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!