Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Very Serious People and Masonic Avenue

CBS Channel 5 picture

I like Paul Krugman's Very Serious People term he uses to mock the folly of the mindless, inside-the-beltway consensus on inflation and deficit spending. Applying the term to San Francisco can also be useful, since the VSP here in Progressive Land agree on a whole range of dumb stuff.

The latest stupidity of the city's VSP: Doing Something about Masonic Avenue. The fixation on Masonic has been created after years of anti-car propaganda by the Bicycle Coalition, Streetsblog, and Bike Nopa. Even though the city's own study doesn't show that Masonic is particularly dangerous for anyone---especially considering the volume of traffic it handles every day---the anti-car bike people have created an entirely synthetic emergency based on a drumbeat of disinformation and outright lies.

Recent stories in the Chronicle and the Examiner  assume that the emergency is real. Apparently their job description doesn't include reading the city's annual reports on accidents on city streets, which wouldn't take much time, since these documents aren't very large. The reports even include a list of the streets and intersections in the city where the most accidents happen. I've written about these reports before, but apparently I'm the only one writing about these issues who actually reads them (They can be downloaded from the MTA's website by clicking on "reports.")

Two fatalities on Masonic Avenue caused by drunk drivers late at night in the last year have been used by the anti-car demagogues at Streetsblog, the Bicycle Coalition, and Bike Nopa to maintain the bogus sense of emergency. Elizabeth Stampe of Walk San Francisco---still another anti-car front group---has added to the hysteria and is now supposedly a credible source for reporters. The Chronicle quotes Stampe: "There is a process under way on Masonic," Stampe said, "and it's tragic that this happened before the street could be redesigned to make it safer."

Both of these fatal accidents were caused by drunk drivers late at night. The "redesign" of Masonic the city is going to implement will surely "calm"---that is, make traffic worse on that busy street during the day, particularly during commute hours---but of course it will do nothing to make drunk driving any less likely. The Chronicle's reporter apparently didn't know enough about the changes contemplated to challenge Stampe's flagrant falsehood.

Will Reisman in the Examiner, on the other hand, is well-informed about the proposed changes to Masonic---he even includes them in today's story---but he fails to explain how those changes can possibly reduce the dangers posed by drunk drivers. Instead he quotes a resident in the area named Rich Boardman: "I bike and I walk and I drive my car, and I can say that Masonic Avenue doesn't work well for any mode of transit."

That's easily demonstrated to be untrue. All Reisman or Boardman have to do is look at the Powerpoint presentation MTA made to a neighborhood meeting last year that told us that Masonic now carries more than 32,000 vehicles a day and the #43 line carries more than 12,000 passengers every day. In short Masonic Avenue now works well for more than 44,000 people every day, but that won't stop our Very Serious People from "fixing" it and making it more difficult for everyone in a motor vehicle to travel on one of the city's most important north/south streets.

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