library. The space will be open for two months, until September 27th.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Where the Riders Are

Greater Greater Washington, a DC-based transit and livable cities blog, as an awesome set of maps showing the ridership levels at every segment of the DC Metro system.

Apparently WMATA doesn't collect this kind of ridership data, so author Matt Johnson and a friend of his collected the info themselves.

BART does collect this data, and is great about releasing it to the public for analysis and interpretation. Hopefully one of the Bay Area's skilled transit geek cartographers can bust out a local version of GGW's diagram.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Oakland's Urban Paths

The image of public stairways in my mind is one of San Francisco's hilly neighborhoods - Twin Peaks, Liberty, Telegraph, Russian and Potrero Hills. But Oakland has hills too, and a group of people working to raise awareness of their Town's own public stairs.

From the Facebook group:
The Oakland Urban Paths is a group of dedicated walkers, planners, historians and fundraisers with a common mission: to raise awareness of the paths and Oakland’s heritage through a variety of activities in partnership with Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) and the City of Oakland.
Oakland Urban Paths is about to undertake an inventory of Oakland's 250+ paths and stairways. The effort kicks off tomorrow at WOBO's volunteer meeting. Deets have been added to the calendar in the sidebar, and listed after the jump

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mission Streetscape Plan Public Workshop #4

Mark your calendars for the penultimate Mission Streetscape Plan public workshop:

AUGUST 12, 2009 - 6:30 - 8:30 PM
The Women's Building Auditorium
3543 18th Street (at Lapidge)

Development Oriented Transit

I read Streetsblog New York's piece on BRT yesterday, and thought about mentioning some arguments in opposition to BRT, but held off.

Good decision, it turns out, since The Overhead Wire can be counted on to make the case against BRT far more passionately than I can. That post and the comments it generated are definitely worth a read, but one remark in particular struck me:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Less Median, More Sidewalk

Work is about to begin on the Valencia Streetscape Improvements project. There are a number of elements of the Better Streets "Plan" that will be installed along the four-block stretch in question, but the biggest single change will be the removal of the 13-foot wide center parking lane median and the addition of 6 to 9 feet of sidewalk (half on each side of the street, of course).

According to Streetsblog, Liveable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich "was hopeful that Valencia could serve as a model for many of the ideas that are in the Better Streets Plan." And indeed we all should remain hopeful that more of our street space is turned over to pedestrian use.
Unfortunately, not all street improvement projects currently underway are quite so admirable.

The project to redesign notorious traffic sewer Cesar Chavez Street will not include wider sidewalks but will instead add 14-foot-wide center median to the expressway. Thus ensuring that cars will continue to speed to and from the "hairball" of on/off-ramps below Highway 101 and the street will continue to divide Bernal Heights from the Mission - albeit under the shade of pretty new trees.

Divisadero will also be "improved" without doing much to address the public pedestrian spaces along the street.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July Sunday Streets

Let's none of us ever buy gas again

I hope everyone had fun at Sunday Streets today. This months fete took the same route through the Mission District as last month's. My impression, however, was that the crowd was slightly different. Last time, there seemed to be more people present along the Easter half, down 24th Street. The crowd then seemed to be simply walking/biking/jogging/what-have-you down the street.

This month, the crowd seemed just slightly smaller but more engaged. I noticed an awful lot of roller skaters, and more people with music systems on their bikes or blasting out the apartment windows above the route.

Last month I left right at 2pm, when the street was reopened to cars. This time I waited until the last possible minute to leave the street. It was a little perplexing to hear the cops yelling, 'The street is now open, please get off the street,' or, 'The street is open, look out for yourselves!' After all, aren't they supposed to look out for us?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

November Street Bond Poll

I was just called (very early on a Saturday) to participate in a poll about the upcoming street repaving bond. From the questions they asked it sounds like they'll be pitching this as a benefit for pedestrians. That's great, and hopefully it actually will fund projects to increase pedestrian safety. But if you want to something about the unfunded pedestrian and transit improvement projects in this city, enforce the traffic laws!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

SF's Own Second Ave Subway

Not down Second Avenue in the Richmond District, naturally. The title refers to the eighty-year-long history of the as yet unbuilt Subway line under Second Avenue in Manhattan.

This map was drawn in 1931, two years after the Second Avenue line in New York was proposed. I have a copy of this hanging in my hallway, so I was surprised when I noticed the other day that it includes a couple lines that transit enthusiasts would still love to see built.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Homonyms Are Not Synonymous

I'll never understand why the hell we even let people store their cars in our parks, let alone do it for free.

Rondal Partridge, Pave It and Paint It Green, Yosemite National Park, mid-1960

Just because "parks" and "parking" sound the same doesn't mean they're interchangeable!

I say charge the hell out of them for the privilege of parking close to our museums and public gardens, dirtying the air and choking our green open spaces with their private vehicles. If they don't like it they can take the bus like a normal person.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

March of Progress

Check out this historic history of the old Key System

Thanks to 38th Notes!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tiny Block of Mason Street Set For Temp Closure

The San Francisco Interdepartmental Staff Committee on Traffic and Transportation (ISCOTT) agreed today to temporarily close a small portion of Mason Street in North beach to cars. The block in question separates Joe DiMaggio Playground from a small triangle of land, on which the SF Public Library wants to build a larger replacement for its current North Beach branch.

Image: Curbed

Those plans include the permanent conversion of that 150-foot length of Mason Street into public open space in order to connect the new library to the playground next door.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How Do You Feel About Van Ness BRT?

The Van Ness Avenue Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Citizens Advisory Committee has a vacancy - they need you to apply for the open spot on the committee!

The next meeting of the VN CAC will be:

Tuesday, July 14
5-7 pm
100 Van Ness Avenue, 26th Floor (between Fell and Hayes)

Public Pedestrian Spaces Yield Happiness

Crappy cellphone pic

Enrique Peñalosa's speech at the Main Library yesterday was time well-spent. If you'd like a summary of his lecture, Streetsblog has a good writeup. In short, he attempted repeatedly to drive home the point that we - in cities across the world, in America and in San Francisco - are wasting our scarce public space by devoting it to private transportation. Our lives would be more enjoyable if we took as much of that space as we can and devoted it to pedestrian space.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Free Event for the Great Streets Project

The San Francisco Great Streets Project is hosting a free public forum featuring Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia. Peñalosa is famous for de-prioritizing private car use in Bogotá. His most wide-reaching legacies are the ciclovía (emulated most recently in SF's Sunday Streets event) and BRT.

The event is called Sunday Streets to Great Streets. Details after the jump

Date: Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Time: 5:30pm - 7:30pm
Location: Koret Auditorium, Main Public Library
Street: 100 Larkin St.
City/Town: San Francisco, CA
Cost: Free

Valet bicycle parking provided.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

See, It Doesn't Cost Too Much!

I can always count on The Overhead Wire to link to a news story that pisses me off. I fully recognize that there's a pie-in-the-sky element to my H-Potrero Van Ness subway plan because it is the most expensive option. But it's just damn hard to take such claims of poverty seriously when cases like this are out there.

It's not 'We don't have the money,' it's 'We don't want to spend it on public transit.'

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!