Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Supervisor Mirkarimi: Concourse Authority and Golden Gate Park Museums Must Step Up to Help Solve Traffic Problems

One option for Sfgo at the DMV site on Fell Street: not as bad as this
photo-shopped version. See below and our apologies to MTA SFgo staff.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi told representatives of District 5 neighborhoods that the Golden Gate Concourse Authority, the California Academy of Science, and the deYoung Museum should be sharing responsibility for finding a solution to the traffic congestion caused by overflow crowds and limited garage parking. "They have to help us with alleviation of this problem," Mirkarimi said. "They haven't stepped up yet." He added that the three organizations wanted the city to erect the SFgo signs to alert motorists when the concourse garage is full, but "they don't help with the cost."

Mirkarimi's comments came toward the end of a Monday afternoon meeting held in City Hall with representatives from five neighborhood associations.* The group gathered to review "alternative options" to the unpopular SFgo signs that first appeared on Oak and Fell Streets last August. Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) Traffic Engineer Jack Fleck, SFgo Manager Cheryl Liu, and Assistant Manager Cathal Hennessey presented the different ways of retaining some version of the SFgo program on Fell Street. They proposed moving the current Fell sign further west alongside the Department of Motor Vehicles near Baker Street, and they suggested a more decorative pole rather than the smooth, harsh "freeway style" treatment.

The real differences appeared with the size of the message board and the placement on the pole:
  • one option has the board cantilevered over the parking lane and 18 feet high
  • the other possibility mounts the board at the center of the pole just 10 feet high
An improvement for both is the reduction in message board size. The previous model -- and the type used in SOMA -- is large enough for four lines of text; the options above permit only two lines and are less intrusive as a result.

The change that no one would likely object to is the decorative design. We previously suggested here that the DMV site would be an unsightly welcome to Panhandle Park. Even with the reduction in size of the message board sign, the location still seems a poor choice. (And the NOPNA Board of Directors oppose having the SFgo sign anywhere on Fell Street). The other pole with the message board would be placed in the middle of the sidewalk. (Good luck getting ADA clearance, and is't it a bit ironic that a Transit First city might block a sidewalk with a traffic pole?) But don't dwell on these options. The third option is the one likely to be adopted on an experimental basis.

A portable sign much like what appears for special traffic situations was proposed for the DMV site. It has the advantage of being less intrusive and can be used as needed, but its visibility may be blocked by vehicles and it requires one parking space. The sign would be configured for wireless operation and to display variable messages. Mirkarimi judged the portable sign as the only one that would work for the situation at hand.

Much of the discussion among the neighborhood reps centered on more creative solutions to the traffic congestion problems. Susan King of Livable City and a Haight resident, Michael Smithwick of Alamo Square, and other neighbors suggested a range of possibilities including a surcharge on Academy and Museum tickets, a prompt to request text messages about available parking when ordering tickets online, and a pre-paid Muni fare attached to each ticket purchased as ways to increase revenues and encourage transit use.

Others pointed out that neither the Academy nor the deYoung encouraged members to use the Culture Bus when it was still operating. Although the Academy website still advises visitors that "parking is located throughout Golden Gate Park and the neighboring areas," online visitors are strongly encouraged to use Muni or the park shuttle. Patrons who walk, bike, or take public transportation are given a $3 discount.

Supervisor Mirkarimi announced that another meeting would be held next month. That gathering, he said, would include representatives from the Concourse Authority and the museums. "They should have been here today," he said, "we will ask them to be here before January."

A few other items:
  • Observers have previously commented that placing a SFgo sign on Octavia Street at the exit of the Central Freeway might be more useful and appropriate. The MTA has judged this location too distant from the Concourse destination to capture motorists' attention and suggest it would fail to alert drivers approaching by Gough Street.
  • Richmond District representatives declined participating in the meeting because the Concourse traffic and parking problem was not a significant issue for them.
  • Craig Dawson stressed how congested Inner Sunset blocks were more and more of the time, not only when the concourse garage is full but whenever JFK Drive closes. While NOPA and Alamo Square deal with motorists who are often speeding on their way to the park, Inner Sunset neighbors cope with drivers traveling at slower speeds endlessly looking for parking and clogging their neighborhood.
  • MTA proposes removing the Oak Street SFgo sign and placing it on 19th Avenue near Ortega Street.
  • A request to others at the meeting: please do comment and add more details on your very good ideas for dealing with this problem.
* In addition to NOPNA, the other organizations represented at the meeting were the Alamo Square Neighborhood Association, Cole Valley Improvement Association, the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, and the Inner Sunset Neighborhood Association.


  1. Thanks for the detailed update. I'm glad to hear things seem to be moving in the right direction. It's hard to believe this kind of outreach wasn't happening before that damn sign went up.

  2. I love the idea of including a pre-paid Muni fare in the price of a museum ticket -- except that that would be kind of annoying if you have a monthly pass.

  3. If there ever is a sign on Fell, I suggest that the default message be something like. CAUTION: BIKE LANE, or CAUTION: UNPROTECTED BIKE LANE, or BIKE LANE. USE CAUTION WHEN TURNING LEFT, or something like that. Of course it should really be CAUTION: NARROW BIKE LANE IN THE DOOR ZONE.

  4. Were the DeYoung and Academy of Sciences invited to this meeting? Everyone points to them as the instigators of these signs but I don't feel like we've actually heard their perspective on the issue.

  5. This meeting was convened by Supervisor Mirkarimi's office; his aides said they wanted to focus on the input of neighborhood groups. We previously asked that the Concourse Academy and the Museums be invited to this meeting, but evidently they were not. The Supervisor did state that those institutions would be invited to the December meeting. It does seem all parties should be at the discussion.

    I believe the signs were installed to address the traffic congestion in the Inner Sunset (urged by Inner Sunset neighbors), to alert museum goers (at the institution's request) and to make use of the greater SFgo program and nformation technology with its first entry into a residential neighborhood (by MTA planners).