Friday, June 13, 2008

Leave Divisadero alone 2

As I walked down Divisadero to Club Waziema last Tuesday, I wasn't looking forward to the "community" meeting with MTA officials on their plan to screw around with the traffic lanes on Divisadero. I assumed I would be pissing against the wind again, grouchy old Rob Anderson opposing yet another misguided city plan to "improve" a neighborhood. This time it was different, since the neighborhood was mine, which made me even more irritable. But the turn-out was surprisingly good---at least 40 people---for a 5:00 o'clock meeting, not a particularly convenient time, as a representative from Supervisor Mirkarimi's office pointed out (But the Board of Supervisors' meetings are held during the day when most people are at work. Would Mirkarimi support night BOS meetings so working people can attend?)
 
MTA's Mike Sallaberry did a PowerPoint presentation from his laptop showing the proposed lane changes, which involved taking away street parking during commute hours to make a "transit" lane on the congested part of Divisadero. When he opened the meeting up for comments, he got nothing but negative feedback. At one point, someone asked for a show of hands of those supporting MTA's idea. Only one person was willing to go forward with the transit lane trial. People---especially businesses---were concerned about losing the parking, even if only during commute hours. People were also concerned about having the 24 Divisadero bus---the only "transit" that travels on Divisadero---zipping along next to sidewalk cafes that are usually buffered by street parking. There were suggestions about changing the timing of traffic lights on the many cross streets that slow the #24 as it makes its way from Fulton Street to Oak Street instead of the radical transit lane idea.
 
I of course was pleased to see the spontaneous neighborhood opposition to MTA's proposal. If the neighborhood hadn't turned out at that meeting, MTA would have assumed it could proceed with the transit lane, because this is how the city operates---a few pro forma, poorly attended "community" meetings are considered adequate endorsement of whatever they want to do. Sometimes even a well-attended meeting and neighborhood opposition isn't enough, which is what happened two years ago when the city and the Bicycle Coalition took away street parking to make bike lanes on Market Street between Van Ness Ave. and Octavia Blvd.
 
Divisadero is a major North/South traffic artery in a city where it's easier to travel East/West than it is North/South. North/South traffic in this neighborhood already spills over onto Scott Street and Broderick Street. There are simply too many cross streets with traffic lights on this portion of Divisadero: at Turk, McAllister, Fulton, Hayes, Fell, and Oak, and still another at Haight street. Of course it takes the #24 line some time to negotiate this part of Divisadero, but MTA's proposed solution is correctly perceived by the neighborhood as being worse than the problem itself. People in the neighborhood can live with the present congestion on Divisadero. Why would we want to increase the overall speed of traffic through our densely populated neighborhood? One can understand MTA's concern. To a hammer the whole world looks like a nail, and MTA's focus is to move their vehicles on city streets as quickly as possible, while the people who live here are focused on maintaining the liveability of this neighborhood.
 
What I think this neighborhood---and all city neighborhoods---really need is my Leave the Neighborhoods Alone Plan. The city should continue to provide city neighborhoods with police, fire, and street cleaning services---and it would be helpful if they would repave Divisadero, which needs it badly---and then simply leave us alone.
Today's Examiner story.
 
An earlier post on Divisadero.
 
 
This hearing has been delayed at the request of local neighborhood organizations including NOPNA and merchants on Divisadero. Please take the time to review this proposal and send us your comments,whether you are in support or the program or not. Please email board@nopna.org with your comments. You can also email the following SFMTA people directly: Mike.Sallaberry@sfmta.com and Bond.Yee@sfmta.com.
 
For more information about the transit lane proposal, the meeting and hearing, and the overall streetscape proposal can be found here and here. The proposal for the transit lane is to install the lane as a trial over the next 6-12 months prior to the streetscape changes on the street. This will allow the city and stakeholders on the street to evaluate the transit lane and determine what the final design should look like. As you may know, the 24 Divisadero bus trolley line slows dramatically through this area on weekday evenings due to congestion. The City is currently evaluating all ofits transit service and is looking for ways to significantly improve Muni service throughout the city. More information about the Transit Effectiveness Project can be found here: http://www.sftep.com/.

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