Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Leave Masonic Ave. alone

First, we need to be clear about what the draft environmental review (DEIR) of the Bicycle Plan is not: It's not a environmental review of the same Bicycle Plan Judge Busch ordered the city to review in his decision of November, 2006.

Instead, by compiling a bike people's wish-list of 56 projects, the city has redefined the Bicycle Plan that was the subject of our successful litigation.

The SF Bicycle Coaltion and their progressive allies in the city are urging people to pressure city officials to ensure that "all 56 projects of the Bike Plan get approved." As I've pointed out before, the SFBC's approach to the 1,500-page DEIR insults the intelligence of both its membership and the city's decision-makers who will make the call on which of these "improvements"---everything the bike people want to do to our streets is of course an "improvement"---gets implemented on the streets of the city.

The Bay Guardian's Steve Jones talked to me about the issue before writing his puff-piece in the Guardian.

Who else is Jones going to talk to about bike issues if he wants to at least give the appearance of being balanced? It's not just that I'm a party in the litigation that forced the city to follow the law and do an EIR on its massive Bicycle Plan: I'm the only media critic of the bicycle fantasy in San Francisco.

Jones seems to misunderstand what the DEIR actually contains, in particular the fact that it gives the city two different "options" on most of the projects it analyzes, which in effect presents the city with more than 100 different projects, not 56. If the SFBC and the Guardian were honest about what they are urging people to support, they would choose which options for the different streets they're supporting. Instead, they apparently want Judge Busch and the city to certify the final EIR---which will be the DEIR plus the public comments and the city's responses to those comments---and then the city can cherry-pick projects from the massive document, depending on which way the political wind is blowing. Do we dare screw up Cesar Chavez this week or should we screw up traffic on Masonic Avenue instead? If the decisions are left to the SF Bicycle Coalition, the city will choose those projects/options that will cause the maximum disruption to the normal flow of city traffic, which will have a negative effect on Muni, which the bike people only pretend to care about in our supposedly "transit first" city.

"It's a zero sum game on the streets of San Francisco," Anderson told the Guardian. "They're going to have to decide how much we want to screw up the streets for this small minority." While Anderson concedes that the studies now supporting the Bike Plan are "pretty thorough," he notes that many projects will have what the EIR called "significant unavoidable impacts." And he thinks it's crazy to give over more street space to bicyclists, particularly on crowded corridors like Masonic Avenue.

Jones quotes me accurately, except that I don't see the actual traffic studies the EIR is based on in the document. Jones of course thinks it's perfectly reasonable to take away a traffic lane on Masonic Ave. to make a bike lane that cyclists will share with Muni buses. How does sharing a lane with Muni buses---which are constantly pulling into bus stops and pulling back into traffic---make Masonic any safer for cyclists? And it's simply inaccurate to call Masonic Ave. a "crowded" traffic corridor; it's a busy corridor---all busy streets are called "traffic sewers" by the bike people---since it's a major north/south traffic corridor in SF.

The reality is that traffic moves very well on Masonic in spite of the traffic lights at every other intersection between Haight Street and Geary Blvd. That's what the bike people really hate---any street where the wicked automobiles, aka "Death Machines," move easily in the city. Taking away a traffic lane to make bike lanes on Masonic will put a stop to that, as the DEIR itself makes clear. Many intersections on Masonic between Fell and Geary will be degraded to a LOS (level of service) rating of "F"---the lowest rating that means a traffic jam---if either option 1 or option 2 for Masonic is implemented, which, in the DEIR's phrase, is a "significant unavoidable impact," exactly the sort of thing we predicted would happen when we warned the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors about passing the Bicycle Plan without any environmental review. Now that the city's own study has verified what we were saying four years ago, it should be clear to everyone that our litigation was perfectly justified, not mean-spirited obstructionism by people who hate bikes or the people who ride them.

How the new bike lanes will affect Muni's #43 line that runs on Masonic:

Option 1 would result in a reduction of one travel lane in both directions on this segment of Masonic Avenue. Under 2025 Cumulative plus Project conditions for Muni bus line 43, this change in the PM peak hour would add approximately 243 seconds (4.1 minutes) of delay for southbound buses...For Muni bus line 43, the total added delay of approximately 804 seconds (13.4 minutes) would be greater than the transit delay threshold of six minutes. ..Therefore, a significant transit impact...would occur for Muni bus line 43 with the implementation of individual Project 3-2[Masonic Ave.] under 2025 Cumulative plus Project conditions for Option 1 for the PM peak hour" (page V.A.3-385).

That is, the DEIR is telling us that taking away a traffic lane on Masonic to make bike lanes is going to significantly slow down the #43 Muni line that now runs efficiently between Fell and Geary.

The DEIR on parking on Masonic Ave:

The removal of 142 on-street parking spaces during weekday midday under Option 2 would force approximately 70 to 90 vehicles to find parking during this time along those streets perpendicular to Masonic Avenue...Option 2 would further increase parking occupancy in the area and make parking more difficult to find...San Francisco does not consider parking supply as part of the permanent physical environment...The transportation analysis accounts for potential secondary effects, such as cars circling and looking for a parking space in areas of limited parking supply, by assuming that all drivers would attempt to find parking at or near the project site and then seek parking farther away if convenient parking is unavailable. Moreover, the secondary effects of drivers searching for parking is typically offset by a reduction in vehicle trips due to others who are aware of constrained parking conditions in a given area. Hence, any secondary environmental impacts which may result from a shortfall in parking in the vicinity of the proposed project would be minor. There would be a substantial loss of parking with [Masonic Ave.] Project 3-2 Option 2. However, there would be no significant parking impacts with implementation of Project 3-2 Option 2 (page V.A.3-387).

That is, the neighborhood will lose a lot of street parking, but, since the city doesn't consider parking an environmental impact---which, by the way, is simply untrue under CEQA case law---there will be "no significant parking impacts"! When people can't find a place to park in the Masonic area, they'll just give up, which will result in "a reduction in vehicle trips due to...constrained parking conditions in a given area"!

This is how traffic planning is done here in Progressive Land.

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19 Comments:

At 1:29 PM, Anonymous Philip said...

"Who else is Jones going to talk to about bike issues if he wants to at least give the appearance of being balanced? It's not just that I'm a party in the litigation that forced the city to follow the law and do an EIR on its massive Bicycle Plan; the reality is that I'm the only media critic of the bicycle fantasy in San Francisco."

Yes. I'm starting to see this as a good summary showing Anderson et. al's lack of political relevance.

 
At 1:48 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

What it really shows is how pathetic our local media---both the mainstream and the so-called alternative media---is on this issue, since I'm the only critic you bike people have, as if traffic in the city can be simply be left to the crackpot anti-car people.

 
At 2:41 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Why is the media biased? Is it because they want to tick off their readers and lose revenue? Annoy those advertisers who don't want parking spots removed? Or is it perhaps that they are giving the people what they want?

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

If we don't screw up traffic, traffic will continue to screw us up.

 
At 9:03 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Why is the media biased? Is it because they want to tick off their readers and lose revenue? Annoy those advertisers who don't want parking spots removed? Or is it perhaps that they are giving the people what they want?"

I didn't say that the local media is "biased"; I'm saying that I'm the only local writer that challenges anti-car prog dogma on traffic policy in SF. The Guardian and the SF Weekly are edited and written by bike nuts (Redmond, Jones, Smith); transportation issues are covered at the Chronicle by Rachel Gordon, a former Guardian reporter and bike nut sympathizer; even the Examiner has been sucking up to the SFBC. local blogs, like Fog City, Left in SF, and BeyondChron are also anti-car. Occasionally Ken Garcia is another local writer who will stick the needle in the bike people, but that's it.

Which means I'm it for a sane perspective on traffic in SF, which makes me persona non grata politically here in Progressive Land, where prog dogma rules on so many issues.

You think that it's the media's role to "give the people what they want"? On the contrary, the media has a duty when necessary to tell people what they don't want to hear.

 
At 10:35 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

It's typical that none of the commenters have anything to say about Masonic Avenue, the subject of the post.

 
At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll say something about Masonic. It is a traffic sewer that needs to be redesigned.

 
At 2:40 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

As I pointed out in the post, "traffic sewer" is the bike nut definition for any busy street in the city. A street that's redesigned to bike nut specifications is one where traffic and parking has been hindered as much as possible, which is what you folks want to do to Masonic Avenue.

 
At 5:06 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"A street that's redesigned to bike nut specifications is one where traffic and parking has been hindered as much as possible, which is what you folks want to do to Masonic Avenue."

Sounds good to me. Next!

 
At 9:01 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Thanks, Murph. You're a good example of the bike nut mindset, admitting, without really knowing what you're talking about, that you're willing to screw up traffic on Masonic on behalf of a very few cyclists---the DEIR admits that cycling on Masonic is "low"---for dubious safety gains for the few cyclists that use Masonic that will happen when cyclists share a lane with Muni. Of course it's okay with you, because you are a bike nut. But the calculation the Board of Supervisors will have to make is, How is that going to go down with everyone else in the city, that is, the non-bike nut population, which is probably at least 90% of the city's population.

 
At 11:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not necessary to hinder traffic and parking 'as much as possible' in order to make enough room for bikes. Bikes don't need the whole street.

For some reason a lot of people are willing to give virtually unlimited space to cars, but dedicating more space to bikes is out of the question.

I was stopped at Fell and Masonic last night where I saw not only the 3 lanes of car traffic and 2 lanes of car parking (one on each side of the street), but also cars that had pulled up onto the sidewalks, and a line of cars blocking the bike lane while they waited for their turn at the gas pumps.

It's hard to imagine bicycles claiming that amount of space, and wouldn't it make sense to encourage a form of transportation that uses space more efficiently?

 
At 8:58 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Of course "bikes don't need the whole street." But to make a bike lane on the four-lane Masonic Ave., the city would have to take away one of the existing traffic lanes and a lot of parking spaces on a very busy street. Got it?

 
At 9:00 AM, Anonymous Goodplanner said...

Masonic Avenue is only one of three signal-controlled roads between the Great Highway and Divisidero suitable for traffic. The others are Park Presidio and Stanyan. There is an active proposal to take out a lane on Van Ness.

Meanwhile, Park Presidio congesion is so bad that it takes three of four signal cycles to clear lights at places like Fulton and Lincoln during rush hours. Much of this traffic is going to/from jobs in places like Marin and San Mateo Counties (and remember that 22 percent of San Francisco does not work in San Francisco).

The issue with Masonic has to be looked at in a larger context of trying to get across San Francisco. Should we be encouraging traffic off of Masonic and onto Stanyan or Divisidero? Shouldn't residents of all of these streets have at least some input, or should be ignore neighborhood concerns and add traffic in front of people's homes without really telling them?

Some roadways are suitable for bicycle lanes. Some are better left alone for cars to drive, and bicyclists should be discouraged from these streets.

Masonic is a scary experience for traffic, buses, pedestrians and bicylists; it does need to be rethought. However, the program should be based on how to make things safer for everyone -- and not just summarily give it over to bicyclists. The SFCTA willingness to do further study illustrates how several of the Bicycle Plan projects are proposed in a vacuum of neighborhood discussion; still, the study should be better funded to do it right, and it should include everything from Arguello to Webster.

There seems to be this thought that getting rid of traffic shifts people to other modes. Have you tried to get a seat on Muni lately? Everywhere we start taking lanes in the Bicycle Plan, we really need to add more bus seats during peak hours -- or forgo the project; to just take lanes makes things worse for everyone.

 
At 12:57 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"Have you tried to get a seat on Muni lately? Everywhere we start taking lanes in the Bicycle Plan, we really need to add more bus seats during peak hours"

Unfortunately, at all levels, from California's budget, to the Federal Budget, and the stimulus plan, monies are being steered away from transit and towards highways. Just because a bus works like a car, does not mean that things that are good for car transport are good for mass transit.

I was at a JPB meeting today and the overriding theme was "There is no money to do blah..."

 
At 11:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As I pointed out in the post, "traffic sewer" is the bike nut definition for any busy street in the city."

Nope. Market street is a busy street, but not a traffic sewer. Valencia is a busy street, but not a traffic sewer. Chestnut, Polk, Columbus, Hayes, Courtland, etc.-- busy streets, but not traffic sewers.

Van Ness, Geary, Oak, Fell, Gough, Brannan, Guerrero, Ceaser Chavez, Lincoln, Fulton, Sunset blvd, etc.-- traffic sewers.

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

"Van Ness, Geary, Oak, Fell, Gough, Brannan, Guerrero, Cesar Chavez, Lincoln, Fulton, Sunset blvd, etc.-- traffic sewers."

Right. Any street that moves a lot of traffic swiftly through San Francisco is a "traffic sewer."

Chestnut, Polk, Columbus, Hayes, and Courtland are neighborhood streets, not main traffic arteries. Anyone going east-west on the Marina is going to use Lomabard, not Chestnut. Anyone going west from Hayes Valley is going to use Fell, not Hayes, etc. Admit it: what you bike assholes really hate is anything that makes it convenient to drive in the city.

 
At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Anderson:

You complained no one addressed Masonic directly. Then goodplanner provided a great, balanced explanation that contradicts your short-sighted view of traffic and planning... and you ignored it.

 
At 3:49 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Goodplanner didn't say much that I disagreed with, except for this:
"Masonic is a scary experience for traffic, buses, pedestrians and bicylists; it does need to be rethought. However, the program should be based on how to make things safer for everyone---and not just summarily give it over to bicyclists."

As I've pointed out on other posts, there's no evidence that Masonic is any more dangerous than many others in the city. It isn't listed at all in the city's collision reports, except for the Fell/Masonic intersection, and the city's numbers don't indicate that it's a particularly dangerous intersection. I wouldn't ride a bike on Masonic, but then I wouldn't ride a bike anywhere. I often traverse Masonic on foot and on the #43 line, and I never experience any fear. All this crap about Masonic is just preparing us for what the city really wants to do there: take away a traffic lane to make bike lanes, which is going to screw up a street that now works very well for thousands of people ever day.

 
At 8:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ignored in this discussion is the fact that there are two dedicated bike lanes on Baker Street (two blocks to the East) that run from Fell Street up to Turk Street. Rather than impact the stretch of Masonic from Fell all the way to Geary, why not provide a more modest link between the bike lanes on Baker and Geary.

I am an avid biker and generally support the expansion of bike lanes in this city but this plan seems incredibly short sighted. Masonic is an important vehicular road that focus cross town traffic on to one street and prevents that traffic from barreling through the adjacent neighborhood. Also, when the bike lane ends at Geary and Masonic, then what? Is there some sort of long term goal at work here?

 

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