Friday, February 07, 2014

Worst Idea of 2008, 2013 now Worst Idea of 2014

Geary and Fillmore, Brant Ward for the Chronicle

The SF Examiner wrote about it last year, and I wrote a response. With a front page story yesterday, the SF Chronicle joins the official push of this dumb idea (Bold plan to link 2 neighborhoods).

When then-Supervisor Mirkarimi first proposed it, the Examiner rightly called it "the worst municipal idea of 2008."

Last year's story in the Examiner was about Supervisors Breed and Mar pushing the idea, but the Chronicle's story features employees from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) pushing it.

Last year's Examiner story claimed that the "bus route [is]crowded and unreliable," a garbled reference to #38 Muni line, the busiest bus line in the city that carries more than 50,000 passengers every workday. (Geary Blvd. itself carries more than 65,000 vehicles a day according to the Geary Corridor BRT Study.)

The Chronicle repeats the official falsehood that the #38 line has a "well-deserved reputation for being slow and often unreliable."

That's simply untrue. When I want to get downtown in the Union Square area, I always go over to Geary to catch either the regular #38 bus or, better yet, the #38L, an express line that only stops at major intersections. Both those lines run often all day and aren't "unreliable" at all.

The falsehood about the #38 Geary line has now become what Paul Krugman calls "one of those zombie ideas that permeate our discourse; it’s part of the narrative, and no amount of evidence can kill it or even stop reporters/editors from stating it as a fact."

Another zombie idea parroted by these stories: that filling in that overpass will somehow improve and/or knit together the mostly black Fillmore district and Japantown. But the Japantown Task Force found that few Japanese actually live in Japantown. More black people and white people live in that neighborhood than any other ethnic group!

Mayor Lee buys into the official mythology“I want to keep Japantown alive, keep it vibrant, just like I want to do in Chinatown,” Lee said, even though Chinatown is indisputably overwhelmingly Chinese, while Japantown, except for some Japanese restaurants and businesses, is not really Japanese at all.

The Chronicle:

Original [BRT]plans called for the fill to be part of that transportation project, allowing the buses to run on what would become a flat neighborhood street and slowing the traffic that now barrels past.

Slowing down the more than 65,000 vehicles that use Geary Blvd. every day is now the city's goal?

The Chronicle:

The fill also could be a boon to local businesses, which are often ignored by motorists speeding past, added Richard Hashimoto, president of the Japantown Merchants Association."We would like to see the underpass filled so that traffic is calmed and drivers can see more of the community," he said.

Jamming up traffic on Geary Blvd. would make motorists, who are trying to get somewhere else, more likely to stop and visit Japantown? With all due respect to the Japantown Merchants Association, that's really stupid.

The Chronicle quotes the new head of the SFCTA, Tilly Chang, who of course also supports this dumb idea. Recall that Chang has spent her career in that agency pushing the unpopular Congestion Pricing idea. That is, it's unpopular with San Francisco voters---opposed 69% to 26% in the latest Chamber of Commerce poll---but it's popular in a pro-bike, anti-car City Hall that can never provide our Muni system with enough money to operate properly.

Of course Streetsblog likes the idea of jamming up all that traffic, linking the Chronicle story with this: "Japantown, Fillmore Residents Still Want to See the Geary Underpass Filled in," even though Hashimoto is the only resident---assuming he even lives there---quoted. And residents "still want" this to be done? The residents of that part of town have never been polled on this idea---and I bet they never will be.

Supervisor Breed supports the idea, not surprisingly, since she also supports jamming up traffic on Masonic Avenue on behalf of cyclists.

Check out the Planning Department's "heritage" map of Japantown that expands across Geary to Ellis Street. Looks like the idiotic Fillmore/Geary overpass project is accompanied by some kind of development scam:

Project Area Map 

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Mission and South Van Ness

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