Sunday, February 09, 2014

Save Masonic: Flawed environmental study on bike project

Howard Chabner of Save Masonic details objections to the Masonic Avenue bicycle project:

Dear Ms. Tse, Mr. Panmai and Ms. Carle:

The Preliminary Environmental Study dated December 16, 2013, filed by the SFMTA about the Masonic Avenue project has many major inaccuracies, including:

* In answer to the question “Will the project generate public controversy?” MTA checked the “no” box. (Page 3, question 2.) In fact, nearly 1,200 people have signed an online petition opposing the project. Others signed a printed version with identical wording as the online petition; they didn’t provide an e-mail address and therefore their names don’t appear online. Also, a neighborhood merchant, Ibrahim Ahwal, gathered over 150 signatures on a hard copy petition (different from the online petition) opposing the project. MTA is well aware of the online petition, has received numerous emails and letters opposing the project, and has a copy of the hard copy petition.

See Please look at the comments on the petition.

* MTA claims the project doesn’t affect the number of through lanes on city streets. (Page 13, explanation on question 3.) In fact, the project would reduce the number of travel lanes during rush hour by eliminating the northbound tow-away lane that currently exists during morning rush-hour and by eliminating the southbound tow-away lane that currently exists during evening rush hour. Also, MTA claims that the bus bulbouts don't affect the alignment or number of through traffic lanes. In fact, the bus bulbouts would affect the alignment of through traffic lanes.

* In answer to the question "Will the project affect access to properties or roadways?", MTA has checked the "no" box. (Page 4, question 29.) In fact, access to all driveways on Masonic will be impacted. Also, the raised concrete cycle track would affect drainage. Moreover, currently residents on Masonic can park across their driveways; if the project is implemented, they no longer will be able to do so.

* In discussing bus bulbouts (page 15), MTA fails to mention that buses will be stopping in one of the two travel lanes, increasing congestion while the buses are stopped. This will also create danger, as motorists try to go around the buses into the one remaining lane that is moving.

* MTA minimizes the extent and impact of the parking loss. (Page 14, question 32.)

First, it's likely that more than 167 parking spaces are being eliminated because MTA counts 20 feet as a parking space, whereas the distance between some driveways is less than 20 feet but enough for a vehicle to park there.

Second, residents of Masonic will no longer be able to park across their driveways; this is not accounted for by MTA.

Third, in calculating net parking spaces eliminated, MTA adds back 20 parking spaces gained by converting parallel parking to angled or perpendicular, but the street in question is a couple of blocks from Masonic (and, significantly, beyond the radius in which MTA says it was required to notify people about the project. MTA wants it one way when it comes to notice, and another way when it comes to calculating parking capacity).

Fourth, MTA has eliminated more than 20 parking spaces in the streets near Masonic as part of various projects; if the additional 20 spaces gained from changing parallel to angled/perpendicular parking are included in the project impact, then the other spaces lost in the nearby streets should also be counted; this would result in a net loss of more than 167 parking spaces, even if the first two points in this paragraph aren't taken into account.

Fifth, the parking study cited by MTA in in its documents about this project is deficient and misleading.

Sixth, in its environmental documents for the bicycle plan and various components of it, MTA, wrongly, does not consider parking loss an environmental impact.

Seventh, in the answer to question 32 MTA states it is working with the district supervisor to identify additional parking spaces near the project area; to my knowledge, the district supervisor and MTA have been unable to find any such spaces. But MTA doesn't mention this.

* MTA doesn’t mention the negative impact on emergency response that would be caused by installing a raised concrete median for the length of the project.

* In several places MTA continues to repeat its misleading account of the process by which the Masonic project was developed, failing to mention that thousands of neighborhood residents who will be affected never received notice or an opportunity to participate in any meetings about the project. MTA also fails to mention that it has refused requests to hold even a nonbinding vote of neighborhood residents about the project; this request was made in order to test MTA's repeated assertions that the project has overwhelming community support.

See (especially the FAQ) for a discussion of many aspects of the Masonic project that would have a negative environmental impact.

MTA has not seriously considered alternatives to the project that would have less of an environmental impact...

In sum, the Preliminary Environmental Study should be rejected because it is inaccurate and misleading, and because the Masonic project would have a negative environmental impact.

Thank you for considering this email.

Howard Chabner

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At 11:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If removing lanes will cause more congestion, how many lanes wide should Masonic be to eliminate congestion? Honest question.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

It doesn't need any more lanes. The city should just leave it alone, since it's working well now for more than 32,000 vehicles and more than 44,000 #43 Muni passengers every day (See the city's Masonic Avenue Redesign Study, pages 11 and 14).

This is a bicycle project and making traffic worse for thousands of people who now use it every day is not of serious concern to the city.

Few cyclists now use Masonic, and the city has no idea how many cyclists will use those separated bike lanes after the project is implemented.

At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Masonic is pretty good now, but wouldn't widening it make it even better by reducing congestion?


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