Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bike people can't find a reason to oppose Target


Bike Nopa struggles to find one good reason to oppose allowing Target to occupy the long-vacant space at Geary and Masonic last occupied by the now-defunct Mervyns chain:

The prospect of Target securing an outpost in San Francisco at City Center Plaza on Geary at Masonic occurs at either the best of times or the worst. During this staggering economic downturn, a new department store would bring needed jobs, fill an under-used property, enliven deadened pedestrian spaces, and offer goods to residents within walking and biking distance.

So what's the problem? Of course the bike people hate the prospect of all the death monsters---a k a motor vehicles---that people will surely drive to the new store, which has plenty of free parking (the other day I counted 579 parking spaces at the complex [update: Target told us the other night that there are actually 609 parking spaces]):

But Target would also attract thousands of motorists just as the city undertakes a community-based rethinking of Masonic Avenue and how the corridor now primarily serves motorists and transit riders with little account for people walking or biking. A Target outlet would dilute San Francisco's Transit First policy (which applies to Muni as well as pedestrians and bicyclists) and would undermine the city's resolve to keep national chain stores out of the neighborhoods. Non-union jobs at Target adds one more negative for many in the city.

The "rethinking" of Masonic Avenue is being pushed only by the bike people and their enablers at City Hall, including District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who has made advancing the Bicycle Coalition's agenda the centerpiece of his two terms on the Board of Supervisors. Masonic now serves "motorists and transit riders" very well, which is what the bike people really hate. They want to take away traffic lanes to make bike lanes, which, as the EIR on the Bicycle Plan tells us, will have "significant impacts" on traffic and the #43 Muni line, the only bus that runs on Masonic. 

But in the next sentence, Bike Nopa thinks that allowing the #43 transit line to run well on Masonic is somehow contrary to the city's "transit first" policy, which includes cyclists and pedestrians. It's simply untrue that pedestrians now have a hard time on Masonic, which leaves only cyclists, who generally avoid Masonic now because traffic moves too fast for their comfort. Two out of three seems good enough to me, and I bet it does too for the more than 40,000 people who, according to the city's figures, now use Masonic every day.

Bike Nopa does some free associating on the proposed Target deal, conceding that it will mean jobs and cure the blight from that large space being empty for several years. But on the positive side...

Livability advocates and neighborhood residents will likely negotiate a great many "community benefits" if Target is allowed to take the space. These improvements could help transform the neglected sidewalks, re-landscape the ugly Geary median, re-envision the pocket park on Masonic at Geary, and invest in Masonic facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists (emphasis added)

Yes, no doubt Target has already budgeted a certain amount of money for "community benefits," the inevitable shakedown corporations endure when they locate in a neighborhood. But they might not be too eager to bankroll the bike people's plan to screw up traffic on Masonic Ave., since that would create a lot of bad publicity for the big retail firm.

"Traffic counts on Masonic have been down in this economy, offering a chance to rethink a calmer corridor."
At the workshop on Masonic last month, the city told us that more than 32,000 vehicles use Masonic every day and more than 12,000 people ride the #43 Masonic line every day. The traffic counts were done during a week last May, which makes them pretty up-to-date. But it's no doubt true that during economic prosperity the traffic count is even higher, which makes the idea of jamming up traffic on Masonic to make bike lanes even nuttier.

"Increased vehicle traffic on Masonic may slow transit just as Muni struggles to improve its ontime performance and overall service along the corridor."
This is pure bullshit, since the #43 now runs very well between the Panhandle and Geary Blvd. The only thing that could slow it down are the proposals in the Bicycle Plan to take away traffic lanes to make bike lanes, which is what Bike Nopa really wants.

"Side streets in the Anza Vista neighborhood will likely see a surge in traffic, not only on O'Farrell to access the many parking lots but also from motorists avoiding Masonic by taking small neighborhood streets off Turk like Nido, Vega (that fronts Wallenberg High School) and Anza Vista as a back entrance to parking."
More bullshit that will only worry people who don't know the neighborhood. There's no possible advantage in taking those streets to access the Target parking lots, since Masonic already provides the quickest route to O'Farrell and the parking lots, along with the entrance on Geary Blvd. The implication seems to be that traffic to the new Target will be so heavy that it will overflow into the neighborhood streets. Even if all 579 spaces are full all day that's unlikely to seriously affect neighborhood traffic, since Masonic and Geary now easily handle a large volume of traffic.

"The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposed for Geary must be factored into the discussion."
Why and how? Geary Blvd. already has the #38 Muni line, which is the most used bus line west of the Mississippi. Whether Geary ever gets a BRT line---and we're still waiting for the EIR on that proposal---that street will continue to carry a lot of customers to and from Target in cars and on buses---more than Masonic, I would guess. What's the problem?

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16 Comments:

At 7:17 AM, Anonymous Transit Fan said...

An increase in car traffic around Target would most certainly have an impact on transit, and it's silly to dismiss that notion as "bullshit" just because it was suggested by Bike Nopa. Perhaps you should wait for the traffic projections and impact estimates before you jump to ridiculous conclusions.

I'm curious: Would you be opposed to a bus priority lane if those estimates predict "significant unavoidable impacts" on Muni?

 
At 7:56 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Impact on what "transit"? There are only the #43 and the #38 lines to consider, and they run on streets that are controlled by traffic lights. What "traffic projections" are you talking about? There isn't going to be an EIR or any traffic studies on this project, since it's only filling an empty space. Nothing new will be built. "Bus priority lane"? On Masonic or Geary? Ridiculous. This isn't that big of a project.

 
At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Transit Fan said...

Ridiculous? Bike lanes are evil because they're taking away precious space from cars, but adding potentially thousands of cars to Masonic and the surrounding streets each day won't have any impact? You're right that the store would just "fill an empty space", but where do you think the extra road capacity for all of those cars is going to come from?

Drivers and the much-loved 43 and 38 buses may take a pretty serious hit from Target-induced traffic. What's ridiculous is that you dismiss this notion so pettily, then express such tremendous outrage at the suggestion of a bike lane. Heavily trafficked stores and bike lanes can both have negative impacts on traffic, and it's foolish to suggest that cyclists are selfish for wanting a slice of road space at the expense of drivers while eagerly inviting a big-box development whose traffic demands could very well produce more congestion than a bike lane ever could.

 
At 5:04 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Nobody is saying that bike lanes are "evil." Get a grip, Fan.

Both Masonic and Geary have the capacity to handle the traffic for Target, since that whole development was designed just for that purpose by Sears many years ago. It has the parking and Geary and Masonic can easily handle the traffic. Besides, where do you get the idea that there will be "thousands" of more cars due to Target? Target obviously is more successful than Mervyns, but I bet not that more successful. Maybe Target can provide some estimates on traffic.

Traffic on Masonic and the #43 now move more than 40,000 people well between Geary and the Panhandle. The Bicycle Plan's idea of screwing up traffic for that many people who already use Masonic to make bike lanes for a small minority of cyclists does seem selfish to me. It benefits only cyclists and actually makes things worse for everyone else.

 
At 4:06 PM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

They can put in a Target, but I'll still call it Mervyn's Heights.

I hope the neighborhood gets some good stuff out of the inevitable shakedown that you mentioned, but really the area is kind of irredeemable. Between the lines of cars backing up to get into Trader Joe's, the bizarre gauntlet of traffic signals required to cross between the different stores, and the zooming traffic from Masonic and Geary, that spot is already a nightmare for humans.

 
At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Manaka "Tory" Thrake said...

I don't have a problem with Target, in fact I think it'll be quite useful.

But I can't believe you can defend the 43 and 38. Those bus lines are about a C- in terms of the quality they could be. They are disgracefully slow.

Both those lines could be instantly improved by building curb-outs so that the bus doesn't have to wait for traffic to pass as it pulls away from the curb.

Simple solution. Bus lane would be nice too, but curb-out are the real solution.

I don't give a crap if it ties up cars because I'm a maniac anti-car zealot for even suggesting it. hoo! hoo!

 
At 5:39 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I'm not worried about Muni tying up cars, either. Pulling in and out of bus stops isn't what slows down the #38. Traveling through some of the most densely-populated parts of the city is what really slows it down. From 33rd Ave. to Masonic Ave., there are more than 30 stoplights at cross-streets. Then, when it gets past Van Ness, the #38 has to traverse the Tenderloin, another densely-populated neighborhood.

There really is no easy solution to speeding up the #38, which means it's going to be interesting to see what the Geary BRT EIR comes up with in the way of solutions.

I often ride on the #43 line, and it's simply untrue that it's particularly slow. Again, that Muni line is traveling through densely-populated neighborhoods that have a lot of cross-streets.

But I do know what will slow Masonic down a lot: "calming" that busy street by taking away traffic lanes to make bike lanes, which is what the Bicycle Coalition and its enablers---like Mirkarimi---in City Hall want to do.

 
At 1:16 PM, Anonymous Transit Fan said...

What traffic projections am I talking about? Why, the very ones that regional and city planners produce when considering developments, as noted by Bike Nopa:

Information about how many vehicle trips would likely be generated by the popular store was less available. In a pre-meeting discussion with BIKE NOPA, John Dewes, regional development manager, said he believed Target’s experience with their 1800 stores nationwide gave them “a good handle on this.” [...] Dewes added that Target was currently working with a traffic engineer to help them with this issue in San Francisco. In response to a question by Streetsblog about anticipated trips to Target, Dewes said they expected the traffic “will break down as in other urban centers with a cross-mix from nearby residents and from neighborhoods further away.” But, he added, “We’re still analyzing how that will work.”

It's just hilarious to me that you're so dismissive of the impacts that an influx of traffic could have on Muni, and yet so militantly anti-"traffic calming". Perhaps you like to think of adding more cars as an exercise in "traffic excitement"—that sounds good, right?—but I'm pretty sure that anyone who drives that stretch regularly or relies on the bus to get to their job (a reality about which you're blissfully ignorant) would see it differently.

I don't necessarily think that this Target is a bad thing. It would bring jobs to the neighborhood and revive a dormant commercial center. But if you're going to consider it in the context of transportation (and use it as an excuse to insult livable streets advocates) you should do your homework first, because you're kidding yourself if you think that the influx of traffic that a Target brings with it isn't also going to increase congestion. And for somebody who apparently despises anything that could possibly impact the flow of automobiles, it's awfully hypocritical of you to flame advocates of "traffic calming" while so adamantly dismissing the traffic jamming potential of a big box retailer.

 
At 1:46 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The big-box link you provided---that is, your "homework"---warns about traffic in suburban stores, not one like this that's in the middle of the city. Whatever traffic estimates Target comes up with, it will make little difference to the city's approval of this proposal, because dealing with traffic is exactly why this retail site is where it is. Recall that Sears---the retail giant of the 50s in the US---was there originally. My parents used to drive over from Marin to shop there---easy in, easy out.

As the city told us last month, Masonic now handles rather easily more than 32,000 cars a day. And it does that in the middle of a recession. No doubt Geary handles a lot more with similar ease. There's no indication that Target can possibly be busy enough to effect either the #43 line or the #38 line. The only thing that will effect the #43 line are the bicycle lanes the city and the bike fanatics want to create by taking away traffic lanes on Masonic.

 
At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Transit Fan said...

So, if it's not a big deal, why would regional planners even bother with traffic estimates? Let's just build it and see what happens, right?

I'll tell you why: because a Trader Joe's like jam-up at Target would make this thoroughfare a complete hell for drivers, bus riders, pedestrians, and cyclists alike. Note I haven't said will, because I don't know and neither do you. I'm just point out that it's hypocritical to dismiss the impacts of additional traffic while moaning about traffic calming—especially in light the potential effects that heavy traffic can have on communities.

I suspect that you don't really care whether it's nice for Masonic residents to sit on their stoops with cars zooming past them, though, so long as all those drivers are getting where they need to go as quickly as possible.

 
At 3:15 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The city already knows all about the traffic in that area, since, as I pointed out, that development has always included major retailers. Of course they will do an updated traffic report, but what makes you think there are going to be any surprises?

You're the hypocrite, since you pretend to be worried about traffic congestion while talking about traffic "calming," the weasely term the bike nuts use for creating unnecessary traffic jams.

The inadequacy of the Trader Joes parking lot has no impact at all on traffic on Geary Blvd. As I pointed out in this post, the moral of the Trader Joes story is that their parking lot is too small. Fortunately, Target isn't going to have that problem, since that complex already has more than 600 parking spaces.

If traffic is now "zooming" along Masonic, your concern about Target's additonal traffic delaying the #43 line is without any factual basis. The only thing that can possibly "calm" traffic on Masonic is the Bicycle Plan, which tells us exactly how creating bike lanes on that street will have "significant impacts" on both normal traffic and the #43 line.

 
At 5:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"My parents used to drive over from Marin to shop there---easy in, easy out."

Traffic wasn't as big a problem back then - few people owned cars, and the GG Bridge was 2 years old.

 
At 7:13 AM, Anonymous Transit Fan said...

I might be a hypocrite if I were advocating for traffic calming on Masonic. But I haven't, and I'm not. I don't even think that Masonic is an appropriate location for a bike lane, and the fact that you've made that assumption just illustrates how fanatical you are. I'm primarily concerned with the effects that Target would have on traffic congestion and the impact that it may have on Muni.

How do you know that 600 spaces for Target is going to be enough? How do you know that, even if it is, the influx of cars—regardless of whether they can all fit in the lot or not, but given that they will all occupy space on the street at one point or another—won't generate congestion on Masonic? You don't know any of these things. In reality nobody does, and that's exactly why regional planners are studying those impacts before Target even formally registers their intent to move into the space.

If you were intelligent you'd insert your foot in your mouth and wait to hear from people who actually understand the effects of traffic. But, because you're an ideologue, you've seized on this Target development as an opportunity to taunt and insult anyone who disagrees with you about the "bicycle fantasy" or "traffic calming", on the flawed assumption that putting potentially thousands more cars on Masonic couldn't possibly have an impact on traffic.

There are laudable goals in both support and opposition of retail development, as there are in both support and opposition of dense housing development, traffic calming, and bike lanes. You need to recognize and accept the fact that people in your community may actually value their own quality of life—as it relates to their exposure to noise and exhaust fumes from delivery vehicles; their safety as pedestrians or cyclists, or even just the perception of it; for instance—more than they do the ability of drivers to quickly get into Target or from Fell to Geary.

You whine about having "progressive" policy shoved down your throat, but you need to recognize that some people believe that auto-centric planning has been shoved down their throats for over a century. If you share the goal of making your city and district a better place, then you need to accept that your neighbors see the status quo as an intrusion on their way of life, respect that they want to change the situation, and attempt work with them to mitigate the effects of those policies rather than just writing off their opinions as "bullshit" and alienating yourself from your own community on a matter of political principle. But I'm probably wasting my breath on these pages, since you obviously don't seem to give a hoot about any of that.

 
At 9:00 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Another fact-free comment!

Yes, it's possible that the traffic at Target at that location might have an impact on the area's traffic and Muni, but that's unlikely based on the reality that for more than 50 years there has been a major retail business at that location. Target is evidently a successful retailer, but it seems unlikely it will attract the traffic volume---"thousands more cars"!---you worry about. I don't believe it. And "regional planners" are worried about Target locating at that site? Bullshit. Of course I'll be interested in seeing whatever traffic studies the city and/or Target comes up with. I'm one of the few people in the city that reads and writes about such documents.

"...you need to recognize that some people believe that auto-centric planning has been shoved down their throats for over a century."

People have had mobility---using cars, trucks, and buses---"shoved down their throats"? You're the one who's whining. This is the party line from the bike people: they are victims and an oppressed class of people! In reality people have already made their choice of transportation "modes": most people in SF drive cars or ride Muni, not bikes.

"If you share the goal of making your city and district a better place, then you need to accept that your neighbors see the status quo as an intrusion on their way of life, respect that they want to change the situation, and attempt work with them to mitigate the effects of those policies rather than just writing off their opinions as 'bullshit' and alienating yourself from your own community on a matter of political principle."

As I pointed out before---based on the city's own numbers---more than 44,000 people in our "community" now use Masonic Ave. every day in cars and Muni's #43 line. That's the reality you traffic "calming" zealots face. That major north/south street in SF now works very well for everyone but cyclists, who are understandably reluctant to ride on such a busy street---a k a "traffic sewer," in bike zealot parlance. That's an "intrusion" on someone's "way of life"? What "policies" do you want to "mitigate"? Why don't you cut the crap and just admit that you want to screw up/slow down traffic that now moves well on Masonic on behalf of cyclists? That's the real issue here, not your phony concern about traffic congestion.

 
At 10:23 PM, Anonymous Transit Fan said...

So you don't think that Target will bring thousands more cars to Masonic each day? With a parking capacity of 600, I'd say a thousand would be on the side as far as estimates go.

For what it's worth, though, I don't see much in the way of "facts" in your fanatical anti-bike tirades. It's mostly juvenile retorts—"Nuh-uh! You're whining!" And you wonder why nobody takes you seriously? Why you're the "only one in the media" (as if your silly little rants could even be considered "news") who criticizes city politics?

It's kind of sad, actually. I'm sure there are plenty of things we could agree upon, but you're unwilling to engage in anything but hostility with somebody who disagrees with any of your opinions. You jump at the opportunity to label me a "zealot", apparently oblivious to the actual meaning of the word and how it accurately it describes your own behavior.

As I've said quite clearly, I'm not advocating for bike lanes or traffic calming on Masonic. I'm simply pointing out that it's silly to howl and moan about the impacts that they would have on vehicular throughput—a topic on which you seem so singularly fixated as the end-all, be-all of transportation policy despite the automobile's uniquely obvious negative effects on our community—while at the same time refusing to admit that a Target might very well generate "unnecessary traffic jams".

(Which begs the question: Are the traffic jams caused daily by commuters somehow "necessary"? Seriously, what does that even mean?)

Whether you think that bike lanes are "evil" is beside the point. You've convinced yourself that anyone who even so much as suggests that cars might not be the best way for everyone—note I didn't say anyone—to get around the city is a "nut". That type of simple-minded name calling discourages constructive conversation, and you should know that it harms your community's ability to have a meaningful discussion about these subjects. If you can't participate in a civil discourse, then what use are you to your community? Being a critic doesn't mean just hurling insults at anyone who disagrees with you, and, no matter how "right" you may be, whining like a child on your blog isn't going to change anyone's mind. If you want to change something, you need to act like an adult and learn to negotiate with people.

Because really: What is the point in living in a populous place like San Francisco if you so adamantly detest everyone else? The cognitive dissonance required to hold those asinine opinions of yours must be tearing your brain apart.

 
At 9:58 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"For what it's worth, though, I don't see much in the way of 'facts' in your fanatical anti-bike tirades."

I've provided a link to some important information on parking in the area, but apparently you didn't do your homework. And a link to the city's numbers on traffic volume on Masonic Avenue.

You provide links to Streetsblog, Wikipedia ("The neutrality of this article is disputed"), on obesity, and safety on the streets for seniors. I guess you missed my earlier post, based on the city's accident reports, showing that in fact the streets of SF are actually getting safer every year for everyone, including pedestrians.

"I'm simply pointing out that it's silly to howl and moan about the impacts that they[bike lanes on Masonic] would have on vehicular throughput..."

It's "silly" to be concerned about jamming up one of the city's busiest north/south streets with bike lanes? The EIR on the Bicycle Plan tells us this is what taking away traffic lanes on Masonic to make bike lanes will do, along with "significant" delays to the #43 line. But the improbable impact---based on no known studies or traffic counts---of traffic to and from Target is supposed to be of great concern.

As the cities own numbers show, the traffic on Masonic now moves very well. There are no "jams" now at all, which is exactly what you "traffic calmers" don't like about it, as you've pointed out in earlier comments.

"You've convinced yourself that anyone who even so much as suggests that cars might not be the best way for everyone—note I didn't say anyone—to get around the city is a 'nut.'"

I don't believe any such thing. I haven't owned a car in more than 30 years. I get around the city very well on foot and on Muni. What I object to is screwing up traffic on city streets on behalf of a small minority of cyclists. You take the trouble to submit these long, fact-free comments, but you evidently aren't familiar with what I've actually written on this blog.

"If you want to change something, you need to act like an adult and learn to negotiate with people."

The point of this blog is to say things that no one else in the city's media is saying. By the way, we tried to warn the city---that is, "negotiate"---five years ago that they way it was proceeding with the Bicycle Plan was illegal, but we were dismissed contemptuously before both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. It turns out that you can't negotiate with fanatics, so we had to file suit to make the city comply with the most important environmental law in California. And---surprise!---the court agreed with us, which is why the city did the EIR on the 500-page Bicycle Plan.

"What is the point in living in a populous place like San Francisco if you so adamantly detest everyone else? The cognitive dissonance required to hold those asinine opinions of yours must be tearing your brain apart."

I don't "detest" anyone. You're the one who apparently detests me and/or my "asinine" opinions, which, as I've pointed out, you are unfamiliar with. I've lived in SF off and on since 1961, and I like it here, which is why I'm trying to prevent a bunch of Johnny-come-lately trendies from screwing it up.

 

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