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Efforts Continue to Improve Mission Bay Mobility in the Face of New Demands

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More than 18,000 fans will attend each of ten concerts taking place in September at Chase Center, the gleaming new sports and entertainment complex located near the Bay’s edge. Given limited parking, City officials hope that patrons streaming in from around the San Francisco Bay Area will mostly rely on public transportation to get to their seats. 

The Golden State Warriors (GSW) have invested $29 million upfront in municipal transportation and infrastructure improvements to expand public transit access to the Chase Center.

Additionally, $14 million will go to transit improvements and infrastructure for the neighborhood — annually — that will include Parking Control Officers (PCOs) at key intersections to keep traffic modes flowing during game days and large events.. 

“Public transportation is our mantra,” said GSW spokesperson PJ Johnston. With 950 underground parking spaces onsite, and 2,000 on streets or in garages within a 10-minute walking radius, he noted, “Driving is not going to be the easiest way to travel that last mile to the Chase Center.” 

To better move large crowds, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA) has upgraded the T-Third Muni Metro line platform that’s directly across Third Street from the Chase Center. A center island boarding stage now extends from 16th Street north to Warriors Way – formerly South Street, a single block that connects Third and Terry Francois Boulevard – replacing separate in- and outbound platforms that’ve been demolished. The upgraded platform enables four, two-car trains to load simultaneously, and allows trains to depart inbound from both sides, carrying riders to Bay Area Rapid Transit stations, the Fourth and King Caltrain station, and, eventually, the Central Subway. Additional streetcars will be staged on the Mission Bay Loop located at Illinois between 18th and 19th streets, once it’s completed next month.

The Central Subway, which was supposed to be operational in 2018, could open at the end of this year, or even later, possibly not until the spring of 2020, according to SFMTA’s Project Monitoring Oversight Committee report. The report cited a breakdown in the relationship between SFMTA and Tutor Perini Corporation, the contractor building the subway; possible cost overruns; groundwater leaks at the Yerba Buena / Moscone Center station; and worker shortages as factors contributing to delays. 

The T will ultimately cross King at Fourth Street and go underground at Bryant Street, reducing travel time by about 12 minutes compared to buses from Caltrain to Market Street, running every four to six minutes during peak commute times. After the final aboveground stop at Brannan Street, there’ll be subway stations at Yerba Buena/Moscone Center and Market Street/Union Square, where riders can transfer to BART and other Muni lines at Powell Street, and another stop in Chinatown. 

“It will be a bigger deal next year when the Central Subway opens,” Johnston said of the new boarding platform serving Chase Center and nearby University of California, San Francisco.

SFMTA is planning to augment N-line service along the Embarcadero once the T is relocated to the Central Subway, SFMTA Transportation Planner Jessica Garcia told the South Beach Rincon Mission Bay Neighborhood Association in July. Meeting attendees said they’re frequently heading south to Dogpatch to dine or shop, and want a bus to replace the T along the Embarcadero south of Caltrain. 

Daily commuters will potentially reap the greatest benefits from ground and water transit infrastructure improvements. San Francisco Mobility Trends Report 2018 data shows that vehicular traffic entering the City has returned to 2001 levels. After dipping to 360,000 incoming vehicles daily during the 2009/10 economic downtown, the flow has bounced back to more than 456,000 daily vehicles in 2017. The resurgence is attributed to more workers commuting to jobs in the City, and an influx of private vehicles associated with Transportation Network Companies (TNC) apps. 

According to the Mobility Trends Report, automobile use and congestion has grown at a faster pace than the City’s population since 2010, even though San Franciscans are driving their own cars less. While traffic from the Peninsula and Marin County has remained relatively stable over the last two decades, the number of cars crossing the Bay Bridge into South-of-Market has exploded.   

Last month, the $2.2 billion Salesforce Transit Center reopened after two cracked steel beams were repaired, with resumed Muni and Golden Gate Transit bus service. AC Transit will restart use of the regional bus terminal this month. 

Also last month, the Port wrapped up design and the entitlement phase to build the Mission Bay Ferry Landing on Terry Francois Boulevard at 16th Street; environmental permits are expected to be issued this fall, according to Randy Quezada, the Port’s communications director. “The Port plans to start the construction bid process to support a construction start in June 2020, targeting completion by the end of 2021,” he stated in an email. “In the meantime, the Port is working with the Water Emergency Transportation Authority and Golden Gate Transit for an interim ferry at Pier 48½ with service expected to begin this fall and run until the Mission Bay Ferry Landing is complete.” 

Golden Gate Ferry will provide service to and from evening Warriors games and special events at the Chase Center, departing from the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, docking at Pier 48½. A one-way ticket will cost $14, the same price as Golden Gate’s Giants/Oracle Park one-way special event fare. 

“We will only provide evening special event service to interim Pier 48½,” said Paolo Cosulich-Schwartz, public affairs manager for Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Transportation District. “Late-evening commuters could ride these ferries, but the service is primarily intended to provide event attendees a comfortable and convenient alternative to driving to the arena. Our existing special event ferry service is very popular and often sells out, so we require advance ticket purchase to ensure everyone gets a seat.”

The Mission Bay Ferry Landing will include a dock area for small vessels. Tideline, a private company that receives no subsidies, has been providing commuter ferry service from the Berkeley Marina to San Francisco’s Pier 1½, next to the Ferry Building, since 2016. Tideline added Pier 52 – a short walk to the T and a Muni bus stop on Mission Bay Boulevard South – to its commuter routes last spring. 

“Because we are private, we can respond to the transit needs of communities and businesses and script a service for them,” said Danielle Weerth, Business Development, Partner Manager for Tideline. Boats feature Wifi, restrooms, flat screen television, and evening beer and wine service. Vessel capacity is 42 people, with no extra charge for bikes. Tideline offers four daily trips, two in each direction, averaging 30 passengers per trip. Crossing from Pier 1½ to Berkeley takes 30 to 35 minutes; it’s another 20 minutes to travel between Pier 1½ and Pier 52. 

“We accept all commuter benefit cards, including WageWorks, Navia, Edenred,” Weerth said. Tickets are $10 each way between Berkeley and Pier 1½; $12.50 each way between Berkeley and Pier 52. There’s a $3 charge for morning- and evening-only service between Pier 1½ and Pier 52. Monthly passes that save $2 per trip are available. 

Work continues on SFMTA’s 16th Street Improvement Project. Phase 1 construction from Potrero Avenue to Third Street began in March and should be completed by year’s end. Pedestrian amenities being added include transit bulbs on the north sides of Potrero Avenue and Wisconsin Street, as well as on the south side of Missouri Street; traffic signals at San Bruno Avenue and Wisconsin, Connecticut and Missouri streets; and a pedestrian bulb on the west side of Connecticut Street.

SFMTA won’t proceed with overhead wires between Kansas and Seventh streets, instead shifting to new electric buses on this route.  Overhead wires will be installed just past the Caltrain tracks along 16th Street, running north into Mission Bay along Third Street to power the 22 Fillmore trolley buses. 

Red transit-only lanes in both directions from Bryant to Third Street are being installed for use by Muni and Golden Gate Transit.  Also known as “red-carpet lanes,” those slated for 16th Street have been opposed by Mission District community groups concerned that they hurt merchants and encourage gentrification. Rapid bus routes have generally experienced significant ridership growth from 2015 to 2018, including a 38 percent increase on the 9R San Bruno.  The 38R Geary, 28R 19th Avenue, 14R Mission, and 5R Fulton all saw double-digit passenger growth rates. 

The 22 Fillmore and the 55 16th Street bus lines will be re-routed by late spring 2020. Instead of turning south at Kansas Street toward 20th and Third streets, the 22 will continue along 16th Street to Third Street and turn north into Mission Bay. The route will end where the 55 presently terminates on Mission Bay Boulevard North at Third Street. The first outbound stop will remain on Mission Bay Boulevard South at Fourth Street. These stops connect to UCSF, the Chase Center, and T-line. 

The renamed 55 Dogpatch includes a new extension south of 16th Street, turning onto Connecticut Street, traversing steep hills to connect with the 18th and 20th streets business corridors and 22nd Street Caltrain Station. The rerouting was favored by 52 percent of 1,285 community members who voted on three route options as part of surveys and presentations conducted by SFMTA last year. It could trigger the loss of 20 parking spaces to make room for bus stops and adequate turning areas: four at 20th and Connecticut; nine at 20th and Missouri, where two carshare spaces will relocate to Texas Street; two at 20th and Pennsylvania; three at 22nd and Pennsylvania; one each at 22nd and Minnesota and 20th and Tennessee. SFMTA will restore parking in the vacated bus zones on the 22 Fillmore route south of 16th Street; the number and locations of reinstated spots wasn’t available.

“Routing the 55 to 20th Street and into Dogpatch provides a direct connection between Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, and the businesses and services along 20th Street. Businesses have some trepidation about the extent of the parking removals,” said JR Eppler, Potrero Boosters president and Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association board member. Both groups “have been working with the SFMTA to reduce the parking impact. This has already resulted in the addition of several parking spaces along Missouri, and we are continuing to advocate for the outbound stop at 20th and Missouri to be a flag stop, rather than a pull-in stop, to preserve the parking at that location.” 

Kayren Hudiburgh, co-owner of The Good Life Grocery at 1524 20th Street, testified at a City Hall hearing that SFMTA needs to consider public safety on the block. “Customers and neighbors have been coming to The Good Life Grocery concerned about this new bus route that runs up and down 20th Street and takes away nine parking spaces. Traffic congestion is already a problem on 20th Street,” Hudiburgh said. “The Good Life Grocery receives between 30 and 40 deliveries each day, essentially making 20th Street a one-lane street.  We are a grocery store; we must have deliveries.  The trucks have nowhere to park, so of course, they double-park. Medium-sized trucks are coming and going all morning, along with parents who are dropping children off at either Daniel Webster or Little Lync, and they are double-parked too. We certainly appreciate that we may get even more customers from Dogpatch to come via Muni to our little store and make no mistake, we do need the business.  But taking parking spaces away hurts our business, and we ask that SFMTA not make it even harder to run a small business in San Francisco. Let’s work on parking management, not parking elimination.”

SFMTA held an open house in July at Recology’s Seventh Street facility to garner public feedback on a leg of the Seventh Street Safety Project in which protected green bike-only lanes would be added to both sides of Seventh between 16th and Townsend streets. It’s one of 15 “quick build” projects SFMTA approved last spring, at the direction of Mayor London Breed, to make transportation safety improvements by the end of the year.

Changes could include reconfiguring the street to provide two consistent northbound vehicle travel lanes between Townsend and Irwin streets – one southbound lane would be maintained – high visibility pedestrian crosswalks, signal timing modifications, and on-street parking removal on the west side of Seventh between Townsend and 16th streets. The parking elimination on the east side of Seventh along this stretch, approved by SFMTA in 2017, hasn’t yet been implemented because of construction in the area. A protected bike lane is proposed for the stretch of Seventh Street between Townsend and Folsom streets in a subsequent phase. 

Other quick build projects include Townsend Street from Third to Eighth streets; Brannan Street from the Embarcadero to Ninth Street; Howard Street from the Embarcadero to Third Street, and to Sixth Street; Fifth Street from Market to Townsend Streets; Sixth Street from Market to Folsom Street; Terry Francois Boulevard from Mariposa Street to Mission Bay Boulevard; and Indiana Street from 24th to Cesar Chavez Street. Some quick build projects will contain pedestrian safety elements; others focus on bicyclists. The effort was prompted by a bicyclist and series of pedestrian fatalities on City streets this year that’ve marred Vision Zero SF’s goal of getting to no traffic deaths by 2024. 

Green bike-only lanes, some protected, others not, are favored by bicycle advocates, but less popular with motorists. Protected bike lanes are separated from vehicle traffic with physical barriers, such as flexible posts or concrete walls. Since a lane was installed on Folsom Street last year bicycle counts have increased by more 20 percent during peak hours without a decline in bike traffic from nearby Market Street.  

SFMTA’s Mobility Trends Report indicates a decline in bicycling commuting since 2015, though biking appears to be becoming more popular as a first/last-mile trip to transit. The Chase Center will offer 300 free onsite bicycle valet parking spots for eventgoers, operated by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “We do not want the valet spaces to capture bike-share bikes because we want these spaces available for the public’s use,” Johnston said. Bikeshare stations are available within a block of Chase Center, he added. ”We are working with SFMTA, the Port, and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to locate additional bicycle share stations in the vicinity of the arena.”

The Mission Bay Shuttle is operated by Mission Bay Transportation Management Association (TMA), a nonprofit organization committed to maximizing mobility and reducing single-occupancy vehicle trips. The white buses have connected commuters within Mission Bay, and to and from Market Street BART stations, since 2010. 

TMA started with two buses serving a single route, altering and expanding routes as new roads and buildings have opened in the area, and construction sites, streetscape and other infrastructure projects have slowed surface transit through South-of-Market to a tortoise-paced crawl during Bay Bridge traffic peaks. It now has four routes: East, West, Transbay, and California College of Arts. 

“We’re part of the Shuttle Permit Program. As such, SFMTA approves our stops, our GPS reports to them, and we must meet other criteria that recognizes a ‘Muni first’ policy,” Silvani said. “We work with SFMTA in routing and stop locations.”

Weekday service only is provided, from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., resuming mid-afternoon through about 8 p.m.  Passengers don’t pay to board the shuttle. Funding is provided by Mission Bay market rate residential and commercial property owners. TMA participation is required by Mission Bay’s original development agreement. 

Silvani seeks input from shuttle riders prior to making changes, sending online surveys to community groups and homeowner associations. “We incorporate customer input from ongoing communications, surveys, outreach meetings and focus groups when making changes,” she said. 

Only 11 percent of the largely biotechnology employees and 20 percent of residents of buildings and companies within Mission Bay were interested in a connection between Mission Bay and Potrero Hill, according to TMA’s 2018 survey. However, to provide another commuter option to private cars, “We’ll have a new stop at the Chase Center and in 2020, a new South route will serve this quadrant of Mission Bay. We’re also working with the Warriors to provide service for some events above and beyond normal service, under separate agreement,” Silvani said. “I am optimistic that traffic will be well-managed because the Warriors have made significant commitments to work with the community and transportation resources.” 

“We want to be the best neighbors we can, and do everything to make it a positive experience,” Johnson said.  He noted that in 2011, Salesforce purchased the site before deciding to develop its South-of-Market tower, selling the parcel to the Warriors in 2014.  Had Salesforce stuck to its plan, “You would have had a large office campus with people working there by day, coming in and out,” he said. “Mission Bay has been filling in since 1998. Keeping traffic circulating is absolutely a challenge. The Warriors are trying to be a solution, contributing to Muni and funding PCOs to prioritize circulation and keep things moving. One of the beauties of having a big event venue in an urban setting, in a residential neighborhood, is the last mile is so convenient, compared to the old Oracle Arena or Candlestick Park that were surrounded by vast parking fields, but isolated from where people lived and worked, and from transit. This is close enough to Downtown that people coming from work will be able to combine walking, bicycling, and public transit to evening games. There are going to be so many options in the mix that it will be more attractive than an isolated arena out by the airport.” 

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