SFMTA Board to consider 3 major pedestrian safety projects for Tenderloin, SoMa streets today

Proposals to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety in the Tenderloin and SoMa neighborhoods will be considered by the SFMTA Board of Directors today as part of the city’s plan to reduce traffic-related deaths.

The meeting comes just under two months after a pedestrian was killed in an unsolved hit-and-run incident near the intersection of Turk and Taylor streets, one of the critical areas targeted by the Safer Taylor Street Project. And according to SFMTA, the corridor targeted by the 6th Street Pedestrian Safety Project sees pedestrians struck by vehicles once every 16 days on average. 

SFMTA has been in negotiations with the community for several years to determine the best safety improvement projects to implement in the neighborhood. Most recently, the agency hosted pop-up community events and online surveys to receive input on plans to install new sidewalk bulb-outs, bike lanes, and other mechanisms to make Taylor and 6th streets safer for vehicle and non-vehicle traffic. 

Each project is tailored to the neighborhood community, according to SFMTA staff. The plans are part of Vision Zero, the city’s effort to end traffic related fatalities by 2024.

Vision Zero's map of most dangerous routes in San Francisco based on historic traffic fatalities.

Vision Zero projects are initially focused on the 13 percent of city streets where about 75 percent of fatal traffic fatalities occur, many of which are in the SoMa, Tenderloin, and Mid-Market neighborhoods.

In the 6th Street corridor, one-third of pedestrians within two blocks of the project are seniors and/or have some mobility-related restrictions, according to SFMTA.

SFMTA plans to add new traffic signals at the alleyways along 6th Street between Market and Howard streets to slow the flow of traffic and provide more protected crosswalks to increase the number of safer crossing points.

6th Street Pedestrian Safety improvements planned for SFMTA consideration today.

Several street corners will get new bulb-outs to reduce crossing distances, sidewalks will be widened to better accommodate foot traffic, and new lighting will be added at the pedestrian level.

The 6th Street project includes plans for new sidewalk lighting.

Along Taylor Street, the senior and youth populations are three and four times higher than the city average, and the corridor houses an extremely dense residential area. SFMTA found that across San Francisco, the number of traffic-related fatalities in an area could be directly correlated to the number of travel lanes. Between 2011 and 2016, 95 percent of severe injury crashes reported in the project area were associated with "excess travel lanes,” according to SFMTA.

Traffic incidents on Taylor Street are largely due to high-speed traffic and lack of visibility at intersections. | IMAGE: SFMTA

The Safer Taylor Street plan, if approved, will reduce the number of travel lanes along Taylor, with one through lane and an additional turn lane at intersections between Market and Ellis streets and two through lanes and one added turn lane at intersections between Ellis and Sutter streets.

Taylor Street would be reduced down to one lane between Turk and Ellis streets under plans to be voted on by SFMTA today.

The plan also includes expanded sidewalks along three blocks between Turk and Ellis streets, and new pedestrian bulb-outs at intersections to reduce crossing distances. 

Both projects anticipate using new traffic light timing to allow more time for pedestrians to cross and give clearer signals to drivers.

Similar sidewalk and street improvements will be voted on today as a preliminary effort to improve safety on Howard Street between 6th and 11th streets. The improvements being considered today are targeting a deadly corridor and are part of an effort to inform future streetscape improvement planning in the Central SoMa region. The near-term Howard Street improvements include painted bike lanes and bus-boarding islands, as well as improving pedestrian visibility at intersections.

The SFMTA Board of Directors meeting will be held at 1 p.m. in Room 400 of City Hall.

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Sfmta board to consider 3 major pedestrian safety projects for tenderloin soma streets today