Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bike people can't find a reason to oppose Target

Bike Nopa struggles to find one good reason to oppose allowing Target to occupy the long-vacant space at Geary and Masonic last occupied by the now-defunct Mervyns chain:

The prospect of Target securing an outpost in San Francisco at City Center Plaza on Geary at Masonic occurs at either the best of times or the worst. During this staggering economic downturn, a new department store would bring needed jobs, fill an under-used property, enliven deadened pedestrian spaces, and offer goods to residents within walking and biking distance.

So what's the problem? Of course the bike people hate the prospect of all the death monsters---a k a motor vehicles---that people will surely drive to the new store, which has plenty of free parking (the other day I counted 579 parking spaces at the complex [update: Target told us the other night that there are actually 609 parking spaces]):

But Target would also attract thousands of motorists just as the city undertakes a community-based rethinking of Masonic Avenue and how the corridor now primarily serves motorists and transit riders with little account for people walking or biking. A Target outlet would dilute San Francisco's Transit First policy (which applies to Muni as well as pedestrians and bicyclists) and would undermine the city's resolve to keep national chain stores out of the neighborhoods. Non-union jobs at Target adds one more negative for many in the city.

The "rethinking" of Masonic Avenue is being pushed only by the bike people and their enablers at City Hall, including District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who has made advancing the Bicycle Coalition's agenda the centerpiece of his two terms on the Board of Supervisors. Masonic now serves "motorists and transit riders" very well, which is what the bike people really hate. They want to take away traffic lanes to make bike lanes, which, as the EIR on the Bicycle Plan tells us, will have "significant impacts" on traffic and the #43 Muni line, the only bus that runs on Masonic. 

But in the next sentence, Bike Nopa thinks that allowing the #43 transit line to run well on Masonic is somehow contrary to the city's "transit first" policy, which includes cyclists and pedestrians. It's simply untrue that pedestrians now have a hard time on Masonic, which leaves only cyclists, who generally avoid Masonic now because traffic moves too fast for their comfort. Two out of three seems good enough to me, and I bet it does too for the more than 40,000 people who, according to the city's figures, now use Masonic every day.

Bike Nopa does some free associating on the proposed Target deal, conceding that it will mean jobs and cure the blight from that large space being empty for several years. But on the positive side...

Livability advocates and neighborhood residents will likely negotiate a great many "community benefits" if Target is allowed to take the space. These improvements could help transform the neglected sidewalks, re-landscape the ugly Geary median, re-envision the pocket park on Masonic at Geary, and invest in Masonic facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists (emphasis added)

Yes, no doubt Target has already budgeted a certain amount of money for "community benefits," the inevitable shakedown corporations endure when they locate in a neighborhood. But they might not be too eager to bankroll the bike people's plan to screw up traffic on Masonic Ave., since that would create a lot of bad publicity for the big retail firm.

"Traffic counts on Masonic have been down in this economy, offering a chance to rethink a calmer corridor."
At the workshop on Masonic last month, the city told us that more than 32,000 vehicles use Masonic every day and more than 12,000 people ride the #43 Masonic line every day. The traffic counts were done during a week last May, which makes them pretty up-to-date. But it's no doubt true that during economic prosperity the traffic count is even higher, which makes the idea of jamming up traffic on Masonic to make bike lanes even nuttier.

"Increased vehicle traffic on Masonic may slow transit just as Muni struggles to improve its ontime performance and overall service along the corridor."
This is pure bullshit, since the #43 now runs very well between the Panhandle and Geary Blvd. The only thing that could slow it down are the proposals in the Bicycle Plan to take away traffic lanes to make bike lanes, which is what Bike Nopa really wants.

"Side streets in the Anza Vista neighborhood will likely see a surge in traffic, not only on O'Farrell to access the many parking lots but also from motorists avoiding Masonic by taking small neighborhood streets off Turk like Nido, Vega (that fronts Wallenberg High School) and Anza Vista as a back entrance to parking."
More bullshit that will only worry people who don't know the neighborhood. There's no possible advantage in taking those streets to access the Target parking lots, since Masonic already provides the quickest route to O'Farrell and the parking lots, along with the entrance on Geary Blvd. The implication seems to be that traffic to the new Target will be so heavy that it will overflow into the neighborhood streets. Even if all 579 spaces are full all day that's unlikely to seriously affect neighborhood traffic, since Masonic and Geary now easily handle a large volume of traffic.

"The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposed for Geary must be factored into the discussion."
Why and how? Geary Blvd. already has the #38 Muni line, which is the most used bus line west of the Mississippi. Whether Geary ever gets a BRT line---and we're still waiting for the EIR on that proposal---that street will continue to carry a lot of customers to and from Target in cars and on buses---more than Masonic, I would guess. What's the problem?

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