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SFMTA Works to Make Excelsior District Safer

A map of planned improvement/traffic calming areas. Image: SFMTA

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is moving forward with plans to calm traffic and improve intersections throughout the Excelsior district. "We're working on long-term and short-term improvements," explained Nick Carr, the agency's project manager for the area, during an 'office hours' outreach meeting held at the Excelsior library Tuesday afternoon. "We just got near-term funding of $600,000 to look at quick improvements."

He was referring to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority's decision that same morning to allocate nearly $9 million worth of Prop. K funds for various transit and safety projects around the city, including the Excelsior Neighborhood Traffic Calming Project. Other projects to receive funding include repairs to the cable car pulley system and the 19th Avenue Complete Streets project.

Construction of the near-term safety measures could start during the second half of this year and will include day-lighting of intersections (where bollards and/or paint are used to keep cars from parking too close to the corner), additional stop signs, and "anything we can build without public works involvement," explained Carr.

Efforts will be concentrated on neighborhood streets, such as Brazil, Persia, and Russia, where local residents complain of speeding and have concerns about pedestrian safety and parking. The project will also prioritize routes to and from parks and schools. "So Mclaren Park, Cleveland Elementary School, for example," said Carr.

Probably due to the rain and the time of day, only a handful of citizens showed up to ask for better safety features in the neighborhood. "People don't stop," said Paulette Norberg, who lives on Russia Street. She was concerned that kids on skateboards will get hit rolling down the hills. "We need speed bumps or a traffic circle or something."

Jason Serafino-Agar, who teaches bicycle safety, wants to see better way-finding for cyclists. "Cayuga is flat and could be a great bike-way alternative to Alemany," he said, for example. He pointed out that without signs or street marking delineating which streets are safer for cyclists and which aren't, it's too easy for a rider who is not familiar with the area to end up getting hurt. His wife, he said, rode from Ingleside to Balboa Park and crashed on the network of Muni tracks that merge from the streetcar maintenance facility. "Take another look at the tracks." He also wants SFMTA to pick streets that can be turned into "bicycle boulevards," like those in Berkeley.

Jason Serafino-Agar wants to see bicycle boulevards in the Excelsior. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

He also said electric-assist bikes are going to make cycling a much more viable alternative for people with families who live up the steep grade towards McLaren Park. And he complained that too many people park their cars on the sidewalk, making it difficult to walk. "You can install all the curb cuts you want, but if people park on them, and park on the sidewalk, and park on the crosswalk, you can't walk."

Speaking of which, the SFMTA is also collecting data on parking. Mari Hunter with SFMTA said the city is looking at capping the number of parking permits per household in the area. "Some people say they don't move their cars except for street cleaning," she explained. So the agency is trying to establish car shares to encourage occasional drivers to give up private car ownership. "It's an expense they don't have to bear."

Leading into 2020, when they can coordinate with Public Works, the SFMTA, plans to replace safe hit posts and paint with more permanent safety features out of concrete. This will include traffic diverters and speed humps.

Unfortunately, the project is not directly addressing Alemany (Moises Chavez was killed last year while riding his bike through the intersection with Silver, inside the project area). Alemany has a striped, unprotected conventional bike lane next to street parking, with two lanes of fast-moving traffic in both directions. They may be able to improve a few intersections with things such as bulb-outs and flashing beacons, said Carr, but it sounds as if that's about it.

As to outreach, the daytime "office hours" is part of a strategy to vary meeting size and time to get a more diverse group of people. Carr also said they are trying to do outreach at places where people are already going for fun, such as last year's Sunday Streets in the Excelsior, or as part of errands, such as on Mission Street.

The next 'office hours' meeting with the project teams will be held Tuesday, March 20, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., also at the Excelsior library, 4400 Mission Street San Francisco.

For readers who can't make the meeting but still want to comment on the project, there's an online survey.

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