Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Better Masonic: Four Options for Masonic Avenue Traffic Calming Presented to Public

Bike lane installed but no median, parking removed on one side of Masonic

Flex plan for parking (none from 7am to 7pm), floating bike lane, and median

Most ambitious option: landscaped median, elevated bike lane, no parking

Traffic calming lite: cycle track but on sidewalk, no median, all parking

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) presented four options to bring traffic calming to Masonic Avenue Tuesday night to an audience of more than fifty neighbors. Each of the plans included removal of the current tow-away zone (which serves as a third lane along several blocks of Masonic during morning and evening commutes) and installation of bike lanes. Beyond these two features, the plans offered a mix of strategies to serve all road users and ranged from a bold vision to tweaking of the existing conditions. Reaction among neighbors seemed generally favorable although several individuals called for more explicit traffic calming to reduce overall speed on the corridor and a few observed that the options should not pit people who bike and walk and use transit against each other without accommodations from motorists.

While the four options offered different sets of features, the primary elements of the plans follow:
  • Option A: Retains four traffic lanes, installs bike lanes at curbside in both directions, includes bus bulbouts, retains parking only on the east side. Javad Mirabdal, SFMTA project manager, said staff proposed keeping parking on the east side since it currently has more spaces
  • Option B: Parking allowed only during nighttime (7pm to 7am) on both sides, traffic lanes reduced to one in each direction during the evening hours. Mirabdal explained that the two lanes could handle the current traffic volume at night; the option also installs a floating bike lane that shifts from curbside when parking is not allowed to outside the parking lane when parking is permitted; includes landscaped median
  • Option C: Parking removed at all times, retains four lanes of traffic, includes a cycle track (a slightly elevated and separated bike lane for added safety)
  • Option D: Retains parking at all times and keeps four traffic lanes, installs a cycle track on the sidewalk (track would be placed between street trees and residences on the extra-wide sidewalks; track returns to traffic area through intersections; track cannot be applied to all blocks due to narrower width of existing sloping grades, mostly south of Turk Street - other options will be installed on these blocks)
The four alternatives reflected the interests and concerns of neighbors who attended the first session on June 15th of the three-meeting city planning process. Top priorities registered then included 100% of participants in favor of bike lanes, 62% for more green space and more traffic calming, 50% for safety improvements for all users, and 37% for installation of center turn lanes, medians, and sidewalk bulbouts, and another 37% didn't want traffic slowed on Masonic. (see the full presentation here; be advised this is a large 15MB download)

Mirabdal emphasized that the plans were part of an ongoing refinement of strategies. "This is our initial analysis, not our final effort. There are variations that we haven't presented yet," he said. Nick Perry, a Planning Department member of the interdepartmental project team, added, "This is a hypothetical presentation including a mix of ideas that may change as we apply them more closely to the real street."

Several in the audience urged the planners to take a closer look at more substantial traffic calming measures. " J. P. Collins said he was concerned that all options retain as many traffic lanes as before. "There's hardly any give from motorists for the sake of other road users." Mirabdal reminded him of the removal of the tow-away zone for each option. Also Option B allows only one lane in each direction in the evening hours. Collins added that he was concerned with overall speeding on the street. A reporter suggested that only two of the alternatives, Options B and C with the medians, seemed to offer enough traffic calming to influence speed which has been a primary complaint of nearby residents, pedestrians, and bicyclists. He also urged SFMTA to adjust traffic signals to reduce speeds now. Mirabdal commented that a previous study showed that 85% of motorists traveled at 30 mph. "There are some drivers going 45 mph but not a majority," he said. Dawn d'Onofrio hoped to see more encouragement to travel by means other than private vehicles. Another neighbor said he thought the city's basic makeover of Divisadero yielded a great deal of traffic calming even while retaining the same traffic lanes, medians, and parking. No one complained or even commented about the options to remove parking all the time, during daytimes, or on the west side.

At least half of the audience also participated in the first community meeting. Two new attendees were representatives of Target and the owner of City Center Plaza at Masonic and Geary. The department store is developing a proposal to move into two floors of the former Mervyn's space in the plaza. Thom Lasley, designer for Target, and Daniel Frattin, attorney with the local firm Reuben & Junius, said they recently met with city staff from SFMTA and the Planning Department and were looking forward to a meeting with San Francisco Bicycle Coalition staff. During the meeting SFMTA's Mirabdal said he thought the Target proposal was "a positive development for this area." His assessment reflects much of the public response at a recent community meeting, reported here.

The third, and final, meeting in the planning series will be held in October. At that time city staff will present two options that distill the input and comments obtained Tuesday evening. Once a final option is selected, staff will seek funding and include further refinements. Mirabdal was optimistic about the end result. "We should be able to see something in one to two years. The simpler plan is possible by then; the more complicated might require three to four years."

The community meeting was held at the San Francisco Day School which also hosted the June meeting and offered its space for the October session as well. Danny DeLeon, facility manger for the school, said free child care will be offered in October to encourage more neighbors to attend.

For previous stories in the A Better Masonic series, check here.


  1. It seems like Option B delivers much of what the community wants: bike lanes, turn pockets, increased planting, and it wouldn't lead to a big drop in vehicle + Muni LOS. But some unanswered questions are how it would be paid for (big $ for medians) and also whether the shifting bike lane is an adequate facility to help cyclists feel safe. I was unable to attend and appreciate the info presented here...

  2. Parked cars should be on the outside of the bike lane to avoid valencia st. mistakes (cars double-parked in the bike lane all the time). of these, i guess option d would be the best.

  3. The problem with B and the shifting bike lane is that you would see bicyclists being forced into the ONLY lane of traffic when cars are attempting to parallel park during the legal hours. I like option D, biased as I am, I only use Masonic as a bike route.

  4. I told Mr. Mirabdal after the meeting last night that the SFMTA should adjust the timing the traffic lights to reflect the posted 25 MPH speed limit before the next public meeting. I believe that we would see a much calmer street immediately.

  5. I was rather disappointed with the return of options and the inconsistencies it presents for these options that may allow for an increase in "incidents" given all the input from meeting #1 and also the main focus being on cars (target bound?!?) instead of peds and alternative transportations and the opportunity the sfmta has here to set initiatives in this area. sigh.
    I also found the moderator less "open" than at meeting #1. Seems target reps, attorneys etc put a damper on his previoulsy indepth responses and makes me cynical as to whats really goign on w/target in the city and the agreements/$ invovled for this project and the connection. the moderators responses/answers seemed rather short, evasive and inconclusive and talked as if target was already there.
    otherwise-great meeting.
    and there is always meeting #3! and more community input!