Thursday, January 21, 2010

MTA Updates NOPA on Traffic Improvements; Fell/Oak Traffic Signals Timed to 25 mph in March 2010

Anyone with a garage big enough to store the Oak Street SFgo Sign?

The Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) expects to re-time the signal lights on Fell and Oak Streets to 25 mph as part of traffic calming measures in the North Panhandle and Alamo Square neighborhoods. Cathal Hennessey of MTA's Division of Sustainable Streets, SFgo Section, confirmed in an email today that MTA expects to implement the plan in March 2010. Traffic calming advocates generally support the change, but several want MTA to go further. Michael Smithwick of the Alamo Square Neighborhood Association (ASNA) wants the posted speed limits to also be lowered to 25 mph. "That may help dissuade drivers who start at the back of the pack and accelerate to 40 mph as is currently the case," Smithwick noted in an email to BIKE NOPA last month. Hennessey will discuss the traffic signal measure along with other street safety issues at the January 21st meeting of the North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA).*

Hennessey also wrote that the MTA will support the decisions about the SFgo "variable message signs" reached by stakeholders at a January 29th City Hall meeting organized by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi's office. That gathering will include representatives of District 5 neighborhood associations, the MTA, and the Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority, the Academy of Sciences, and the de Young Museum. The neighborhood associations met last November to discuss the controversial signs on Fell and Oak Streets near Divisadero. Once MTA disclosed that the primary purpose of the Fell Street sign was to advise motorists when the Concourse garage was full, the neighborhood representatives strongly suggested that the concourse and museum authorities be engaged directly in further discussions. While many NOPA and Alamo Square neighbors have resisted the "freeway-style" SFgo signs, Inner Sunset neighbors want the city to use such signs to direct the overflow traffic away from their streets when the museum garage is closed and motorists seek street parking. Hennessey also restated that the MTA intends to remove the Oak Street SFgo sign. He wrote that the agency is "currently seeking a site capable of storing the sign."

The red light camera promised for installation at the Fell/Masonic intersection is still in the works, although the cameras at that dangerous intersection are "at least one year away," according to Hennessey. "The design is almost complete," he explained, "but the MTA needs to find a contract to tie this project to." He noted that the agency might also include the Fell/Masonic cameras in the new red light photo enforcement contract due for signing later this year.

Finally, the traffic tangle on Fell Street at the ARCO service station appears to have received the least attention of all measures since MTA proposed a solution prior to the September NOPNA meeting. On that occasion MTA backtracked on the one idea -- removing parking spaces to allow for a queue of vehicles awaiting access to the gas station -- and instead reviewed the several options that might improve the dangerous situation for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. Hennessey wrote that his understanding is that the MTA Bicycle Project staff "will contact stakeholders with alternatives to address the situation."

The MTA Bicycle Staff has admittedly been busy implementing new bike improvements in the city, but the intent "to contact stakeholders", expressed by Hennessey who works in a different unit, is similar to what the MTA Bike staff told NOPA and Alamo Square neighbors last September. Neighborhood traffic calming advocates and staff of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition have urged the MTA to experiment now with one or more of the already much-studied options, including installation of soft-hit posts as bike lane dividers similar to what the MTA recently placed on Market Street. Andy Thornley, SFBC Project, expressed the frustration felt by cyclists who take the route daily. "It's time -- it's long past due to defend the bike lane and the thousands of people who travel in the bike lane."

*NOPNA Meeting: Thursday, Jan. 21, 7:30 pm
Poleng Lounge, 1751 Fulton, btw Masonic & Central
Everyone welcome.


  1. > re-time the signal lights on Fell and Oak Streets to 25 mph

    that's great news! Hopefully this will cut down on the 'berlin wall' effect those two streets currently have on the neighborhood.

  2. They may also reduce the green phases from 40 seconds to 20 seconds to reduce speeding.

  3. What was the decision reached by stakeholers with regards to the Fell Freeway sign? Will it hopefully be taken down as well?

    it's a crime that after all the work to make Divis more resident-friendly and livable, the fell sign would encourage more freeway-like driving.

  4. @mfogel: it's a start for sure but follow up is needed and consideration of a re-design to tame Oak and Fell. Masonic posted 25 mph signs not long ago and you can see that change hasn't had much effect. We have to keep on this to "bring the wall down."

  5. @Troy: the meeting re: the discussion about the Fell SFgo sign will occur this Friday; the two neighborhood groups, NOPNA and ASNA, stand firm against leaving the current sign where it is and anywhere closer to the Panhandle creates its own problems. Will report on meeting here.