Sunday, January 07, 2007

Traffic in San Francisco: the numbers

To really understand what's involved with the Bicycle Plan and the streets of San Francisco, people need to look at the numbers on traffic in the city. For openers check out the city's Convention & Visitors Bureau website, where you will find some crucial numbers: The city had 15.74 million visitors in 2005 (which, by the way, generated $418 million in tax revenue for SF and supported 66,315 jobs with a total payroll of $1.80 billion). 4.5 million people stayed in SF hotels in 2005, and 25.8% of those folks rented a car in San Francisco, which means that there were more than one million rented cars on city streets in 2005.

Next we take a look at the San Francisco Transportation Fact Sheet put out by MTA in March, 2006. Non-SF residents commuting to SF in 2000: 261,181; residents commuting out of SF: 96,544. Total daytime increase in vehicles in the city: 35,400. Average weekday boardings of Muni in SF: 685,000. Average Saturday Muni boardings: 461,491. Average Sunday Muni boardings: 375,291. Total number of Muni vehicles in service: 1045 (not included in the DMV number below).

According to the DMV, there were 452,813 registered motor vehicles in SF as of January, 2006.

Accordng to the 2000 Census, 1.9% of the city's population commutes by bike. That number is only 1% according to the San Francisco Transportation Authority (Countywide Transportation Plan, July 2004).

The pro-bicycle folks in SF need to explain to the rest of us why it is good public policy to implement the 460-page Bicycle Plan---which means, among other things, taking away traffic lanes and street parking in SF to make bike lanes---with absolutely no environmental review.

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30 Comments:

At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a simple policy matter: do we want to ENcourage bicycling or DIScourage it?

 
At 6:07 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Or you can put it this way: How far should the city go with a policy that is actually punitive to motorists on behalf of a tiny minority (1.9%)? Do we really want to create traffic jams on city streets based on nothing more than the hope that motorists will turn to bicycles in frustration? The numbers here show that that is a fantasy. In general I think it's fair to say that basing city traffic policy on a fantasy is a bad idea.

 
At 5:01 AM, Blogger Paul Tay said...

Should the transportation policy focus on moving people or moving bikes and motor vehicles?

Pave the whole joint til it's one great big parking lot.

 
At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Punitive? So if motorists get 95% of the roadway instead of 99%, that's being PUNITIVE?

Give it up.

 
At 10:27 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You're not doing any analysis, Paul. The pavement is already here, as is all the traffic. The question the city faces is, How do we reasonably apportion our street space to the different available means of transportation? In light of the numbers in the above post, it's foolish to take away traffic lanes to make bike lanes without doing some serious study and analysis, including traffic studies. That's what the recent court decision against the city's Bicycle Plan was about. And don't forget that "motor vehicles" in the city include Muni---we're a transit first city, not a bikes first city---and emergency vehicles. If you screw up traffic for motor vehicles in general, you screw up traffic for Muni and emergency vehicles.

 
At 10:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are lies, then there are DAMN lies, then there are statistics.

 
At 12:46 AM, Blogger Paul Tay said...

Ya know, Rob, bicyclists don't really need the bike lanes. It doesn't take much to create traffic jams using bicyclists as human shields, ala Critical Mass.

Even one cyclist is a weapon of mass DISRUPTION. One cyclist can significantly degrade a roadway's level of service in a heartbeat. Ask Santa. He's got the whole non-violent civil disobedience down to a science. It's really no problem for one cyclist to convert a motor travel lane into a virtual bike lane.

 
At 12:46 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

At least you're an honest bike nut, Paul. You admit your juvenile impulse to disrupt traffic, which tells us that cycling in SF really has nothing to do with fossil fuels or saving the planet.

 
At 4:30 AM, Blogger Paul Tay said...

Yes, Rob. Santa is a DISGRUNTLED juvenile DELIQUENT, with the ONLY intention of IMPEDING traffic, really doesn't care about saving the planet, ONLY his North Pole world headquarters, which has melted due to global warming. He is TOTALLY pissed off.

Any wonder why he has moved to Tulsa, OK? Well, wouldn't you be mad as HELL too if your house melted because of some JERK who insists on driving his DUMMER?

You really oughta give up on San Fran and move to Tulsa, Oklahoma. You would feel right at home here. NO bike lanes. NO pathetic do-gooders running City Hall using two-wheels. Just a whole lotta rednecks AND the Tulsa Police Santa Task Force who insist Santa get OFF the road.

Merry FUCKING Christmas.

 
At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's about giving people options. A lot of folks just don't feel comfortable riding a bike without a sanctioned public way.

It is worth putting this infrastructure in place; the polling data show that more people would ride if they felt safer doing so. There is no guesswork about it. Put the lanes in and people will use them.

The city has a legal comittment to bicycles. I'm not against an EIR per se, but the suit does strike me as a bit of a political maneuver wrapped up in legalistic pretenses.

"the paved paradise-- put in a parking lot"

 
At 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like I've said before:

If bicycles make up only 2% of commuter trips, then give them only 2% of the transportation budget for commuters.

 
At 12:14 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"No guesswork about it"? So the city should take away traffic lanes and street parking on the premise that people will flock to the bike lanes on bikes? The city has a legal commitment to a Transit First policy, not to a Bikes First policy. If you insist on screwing up traffic for motorists, you also screw it up for Muni.

"A political maneuver wrapped up in legalistic pretenses"? Why do I get the impression that you know nothing at all about the litigation surrounding the Bicycle Plan? What makes you bike nuts think you can pontificate about a subject about which you really know nothing? I know: BikeThink, the ideology of bikes, like all ideologies, provides you with all the answers out front, so you don't have to actually do any homework before spouting off. Why do you think two Superior Court judges agreed with us about the Bicycle Plan? Were/are they both anti-bike?

Thanks for the Joni Mitchell quote; that goes real deep. Actually, the pavement is already here. The question is how to apportion the use of that pavement among the various means of transportation in the city. The numbers I presented in the post above show that it's just stupid to revamp city streets on behalf of a tiny minority and their political fantasy without first doing some serious traffic and environmental studies. It also happens to be illegal, something that never seems to bother the bike nut community, which isn't surprising, given the way so many of them conduct themselves on city streets.

 
At 12:22 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Like I've said before:If bicycles make up only 2% of commuter trips, then give them only 2% of the transportation budget for commuters."
No matter how often you say it, that comment is still irrelevant. It's not about money. The issue with the Bicycle Plan is actual space on city streets---traffic lanes and street parking versus bike lanes.

 
At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then I guess we'll just have to settle for giving them 2% of the roadspace.

 
At 10:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have no evidence that bike lanes screw up traffic for cars.

People ARE flocking to bikes, that's why there is a bike plan, a large advocacy group, and public demonstrations. It's irresponsible to ignore these things.

That being said, it is equally irresponsible to ignore the needs of the city's motorists. A balance must be struck, clearly.

There's no doubt the preeminence of the car will not be toppled anytime soon, but that is not the point. It's not a winner-take-all kind of fight. We make provisions for cars, for buses, for trains, trolleys, cable cars, ferries, pedestrians, and bicycles.

But the number of bicyclists has gone up in recent years, out of proportion to normal increases.

So, should we change some parking spots into bike lanes? Should we change hundreds of them into bike lanes?

Well, taking away a couple dozen street parking spots on Market st gave hundreds of bicyclists a safer passage between Van Ness and Octavia. When we make decisions like that, there are bound to be trade-offs. The merchants, of course have complained about a decline in business.

Are these types of trade-offs worth it?

Well, people seem to want a more pleasant city; people seem to want bikes, it's clear that the demand is out of proportion to the level of service for bikes, people want to rely on cars less; to have more options.

It's forward-thinking policy. We need to make decisions about what kind of city we're going to have. We get to shape it; we get to decide what kind of landscape we want.

Demands placed on the city's resources by cars seem endless; by way of comparison the bike is asking very little.

But it's not about bikes vs. cars; the two are not incompatible-- we are just in the process of balancing out the city to provide for both. If we can't do that, we have failed as a city.

 
At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Chuomo Fosset said...

So what percentage of city streets are taken up by bike lanes? I'm sure it's less than 1% right now. Plus, who ever said traffic lanes, or even parking has to be disturbed. You've got a bizarre vendetta man, I don't know where it comes from but it's really sad.

 
At 10:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if you remove an entire lane of parked cars to put in a bike lane, it could be worth it.

Why should something that's not even being used preclude us from allocating space for something that is?

Here's how I see it working out: a regular traffic lane with an adjacent parking lane-- not usually enough room for a cyclist and a motorist to proceed safely side-by-side. What happens? Either the cyclist moves further out into the lane, sometimes slowing the motorist (thus being exposed to that driver's vicissitudes) or the cyclist rides too close to the parked cars, exposing him/herself to the opening of car doors AND to the passing of motor traffic!

All so cars that aren't being used have somewhere to sit.

This is not a balance of transportation needs; this is pandering to the automobile.

 
At 12:30 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You can't make one rule fit all streets. If you're going to take away traffic lanes---and my point is that traffic lanes are well-used in the city---you have to do a traffic study first to see what the results will be. It may be "pandering to the automobile," but, if you read the numbers in the post, you will understand that there are already hundreds of thousands of autos---and buses, trucks, and motorcycles---using city streets every day. That's the reality we have to deal with, not some utopian, goofball fantasy about bicycles as a major transportation "mode."

 
At 1:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure you understand how public policy works. We make policy choices that reflect not only the kind of 'reality' we have, but ALSO the kind of reality that we WANT to have.

Bicycle transportation is not a goofball dream; most places in the world to a significant amount of getting around by bicycle.

It's a very good point you make about one rule not working for all streets. I think the situation I have described helps set up a framework for understanding what's going on out there between cars and bikes.

With a city on a pretty small landmass like SF, it's no question that bicycles can work. Look at all the people riding them DESPITE the proper infrastructural investments. Imagine what it would be like if we actually encouraged cycling!

 
At 1:53 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

And I'm sure you don't understand the realities of traffic on the streets of SF. It's just a fantasy to think that by making it harder for people to drive in the city we are going to make people turn to bikes instead of cars. You've provided nothing but fodder for that fantasy. Your suggestions are completely fact-free; you have essentially ignored all the numbers I've cited in the post. You and other bike nuts are entitled to your fantasies under the First Amendment, but it's pure folly to allow the city to apply them to city streets. My whole point, Anon, is this: If you apply the bicycle fantasy to the design of city streets to "encourage cycling," you are just going to screw up traffic for everyone, including Muni and emergency vehicles.

 
At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Biking makes it easier for people to drive; it alleviates traffic congestion.

Imagine if the 2% of bicyclists decided one day to all switch to cars. I think it's safe to say they'd place a significant burden on an already clogged system. But we can think of this the other way, too. Imagine the reverse where an additional 2% decide to make the trip by bike. That ameliorates traffic jams.

No sane person will doubt that bike trips are on the upswing.

 
At 10:53 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Why don't you "imagine" coming to grips with the realities on the streets of the city? You're just speculating off the top of your head, and your speculations are fact-free.

 
At 5:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mean like 'realpolitik', for example?

 
At 8:36 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I mean like reality, dude. The numbers I cite in the post tell me that taking away traffic lanes to make bike lanes in San Francisco should be done with extreme caution.

 
At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you 100%; it should be done with extreme caution.

 
At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robert Moses and his lot made essentially the same argument you're making when public pressure mounted to close the extension of 5th ave through Washington Square park. He said it would exacerbate traffic congestion.

He was wrong. Traffic counts in the surrounding areas, if they were affected at all, DECLINED.

Chew on that for a while.

The same thing happened in Copenhagen. When they reduced the number of cars in downtown streets.

 
At 1:32 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Try to focus on the topic being discussed, Anon: Present traffic patterns in San Francisco and the Bicycle Plan. We aren't talking about New York or Copenhagen.

 
At 11:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right. I guess I hadn't realized that automobiles behave much differently on the east coast and in Europe. Those zany east coast cars!

We're much better off ignoring all precedents and sticking to our guns.

 
At 11:37 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Why don't you offer some specifics as to how the "precedents" you describe are similar to what we're facing here in SF? You can boil down what I'm saying about SF's Bicyle Plan to this: The city should do some serious environmental analysis---and traffic studies---before it takes away traffic lanes and street parking in SF. Why is that even a controversial idea?

 
At 6:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Soon after Portland, OR began to institute its bicycle plan it saw a sharp increase in bicycle use.

 

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