Goodbye, Mr. Bush

January 2009

Transportation Agency Attempts to Calm Hill Traffic

By Sarah Marloff

Last month the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) held the last of a series of meetings focusing on improving traffic management in Potrero Hill.  SFMTA’s Adam Gubser and Mike Sallaberry presented the details of a proposed traffic calming plan to roughly thirty Hill residents gathered at the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House.

SFMTA’s Potrero Hill planning – the agency defines the community as the area encompassed by the two local freeways, US 101 and Interstate 280, and 16th and Cesar Chavez streets – began in March 2007. The effort was prompted by a flood of requests from Hill residents for stop signs and other traffic safety infrastructure. The goal of traffic calming is to make streets more livable, according to Gubser. Many of the traffic calming measures examined for potential adoption are intended to reduce automobile speed and cut-through traffic from drivers who’re trying to avoid, or quickly access, the freeways.  The measures are also supposed to improve aesthetics, maintain access to the neighborhood, and increase driver awareness.  The interventions considered include a “combination of self-enforcing physical measures to improve safety on the streets...however, we do not want to push [traffic] onto another neighborhood,” said Gubser.  Measures that are ultimately adopted will be enforced by the San Francisco Police Department.

Meeting participants had mixed responses to the presentation. One resident expressed concern that SFMTA’s plans for the southside of Kansas Street, currently a straight-away to and from Cesar Chavez, would actually make the street more congested.  SFMTA proposes to add gateways and bulbouts at both ends of the street, which would narrow the entrances, shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians, and tighten turns, among other things, thereby forcing drivers to pay more attention.  A bulbout is when the sidewalk is expanded at intersections, thereby narrowing the street and providing opportunities to add plants at the bulbs, as can be seen at 23rd and Bryant streets.  Sallaberry pointing out that 85 percent of Kansas Street traffic averages 33 miles per hour (mph), while the speed limit is 25 mph.

Another meeting participant complained about the intersection at 19th and Mississippi streets, where there are “a lot of crashes or near crashes.” In response, SFMTA proposes to implement perpendicular parking, which narrows streets and adds parking, to the area. “It’s an easy switch” Gubser stated. “While backing out is a bit awkward it gets speeds down.”

Another resident was nervous that the proposal to narrow the road, and add perpendicular parking, as a way to lower speeds on Vermont and Mariposa streets would “recreate the same problems [of traffic congestion] that already exist now on Third Street” as a result of the T-line.  Other participants supported the proposals, stating, “Anything you do on Vermont street would be an improvement. Anything.”

The plan is scheduled to be finalized this month. SFMTA will then coordinate with other neighborhood projects, such as redevelopment of the Potrero Hill public housing complex, so as to maximize the resulting benefits to the community.  SFMTA also needs to secure funding for the traffic measures, and will likely start with the least expensive projects, such as the gateways and bulbouts scheduled for various intersections on Mariposa, 17th, 18th, and 19th streets, as well as the intersection of Rhode Island and Southern Heights. The first round of projects will likely be implemented in late-2009. More expensive project elements, such as midblock islands – commonly seen in the Mission district, where trees separate the two lanes of traffic – will likely not be implemented until 2011. The islands have been proposed for multiple Hill locations, including along Southern Heights and Dakota, 26th and Rhode Island, and 19th and Mississippi.  SFMTA receives funds from a half-cent sales tax from the City, which typically produces $2 million a year, and from state, federal, and local grants.

SFMTA’s traffic calming recommendations must be approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, with a vote likely to be taken by the spring.  Muni, a department within the SFMTA, must also approve the proposed measures.

If you’d like to know more about SFMTA’s traffic calming proposals, or provide feedback on them, call 554.2398, or check


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