Friday, October 2, 2009

MTA to Remove SFgo Sign on Oak Street, Considers Moving Fell Street Sign

The Municipal Transportation Authority has decided to remove the freeway-style SFgo sign placed on Oak Street after NOPA and Alamo Square neighbors strongly objected to the structures and questioned their purpose. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi also objected to the Oak Street sign and obtained the decision to dismantle it in a September 30th meeting with MTA staff. Cheryl Liu, SFgo Program Manager, announced the decision Friday afternoon in an email response to a request posted on BIKE NOPA for answers to questions regarding the program.

MTA is also considering moving the SFgo sign on Fell Street, possibly to a location next to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on Divisadero between Baker and Broderick. That move, according to the MTA, was "strongly suggested" by Supervisor Mirkarimi. Vallie Brown, aide to Mirkarimi, said this afternoon that she and another staffer are researching other sites for the Fell sign as well.

"We're researching everything," Brown said. "We're looking at several sites and different designs for a sign so that it would be more fitting to a residential area." She assured neighbors that the DMV site was "no done deal." She expects to get recommendations to Mirkarimi by Tuesday of next week, and she thinks the supervisor will decide on his proposal to MTA for the sign the following day.

Given the high level of interest expressed by NOPA and Alamo Square neighbors as well as by livability, pedestrian, and bicyclist advocates throughout the city, we are posting the full text of SFgo's response.

Highlights from the answers include:
  • the SFgo effort is part of a broader Fell and Oak infrastructure project begun ten years ago;
  • current infrastructure upgrading will permit a more sophisticated implementation of the city's Transit First policy;
  • MTA states that it is "completely open to suggestions and recommendations from neighborhoods and stakeholders" and is "willing and ready to make adjustments and compromises if justified";
  • MTA provided samples of messages expected to be displayed on SFgo signs, including public service announcements, traveler alerts, statewide Amber Alerts, and notices of street closures, and parking options.
  • Bicyclists and pedestrians will benefit from reduced driver frustration once motorists are informed of traffic delays; increased bicycle data collection on Fell at Divisadero will help MTA develop future bicycle safety enhancements;
  • MTA conducted research on the design of the SFgo signs for a size large enough to display messages;
  • MTA believes the signs along Fell and Oak provided "a good balance between maximizing functionality and minimizing adverse neighborhood impacts."
  • MTA asserts that they followed "current protocols for disseminating information" about the project before the start of construction.
  • MTA will work with any developers of property near the SFgo signs to determine possible negative impacts of the display messages.
The MTA document does not reflect upon whether the "current protocols" for notifying the neighborhoods was adequate or even decipherable (the notice only mentioned "variable message displays"), but the agency emphasizes in the document a willingness to "learn more about NOPNA and ASNA's concerns, and look forward to reaching a mutual compromise that will allow us to maximize this transportation investment."

The neighborhood associations in NOPA and Alamo Square launched a campaign against the Oak and Fell signs earlier this week. With the announcement from MTA today that the Oak Street sign will be removed, the groups have achieved one of their two objectives. Neighbors expect to discuss prospects for the Fell sign in the days ahead.

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