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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