San Francisco

City Officials Explain Lack Of Response To Dangerous Castro Intersection's Traffic Signal Outage

After the power outage two weeks ago at the busy and confusing intersection of Market, Noe and 16th Streets, which left drivers, pedestrians, cyclist and MUNI to fend for themselves for nearly nine hours, there were many unanswered questions as to why this intersection went uncontrolled for so long.

Multiple readers commented that they had reported the incident to SF311 throughout the day, but no traffic control officer was ever seen at the intersection.

Traffic signals still out at 7pm. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

To better understand how incident reports are handled, Hoodline spoke with SF311 Deputy Director Andrew Maimoni. Once any incident is reported, Maimoni said it is then routed to the proper city department.

In this case, "the traffic signal outage was electronically routed to the Sustainable Streets staff." The SFMTA's Sustainable Streets Division is responsible for maintenance and repair of traffic lights. After the report was electronically sent over, SF311 then "picked up the phone and called down directly," said Maimoni.

"We verified SFMTA got the request," Maimoni confirmed.

Once the report is sent over to SFMTA, it's up to the agency to determine the proper response. Any additional requests about the traffic signals being down will not be forwarded to SFMTA since SF311 has already confirmed that it received the initial request and is aware of the issue.

Next, we reached out to the SFMTA and newly appointed District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy for clarity on why no parking control officers (PCOs) were sent to the intersection, and how to avoid an incident like this in the future.

District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy speaking at a recent Castro Merchants meeting. | Photo: Mark M./Hoodline

In an email exchange between Supervisor Jeff Sheehy's office and Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire, which was shared with Hoodline, Maguire explained what happened that day and how the department plans to better respond in the future.

"We did not have parking control at these intersections because our PCO dispatchers did not get a report from the field that there was a need for officers to respond," Maguire stated in the exchange. 

According to Maguire's email, after digging a little deeper, the department discovered "that we didn’t have clear guidance in place to our signal crews that they should request PCO support as soon as it becomes clear that a signal repair will take longer than a few minutes."

"The most likely reason for repairs taking this long is a power outage, which was the case here," Maguire explained.

Traffic signal knocked down by a vehicle collision at the intersection. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

Maguire agreed that leaving the intersection to fend for itself created an unsafe situation. "We shouldn’t have left these intersections uncontrolled."

Going forward, the department has "given clearer direction to our Signal Shop that traffic control (either PCOs or SFPD) should be called for long-term outages," added Maguire.

Ed Reiskin, Director of Transportation at SFMTA, reiterated Maguire's points in an email to Hoodline. "We had an internal communications failure, which is unacceptable. We have taken steps to ensure something like this will not happen again."

In response to the incident, Supervisor Sheehy told Hoodline, "It is unacceptable that a major intersection along Market Street was dark for more than 8 hours without any police or SFMTA presence."

"Thankfully, nobody was injured as result," Sheehy noted.

As for future outages, the supervisor said, "I have asked that the SFMTA develop a plan to ensure that this doesn’t happen again, and that for other extended street light outages at major intersections, either the police or SFMTA deploy officers to ensure safety for all users.”


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