Monday, May 06, 2019

City Hall's contempt for neighborhood business

Abraham Rodriguez

Sally Stephens in yesterday's SF Examiner:

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency wants to put a transit-only lane on one block of West Portal to speed up Muni trains. The idea has not been popular with many merchants and neighbors...

West Portal is only four blocks long, and the idea that you can speed up Muni trains substantially by banning cars from one lane for one block seems unlikely...But they could hurt the merchants on West Portal...Last summer, the agency closed that same block to all traffic for two months to stage equipment while the tunnel was renovated. Most of the stores and restaurants on that block have still not recovered financially from the loss of business during the closure.

Rob's comment:
The city has long treated small businesses in the neighborhoods with contempt, usually with the encouragement of the Bicycle Coalition: on upper Market Street, on 17th Street, on Ocean Avenue, on Polk Street, and Mission Street.

The Bicycle Coalition isn't involved in this potential fiasco because it isn't about bike lanes. Instead, it's about a routine lack of concern for the interests of neighborhood businesses, though City Hall is supposedly worried about the city's many empty store fronts.

More from Stephens:

Now the merchants are worried they’ll lose even more money because of the SFMTA plan. They wonder how they’ll get deliveries, and fear that if it becomes harder to find parking on the block customers will stop coming. They’re right to be concerned. 

The Mission Merchants Association polled businesses along Mission Street. Of the 350 contacted, 301 reported a loss of revenue that they attributed to the transit-only lanes, noting how much harder the lanes made it for customers to find parking near the stores. Fourteen businesses closed after the red lanes were painted. Three dozen employees were laid off. Nearly all the store vacancies on the street are on the side with the red lanes.

SFMTA says not to worry, that the West Portal transit-only lane is “just” a pilot project...But, partly in response to merchants’ concerns, during the pilot program, the transit-only lane will only be in effect during the morning rush hour, from 6 am to 10 am. The rest of the day cars can use the lane...But agency staff can’t define what their metric for success in the pilot program is...

It’s not clear what happens if the pilot program is “successful.” SFMTA staff won’t rule out expanding it to more hours of the day or even to all day and night like the red transit-only lanes on Mission. That would be a big mistake, and could seriously damage the otherwise vibrant neighborhood commercial street...

The Polk Street fiasco is also part of Ed Reiskin's legacy.

See also Sunday Streets: "This was not Newsom's idea"

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