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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