D3 Neighbors Get Straight Talk on Streets from SFMTA

embarcadero_bikesOne of the many things the Golden Gateway Tenants Association does for its members is attend civic meetings to get information about, and give input on, projects that could affect our neighborhood.

Thanks to SFMTA and Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s office, we regularly learn about street and transit issues at District 3 SFMTA Street Team meetings. It brings together community leaders and representatives from SFMTA on a regular basis so we can learn what’s in the works and give feedback, as well as talk about our concerns. GGTA President Geri Koeppel attended this meeting on Thursday, Aug. 24 along with representatives from North Beach Neighbors, Russian Hill Neighbors and the Union Square Business Improvement District. Peskin’s aide Lee Hepner facilitated.

The first topic discussed was the Columbus Avenue Streetscape and Pedestrian Safety Project, which includes bulb-outs at intersections that shorten the distance needed to cross the road. This has been in the works and debated for a few years now, and we asked for an update on what stage it’s in.

Also, as part of this project, we were told there will be a dedicated bike lane on Columbus Avenue between Broadway and Washington Street. One person asked for more details on the strategy for linking these three blocks with a broader bike route.

Much of the discussion centered on the second topic, concerning Chariot commuter shuttles. SFMTA is working on regulations and a permit program for Chariot and plans to take them to its board on Sept. 5. If approved, the new rules probably would take effect in October. SFMTA has had complaints about the private shuttles regarding safety and accessibility, which the new rules will address. It also is asking Chariot for data on ridership so it can analyze routes. Chariot shuttles are only allowed to stop in white or yellow loading zones; they can’t use Muni stops. However, it was mentioned that they don’t always stop in approved zones, and have been seen driving in “red lanes” marked for transit only.

SFMTA also touched on the Embarcadero Enhancement Project, which intends to create a dedicated, protected bike lane along the increasingly more crowded waterfront. Hepner said that although it will be tied to the long-term seawall improvements, the goal is to make some temporary improvements in the meantime.

In addition, neighborhood leaders all expressed concerns about safety on Muni and the perception that more riders are opting for private transportation such as Chariot, Uber or Lyft, creating a tiered system that could cut into Muni’s budget over time. SFMTA staff are aware of these concerns and assured the group that they’re being addressed.

Koeppel also asked about a rumor that SFMTA plans to eliminate northbound traffic on Drumm Street from Market up to Washington as part of the Better Market Street initiative. Neither Hepner nor SFMTA staff were aware of the plan. Later, we learned that there is no plan to make Drumm southbound-only.

However, there is a change proposed for southbound Drumm: Vehicles won’t be allowed to turn right onto Market Street. Southbound vehicles on Drumm will be forced to turn either right onto California (a new route) or left onto Market Street, as they currently can.