SFMTA Approves Haight Street Two-Way Traffic Plan

The SFMTA Board has approved a plan to open Haight Street to two-way traffic between Gough and Octavia — but not without some vocal opposition from several concerned residents.

Currently, Haight Street traffic flows in one direction — westward, away from Market Street — on the block in question. That means Muni buses traveling eastward on Haight Street have to be diverted, turning left once they reach Laguna and then right onto Page. The route brings Muni into direct competition with automobile traffic approaching Octavia Boulevard, which can often make for a painfully slow commute.

At yesterday afternoon's SFMTA Board meeting, a plan was under consideration to open the block to two-way Muni traffic. The transformation would mean removing all parking spots on the south side of Haight Street, as well as adding sidewalk bulb-outs and widening traffic islands. (Click on any of the photos below to see enlarged versions.)

At yesterday's meeting, eight residents spoke in opposition to the plan. Issues of concern included:

  • the decreased number of parking spots on the block

  • the negative effect on businesses unable to receive deliveries

  • a possibility of decreased safety and increased congestion

  • the challenges posed by the changes to those in wheelchairs

  • and a perceived lack of outreach to the community

One man called it "an ill-conceived and poorly planned project," while another, who was particularly concerned about the potential danger posed to bicyclists, warned the Board, "there will be blood on your hands."

Meanwhile, four speakers expressed support for the plan: the executive directors of Livable City and Walk San Francisco, a 21-year resident of Page Street, and a rep from the Lower Haight Merchants and Neighbors Association, whose support came with a request for further evaluation of the project's potential safety and congestion issues.

Finally, the Board posed some questions to Britt Tanner, an engineer from the SFMTA's Sustainable Streets Division. Tanner assured the Board that the proposal had evolved since it was initially presented in 2007, factoring in feedback from the community, and that 20,000 customers who ride the Haight Street buses daily would benefit from the changes.

The Board then approved the plan, though multiple Board members expressed sympathy with the neighbors' concerns and indicated that restoring some or all of the eliminated parking spots should be on the table in the future.

Now that the project has been approved, it moves on to the next phase. Conceptual engineering is slated to begin in March, with designs and contracting taking place in 2013. Actual construction will begin in 2014.