City floats e-reservations, tolls for Lombard 'Crooked Street' access

Photo: Tim Bartel/Flickr
By Nathan Falstreau - Published on January 29, 2019.

Tomorrow night, Russian Hill residents will get to weigh in on a proposed toll and reservation system for visitors to the "crooked" block of Lombard Street, aimed at reducing its ever-increasing traffic congestion. 

According to a 2017 study by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA), the 1000 block of Lombard Street now attracts more than 2 million visitors per year. By limiting the number of vehicles and imposing a fee, residents are hoping to find a way to make the block more livable.

"It's been a really long process, but I do feel personally that [SFCTA has] collected a lot of really good data and analyzed it," said Carol Ann Rogers, president of community organization Russian Hill Neighbors. "Everybody has realized that we have to manage the cars coming in a smart way, through technology or other means ... people that live there are the most impacted by traffic congestion, and can't get into their driveways."

Rogers believes the proposed changes could be positive for tourists as well. "It must be incredibly frustrating to have to wait an hour or more to go down one block," she said. "This would be a win-win for everyone."

Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr

SFCTA has been looking at solutions to reduce congestion on the 1000 block of Lombard since 2016, when the agency began floating possible ideas at two public meetings.

Based on its study, the agency has proposed a variety of short- and longer-term solutions. They include increasing the number of SFMTA parking control officers and expanding their hours of deployment, as well as installing additional signage and sidewalk extensions.

Another proposal involves a marketing campaign in partnership with the San Francisco Travel Association, tour operators, rental car companies and hotels. The campaign would encourage tourists to walk or take transit to Lombard instead of drive, and promote good behavior among tour operators in terms of managing group size, timing, and loading/unloading.

If support for the toll and electronic registration system moves forward, reservations would be available via a website, mobile app and automated kiosks to be located nearby. The toll would not apply to area residents or pedestrians. 

“We think that with a reservation-and-pricing system, it would help better mitigate this traffic than just having one or the other,” SFCTA spokesperson Eric Young told SF Weekly.

With a reservation-only system, "there isn’t a steady revenue stream to implement that system," Young said. "If you only have a pricing system, that doesn’t help you smooth out the traffic.”

While RHN's Rogers said her organization supports the proposed tolling and reservation system, she notes that "it does really only address traffic, the car issue," she said. "There is still a pedestrian issue, which may actually increase due to this program." 

"But we want people to have a good experience when they visit, and this is an opportunity to do that. We feel that it's time that something has to happen." 

The community meeting on the "Crooked Street" will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 30, from 6–8 p.m. at Yick Wo Elementary School (2245 Jones St.)

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