Car limits coming to Market Street

September 10th, 2009

Bus cameras (border)After literally decades of debate, San Francisco is about to begin a six week test of car restrictions on Market Street, including mandatory right turns at Eighth and Sixth Streets and a ban on private cars east of Fifth. The objective is to reduce auto traffic to speed up inbound transit vehicles and improve bicycle safety.

Rescue Muni has long supported this proposal due to the extremely long delays faced by Market Street Muni commuters, but we remain concerned that the city may not communicate the change well to auto drivers and transit riders alike. It is vitally important that auto drivers get clear and explicit instructions about how to get downtown from each intersection on Market Street – otherwise driver confusion will lead to anger and a quick reversal of this decision. Communication is absolutely key to this proposal being a success.

The Planning Department has some, but not much, detail about the project.

Update: Streetsblog interviewed a handful of people, including an SFBC staffer, and they seemed to like the idea.

Chronicle: Congestion Pricing Plan “Half-Baked”

January 15th, 2009

Congestion ChargingThe Chronicle editorializes against congestion pricing today, calling the plan “half-baked” despite ample experience elsequere in the world (London, Singapore, Stockholm) that congestion pricing reduces traffic and speeds up mass transit.

The Chronicle even cites increased transit usage as a disadvantage of the plan! To quote: “[T]he second intended effect – nudging drivers into public transit – may further burden overtaxed systems such as BART and Muni, which can be inconvenient, unreliable and jammed.” But that’s the whole point – to get discretionary drivers to switch to mass transit, and at the same time reduce delays that cause that mass transit to run slowly. By speeding up service, San Francisco would be able to provide more service for the same money, surely a high priority in these difficult economic times.

Rescue Muni continues to support some form of congestion pricing in downtown SF. We hope the Supervisors will take seriously the concerns raised about this proposal – but not back down from a proven way to improve service for Muni’s 700,000 daily riders AND SF’s motorists, who will experience reduced traffic when they do choose to drive.

Nevius: Traffic Isn’t The Problem, Transit Is

December 4th, 2008

Congestion ChargingThe Chronicle’s CW Nevius predictably takes the anti-congestion pricing side of this debate in the Chronicle today, arguing that the problem with traffic isn’t all of those pesky auto drivers in cars, it’s the mass transit systems that don’t provide better alternatives to driving.

Of course Nevius makes a good point, one that we have been talking about for years, that mass transit needs to be competitive in time, cost, and comfort to driving, or else people won’t switch. (That’s why we are supporting the Transit Effectiveness Project to make service faster and more reliable for Muni’s 700,000 daily riders.)

But he completely misses the main point of congestion pricing – to reduce traffic and get the buses moving! In London, the congestion charge led to a 21% reduction in traffic volume compared to pre-charge levels, and a 6% increase in bus ridership due to faster bus travel times and increased service. If the price is set high enough to actually discourage traffic from coming downtown, we should expect similar reductions in traffic and increases in transit use – which is exactly what SF voters have voted for repeatedly in approving the Transit-First Policy in 1999 and 2007.

Every bus rider knows that traffic is a major cause of delays. It’s not the only cause of delays, but it’s at least as important as stop spacing and route layout, which are being addressed via the TEP. Congestion pricing is a proven way to reduce traffic, and by doing so, provide commuters real alternatives to driving.

Update: Transbay Blog has a detailed analysis.

$3 Congestion Fee Considered for Downtown

November 26th, 2008

Congestion ChargingToday’s Chronicle reports on a proposed $3 congestion charge for downtown San Francisco, proposed by the SFCTA as part of the congestion pricing study we discussed earlier.

The options being considered for the charging zones are a small downtown core and a much larger section of the city (one suspects the downtown area is the more likely option).

If this happens, some specifics need to be done right, in particular the revenue from congestion charging must actually go to increasing service to and through the zone. This can’t be another source of revenue that just allows transit funding to be cut elsewhere!

Don’t forget to provide your comments to the SFCTA.

Congestion Pricing Proposal Before SFCTA; Meetings in December

November 21st, 2008

Congestion ChargingWant to help SF reduce congestion downtown? Participate in an upcoming meeting about the confusingly named Mobility, Access and Pricing Study that is evaluating options for congestion pricing and downtown parking fees as well as other means to improve traffic flow and speed up mass transit downtown. Meeting times and locations:

Tuesday, December 2, 5:30 – 7:00 pm, San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street at Grove
Monday, December 8, 5:30 – 7:00 pm, San Francisco Ferry Building, Port Commission Hearing Room, 2nd Floor

You can also comment online – follow the SFCTA link for details on how.

Update: The SFCTA Board (aka the Board of Supervisors) will hear about the proposal this week.