Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Supervisor Mirkarimi Proposes Pilot Project for Fell Street Traffic Management

Fell sign to be replaced by street-level, portable display sign

Oak Street sign not needed, city looking to store it

A street-level, portable message board will replace the freeway-style SFgo sign on Fell Street in a pilot project proposed by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi. The project is expected to be a joint undertaking by the MTA, the Concourse Authority, the Academy of Sciences, and the de Young Museum with input and monitoring from the Recreation and Parks Department and nearby neighbors. The trail effort will address the traffic congestion caused by museum-goers travelling by car who seek alternative parking when the Concourse garage is full.

Representatives from the Golden Gate Park institutions, the MTA, Recreation and Parks, and west-side neighborhood associations met at City Hall January 29th in a meeting organized by Mirkarimi’s office. (Note: NOPNA, ASNA, and Cole Valley were present; I was one of two NOPNA representatives). Following a review of current efforts to deal with the traffic problems, the supervisor told the group of his plans for the pilot project. “I will ask the museums to share the costs and will ask the MTA to establish metrics and assess the impact.” Jack Fleck, MTA Traffic Engineer, estimated on the spot that the project would cost about $20,000 year with the MTA providing the sign and labor.

The museum representatives at the meeting did not object to Mirkarimi’s suggestion of financial support, but neither did they voice agreement. When asked about the timeline for initiation of the project, Mirkarimi said the prep work will be undertaken in February with answers from all parties by March 1st.

Initially, the museum representatives expressed some resistance to further involvement with the traffic issue. An Academy of Sciences representative questioned, “What’s under our control?" She added that determining traffic and parking solutions were really “outside of our expertise.” Patricia Lacson, Director of Facilities for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco which includes the de Young, commented, “We’ve really made a lot of effort on this already.” And, in fact, both institutions have undertaken measures to encourage visitors to use transit and bicycles, including entry discounts for those traveling by MUNI or bike, transit discounts to employees, helping finance the inter-park shuttle, and staff time directing traffic.

Museum parking managers are especially frustrated by visitors who expect free parking or the easiest of directions to alternative parking. “It’s almost as if they just want to hand us their car keys,” remarked one Concourse representative. The concourse staff has tried to direct motorists to the nearby UCSF parking garage, but the few streets and turns involved seems to boggle the minds of out-of-town visitors. Museum and garage staffers have found it much easier to direct visitors to the free parking along the Great Highway and then use of the shuttle. “We tell them to turn and keep going until you get to the ocean,” one director explained.

But neighborhood representatives countered it was hardly efficient or environmentally wise to encourage a few extra miles of travel when the UCSF garage was so close. And, indeed, it is ironic for an institution like the Academy of Sciences, one of the “greenest” buildings in town, to encourage the less environmentally friendly parking option. Mirkarimi weighed in on the discussion, commenting, “It makes more sense to direct people to the UCSF garage and not depend on “free parking” as an expectation for visitors.”

NOPA and Alamo Square neighbors are not affected by the traffic congestion related to the museum-goers, and would not be involved in the discussions if the MTA had not erected the SFgo sign on Fell Street last August as a means to alert motorists when the Concourse garage is full. Neighbors found the signs near Divisadero – and a second one on Oak Streettoo intrusive with a “freeway style” design likely to encourage motorists’ to speed even more on the corridors.

When the SFgo sign standards come down – by April according to the MTA, as reported here yesterday – NOPA and Alamo Square neighbors’ immediate concerns will have been met. But a portable sign will be placed on Fell, and traffic problems elsewhere in District 5 certainly have an eventual impact here as well. For now, in the assessment of NOPNA board member Dan Nguyen-Tan, the other representative at the City Hall meeting, "We're pleased to hear that Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi and the MTA are committed to removing the permanent signs."


  1. I go by the 10th Avenue entrance to the Concourse garage every afternoon on the #5 bus, and only once or twice in the last year has the "garage full" sign been on. Does anyone know how often the garage is actually full? How often is directing traffic away from a full Concourse garge really a problem?

  2. @ Rob: A SF Rec&Parks rep at the meeting discussed traffic/parking fluctuations: garage is full on weekends for 3 hour periods,also on special museum days, in Dec. 09 there were 20,000 fewer cars than in Aug/Sept. He expects #s will rise sharply again in summer with new museum exhibits opening. Mirkarimi also anticipates more traffic with new developments like Whole Foods in the Haight. Most of the neighborhood complaints are from those in the Outer Haight and Inner Sunset who find local streets clogged with parking-seekers.

  3. They should install parking meters in the park. That would generate much higher turnover, and added revenue for more shuttles or whatever else could help the problem.

  4. @ lyqwyd: Although the "culture bus" was a flop, the interpark shuttle now in operation has transported 5000 riders after 6 months of operation, according to reps at the Jan. 29 meeting. The fare is $2 so the operation is highly subsidized now, but absorbing that $2 charge and offering a free shuttle might provide a considerable boost to ridership.

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  6. Well, this is *great* news. Thanks so much for your work in pressuring Mirkarimi and City Hall.

    I always thought it was so generous of the inner Richmond to solve their parking issues by installing a freeway sign in the middle of our neighborhood. So thoughful...

  7. @Troy: I believe now that Supervisor Mirkarimi was taken by surprise as much as neighbors were when the signs went up. He had agreed to help the Inner Sunset neighbors find some relief from the museum traffic but he wasn't expecting anything like the poles that the city erected. Since then he has strongly urged the city to respect the wishes of the NOPA and Alamo Square neighbors while also finding some solution to traffic problems in District 5.