Monday, August 28, 2006

Octavia Boulevard: 45,000 cars a day

The City's Department of Parking and Traffic sent me a copy of the "Octavia Boulevard Operation: Six Month Report," of March 2, 2006. Though it deals with the whole area and not just the new freeway ramp on Market Street, it has a substantial section on the no-right-turn-from-Market-Street issue:

No Right Turn Regulation for Eastbound Market Street:
As mentioned in the previous three-month report, the decision to prohibit the right turn for eastbound Market Street was a controversial matter prior to the opening of Octavia Boulevard. City staff was concerned that prohibiting a right turn to a freeway on-ramp would be difficult to enforce and would lead to compliance and safety problems. At the same time staff was concerned with the negative impacts of allowing large volumes of freeway traffic to access the freeway from Market Street, with potential disruptions to bicycle and pedestrian circulation.

Right. After all, why should the Department of Parking and Traffic want to allow freeway-bound traffic easy access to the freeway? This is absurd on its face. For generations cyclists and pedestrians have dealt with motor vehicles turning on the same light they use to cross intersections. 

Why is this particular intersection singled out for special attention? Because the Bicycle Coalition and its fellow travelers in city government are increasingly allowing the safety of cyclists---a tiny minority in SF---to trump all other considerations, including the commonsense notion of easy freeway access for motorists. Instead, the city apparently wants motorists to keep driving on the city's surface streets until they find the freeway entrance at South Van Ness and 13th Street. 

At the behest of the SF Bicycle Coalition, then-Supervisor Gonzalez introduced the resolution in 2004 that prohibited the sensible right turn onto the freeway for drivers heading North from the Castro.

Suspicions confirmed. There is in fact widespread flouting of the dumb, no-right-turn law:

After the opening of the Boulevard, a majority of motorists complied with the turn restriction but a sizeable minority began to violate it...The number of violations during the AM peak is higher than during the PM peak. During the morning rush hour approximately 3 out of 4 signal cycles have an illegal right turn. The number of violations appears to be constant since September and occur at all times of the day.

And what about the volume of traffic on the new Octavia Boulevard? I've been citing the CalTrans figure on the volume of traffic that used to use the Central Freeway before it was torn down---90,000 vehicles a day---but it turns out that the new volume is about half that at 44,859 vehicles a day. Still, that volume of traffic means the new, unimproved Octavia Blvd. has already achieved its maximum carrying capacity:

Current traffic volumes are close to the capacity of Octavia Boulevard that we estimated when the new design was proposed, and represent about half of the previous capacity of the elevated freeway structure. The current surface roadway can carry approximately 1,400 vehicles per direction per hour before congestion sets in. Those hourly totals are already present in both northbound and southbound Octavia Boulevard during peak commute hours...there remains a historical demand that exceeds the present capacity of this facility. This helps to explain current congestion levels and how congestion itself is helping regulate the number of people traveling on Octavia Boulevard. During peak hours, as the roadway reaches capacity some motorists continue to use alternate detour routes established during the freeway closure.

Note the conceptual breakthrough in traffic management: "...congestion itself is helping regulate the number of people traveling on Octavia Boulevard." That is, people are already giving up on Octavia Blvd. and using side streets to get where they're going. When that part of the city achieves absolute gridlock, what will become of the self-regulation concept? Well, that's what wicked motorists get for being, well, wicked motorists! 

Note too that making it convenient to drive in the city is evidently not the DPT's mandate. Making it safe for cyclists---1.9% of the city's population commutes by bicycle---is the priority, while making it as inconvenient and expensive as possible to drive a car---or a bus, truck or taxi---in the city. Recall too that DPT is also the birthplace of the Bicycle Plan that will take away traffic lanes and street parking to make bicycle lanes.

See this also, and this.

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At 2:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The no right turn law is dumb only if you consider people's lives to be of little value.

I live right there and I see people getting run down by cars all the time. It is an absolutely necessary prohibition at that intersection.

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Every life has value, but the real issue is how to achieve a reasonable balance between safety for cyclists and the overwhelming majority of city residents who do not use bikes as transportation. It seems to me that it's in everyone's interest to get freeway-bound cars off city streets and onto the freeway as quickly and efficiently as possible, instead of making them take a detour through the Mission to find a freeway entrance.

At 9:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bicyclists and pedestrians are endangered constantly at that intersection.

I don't think getting traffic off city streets "as quickly as possible" is a sensible thing to do with people around who are walking and riding bikes.

Rob, what are some of the "overwhelming majority of city residents" doing at the Octavia intersection in the first place?

I agree that it's in everyone's interest to get freeway-bound traffic off of city streets, but I don't think it's more important to do it as safely as possible, rather than "as quickly as possible"; these two things may be at odds.

At 6:44 AM, Anonymous DHGulley said...

Well said, and that coming from a former Sunset-to-Downtown bicycle commuter who gave it up because I was sick of coming to work a sweaty mess....

And while you're at it, how about doing something about the virtual forest of unnecessary "Stop" signs that have taken perfectly good alternate commuter routes and turned them into stop-and-go traffic jams? As an example, when I was working at UC Med, Kirkham street was a viable route from the often-clogged Lincoln Way, but now, with the plethora of stop signs that are planted along Kirkham seemingly for no rhyme or reason, the route has become more of an ordeal than a pleasure. Could this be a result of our Board of Idiots idea of, "traffic calming?" Probably.

What nonsense!

At 11:39 AM, Blogger The Angry Young Man said...

Rob, cyclists are NOT a tiny minority in this city. A minority, yes, tiny, no. So what? I didn't realize that mob rule was now the order of the day.

You really resented the freeway revot, didn't you, Rob?

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

According to the 2000 Census, only 1.9% of the city's residents commute by bike. According to the SFCTA, that number is 1%. That sounds like a tiny minority to me. Majority rule is "mob rule"? Like to see some explication of that notion. No, I didn't resent the freeway revolt at all, since I wasn't even here when it happened. Taking down the Central Freeway after the 1989 earthquake was not the Freeway Revolt, which happened 40 years earlier. What I object to is the mindless boosterism of city officials and the HVNA about the new Octavia Blvd., a botched bit of planning that has degraded the Hayes Valley neighborhood.

At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do we want a freeway dumping into our neighborhood in the first place?

At 5:18 PM, Blogger The Angry Young Man said...

According to the 2000 Census, only 1.9% of the city's residents commute by bike.

How fascinating. So what? According to the 2000 Census, only 2.7% of the City's population commutes by streetcar. Should we eliminate all streetcars as well because only a "tiny minority" utilizes them to commute?

Your mob rule way of thinking about transit is bad policy, Rob. "Because more people use cars, we should build our transit system around cars. Doesn't matter that gas is becoming prohibitively expensive, commute times are ridiculously long, and the automobile is a general menace that's helping to rapidly destroy the planet, it's what the mob wants, it's what the mob should get." Well, you can't expect people to get out of their cars unless you provide them with reasonable alternatives to driving and in SF, commuting by bike IS a reasonable alternative.

That's not even the point. There's no logic behind your stance. You argue that cyclists are a tiny minority and therefore don't deserve bike lanes while at the same time pointing to stats that show that that a tiny minority of paved surfaces in the City are actually dedicated to biking. You argue that biking is unsafe (complete and utter nonsense, by the way) and then argue for abolishing measures that would increase the safety of biking. None of this makes any sense at all.

Taking down the Central Freeway after the 1989 earthquake was not the Freeway Revolt, which happened 40 years earlier.

Um, just where did I say it was? Thanks for the history lesson, Rob. please refrain from insulting my intelligence with this kind of diversionary nonsense.

What I object to is the mindless boosterism of city officials and the HVNA about the new Octavia Blvd., a botched bit of planning that has degraded the Hayes Valley neighborhood.

Yeah, because Hayes Valley was such a desirable place to live when the freeway ran right through it. Maybe you weren't here then, so you don't remember what it was like. I was, and trust me, Hayes Valley is much nicer today than it was back then.

You have repeatedly claimed that you are a regular user of mass transit in San Francisco, and a pedestrian, yet your pro-car attitude which reflects the kind of modernist city planning mentality that fell out of favor shortly after Brasilla was constructed, seems to betray someone who would rather be driving his own car with no passengers, the windows rolled down, with the air conditioning running full blast. None of this makes any sense.

At 5:37 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Good question, but that's what the city's voters voted for, ultimately---to tear down the freeway ramp. The trade-off, which has been completely ignored by all the happy-talkers: you then get all the traffic that used to pass over the neighborhood via the freeway on the surface streets of your neighborhood, which means Octavia Blvd. for most of it.

At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, but why does my neighborhood (D8&D5) have to suffer because freeway traffic "needs" to be dumped on the city.

At 7:33 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Because that traffic had to go somewhere to allow people access to the west side of San Francisco. In retrospect, I think the Central Freeway was a better solution than the Octavia Blvd. solution, which, as you suggest, is actually more destructive of your neighborhood than the freeway overpass was. You better brace yourself for more congestion,Anon, since the city is getting ready to enact the Planning Dept.'s Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan, which will mean thousands of new housing units in that area, including residential highrises in the Van Ness-Market St. area. Why has the city targeted your neighborhood for all of this over-development? Because your neighborhood has the misfortune to be on the Market St. transit corridor, and the city's theory is that neighborhoods on transit corridors can absorb unlimited development, because a lot of those new residents are going to ride Muni or bicycles, not drive cars. And then there's UC's plan to privatize the old extension site on lower Haight St. and turn it into a 450-unit housing development, which will bring a lot more people and traffic into the neighborhood...

At 9:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aside from a lot of happy-talk from political types, the Octavia Blvd/Central Freeway solution that exists today is seen as a costly, impractical compromise that leaves most people scratching their heads and saying: w.t.f?

Again, San Francisco has created a monument that demonsttates to the World its failed political culture; one that focuses on the process over the product.

Gone.. along with the days when pony-tails on men were considered fashionable is a popular repect of the politcal dogma that blindly places "community concensus" above "getting things done" or "makings things work".

Had the new freeway been extended just 150 feet over Market Street to the natural elevated grade at Haight Street (on an attractively designed urban viaduct) we could have accomplished all the social engineering projects progressives demanded without adding an inoperable mega-intersection to the mind boggling, over-designed maze of confusion that defines Market Street.. especially between Van Ness and Church.

san francisco

At 7:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my solution to Octavia:

leave your car in the burbs.

At 11:58 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Your implying that it's only out-of-town drivers that we need to be concerned about. But there are 373,151 autos registered in SF, along with 62,127 trucks, and 17,571 motorcycles/motorbikes. The best the city can do now that Octavia Blvd. is a done deal is to forget about the Market/Octavia Plan and veto UC's proposal to turn the extension site into a large housing development.

At 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, if the CCSF government would start prioritizing job creation in the city, perhaps it would be possible to leave our cars at home.

Note that the peak is higher in the AM than the PM. It tells us that our city has failed to create enough jobs for its residence, so we all have to drive out of the city to pay the ridiculous rent and high mortgages just to have the "privledge" of living in The City.

Talk about dumbass.

At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Bill Choisser said...

If 300 cars coming from the Castro are to enter the freeway, I see little difference between 150 crossing the bike lane at Duboce and 150 crossing the bike lane at Gough, versus 100 crossing the bike lane in all three places. If anything, wouldn't spreading these right turns out make individual intersections safer? Wouldn't getting cars off city streets as soon as possible make city streets safer?


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