SFMTA To Vote On Revised Haight Street, Church Street Changes Tuesday

SFMTA To Vote On Revised Haight Street, Church Street Changes Tuesday
Photo: Haight Ashbury Public Realm Plan
By Andrew Dudley - Published on May 29, 2015.

The SFMTA is scheduled to vote next week on tweaks to a few intersections on Haight Street and one section of Church Street. Here's the rundown on what's being considered at City Hall on Tuesday, June 2nd, plus further information on how Upper Haight lighting upgrades might fit into the picture:

Upper Haight Sidewalk Bulbouts

In November of 2014, the SFMTA board approved a variety of traffic and transit changes as part of its ongoing "Muni Forward" project. At the time, the proposal included creating sidewalk bulbouts at various locations in the Upper Haight, including one halfway between Stanyan and Shrader.

However, additional discussions with HAMA and other merchants in the Upper Haight have led the agency to revise its bulbout plans. As the SFMTA notes in a recent staff report:

"[A]fter Board approval, the SFMTA conducted additional outreach with merchants in the vicinity of the proposed stop and determined that the new stop location would not be optimal. Therefore, the SFMTA now proposes to maintain and install a new bus bulb at the existing stop at the southeast corner of Haight and Stanyan Streets, and rescind the previously-approved bus bulb and associated traffic and parking changes for the mid-block location."

The SFMTA is also now suggesting a mid-block bulbout on the south side of Haight between Ashbury and Masonic, in coordination with the Haight Ashbury Public Realm Plan (PRP). 

Upper Haight Lighting 

As the PRP inches towards final approval, the last piece of the puzzle that has yet to be funded is, as reported last week in Hoodline, also the most popular element of the plan: pedestrian lighting.

In November 2014, the MTA legislated a number of pedestrian safety and transit reliability improvements for the Haight corridor. At that time, the MTA board asked staff to work with HAMA to address some specific concerns as well as reevaluate adding additional side street pedestrian bulbs along the corridor. Tuesday's presentation will be following up on those requests, though Sean Kennedy of the MTA reiterated last week that the agency's authority begins and ends with streets and the curbline, and that it's being called with regards to the PRP only to rule on proposed bus and pedestrian bulbouts.

However, Kennedy says he realizes that the pedestrian scale lighting is important to the community and notes that while the MTA does not fund those type of projects with transportation-related resources, the designs the City is developing for the bulbs do include provisions for pedestrian scale street lighting.

Not only are the designs for the corridor being completed to include pedestrian lighting, city staff is working on obtaining funding through grants and other sources to implement the lighting at the time of construction. "We are really working with the Supervisors office and the merchants to make this project as holistic as possible," he said.

Still, Christin Evans, owner of the Booksmith, spoke on behalf of the Haight Ashbury Merchants Association, saying HAMA found it unsatisfactory that the plan was being pushed through by the SFMTA despite any city agency taking responsibility for funding pedestrian scale lighting, which was explicitly requested by the community.

"The community's been very consistent from the beginning that we don't want to have multiple construction projects," she said. "We want the whole process to be as painless as possible. All the neighborhood associations are united that the city should not move forward on some changes before the whole plan is funded."

On the contrary, she said, it would be ideal to have funding for lighting in place before digging up the street. The city has a "dig-once" policy, according to the Planning Department, that asks areas to be disrupted only once for any given construction project. "There's already been enough disruption on that block, including a gas leak and a sinkhole, and that's highly disruptive to businesses and residents on the street," Evans said.

Lower Haight & Church Street Changes

Meanwhile, in the Lower Haight, two new sidewalk bulbouts are being proposed. According to the staff report:

"The bulbs, which are proposed for installation at Scott Street and Laguna Street, will both shorten the street crossing distance for pedestrians, as well as enable drivers on Scott and Laguna Streets to more easily see pedestrians using crosswalks at these locations."

(Haight and Scott is a notoriously problematic intersection where auto traffic, pedestrians, and Wiggle-riding bicyclists collide — sometimes literally. Haight and Laguna has seen fewer transit-related issues in recent years, at least to our knowledge, but will soon see an influx of new residents with the completion of the Alta Laguna housing development.)

Speaking of Haight and Laguna, in January, Hoodline reported that the SFMTA was also delaying its decision to install a traffic light at the intersection in response to concerns from residents. However, one tweak is on the way.

While there is currently a no-left-turn restriction for eastbound transit at the intersection, the SFMTA would like to lift that rule for Muni vehicles. "While there is no regular Muni service that makes this left turn, the SFMTA wants the ability to make this turn legally in case of temporary reroutes or short-turns that would involve this location," the staff report explains.

Finally, the SFMTA will vote on whether to make the red transit-only lanes on Church Street, which debuted in March 2013, permanent. The lanes, which are designated for Muni vehicles and taxis only between Duboce Avenue and 16th Street, were part of a Muni pilot program. As we reported yesterday, that pilot program has been deemed a success by SFMTA staff.

The meeting will take place in the SFMTA Board meeting in Room 400, City Hall, on Tuesday, June 2, starting at 1pm.