Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Leave Masonic Avenue alone

First, we need to be clear about what the draft environmental review (DEIR) of the Bicycle Plan is not: It's not a environmental review of the same Bicycle Plan Judge Busch ordered the city to review in his decision of November, 2006.

Instead, by compiling a bike people's wish-list of 56 projects, the city has redefined the Bicycle Plan that was the subject of our successful litigation.

The SF Bicycle Coaltion and their progressive allies in the city are urging people to pressure city officials to ensure that "all 56 projects of the Bike Plan get approved." As I've pointed out before, the SFBC's approach to the 1,500-page DEIR insults the intelligence of both its membership and the city's decision-makers who will make the call on which of these "improvements"---everything the bike people want to do to our streets is of course an "improvement"---gets implemented on the streets of the city.

The Bay Guardian's Steve Jones talked to me about the issue before writing his puff-piece in the Guardian. Who else is Jones going to talk to about bike issues if he wants to at least give the appearance of being balanced? It's not just that I'm a party in the litigation that forced the city to follow the law and do an EIR on its massive Bicycle Plan: I'm the only media critic of the bicycle fantasy in San Francisco.

Jones seems to misunderstand what the DEIR actually contains, in particular the fact that it gives the city two different "options" on most of the projects it analyzes, which in effect presents the city with more than 100 different projects, not 56. If the SFBC and the Guardian were honest about what they are urging people to support, they would choose which options for the different streets they're supporting. 

Instead, they apparently want Judge Busch and the city to certify the final EIR---which will be the DEIR plus the public comments and the city's responses to those comments---and then the city can cherry-pick projects from the massive document, depending on which way the political wind is blowing. 

Do we dare screw up Cesar Chavez this week or should we screw up traffic on Masonic Avenue instead? If the decisions are left to the SF Bicycle Coalition, the city will choose those projects/options that will cause the maximum disruption to the normal flow of city traffic, which will have a negative effect on Muni, which the bike people only pretend to care about in our supposedly "transit first" city.

"It's a zero sum game on the streets of San Francisco," Anderson told the Guardian. "They're going to have to decide how much we want to screw up the streets for this small minority." While Anderson concedes that the studies now supporting the Bike Plan are "pretty thorough," he notes that many projects will have what the EIR called "significant unavoidable impacts." And he thinks it's crazy to give over more street space to bicyclists, particularly on crowded corridors like Masonic Avenue.

Jones quotes me accurately, except that I don't see the actual traffic studies the EIR is based on in the document. Jones of course thinks it's perfectly reasonable to take away a traffic lane on Masonic Ave. to make a bike lane that cyclists will share with Muni buses. 

How does sharing a lane with Muni buses---which are constantly pulling into bus stops and pulling back into traffic---make Masonic any safer for cyclists? And it's simply inaccurate to call Masonic Ave. a "crowded" traffic corridor; it's a busy corridor---all busy streets are called "traffic sewers" by the bike people---since it's a major north/south traffic corridor in SF.

The reality is that traffic moves very well on Masonic in spite of the traffic lights or stop signs at every intersection between Haight Street and Geary Blvd. 

That's what the bike people really hate---any street where the wicked automobiles, aka "death monsters," move easily in the city. Taking away a traffic lane to make bike lanes on Masonic will put a stop to that, as the DEIR itself makes clear. Many intersections on Masonic between Fell and Geary will be degraded to a LOS (level of service) rating of "F"---the lowest rating that means a traffic jam---if either option 1 or option 2 for Masonic is implemented, which, in the DEIR's phrase, is a "significant unavoidable impact," exactly the sort of thing we predicted would happen when we warned the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors about passing the Bicycle Plan without any environmental review. 

Now that the city's own study has verified what we were saying four years ago, it should be clear to everyone that our litigation was perfectly justified, not mean-spirited obstructionism by people who hate bikes or the people who ride them.

How the new bike lanes will affect Muni's #43 line that runs on Masonic:

Option 1 would result in a reduction of one travel lane in both directions on this segment of Masonic Avenue. Under 2025 Cumulative plus Project conditions for Muni bus line 43, this change in the PM peak hour would add approximately 243 seconds (4.1 minutes) of delay for southbound buses...For Muni bus line 43, the total added delay of approximately 804 seconds (13.4 minutes) would be greater than the transit delay threshold of six minutes. ..Therefore, a significant transit impact...would occur for Muni bus line 43 with the implementation of individual Project 3-2[Masonic Ave.] under 2025 Cumulative plus Project conditions for Option 1 for the PM peak hour" (page V.A.3-385).

That is, the DEIR is telling us that taking away a traffic lane on Masonic to make bike lanes is going to significantly slow down the #43 Muni line that now runs efficiently between Fell and Geary.

The DEIR on parking on Masonic Ave:

The removal of 142 on-street parking spaces during weekday midday under Option 2 would force approximately 70 to 90 vehicles to find parking during this time along those streets perpendicular to Masonic Avenue...Option 2 would further increase parking occupancy in the area and make parking more difficult to find...San Francisco does not consider parking supply as part of the permanent physical environment...

The transportation analysis accounts for potential secondary effects, such as cars circling and looking for a parking space in areas of limited parking supply, by assuming that all drivers would attempt to find parking at or near the project site and then seek parking farther away if convenient parking is unavailable. 

Moreover, the secondary effects of drivers searching for parking is typically offset by a reduction in vehicle trips due to others who are aware of constrained parking conditions in a given area. Hence, any secondary environmental impacts which may result from a shortfall in parking in the vicinity of the proposed project would be minor. There would be a substantial loss of parking with [Masonic Ave.] Project 3-2 Option 2. However, there would be no significant parking impacts with implementation of Project 3-2 Option 2 (page V.A.3-387).

That is, the neighborhood will lose a lot of street parking, but, since the city doesn't consider parking an environmental impact---which, by the way, is simply untrue under CEQA case law---there will be "no significant parking impacts"! When people can't find a place to park in the Masonic area, they'll just give up, which will result in "a reduction in vehicle trips due to...constrained parking conditions in a given area"!

This is how traffic planning is done here in Progressive Land.

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