Tuesday, April 26, 2011

City is going to screw up traffic on Hayes Street

A flattering picture of Octavia Boulevard by Elizabeth MacDonald

This is how the Market and Octavia Plan describes what the city is going to do to Hayes Street:

Reorganize east-west traffic in Hayes Valley to reduce pedestrian conflicts and eliminate confusing Z-shaped jogs of one way traffic. One-way streets encourage fast-moving traffic, disrupt neighborhood commercial activities, and negatively affect the livability of adjacent uses and the neighborhood as a whole. Construction of Octavia Boulevard makes it unnecessary for one-way Oak Street traffic to be routed east of Van Ness Avenue via Franklin Street, or westbound Fell Street traffic to come from the east via Hayes Street and Gough Street. This reorganization will greatly simplify traffic patterns, make street crossings for pedestrians safer, and return Hayes Street to a two-way local street, which is best suited to its commercial nature and role as the heart of Hayes Valley.

But the EIR on the Market/Octavia Plan found that "...in order to maintain acceptable intersection level of service operations, the [two-way] Plan could not be implemented on Hayes Street. Unless the existing street configuration is maintained, implementation of the Plan would result in a significant and unavoidable impact."

Not making Hayes Street into a two-way street was one of the few mitigations offered by the EIR on the Market/Octavia Plan to offset the inevitable traffic-snarling consequences of the radical zoning changes to thousands of properties in the middle of the city to encourage 10,000 new residents in the area. The M/O Plan is based on the half-baked "transit corridors," dense development theory that the Planning Dept. uses to justify its aggressive, pro-development policy.

The anti-car folks at Streetsblog think screwing up traffic on Hayes Street is a great idea:

It’s a reminder that the dominance of car traffic in our cities, in reality, isn’t necessary. Rather, it is generated by building streets and freeways that favor moving motor traffic at the expense of neighborhood livability and other transport modes. When those conditions change, so does behavior...In the city’s most famous example, the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway, doomsday warnings of paralyzing traffic jams failed to come to fruition. More recently, replacing a piece of the Central Freeway with the much less domineering Octavia Boulevard was found to reduce car volumes by 40 to 50 percent.

The anti-car folks like to conflate the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway with the removal of the Central Freeway in Hayes Valley, but the two were different in important ways: the Embarcadero was never primarily a residential area, and Hayes Valley always was and still is; the Embarcadero already had a wide boulevard that covered the length of the waterfront, whereas the city, after several ballot measures, had to convert Octavia Blvd. into a surface expressway to handle all the former freeway traffic that used to travel over the neighborhood.

True, Octavia Blvd. now carries only 40-50% of the traffic (45,000 cars a day) that the Central Freeway overpass used to carry (90,000-100,000 cars a day). But those 45,000 cars are now going through the heart of Hayes Valley on a surface street. This is somehow considered a great traffic management triumph in San Francisco, primarily because city progressives---which of course includes the anti-car movement---refuse to admit how awful Octavia Blvd. now is: perpetually jammed with traffic to and from the freeway on Fell and Oak Streets.

The Octavia Blvd. traffic spills over onto other neighborhood streets, which, especially during commute hours, gridlocks that part of town for much of the day.

But the MTA directors offer some typically stupid, smug comments for people stuck in traffic and residents in the area strangling on carbon monoxide and diesel fumes:

“I think there are a lot of neighborhoods that, when this works out, will realize that we don’t have to have streets that sit 24/7 to handle 50 minutes of traffic twice a day,” said [Cheryl] Brinkman. “We can’t continue to add and facilitate automobiles on our streets. We’ve got to continue to re-engineer our streets to make them pleasant and work for everyone.”
“I know that most of us, me included, don’t like change at first,” said [director]Oka. “But once the change is there, unless it directly adversely affects a major part of our constituents or our city, I think we have to maintain a safe environment for our pedestrians and for people who use our streets who don’t have cars. We are, in fact, a transit-first city. Let’s act like we are.”

Wrong! San Francisco---aka, Progressive Land---is really an anti-car city, not a transit first city. Does anyone think that a two-way Hayes Street will do anything but slow down the #21 Muni line?

It's simply a lie that adding to that area's traffic woes will make Hayes Street "pleasant and work for everyone." Brinkman is a bike nut appointed to the MTA board by Mayor Newsom. For her and the anti-car movement in San Francisco making it difficult to drive in the city is an end in itself.

Official city policy strives to make it as difficult and expensive as possible to drive in the city, even as the city okays massive development projects that will bring a lot more traffic to the city's neighborhoods.

From the Chronicle's "City Insider," April 21, 2011:

Two-way street: Since the 1950s, Hayes Street has been among the one-way thoroughfares designed to speed up traffic, but a plan approved by the Municipal Transportation Agency would slow it down.
The agency's Board of Directors has approved a plan, two years in the works, to make Hayes Street a two-way street between Gough Street and Van Ness Avenue. When the change could take place was not immediately clear.
The shift is intended to slow traffic and treat the section of Hayes Street like the neighborhood commercial district it has become. Neighbors and businesses in the area tend to like the traffic shift, but some drivers, including taxi drivers, say it will cause chaos and gridlock by eliminating a quick route across town.
"From what I'm seeing, there isn't a real solution to where cars will go," said Malcom Heinicke, the only agency director to vote against the plan.
Director Cheryl Brinkman said she believes traffic will adjust to the changes and that the city needs to realize that streets are more than commuter speedways.
"I'm getting more and more calls about reducing the impact of rush-hour traffic on neighborhoods," she said.
- Michael Cabanatuan

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