Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Creating gridlock in Hayes Valley

Actually, the city has already created gridlock in Hayes Valley. When the new and awful Octavia Blvd. opened up in 2005, the freeway traffic that used to travel over the neighborhood on the Central Freeway came to the surface streets of the neighborhood. Six months after the six-lane Octavia Blvd. opened up the Department of Traffic and Parking found that 45,000 cars a day were already going through the heart of Hayes Valley on Octavia, even though the remodel of that street was sold as a great step forward for pedestrians and cyclists, which is why the SF Bicycle Coalition endorsed it, calling it "the lovely new Octavia Boulevard."

The city and the bike people now want to make the present gridlock in Hayes Valley worse by turning Hayes Street into a two-way street between Market and Gough.

Robin Levitt is described as a "neighborhood activist" in Gordon's story in today's Chronicle (below in italics), but he's a card-carrying bike nut and a former member of the board of directors of the SF Bicycle Coalition.

Levitt calls the present Hayes Street "a traffic sewer," a term that Gordon defines inaccurately: "The phrase 'traffic sewer' is used frequently in the debate over one-way streets by those who want to recast San Francisco streets to favor alternatives to driving." In fact the term "traffic sewer" is used by the city's anti-car bike people to describe any busy street in San Francisco, not just one-way streets; it's been used to describe Cesar Chavez, Masonic, Portrero, and Guererro, to name a few that come to mind.

The HVNA continues that group's tradition of moronic leadership with this gem from its current president:

Frances Neagley, president of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, said Hayes Street is one of those. "This is supposed to be a transit-first city," she said. "If turning a one-way street into a two-way street slows down traffic, then I think that's a good thing. We don't need fast-moving cars running through the neighborhood."

Neagley doesn't mention the fact that the #21 Hayes Muni line runs on Hayes Street; if you make driving more difficult for motorists in Hayes Valley, you're also going to make it more difficult for that busy Muni line. Neagley's comment is typical bike blather. They make a pro forma genuflection to the city's "transit first" policy, but they don't really care about Muni. It's all about bikes.

The bike folks like traffic jams, since the slower the traffic the safer it is for them. They can then weave in and out of gridlocked traffic to demonstrate the superiority of their transportation "mode" to that of "death monsters," aka cars, trucks, and buses. That's why the bike people liked Golden Gate Park before the garage was built underneath the Concourse; it was often tied up in traffic gridlock with drivers looking for scarce parking. The bike people hate anything that makes it convenient to drive in San Francisco, which is why they want to dump LOS (level of service) traffic studies. That's what this is about.

Of course city traffic engineer Jack Fleck is on board for making traffic worse in Hayes Valley on behalf of the bike nuts. But recall that Fleck's recent plan for the Market and Octavia intersection was so dumb even the SF Bicycle Coalition opposed it.

City mulls making Hayes, other streets 2-way
Rachel Gordon
SF Chronicle
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A budding movement to transform some one-way arteries into two-way streets could make it even harder to quickly drive through parts of San Francisco---something advocates say should be embraced because it would discourage use of the private automobile.

Converting such thoroughfares to two-way streets---many of which are found in the South of Market and downtown areas---could also make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists, say advocates who pushed their cause at a City Hall hearing Wednesday. They were there to support a plan to change the small stretch of westbound Hayes Street that runs through the edgy-but-pricey Hayes Valley commercial district.

"I'm all in favor of restoring Hayes Street to a two-way street, rather than it being a traffic sewer," said Robin Levitt, a neighborhood activist who helped lead the fight to remove the Central Freeway. The elevated highway, which was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, sliced through Hayes Valley.

The phrase "traffic sewer" is used frequently in the debate over one-way streets by those who want to recast San Francisco streets to favor alternatives to driving.

In addition to the four-block portion of Hayes Street that runs between Market and Gough streets, other one-way streets that are being studied for conversion are Ellis and Eddy streets in the Tenderloin, Folsom and Howard streets in the South of Market, and a short stretch of McAllister street just north of Market Street.

"We're not looking at making all the one-way streets two-way," said city Traffic Engineer Jack Fleck. "But there are some streets where it can make sense."

Frances Neagley, president of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, said Hayes Street is one of those.

"This is supposed to be a transit-first city," she said. "If turning a one-way street into a two-way street slows down traffic, then I think that's a good thing. We don't need fast-moving cars running through the neighborhood."

The San Francisco Planning Department and the Municipal Transportation Agency support the plan for Hayes Street---in concept.

Now the debate is over the details. A decision on how to proceed is months away.

One idea presented by city officials calls for creating one lane of traffic in each direction for most of the day. But during the evening commute, an extra westbound lane would be opened up for buses.

That, however, would require a tow-away zone and result in a loss of curbside parking in the late afternoon and early evening hours on weekdays, something the Hayes Valley Merchants Association opposes. The president of the group doesn't want to make parking even more difficult for the people who patronize the neighborhood's restaurants and boutiques.

But without that transit lane, the buses would be slowed, and that would run counter to San Francisco's transit-first policy, said Muni planner Julie Kirschbaum.

Officials expect that about half the vehicles that now use the targeted portion of Hayes Street would be diverted to other roads. The challenge will be to make sure that solving one problem won't create another.

"It's an equity issue," Kirschbaum said. "You don't want to take traffic from one neighborhood and put it in another."

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11 Comments:

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Rob,

Thanks for picking up on this one right away.

These people are absolute clowns. Hayes Street is an important artery of traffic in San Francisco if you are heading North or West from South of Market. If they monkey with it, they will create a larger problem. But that seems to be their favorite past time, like Octavia/Market. Or even Octavia/Hayes where there is that weird intersection. If you are headed North on Octavia your stop sign comes in short of the intersection to the East, try and turn left from there.

On the one way streets being switched to two way being safer for pedestrians that is a complete lie. I asked someone from the traffic survey about this once at a "transportation" conference in North Beach awhile ago. I asked how many of the pedestrian involved accidents in the Tenderloin were ped 's fault vs. drivers fault. I was told at least 60% were ped's fault. Two way traffic does not stop people from jaywalking.

The solution to the problems is enforcement of the laws that already exist. That goes for everybody drivers, bikers and walkers. That would solve some of the budget problems as well. Everybody just needs to pay attention and stop thinking that they are so important.

Keep up the good work.

e

 
At 12:36 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, it's hard to believe they continue to afflict that poor neighborhood with their crackpot traffic schemes. You would think they would be embarrassed about how they've already screwed up that part of town. Don't forget that there's more bad news on the drawing board for the area, with the Market/Octavia Plan and UC's massive development a block away at Haight and Laguna. The notion that a birdbrain like Robin Levitt is worth quoting about anything is laughable.

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

"Hayes Street is an important artery of traffic in San Francisco if you are heading North or West from South of Market."

But it's also a street in San Francisco, so maybe being an 'important traffic artery' should not be its only function, especially if it adversely effects the areas it passes through.

 
At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Two way traffic does not stop people from jaywalking"

No, but it slows traffic and makes the consequences of collisions less severe.

 
At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But it's also a street in San Francisco, so maybe being an 'important traffic artery' should not be its only function, especially if it adversely effects the areas it passes through."

How does it adversely effect the area? Could you be a little more specific. Who is effected between Market Street and Franklin Street if the street is one way? The block between Franklin and Gough has a half block of shops and apartments. If someone wants to come up with a traffic idea for that block, well lets talk about that. But that is not what they are talking about in the article.

 
At 8:40 AM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

If there were such a thing as "Rob Anderson Bingo", the first corner to stamp would be "45,000 cars through the heart of Hayes Valley". Rob, can you tell me exactly where those 45,000 cars went when the Central Freeway magically took them over Hayes Valley? Did they just disappear into the sky after they crossed Grove St.?

No. They went onto Fell St. (and other local streets), and came off of Oak St. (and likewise). The cars are going the same place they used to go before, they're just doing so at surface level now. The only difference as far as Hayes Valley is concerned is that there's no longer some hideous towering structure (with a multiple block-long homeless encampment under it) chopping the neighborhood in two. I'm sure if you asked anybody who actually owns property facing Octavia, they'd tell you their assessment rose considerably after the freeway came down. In fact, you seem to be the only one wishing for the old freeway back. Even the car-addicted denizens of the Sunset are happy with it!

As far as Hayes St. being two-way, the fact of the matter is that Hayes St. is two-way west of Gough. The proposal is only to make it two-way all the way to Market, presumably. You bitch and moan about the effect on the 21, but keep in mind that the eastbound 21 currently runs on Grove St. after Laguna. As the avid rider of public transit you claim to be, I would hope you would know this factoid. Hell, making Hayes two-way might allow Muni to remove that turn and run the 21 straight down Hayes. Wouldn't that be nice for transit riders!

Also, the aptly-described Hayes and Fell traffic sewers are redundant. They serve the same purpose as Octavia Blvd... they funnel traffic from the freeway towards Oak and Fell, and onwards to the avenues. Where do you think that traffic on 9th and 10th street comes from, Rob? They come off of 80/101, just like your precious Central Freeway. Get rid of them, and people will just take Octavia, like they are already.

I'm going to go ahead and diagnose you with Stockholm Syndrome with regards to automobiles, Rob. Endlessly appeasing them never works. It's like living with an alcoholic. All they want is more. I'm happy SF is willing to set some boundaries and take away some space for fast-moving traffic. By and large, it cuts down on traffic period. Traffic is surprisingly elastic, any traffic engineer can tell you this, which is why there hasn't been some outright revolt among traffic engineers over SF's willingness to reuse right of way.

I look forward to a saner and safer and more usable Hayes (and maybe Fell) st. Perhaps it'll even be possible to cross Gough at more than one corner now! (for the pedestrian advocate you claim to be, you sure don't seem to mind that situation).

Bye for now.

 
At 10:55 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

What's remarkable to me is how city progressives have huddled defensively in GroupThink mode about what's happening in Hayes Valley. City progs are still congratulating themselves for getting rid of the Central Freeway overpass in the area but are in denial about what's replaced it---all that traffic on the surface streets of the neighborhood.

"Traffic is surprisingly elastic, any traffic engineer can tell you this, which is why there hasn't been some outright revolt among traffic engineers over SF's willingness to reuse right of way."

Traffic engineers in SF sing for their supper like other city bureaucrats. Of course they'll go along with what the anti-car political leadership of the city wants to do to our streets on behalf of the bike zealots. As I wrote recently about the Market/Octavia intersection, one city traffic engineer testified in court that the intersection is safe, while another insisted that it wasn't. In short, that whole area, not just Octavia Blvd., is now host to much of the traffic that used to travel over the neighborhood. Is that area better off without the freeway? Maybe, maybe not. But the least the city could do is leave the area alone until it's had a chance to adapt to all that traffic.

I notice you have nothing to say about what the city wants to do next to that unfortunate part of town---the Market/Octavia Plan (10,000 new residents and 40-story residential highrises) and UC's massive housing development (a thousand new residents and trashing a state and national landmark) a block off Octavia.

The city should immediately adopt my Leave the Neighborhoods Alone Plan for that part of town.

 
At 12:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The obvious solution is to have the 80 touch down at Embarcadero on one side and the 101 can touch down at Candlestick on the other side.

The 280 should stop at Daly City, and the 101 Golden Gate bridge approach can be sent up Lincoln in the Presidio.

That would remove all the overpasses and go a long way to making SF less of an automobile hell.

 
At 8:48 PM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

Rob, you are like a petulant child with his fingers in his ears going NAH NAH NAH NAH I CAN'T HEAR YOU.

This quote:

"City progs are still congratulating themselves for getting rid of the Central Freeway overpass in the area but are in denial about what's replaced it---all that traffic on the surface streets of the neighborhood."

What part of my post did you not understand? That traffic always went to the surface streets of Hayes Valley. Always. Repeat, THAT IS WHERE IT WENT. The Central Freeway was not some magical fairy structure that took cars into heaven. It dumped cars onto Fell and slurped cars off of Hayes and Oak. Now Octavia Boulevard does the same damn thing, in the same place. Those 45000 cars have always, always run through the heart of Hayes Valley and onto its streets. And Hayes Valley, which was a somewhat dangerous and depressed slum, really started to get nice right around when the freeway came down. For all your time in the city, it's amazing you don't notice such simple things.

 
At 9:27 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You need to get a grip, Michael. You can start by coming to grips with the reality of the tradeoff city voters chose to make when they voted to tear down the Central Freeway overpass: traffic that used to go over the Hayes Valley neighborhood is now on the surface streets, mostly on the new unimproved Octavia Blvd. The freeway overpass used to carry 90,000 motor vehicles a day, and Octavia Blvd. was carrying 45,000 vehicles a day six months after it opened up.

The freeway, while ugly and casting shadows on the neighborhood, performed a useful function: traffic heading west or heading east on Fell or Oak bypassed the neighborhood entirely. Now that it's gone, Octavia Blvd. performs the same function while funneling all that traffic through the main surface street in the neighborhood. Got it? That's what you have to call a tradeoff, though self-congratulatory city progs are still oh so proud of themselves for getting rid of the freeway while in denial about what they have wrought with the hideous Octavia Blvd., a street that can accurately be called a "traffic sewer."

You and others insist that this is a great step forward in traffic management that enhances the neighborhood. I disagree since that four-block stretch of Octavia is now a traffic-clogged wasteland. True, it was a freeway-shadowed wasteland of sorts before, but I'm not convinced it represents progress. It was awful before, and it's awful in a different way now.

But there's no going back, so we have to live with the present Octavia Blvd. What I'm saying is that the meddlesome, incompetent city planners and traffic engineers who created the present mess should back off and leave the neighborhood alone. The problem is that they are compounding the problems by pushing the Market/Octavia Plan, which will only bring more traffic into the area and make it worse. And then there's UC's ripoff of the old extension propery which will do the same. Both of these stupid projects---pushed by Supervisor Mirkarimi, of course, who has a great talent for backing the worst projects---have the unanimous approval of our "progressive" Board of Supervisors and the mayor.

So why aren't the planned developments for the old freeway parcels built yet? That might help soften the impact of the awful Octavia Blvd. on the neighborhood. The answer: they have been subsumed by the much larger, gratuitous and moronic Market/Octavia Plan and evidently won't proceed until that project is finalized. That won't happen soon because it's being litigated by neighborhood and preservation groups rightly alarmed at that project's destructive potential.

Hence, instead of simply building housing on the old freeway parcels the city got from the state, the morons in the Planning Dept., who fancy themselves as visionaries, hatched the Market/Octavia Plan, which, if ever implemented---and I hope it won't be---will make what we have now in Hayes Valley look like a model neighborhood.

 
At 3:16 PM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

You are beyond human aid.

 

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