Thursday, September 17, 2009

The 11th Question for SFgo

Reader's Note: Tonight, Thursday evening, Municipal Transportation Authority staff will discuss the SFgo "traffic management" or "transit management" program at a meeting of NOPNA, the NOPA neighborhood association. For visitors who may not have read this post previously, we are presenting an edited version of it for consideration before the meeting. In light of the young woman killed by a driver on Fell Street Wednesday morning not far from one of the SFgo sign standards, an eleventh question pushes its way to the forefront.
Why this multi-million dollar focus on variable traffic management in NOPA and Alamo Square when speeding vehicles pose the greatest threat to pedestrians, bicyclists, and the quality of life of these residential neighborhoods?

1. Do we really need these expensive LED display panels on Fell and Oak to inform motorists of the Bay to Breakers run, an anti-war demonstration in Civic Center, or a traffic accident at a time of cuts to transit service, layoffs of city workers, and slashed city services?

2. What traffic flow will benefit from the Fell/Oak freeway-style signs -- Divisadero with its much greater congestion and the much-delayed Muni #24 or the east/west traffic that already moves steadily enough?

3. Will SFgo reflect the city's Transit First policy -- rather than Traffic First -- in the Alamo Square and NOPA area by giving Muni lines extended green lights to stay on schedule instead Fell and Oak traffic?

4. Why not forgo the expensive, intrusive message display boards in NOPA and simply upgrade infrastructure and replace signal lights, especially since SFMTA documents describe such upgrades and replacements as the primary purpose of SFgo?

5. What specific SFgo messages will motorists receive from the sign boards and how will these messages calm traffic?

6. How will pedestrians and bicyclists benefit from the SFgo program? SFgo managers have stated that drivers receiving SFgo messages will be more relaxed about traffic congestion and will thus be more friendly to other users of the road. Really?

7. How will SFgo help achieve the sustainability goals established by the director of SFMTA: to double bike/ped traffic, increase Muni trips by 50%, and reduce car trips by one-half by 2030?

8. Did SFMTA conduct neighborhood-specific studies -- the character of the neighborhood and not just the traffic -- that clearly indicate the advisability of SFgo in NOPA/Alamo Square? SFgo reps state the program is well-received in SOMA and has helped calm traffic, yet NOPA and Alamo Square are significantly different from SOMA in residential character, traffic flow and congestion.

9. Why have the only notices to neighbors about public hearings for SFgo been so mired in obscure jargon, e.g. "variable message displays," for these intrusive freeway-style signs? Does SFMTA consider these few postings effective neighborhood outreach?

10. Won't these bright message boards deter any future housing development at these locations, thus conflicting with yet another city policy for more intensive development along corridors? (SFgo placed the Oak street sign along the DMV and the Fell street sign beside a service station because they were not allowed to place them near three-story residential or multiple-use buildings. Yet the DMV site has frequently been proposed for mixed-use development).

North Panhandle Neighborhood Association meeting
Thursday, September 17
Poleng Lounge
1751 Fulton, between Masonic and Central, across from Lucky's
7pm meet & greet, 7:30 meeting
Everyone welcome.

For previous posts on SFgo, check here and here and here.

"Smart Corridors Task Force Notebook", "public outreach, pages 2-4.

Usefulness of SFgo in earthquake emergency: "information inflow could overwhelm available communications capacity and that much of the informal information could be misleading for the operator."

SFgo website:
Note: the website describes the SFgo mission as advancing the city's Transit First policy and to "provide an advantage to transit, bicyclists, and pedestrians," but little actual benefit to cyclists and pedestrians is described further. Other documents state that these transit, pedestrian and cyclist impacts are "side-benefits" to the overall purpose of upgrading infrastructure.


  1. Fell and Oak are dangerous streets in a residential neighborhood. Evidence is the pedestrian death just this morning at Fell and Broderick. We need to focus on slowing down traffic on Oak and Fell, not speeding it up. I would only support this project if the city lowers the speed limit to 25 on Oak and Fell and makes a concerted effort to slow down traffic on the streets.

  2. Another suggestion is to change Fell and Oak from a one-way couplet to two-way streets based on studies that found motorists drive slower overall on two-way streets. But then close-by we have the example of Masonic which is two way and much too fast...even with the speed limit lowered to 25.