Road Closed Sign

SFMTA’s Continuing Muni Metro Problems

... A Historical Perspective

Back in the 1960’s Muni was part of the SF Public Utilities Commission. In the late 1960’s the oncoming BART subway give Muni an opportunity to modernize its streetcar system. So the PUC sent one of its engineers to Europe to get a better look at some of Europe’s successful subway operations. He returned with a recommendation that there be a single 10-car train extending from State College to the Embarcadero, fed at the West Portal by short K-L trains and at the Duboce Portal by short J-N trains. That recommendation was rejected by the PUC brass on grounds that San Francisco’s streetcar users, used to getting one-seat rides to downtown San Francisco, “didn’t want to transfer and in fact wouldn’t transfer.”

Muni map

So the Louis T. Klauder Company … a pre-eminent rail system design firm … was brought in to design a light rail vehicle (LRV) subway surface system suitable for San Francisco’s unique arrangement;  namely five surface streetcar lines feeding into a single subway.

The Compromise

A  compromise was eventually reached. It was decided to operate one and two car trains on the Avenues and couple the shorter trains into longer trains at the portals so as not to overload the subway. With this innovative solution it became possible to avoid sending excessively long trains through outlying neighborhoods while holding the number of subway trains per hour to a reasonable number. And that’s the way the Muni Metro system operated between 1980 and the mid-1990’s. 

the Coupling Problem

The Coupling Problem

If properly managed such a system could accommodate 24 trains of average length 3.5 cars in the subway an hour, thereby permit 16,800 riders an hour or more to use the subway during the commute peaks. However the Muni experienced problems with the coupling, allegedly because of defects in Boeing Vertol’s LRV design, and by the mid-1990’s, the PUC’s General Manager declared that he’d “had enough”. Unfortunately, instead of looking seriously into what could be done to solve the coupling problem it was decided to abandon coupling altogether, meaning that henceforth the trains operating in the subway would be only one and two cars long. Despite warnings that such a change would reduce the Muni Metro’s peak-period carrying-capacity by almost 60%, Muni proceeded with the plan to send as many of the short trains coming off the avenues into the subway as possible.

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Unfortunately, instead of looking seriously into what could be done to solve the coupling problem it was decided to abandon coupling altogether, meaning that henceforth the trains operating in the subway would be only one and two cars long”

Horrendous Daily Backups

To cope with the excessive peak period crowding caused by this action, it was necessary to compensate for the decreased train length by sending far more one and two-car “trains” an hour through the subway than it could handle. The result was predictably horrendous daily backups, which knocked any trains off schedule and consequently degraded the entire Muni Metro system. 

By the time COVID caused a temporary shut down the system in early 2020, the newly formed SFMTA was struggling to accommodate an impossible 43 separate Muni trains an hour in the subway. For this to work every train would have had to remain exactly on schedule for every minute of its trip; needless to say, an impossible objective. The short-train experiment was an unmitigated disaster. 

Muni Train

Post Pandemic Recalcitrance

When the effects of the pandemic eased, thereby allowing the temporary Muni Metro shutdown to end, a reduced ridership gave Muni the opportunity to reinstate regular service.  Yet, to avoid again overloading the subway, Muni fully reinstated only four of the six pre-COVID Muni Metro lines.

Again refusing to consider or even discuss how coupling could be successfully reinstated, the SFMTA’s current “fix” would force up to 40% of the Muni Metro riders bound for eastern San Francisco to get off their surface trains at the portals and transfer to the trains traveling in the subway. What was wisely rejected by the PUC in the late 1960’s is now being aggressively pursued in 2022 by the SFMTA brass.

Gerald Cauthen PE, Former Manager of the Muni Transit Improvement Program (also Co-Founder and President of the Bay Area Transportation Working Group) 

      

 Angelo Figone, Former Muni General Superintendent Rail and Scheduling
(also Member of the Save Muni Board of Directors)

FEBRUARY 21, 2022

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Road Closed Sign

The Sunset is Fired Up!

Wow, I’ve never seen the residents of the Sunset District so fired up as they are over the continuing closure of the Upper Great Highway.
As former SF Police Department Commander Richard Corriea states in his commentary this month, one unelected city official made this decision.

Phil Ginsburg, the general manager of the SF Recreation and Park Department, issued directive 21-002 on Aug. 15, 2021, approving the closure of the Upper Great Highway due to the pandemic. That directive references his earlier approval of the closure in March of 2021, but the Rec. and Park Department has no such record ordering the closure. (Ginsburg also closed the eastern end of John F. Kennedy Drive by directive, creating a wall between the Richmond and Sunset districts, but that’s the topic of another column.)

Ginsburg’s action to close the Upper Great Highway to only some people (drivers), and not all people, could be a gross overreach of his authority. He has the power to close roads in an emergency, but not just to benefit a special class of people, like just motorists.

As well, his “compromise” to close the road on some days, and leave it open others, also appears to be an overreach. And, closing the roadway at noon on Fridays makes absolutely no sense at all as people still have to get home.

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There are procedures for closing a major highway, and that includes an Environmental Impact Report (E.I.R.), which will tell us the environmental affects of such a move, including how much more pollution would be caused by rerouting up to 20,000 vehicles a day through stop and go traffic through our neighborhood. That’s why the SF Sierra Club has called for an E.I.R. before the road is closed, not afterward.”

The fact that one man could negatively impact every resident on the west side by simply declaring so is an insult to good governance and erodes the public’s trust in government.

District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar, who reportedly approved of the road closure for the pandemic emergency, is straddling a fine line. He is up for reelection next year and risks being a one-term supervisor unless he gets behind a majority of his constituents and calls for the full opening of the Upper Great Highway for everyone – every day, 24-hours-a-day.  

There are procedures for closing a major highway, and that includes an Environmental Impact Report (E.I.R.), which will tell us the environmental affects of such a move, including how much more pollution would be caused by rerouting up to 20,000 vehicles a day through stop and go traffic through our neighborhood. That’s why the SF Sierra Club has called for an E.I.R. before the road is closed, not afterward.

An E.I.R. would show how the closure affects the police and fire departments response times to emergencies in the district? It would also look at the efficacy of using alternative routes.

But some people don’t respect the law, or the proper way of creating change, and Ginsburg’s directives are nothing less than a power grab for a small, vocal minority.

In a recent development, a small group of bicyclists have been obstructing the flow of traffic on the roadway and trapping thousands of west side residents who are simply trying to go about their business. This is leading to a very dangerous situation for frustrated motorists and residents – recently a truck driving through the residential neighborhood at 46th Avenue and Taraval Street tore down numerous overhead wires.

Assisting this illegal action is the Taraval Police Station, which has been giving the bicyclists a police escort for their protests. This is ridiculous and takes one of our squad cars out of service for hours. During a recent protest, there were about a dozen bicyclists with a police escort illegally holding hundreds of law-abiding citizens hostage, people who are simply trying to move about the district.

Bicyclists have a right to use any roadway they wish but, according to the motor vehicle code, bicycles, have to pull over and let traffic pass when more than five vehicles are stacked up behind them. It is not right that Taraval police officers, under the command of Taraval Police Station Capt. Nicholas Rainsford, are being used to assist and abet the blatant breaking of the law.

I’ve been an editor of the Sunset Beacon for more than 30 years, and I’ve never heard anyone suggest closing the Upper Great Highway. There has always been room on the roadway for everyone, with bike lanes, walking trail, a long seawall and, of course, Ocean Beach.

Due to Ginsburg’s power grab, a group of irate Sunset residents is organizing and raising money to sue the City to reopen the Upper Great Highway. For more information or to make a donation, go to www.openthegreathighway.com. I wish them luck.

To express your views on the subject, contact Ginsburg and Mar and tell them what you think of the Upper Great Highway road closure. Now that we are reopening our city, they need to hear from the people who are suffering the consequences of the general manager’s illegal and punitive actions.

To contact Ginsburg, call (415) 831-2701 or email phil.ginsburg@sfgov.org. For general comments about Rec. and Park Department road closures, go to the website at RPDinfo@sfgov.org. Mar can be reached at (415) 554-7460 or by email at marstaff@sfgov.org. To communicate with Rainsford, call (415) 759-3100 or email nicholas.rainsford@sfgov.org.

It’s time for the people of the Sunset to be heard. Tell Ginsburg and Mar to demand the opening of the Upper Great Highway to everyone, every day – now!

Paul Kozakiewicz is founder of the Richmond Review newspaper (1988) and co-founder of the Sunset Beacon newspaper (1991).

December 22, 2021

Great Parkway petitioners
A sunny day at the Great Parkway brought out cyclists, strollers and beachgoers and the new food trucks were a hit
A Ride Along the ‘Great Parkway’

Since the onset of COVID-19, the closure of Great Highway has met with both criticism and applause. The controversy kicked into high-gear when Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Gordon Mar—with support from Supervisors Connie Chan and Myrna Melgar—decided in August to continue the partial closure. The stretch between Lincoln Way and Sloat Boulevard. will be open for weekends and holidays for pedestrian and bicycle use only, and open to car traffic on weekdays. The Westside Observer has published a few articles against the Great Highway closure but we always try to stay open to the other side of the story.

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We have one coastline; we should prioritize San Franciscans enjoying a safe place to recreate and be with neighbors on that coastal space, rather than using the space as a redundant roadway separating the neighborhood from the coast to save drivers a couple minutes of time.”

So when we heard the City had approved food trucks on the Great Highway, the Westside Observer got on the old bikes to find out what’s going on.

Entry to Great Parkway
While the entry was less than elegant, folks designed their own work-around.

Once we got to the “entry” the first thing we noticed was that the beach was thronged with visitors—even without auto access. Bicycle access to the highway itself, however, was not obvious. There were no signs other than “Road Closed” blockades. But after observing cyclists simply duck under the Road Closed signs, we followed suit, and within a few minutes, we were blocks down the flat roadway in search of a cup of coffee on the beach.

Neighbors of the Parkway

...
Heidi and her petitioning partner were found at the end of Taraval Street

Just as we arrived at the coffee truck we saw the signs to “Help Save the Great Parkway” on a small card table with two petitioners gathering signatures. Heidi Moseson was quick to respond to questions and we learned a lot.

One man band

Our new City Attorney, David Chiu enjoyed the day teaching his son to ride, but declined to offer an opinion about the Parkway “I'm the attorney for all the people now,” he said.

“I have never been a “Cyclist” and still do not identify myself as one.” Heidi said, “I used to drive my kids around the neighborhood, to and from preschool. But with the closure of the Great Highway to cars and the creation of a network of slow streets, we invested in an e-bike and now use that to commute everywhere. But it was only because the city created a network that made it safe to commute. Not every family can do this, but for those like mine that can, creating car-free roads actually does take cars off of the road. It makes traffic better for everyone.”

“And here’s the real amazing part of it – getting around by e-bike is faster than driving. We get to school and back, work and back, the grocery store and back, faster by e-bike than we did driving. And buying and maintaining our e-bike is a fraction of the cost of our average vehicle and the savings on gas and oil will pay for the bike. It’s better for us and it’s better for the environment.”

“We have done door to door canvassing and canvassing at local Sunset and Richmond events”, she said, “as well as on the Great Highway itself and already collected 8,000 signatures that favor a full time park, nearly all from Sunset and Richmond residents.” And she noted that we could sign the petition online— “You can go to our website greathighwaypark.com and sign the petition we have on there, as well.”

Family at Parkway
A family walks together on the Parkway

“53% of Sunset residents want a full-time park—a 2 to 1 preference over those who want full time car highway. In fact, the multi-year long Sunset Forward community needs assessment identified a desire for more public parks and open community spaces in the neighborhood as the 2nd biggest priority identified by Sunset residents.”

Family bikes
Family time

Food Trucks at the Beach

Just before thanksgiving, SF Recreation and Parks Department announced the launch of a three-month pilot program for food trucks on the Upper Great Highway during days it is closed to vehicle traffic. 

We waited in line for a cup, and got a chance to talk to the owner.

“There are wonderful coffee roasters and cafes in the Outer Sunset,” said California Kahve owner Molly Welton. “But few in comparison to the amount of miles that run along the stretch of the Great Highway and Ocean Beach. Coffee carries an endless demand.”

Waiting in line
Brisk business for California Kahve was evident

“San Francisco coffee and food culture runs deep, and over the last two years our need for safe, outdoor options became so apparent, this pilot program seems to have naturally evolved. And I believe, will be welcomed by both residents and visitors to the City.”

From Welton’s perspective, the closure and this new pilot program is a ‘win-win.’

“I actually launched my mobile business in January of this year, just a mile and a half North of where I'll be stationed on the Great Highway,” said Welton. “This location was through San Francisco's mobile food permit program, so in a sense, I'm just scooting down the highway into a more secure and user-friendly location. I have received an amazing welcome over this last year and have made dozens of new friends.”

...

Apart from having to face some obstacles like cleaning up trash and dealing with parking spaces, Welton is grateful for the closure of Great Highway.

“I live in San Francisco and my family recreates in the City and San Francisco is not the easiest place to raise a family in,” she said. “So, this feels like a real blessing.”

The Department will continue to expand the pilot program through its rolling request for proposals process. For more information on how to participate, email Brian DeWitt at brian.dewitt@sfgov.org.

The Great Highway is currently closed to vehicles from noon on Fridays to 6 a.m. on Mondays, as well as on holidays.

“My hope is that, through the pilot program comes a vision for a shared space,” said Welton, “where people can really stop and pause to enjoy the space and that I'm able to contribute to the community in a positive way. We’ll see what the next few months will bring!”

Two vendors have signed on so far, Viva Vegan and California Kahve. Viva Vegan has since decided, at the behest of a local competing vendor to remain at JFK Drive across form the Conservatory. The Park & Rec release described the two vendors in a press release last week.

Viva Vegan
Viva Vegan will remain parked on JFK Drive

Viva Vegan, (Withdrawn) a plant-based burger truck, began serving its fare Sunday in the northbound lane of the Great Highway at Judah Street. It will be there Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Viva Vegan will remain in its current location on JFK Drive.

California Kahve, will begin serving organic espresso and matcha from its vintage caravan this Saturday. It will be stationed in the northbound lane of The Great Highway at Taraval Street on Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

While the desire to get to-and-from places is understandable, this wide, flat paved road, when car-free as a park, makes the ocean uniquely accessible. Even those who, for mobility reasons require devices or for other reasons can’t navigate the loose sand of the beach, Great Highway Park should be a valuable park for the Sunset, and for San Francisco. There is literally another 2-4 lane highway (the lower Great Highway) that runs parallel to the upper Great Highway for cars to use, plus over 40 other avenues that connect the Sunset and the Richmond from North to South.

horses at the beach
Some chose an equestrian ride to the beach

The City’s Ocean Beach Master Plan will close the Great Highway south of Sloat in 2023, diverting cars back up to Sunset Blvd. When that happens, Sunset Boulevard will definitely be the faster route, and the Great Highway will all but lose any commute utility it has for people trying to get to the Peninsula faster.

Something Heidi said stuck: “We have one coastline; we should prioritize San Franciscans enjoying a safe place to recreate and be with neighbors on that coastal space, rather than using the space as a redundant roadway separating the neighborhood from the coast to save drivers a couple minutes of time.”

Maybe it was just the sunny day and the fresh air or the endorphins from the bike ride, but safe to say, we saw another side to the story, and frankly, look forward to more food trucks.

Jonathan Farrell is a free-lance journalist and Doug Comstock serves as Editor.

December 2021

Man and Bike
Transform Our Great Oceanfront Promenade Park
John Elliott
John Elliott

I am one of your many neighbors (hello from the Outer Richmond!) who believes the Upper Great Highway should remain transformed as an oceanfront promenade park all day every day year round. It is a minuscule first step in a necessary transition away from car culture and car dependency. 

We are in a climate crisis. The transportation sector is responsible for the largest share of citywide emissions: 47%. That share continues to grow every year. The vast majority of those emissions are generated by the fossil fuels used by private vehicles: 72%. SFMTA has a stated goal to shift more than 80% of trips to sustainable modes of transportation by 2030.

We must determine how we are going to share our streets for the rest of the 21st century and beyond. We need immediate bold and decisive action. We must replace as many car trips as possible with other modes of transit. We have an opportunity and a responsibility to be global leaders in this movement.

It is essential that we establish a permanent slow street network in the city now. That network should include permanent infrastructure on what we currently call “slow streets” (Lake, Cabrillo, 23rd Avenue) as well as permanent car-free status on Upper Great Highway, JFK, and more. 

There’s no reason this should be controversial. Slow and car-free streets are safer and will encourage more people to take non-car trips. This is the best way to encourage mode shift and improve traffic conditions for our mobility challenged neighbors and others who must drive. 

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If you drive for whatever reason, I have good news for you: the vast majority of streets in our district and the city are dominated by cars! You can drive on all the roads, which precisely demonstrates why a radical change in our street use is necessary.”

If you drive for whatever reason, I have good news for you: the vast majority of streets in our district and the city are dominated by cars! You can drive on all the roads, which precisely demonstrates why a radical change in our street use is necessary. 

I used to drive. Glen, my Honda Civic, retired in 2013 at 276,563 miles. I could not afford a reliable new used car, so I bought a $150 bike on Craig’s List. I had not ridden a bicycle in nearly twenty years and did not consider it an option for reliable adult transportation. I am now a true believer. The decision to ditch my car and move myself around using my bike, my feet, and public transportation is the single best decision I have ever made for my physical, mental, spiritual, and financial health. 

I understand that car dependency is not a choice for everyone in our district, but I do not understand the mentality expressed in Richard Correia’s recent commentary: “The Great Highway Robbery.” There is a feeling among some of our neighbors that something is being taken away from them, that a crime has taken place. This sense of entitlement is bewildering. Is it so difficult to imagine sharing our streets in a meaningful and personable way? Why should every street have noisy and dangerous motor vehicles on it? Streets without cars become community spaces and sustainable transportation thoroughfares. It betrays a severe lack of creative vision to remain captive to such a loud and polluted environment. 

In the absence of leadership on this essential issue, we the people will need to take action and create transformative change. Politicians do not create change. We do. Let’s do it! 

We live in a dense city and most of us can choose multiple other modes of transport. We are so fortunate to share this beautiful corner of the planet. Let’s make it the most joyous, peaceful, safe, kind, fun, and connected place it can be. See you at the grocery store!

John Elliott is a musician, educator, and Richmond resident. He loves helping people figure out how to replace car trips with bike rides. You can e-mail him at freedomtour2020@gmail.com.

December 22, 2021

Muni Yard
MUNI bus lines stand ready to convey passengers to their destination
SFMTA’s Phony Survey in Play

From the viewpoint of the MUNI-riding public, the priorities of the SFMTA are off the rails. The planners seem dedicated to speeding up the running time of each route at the cost of riders’ convenience. They have cut out bus stops, increasing the distance between them so that the bus needs to stop less frequently. This may speed up the running time of the bus, but lt increases the travel time of the patrons. The time it takes door-to-door is, from the viewpoint of the rider, a better measure of the usefulness of the system than is the amount of time it takes for the conveyance to complete its route. When you include the walking time to get to and from the bus, you are recognizing reality. In rain or shine, with or without packages or children in tow, in daytime light or nighttime dark, the least time it takes to walk from point A to point B is what’s wanted. Having to walk extra blocks because MUNI has eliminated bus stops so that the bus’s run time is less is not an improvement from the point of view of the rider. If the intent is to get people back to using Muni rather than gas-guzzling vehicles, then designing the system for the greatest convenience of the riders is the way to go.

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No signs. No way of knowing which direction to walk. (311 doesn’t know either.) You’re on your own. Hey, an adventure!! Well, this is flat-out bad planning. What are all those bright Berkeley grads at their SFMTA desks doing? Figuring out how to cut down more trees, maybe?”

Furthermore, citing the Mickey-Mouse survey they conducted (I wonder how much they paid the contractor they had design it), Muni management has announced delayed resumption of several lines, including, for example the 21-Hayes, until February 2022. (or, well, uh, maybe later…) Four long months away! Cold comfort to people along those missing routes, who are advised to avail themselves of the nearest line, however far away it is from their residence. Not only that, the 21 route is proposed to be shortened, to end at Civic Center instead of the foot of Market St. Well, that seems to be okay to Supervisor Preston, working at City Hall, but it’s not much use to anyone wanting to go further downtown – e.g., to the Ferry Building for the farmer’s market there or whatever else along the way during the week. Like going to work, for example. I wonder why Preston conceded this: we got back the 31Balboa by protesting; why not the 21Hayes?
And, by the way, why shorten the 2Clement, cutting out the neighborhood shopping area up past Presidio Blvd. where it used to run? San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods, and this should be better understood and observed by Muni’s planners.

Transfers

Now, there’s a real sore point! Not all transfers are at all easy or smooth. For example, it’s a mystery for a patron, after getting off the 19Polk inbound at O’Farrell (why no stop at Geary?), to find the stop for the 38Geary outbound. Unknown to the rider, it is a block north and then a long uphill slog west to catch the 38. No signs. No way of knowing which direction to walk. (311 doesn’t know either.) You’re on your own. Hey, an adventure!! Well, this is flat-out bad planning. What are all those bright Berkeley grads at their SFMTA desks doing? Figuring out how to cut down more trees, maybe??

Solution

.

All points where lines cross should share the same bus stop; once riders get on a bus they should be able to get to their destination with no further walking (not to mention guessing where to walk) from one stop to another. This is becoming harder: various stops on Polk have been relocated to the middle of the block for unimaginable reasons. And just try finding a bus stop on Van Ness – they change; they’re not marked. Furthermore, once all is settled, the length between stops on Van Ness is literally being set in stone (well, concrete). Once the endless contractors’ settlements on Van Ness are done and gone, the stops will be at their new cement boarding/landing platforms in the middle of the highway-avenue. So, I imagine they’re there for better or worse, forcing all riders to cross into the avenue to get on or get off the bus, increasing the chance of being hit by a car by about 100%, since, before this change, riders could just stand on the sidewalk and wait, however patiently, for the next bus to arrive. At present, by the way, that waiting time has increased, since the 47 has been discontinued and we’re down to just the 49VanNess.

 Muni installed new registers at bus shelters to show arrival times, and 311 does an excellent job of telling next arrival times, so lower frequencies can be tolerated temporarily as a trade-off with the alternative of no service at all. People’s ordinary travel habits will not be resumed, nor can new riders of Muni be expected, with the present truncated system’s reduced access.

Consider: how far would you want to walk at night or with toddlers or on a walker or carrying heavy burdens or in heavy weather or if you’re handicapped, unable to afford a car or unable to drive one for whatever reason? We’ve got to make it convenient enough to ride Muni for people to be willing to give up using cars (perhaps gratefully what with all the costs, the parking problems, and the pollution they cause) in order to improve the air quality for all of us.

In short, SFMTA is bungling the management of MUNI (ask the operators’ union!). Indeed, SFMTA has way too much on its plate, needs to be thoroughly investigated, especially its contracting deals, and needs to be trimmed down. Muni can be operated independently of SFMTA, more directly under the authority of the Board of Supervisors, as it used to be.

The Board is working on reorganizing the DPW. For good reason. Why not SFMTA, too?

Deetje Boler, Neighborhood activist.

November 2021

Survey Results
"We are taking every community member’s needs into careful consideration and have received a great deal of meaningful feedback about customers’ priorities and experiences."
Muni's Phoney Survey

This is how red herrings work — and this is a big one!

RESTORE ALL MUNI LINES

Join the Rally to Restore Muni Lines on Thursday, October 28 at 4pm at Grove and Van Ness and Stop the MTA from eliminating Muni Lines that Serve the Western Addition and Japantown!

To: Mr. Tumlin and relevant SFMTA planners:

Re: 2022 Muni Service Network Survey

Too bad you didn’t have an open-ended question on there that asked what one thought about the survey — because I thought it was so biased toward your defensively designed outcome and that, offensively, you asked way too many personal questions.

1. Re: questions regarding Muni service: For the leading questions designed to get the desired responses, there were, additionally, biased response choices. One example being:

Too few choices on frequency of riding. There’s a world of difference between riding “every day” and "a few times a week". There was no alternative between those two. How about “many” times a week but not every day, e.g., a commuting worker? Probably 5 days a week. That is neither "every day” nor is it “a few times a week”. And that’s just one example of sloppy choices of responses. But, no matter. Y'all already know the results you want from this biased ’survey’.

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You already know what you want to do. And you have already been told, loudly, that riders want — and need — all their old routes back in operation. Soon. Not months from now. Therefore, the phoney survey.”

2. Re the too numerous, personal questions about the riders:

Why these questions?? You seem to be more interested in the riders’ personal matters than in their opinions about Muni service. I wonder how many respondents you lost from feelings of intrusions on privacy (thus additionally harming the validity of the survey results). It’s not at all likely that you have a representative sample of S.F. residents in the first place, So it’s troubling to think you might use these responses to rationalize putting your proposed cutbacks in routes into effect. 

So, why dream up a survey at all in the first place? Partly because you have desks occupied by incompetent people sitting around on payroll with nothing better to do than dream up and then tangle over analyzing the specious and unreliable results. Was a random sample of all S.F. residents picked? Well, then, was a random sample of potential — or pre-pandemic — Muni riders selected? No. Respondents were self-selected — if and only if — they happened to come upon the survey here or there. Certainly not a representative or random sample, so as to get a reliable representation of all potential riders’ preferences. 

But, no matter! You already know what you want to do. And you have already been told, loudly, that riders want — and need— all their old routes back in operation. Soon. Not months from now. Therefore, the phoney survey.

So, there were questions you asked that shouldn’t have been asked; there were questions you didn’t ask that you should have asked, and the possible answers to all of the questions were too limited.  But, no matter. That wasn’t your intention anyway, was it Director Tumlin? Your intention is to cut back on Muni routes, spend our funds on hardware contracts, contracts for light rail vehicles in 2028, etc. Your intention is to use this survey to back up your intended plan to institute alternative three, whatever its results. That’s how red herrings work. And this is a very big one!

 

 

Deetje Boler, Neighborhood activist.

October 24, 2021

Protesters on Great Highway
Residents protest the continued closure of the Great Highway.
Open the Great Highway!

The Great Highway is a two mile stretch of road in San Francisco, that connects the city to the South and beyond. Supervisor Gordon Mar officially closed the Great Highway in March of 2020, to be used as a space for San Franciscan’s to get outside and exercise while social distancing during the duration of the emergency order.

Since that time, City officials and special interest groups have been trying to make the closure permanent, branding it as “The Great Promenade” or “The Great Walkway.” Over $600,000 has been spent on mitigation efforts to control the significant and dan-gerous traffic problems that developed as a result of the closure. Unfortunately, and despite what those officials who decided how and what they would do to mitigate these dangerous conditions, it makes little difference to the people living in these neighborhoods or to the people who are trying to get around San Francisco. Most will agree: the mitigation efforts aren’t working and, in many cases make the situation worse.

Protesters on Great Highway

It should also be noted that most residents of the Outer Sunset and Parkside neighborhoods don’t use the Great Highway for driving or commuting—it’s accessible only from Lincoln or Sloat. This entire stretch of road, which isn’t being used regularly by the neighborhood, would seem to be a great place for a park. On its face, it makes sense. In the grander scheme of things, it doesn’t.

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In the meantime, we still have to live with gridlock, reckless commuters and commercial vehicles speeding through our neighborhoods, all for a park that the many residents didn’t ask for and an even larger number don’t use or want. SFMTA, SFCTA, and special interest groups continue to promote the falsehood that a majority of residents want this closure, when it’s become clear that there is a very large number of residents who want the road to open, as quickly as possible.”

Enter the D4 Mobility Study, which studies traffic and mobility in District 4, the Great Highway closure is tied to that. According to this study, 18,000–20,000 cars per day used the Upper Great Highway, pre-pandemic. There is just one issue: the Great Highway is used by many other San Franciscans, and people from outside of San Francisco, not just the residents of D4 (Sunset and Parkside). It’s a vital pathway to the south. Before the Emergency Order, there were those 20,000 cars using this road per day, so it’s clearly not just about that neighborhood. It has a ripple effect on the entire city. We’ve spoken to hundreds of people - senior citizens, people with physical disabilities, families, first responders who work in SF and live outside, people who use it to take care of aging parents in SF, and the list goes on. While bicycle advocates will argue that others should just “get a bike” or “take muni,” it’s never really that simple. 

Lower and Upper Great Highway
Lower and Upper Great Highway / Photo courtesy of HearSay

Maybe the most egregious example that was clearly never considered by the public officials who closed the Upper Great Highway, is the heavy impact on those living in the Outer Richmond. Residents of the Outer Richmond can expect to add 20-40 minutes additional drive time south, with similar additional time for Outer Sunset residents driving north. And it is worse on a sunny day or a holiday when there are more people at the beaches or trying to get in and out. Outer Richmond District residents have described being locked-in, and stuck on the weekends in particular. What will happen when people really go back to work? We’re just getting started to open up San Francisco, as we move into the next tier.

Protesters on Great Highway

So now we’re forced to live with a situation that occurs when Mother Nature adds some sunshine on a good beach day. That brings gridlock, frustrated, raging drivers and a huge environmental impact. With all the cars that are now idling in traffic, our health is threatened as greenhouse gasses are certainly higher when cars are right outside the front door. We are fighting for our kids and seniors and disabled and everyone else. We are driving in less efficient conditions, zig-zagging through the Outer Avenues of the Sunset to get to where we need to go.  While the goal of the closure was to reduce the environmental impact, it’s clearly doing exactly the opposite.

Before the Emergency Order, there were those 20,000 cars using this road per day, so it’s clearly not just about that neighborhood. It has a ripple effect on the entire city.  

Where do those cars go now? They are being pushed through the Lower Great Highway—cutting through Sunset residential streets like 46th Avenue, normally a somewhat busy two-lane residential street is now a thoroughfare as well. The Lower Great Highway, which is not a highway but a two-lane residential street with hundreds of single-family homes, that is now the main artery through the district for many of those cars. Combined with other factors like the construction on 19th Avenue which is supposed to last until 2023, and an entire network of barely used slow streets—the picture becomes more clear and it’s easier to understand why so many people are fed up and angry. There have been accidents - including a roll-over right outside of residents homes.

Protesters on Great Highway

Usage by the cyclists and pedestrians on the Upper Great Highway was highest during the Winter surge and balmy days during the Fall of 2021. San Francisco Parks and Recreation and the SFMTA—using unscientific methods—counted the number of pedestrians and cyclists during those months and continue to promote those figures as if that usage has continued to this day. Not only were all beaches throughout the Bay Area crowded at those times last year, but since then, usage is way down. For the most part, there are very few people traversing the Upper Great Highway, even on nice days, in comparison to the days during the pandemic surge. The need for a space and distancing is clearly over as is a legitimate reason for continuing the closure.

Protesters on Great Highway
Photo courtesy of SF Bicycle Coalition

The Upper Great Highway is an essential road and without a plan on how to get the people who need to use the road, it’s not a park, it’s a disaster. How are the citizens and businesses who used the road supposed to get to work and go to school? What are the commercial vehicles who used the Upper Highway to transport goods to the citizens of San Francisco and beyond supposed to do? Should the residents of the Outer Sunset be forced to live with reckless commuters and the commercial traffic that’s all diverted from the Upper Great Highway and forced to use the Outer Sunset as a bypass?

The truth is there’s no plan. There never was and there still isn’t. We have this expensive study to open the road, and yet there was never any planning or forethought for closing the road and what that would mean for San Francisco. We all know how and why they do that: special interests. This time it’s the SF Bike Coalition and delusional environmental activists.

The closure of the Upper Great Highway is dangerously unsafe, environmentally unfriendly through increased—not decreased—greenhouse gasses and detrimental to the safety of residents in the Outer Sunset and Outer Richmond. It’s contributing to a decline in the quality of life and has caused division between friends, neighbors, and has torn apart the fabric of our neighborhoods, most likely forever.

In the meantime, we still have to live with gridlock, reckless commuters and commercial vehicles speeding through our neighborhoods, all for a park that the many residents didn’t ask for and an even larger number don’t use or want. SFMTA, SFCTA, and special interest groups continue to promote the falsehood that a majority of residents want this closure, when it’s become clear that there is a very large number of residents who want the road to open, as quickly as possible. With awareness, that number continues to increase each day, as neighborhood groups continue public outreach and education about the closure.

Concerned Residents of the Outer Richmond and Sunset Neighborhood Associations

May 24, 2021

Muni Yard
Constrained by budget cuts and COVID-19, buses sit unused at the 17th and Bryant yard.
Melgar: District 7 – A Total Transit Desert
SupervisorMyrna Melgar
Supervisor Myrna Melgar

Will MUNI move to reinstate transit lines to pre-pandemic levels? Supervisor Myrna Melgar (D7) thinks they should restore transportation services, and so do her colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, who voted unanimously to pass the resolution — in fact nine of them signed on as co-sponsors. There are currently only 26 of the original 89 MUNI lines operating, and the hardest hit areas are in the neighborhoods. “Especially our more vulnerable senior and limited mobility communities are being left behind,” she said, “in District 7 we are currently living in a total transit desert.” Melgar finds much of her district cut off from essential services with citizens left alone to navigate many of the area’s steep inclines which have relied on community routes such as the 36-Teresita and 6-Haight-Parnassus.

In late January MUNI restored the T-Third light rail line, as well as the 27-Bryant, 33 Ashbury and the 15-Bayview Hunters Point Express. But no services have been restored on the west side of the City. Sources have sited the $68 million budget deficit in the next year and $168 million budget deficit the following year as reasons for the severe cutbacks in service.

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In late January MUNI restored the T-Third light rail line, as well as the 27-Bryant, 33 Ashbury and the 15-Bayview Hunters Point Express. But no services have been restored on the west side of the City.”

Melgar’s office plans to focus efforts to coordinate service with the roll out of the vaccine, but in the interim, due to a lack of service, they want to see the Essential Trip Card (ETC) program be fully expanded to provide free trips to and from vaccine sites. SFMTA has assured Melgar’s office  that they have the funding and ability to do this program for about 6 months. While considering SFMTA’s financial constraints, however, “as public health and vaccinating our seniors and community members with limited mobility is an equity issue, we have successfully collaborated with SFMTA to think creatively,” Megan Imperial, an Aide to Supervisor Melgar said. “Asking the SFMTA to respond has also opened critical conversations and is a first step to promising immediate relief. However, we still have a ways to go and will continue to be creative and work with the SFMTA and the Board to get better access to public transit.”

Essential trip card.
If you, or someone you know needs essential transportation—get the card!

Melgar’s resolution calls for a plan to expedite services within 60 days and calls on MUNI to “develop a post-COVID transit service with stakeholder and community input, and to prioritize community routes and bus routes…” specifically of service to neighborhoods. The F, 6, 18, 21, 23, 31, 35, 36, and 52 lines have been shut down completely, leaving many people without the needed lifeline to their medical and dental services, grocery and drug stores, City services, work and restaurants as well as access to vaccine sites around the City. She said the replacements for light rail system lines: N-Judah, K/L Ingleside and M Oceanview have not been “insufficient.”

“We are actively working on a plan with SFMTA to ensure that any proposed next steps will have community input first,” Supervisor Melgar said.

By the terms of the Board’s resolution, SFMTA must respond, in writing by or before April 12th. The response, which should include a working proposal of public outreach for the hearing, should also provide at least a sketch of a service plan and an implementation strategy. They will have until November 1st to propose a plan to MTA Board, but Melgar’s staff has reported to the <em>Westside Observer</em> that “by the April date we would like to see a concrete proposal that the Board can provide feedback on.” It is assumed that the Board of Supervisors will have input on the proposal.

Doug Comstock serves as editor for the Westside Observer. Feedback: Editor at westsideobserver.com

February 23, 2021

Map of MUNI_Apr_25
SFMTA Begins Slow Streets Now

Vehicle Ban — 41st Avenue, Ortega, Kirkham & 20th Avenues Impacted

San Franciscans need to walk, bike, skate, scoot and jog for exercise and to make essential trips, which sometimes makes it difficult to keep 6’ from others on sidewalks, park paths, and bikeways.

Limited through traffic The increase in pedestrians due to Muni service reductions during the health crisis can be make distancing especially difficult by lines outside grocery stores and other essential services. Some pedestrians are taking to the streets, where vehicle traffic is a real danger. The SFMTA’s new program, Slow Streets, will limit through traffic on some streets and to allow for foot and bicycle traffic.

Temporary signs and cones will be in place, diverting through traffic and slow down traffic. But will allow access to driveways and deliveries for local residents and businesses. 

Possible Slow Streets

  • Low-traffic residential streets connecting to essential services where Muni service has been reduced. They exclude Muni routes and emergency traffic routes.
  • The rollout will, due to staff resources, be approximately 8 blocks at a time. Initially it may not cover the street length indicated by the map. Staff will monitor crowding and congregation.

Street

From

To

Muni Routes

17th Street

Church

Valencia

22 Fillmore, 33 Stanyan

20th Avenue

Lincoln

Ortega

28 - 19th Ave

22nd Street

Valencia

Chattanooga

48 Quintara/24th Street

41st Avenue

Lincoln

Vicente

18 - 46th Ave

Ellis

Polk

Leavenworth

27 Bryant, 38 Geary

Holloway

Beverly

Harold

K Ingleside, 29 Sunset

Kirkham

Great Highway

7th Avenue

N Judah

Phelps

Oakdale

Evans

23 Monterey, 44 O'Shaughnessy

Ortega

Great Highway

14th Avenue

7 Haight/Noriega

Page

Stanyan

Octavia

7 Haight/Noriega

Quesada

Lane

Fitch

23 Monterey, 44 O'Shaughnessy

Scott

Eddy

Page

24 Divisadero

When will Slow Streets begin?
2-3 Slow Streets corridors will be added by the end of the week and 2-3 more per week. Feedback from the community will be welcomed. 
How were the Slow Streets corridors chosen?
The streets were chosen to supplement reduced or suspended Muni routes, while providing bicycle and pedestrian access to essential services. Many of these streets run parallel to other major streets and transit routes. The Slow Streets are intended to provide a network of streets that prioritize walking and biking for essential trips.
Slow Streets are one part of the city’s efforts to reduce sidewalk crowding. Other efforts include converting vehicle parking outside grocery stores and restaurants to create extra pedestrian queueing space and widening sidewalks by removing vehicle parking on select high-pedestrian traffic streets. 
Please visit sfmta.com/COVID19 for the latest agency updates.

April-May 2020

Map of MUNI_Apr_25
MUNI Restores Some Services

In addition to running Core service, the following Muni routes will start service or be adjusted beginning Saturday, April 25:

5 Fulton: Local stops between Salesforce Transit Center and Fulton/6th Avenue

Frequency: approximately every 10-20 minutes (weekdays and weekends) Being added to provide a connection to St. Mary’s Hospital

9 San Bruno: Increasing frequency to 6 minutes on weekdays and 10 minutes on weekends

Frequency: approximately 6 minutes (weekdays) and 10 minutes (weekends) Being added to reduce crowding on buses, increasing riders’ ability to physically distance

12 Folsom: Shortened route on Pacific between Van Ness Avenue and Battery

Frequency: approximately every 20 minutes (weekdays and weekends) Being added to provide key connections to grocery stores

28 19th Avenue: Local stops between Geary Boulevard and Daly City (weekdays only)

Frequency: approximately every 20 minutes (no weekend service) Being added to provide healthcare worker access between Daly City BART and UCSF Medical Center, Parnassus; creates additional north-south connectivity on west side

38R Geary Rapid: Weekend service returning (will supplement existing weekday service)

Frequency: approximately every 10-20 minutes (weekends)

54 Felton: Adding shortened route between Newhall/Hudson and Balboa Park (weekdays only)

Frequency: approximately every 20 minutes (weekdays only, no weekend service) Being added to provide additional east-west connectivity for southeastern neighborhoods

714 BART Early Bird Shuttle: Shuttle between Salesforce Transit Center and Daly City

Frequency: one trip departs Daly City at 4:05 a.m. and second trip departs Salesforce Transit Center at 4:45 a.m. (weekdays only) Maintaining a connectivity lifeline for early morning service workers

L Bus: Increasing frequency to 10 minutes or less (weekdays and weekends)

Being added to reduce crowding on buses, increasing riders’ ability to physically distance

N Bus: Increasing frequency to 10 minutes or less (weekends)

Being added to reduce crowding on buses, increasing riders’ ability to physically distance

Core Services The 17 core routes that will remain in service,
with some modifications • 5 am-10 pm • Get Owl Service Schedule

L Bus 10-20 min • Added stops

N Bus 10 min • Added stops

T Bus 10 min • Shortened route

1 California 10 min

8 Bayshore 10 min • Modified route

9 San Bruno 10 min • Longer route

14 Mission 10 min

14R Missn Rapid10 min

19 Polk 10-20 min

22 Fillmore 10-20 min

24 Divisadero 10-20 min

25 Treasure Is. 20-30 min

29 Sunset 10-20 min

38 Geary 10 min

38R Gry Rapid 10 min • No Weekends

44 O’Shaughn. 10-20 min • Shortened

49 V Ness/Missn 10 min • Longer route

NOTE: Owl Service is different than the daytime route and schedule.

INFO: Covid Core Service Plan

MUNI website

April-May 2020

Cyclists Meet Commute Advocates Head-on Over Oak/Fell Lanes
neighborhood meeting on Oak-Fell bike lanes
Separate bike lanes meet with local opposition

At a "discussion" on separated bikeways on Oak Street and Fell Street between Scott Street and Baker Street, it was clear that the three-block territory is a battleground among local residents who want to maintain precious parking spaces, auto commuters, who want to retain consistent traffic flow and bicyclist, who want to improve the safety of their commute.

DesignA Design B Design C Design D Design E

The San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Authority (SFMTA) held the discussion to solicit feedback on several proposed solutions. Their objective is to make the dangerous three-block area a safer zone. This is the critical link where bicyclists must cross into freeway-like traffic coming to and from the Panhandle as they proceed to or from "the Wiggle," a designated bicycle pathway that flows from Scott to Market Street.

Prompted by the 550% increase in westbound bicycle traffic on Fell Street since the Fell tow-away lane closure trial in 2002 the agency's primary goal is to make cycling more attractive and safer through a separated bikeway along the three blocks. The December 3rd meeting, held at the SF Day School at 300 Masonic is the final community input meeting,.Comments will be considered and finalized by the Spring of 2012.

Additional comments may still be directed to Luis Montoya, Luis.montoya@sfmta.com or call (415) 701-4376. To obtain graphs and illustrations—in full—of the Oak/Fell Community Presentation, go to: sfmta.com/cms/bproj/OakandFellBikeways.htm

December 2011

Guest Editorial

Parking removal plan for Portola Drive

bike plan for part of Portola


Last year, I learned that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was undertaking an environmental review of the Bicycle Plan, and proposing a substantial number of bicycle improvements for the safe utilization of bicycles and their promotion as an alternative means of transportation.  In looking closer, I learned that there are two options for Portola Drive, one that would remove all 240 parking spaces on the northeast side of the street from Sloat Blvd. to O’Shaughnessey, coupled with removal of one driving lane from Evelyn Way to O’Shaugnessey.  The second alternative would keep parking on Portola Drive but narrow driving lanes to implement a bicycle lane.

My family has lived on Portola Drive for over 40 years.  Some of my neighbors have lived in this area for over 50 years.  In discussing the proposal for wholesale removal of parking, none of my neighbors had heard of such a matter.  I have also frequented the merchants of West Portal as long as I can remember.  However, except for the President of the West Portal Merchants Association, no one that I spoke with had heard of the proposal, although it would impact them as well.

In June, the SFMTA Bicycle Program held an open house to discuss the bicycle plan implementation in the Western Neighborhoods.  I attended, and was surprised to see that other than avid cyclists, there were few individuals who would be impacted by the proposed changes present.  I inquired as to how notice was given, and I was informed that the fact of the meetings was published, and that the Presidents of the various Homeowners Associations were notified.  They did not notify any of the impacted residents of the proposed changes, relying upon associations and the internet to provide actual notice. 

Many residents in the area are elderly and not connected with the internet.  Additionally, many residents are not avid cyclists and would not realize how the proposed Bicycle Plan would impact them.  Thus, the result is that the Bicycle Program only has the input of avid cyclists, and not those who would be impacted daily by the proposed changes.

The removal of parking from the front of my residence would make it easier for me to enter and exit my garage.  However, it would have other severe impacts.

; Although my parents are dead, I am fortunate enough to have retained the friendship of their friends and peers.  As these individuals are quite elderly, unless parking can be had close to my home, I will not be able to enjoy their company, which I treasure.  Additionally, some of my friends are disabled and need parking near my home.  This would be impossible if all parking is removed from Portola Drive, as it will force those who presently park on Portola to move into the residential areas for parking.  Additionally the curbs at the intersections have been upgraded for disabled access;  query the good that will do if the disabled are unable to park.

Having a home which is not new necessitates continual repairs.  In the last several years, I have had to do all sorts of maintenance and repairs.  How are contractors supposed to bring in heavy materials if they cannot park near the location of their jobsites?

Another factor is the speed at which vehicles travel Portola Drive.  Over the years, speeding has increased.  In reviewing the Pedestrian Summit, also sponsored by SFMTA, I learned that parking has the effect of reducing speeds on our street.  The wholesale removal of parking would encourage even more speeding on Portola Drive.  I have also seen the parking lanes, when there are no cars occupying it, utilized for passing on the right.  This would continue if parking is removed.

In addition to elderly individuals who live in the area, there are a substantial number of families with young children, and the number of children in strollers has increased as young families have moved in the area.  The lack of parking and the increase in speed would be dangerous to young children and the elderly as they try to negotiate Portola Drive to go to West Portal.

San Francisco is a “Transit First” city, but due to location and physical impairments, not everyone is able to utilize public transportation for all purposes.  It is difficult to find parking in the West Portal area to frequent the merchants in the area.  Removal of parking from Portola will only exacerbate the problem.  If parking is unavailable, individuals will go to other locales for the purchases and services.

I am not opposed to bicycle lanes.  I used to ride my bicycle decades ago to attend the University of San Francisco.  I believe that bicycle lanes encourage safety and remind drivers that they must be careful of bicyclists.  However, I firmly believe that the needs of all of the residents of San Francisco be taken into account when establishing a comprehensive bicycle plan.


December 2008