November 24, 2008

Congestion Pricing Concept For San Francisco Inches Forward

"The [concept of congestion pricing] will inch forward Tuesday, when the [San Francisco County Transportation Authority's] directors - a group made up of the city's 11 elected members of the Board of Supervisors - will be presented with various pricing scenarios and toll-zone locations, and an analysis of the potential benefits and disadvantages."

Planners to consider S.F. congestion charge [SFGate]

First Published: November 24, 2008 8:30 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

I'm all about market-rate parking meters and giving lanes/streets to transit (with video enforcement), but I'm sorry, SF is NOT congested enough to warrant congestion pricing simply for driving into the city or in certain parts of the city.

This ain't central London, folks. Market price the existing parking, limit additional parking in new construction, and give REAL priority to transit in the right corridors. That's all that needs to be done.

Posted by: Brutus at November 24, 2008 9:54 AM

I fail to see how adding toll zones into downtown is going to relive congestion in the city. Although San Francisco has an okay transit system, it is no where nears as comprehensive as London, or Singapore's. Can you imagine putting a toll on Bush St.

Perhaps this is just a scheme to increase revenue so the city can implement more unrealistic government programs.

Posted by: Byron at November 24, 2008 10:13 AM

Byron - Easy. When you give something of value away for free, people consume too much of it. Hence you end up with congestion. When you start charging a price for it, they will use less.

It's that simple. Whether they switch to public transit, walk, or simply avoid the downtown area is irrelevant - congestion will go down. In practice, those who actually want to be downtown will continue to go (either by paying the charge or taking transit). Those for whom going downtown is of marginal value will stop going. That's the nice thing about the market system.


Posted by: gmh at November 24, 2008 10:18 AM

An elaborate modeling of housing prices and traffic congestion in cities across the US concludes that financing roads with comprehensive congestion priced tolls rather than taxes would provide major benefits in reducing housing prices and sub-optimal densities - 'sprawl' - as well as reducing the familiar delays and uncertain travel times. Moving to tolls or other direct road use charges will significantly improve overall welfare, economic efficiency and standards of living, the study says. Authors are Ashley Langer University of California Berkeley and Clifford Winston, Brookings Institution. The study is reported in Brookings-Wharton Papers on Urban Affairs 2008.

It's a complex work. The methodology attempts to model the effects of congestion pricing on home location decisions, home prices and density. It allows for changes in land use and density, but sets limits to density permitted. Existing congestion conditions in various metro areas are fed into the model, and an array of different values of time saved provided for. The model differs from earlier ones in that it allows for that heterogeneity of values of time saved rather than assuming people are the same and using an average.

The model allows for the fact people will sort into commute distances inversely with their value of time, so different people will react differently to congestion pricing and gain different benefits.

The overall effect of comprehensive road pricing managed for free flow is likely to be decreased housing prices, higher density living especially in middle suburbs. Pricing encourages people to live somewhat closer to their work.

See http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/3840

Posted by: Jake at November 24, 2008 10:23 AM

Can you imagine putting a toll on Bush St.

Congestion pricing does not need tolls. Everything is automated using CCTV and license plate recognition. The system looks you up in a database and if you didn't pre-pay the charge you'll be charged more or even fined.

Posted by: San FronziScheme at November 24, 2008 10:28 AM

How about some "bike only" roads? (like Denver)

Bikes + cars = dangerous

Posted by: DataDude at November 24, 2008 10:43 AM

While SF is not nearly as congested as London, Muni often complains that it is congestion that causes bus bunching and the associated delays on key transit corridors like Geary, Mission, and Market. A reduction in congestion might be what is needed to make Muni work.

If you believe that parking meters make it easier to find a place to park (they certainly do) then you should also believe that congestion pricing will decrease travel times across town.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at November 24, 2008 10:44 AM

Another hair brained scheme by the board of stupes to get more money out of those who have it and have something that can be attached (like property & your auto.) SF would not be that congested if DPT would do its job and fine people for double parking, and at peak times control intersections with traffic control officers. Have you ever seen the DPT folks who stand around during rush hour at the entrance to the Bay Bridge.

gmh says that when you give something away for free people consume too much of it- true enough but we're talking about socialist SF- where this would be an odd case to buck the trend- don't we already give away someones private property to another private party with rent control, don't we already give away many free city services- this seems like a tough argument to make.

If SF had a good transit system it would seem to give everybody a fair shot at getting in the congestion zone but we don't.

What this scheme might do is 1 exacerbate the rich/poor sf and chase more middle class out- why not park for free in the suburbs 2, chase out retail and reduce income from sales tax, 3 chase out office tenants b/c it is too expensive and another shot at them, again resulting in decreased revenues for CCSF, 4 increase the use of "bogus" disabled placard just get a DR. (probably one who provides a cannabis club card for a severe hangnail)to say you cannot possibly walk and need the placard. I would laugh my ass off if this happens- the board who couldn't shoot straight.

Another pet peeve is the amazingly low tech parking meters we have, which I understand are also going to congestion pricing) but shouldn't you only pay for the minutes you use? Of course such systems have been devised but if city hall can take your money they will.

Posted by: SF2OAK at November 24, 2008 10:49 AM

"Bikes + cars = dangerous"

pedestrians + cars = dangerous
cars + cars = dangerous
deer + cars = dangerous

pedestrians + pedestrians = not dangerous
bikes + pedestrians = not dangerous
bikes + bikes = not dangerous
pedestrians + deer = not dangerous
deer + deer = not dangerous

dangerous = ?

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at November 24, 2008 10:49 AM

DataDude, you should talk to Sophie Maxwell about bike-only streets, as she's floated the idea recently. Or get involved with the bike coalition.

As far as bikes + cars being dangerous, I'd love to see some data that the combination is worse than car + car or car + pedestrian.

Back to the real topic, congestion pricing is a great way for the city to recoup some money for a resource that is currently given away free to a subset of San Franciscans and commuters. Making the resources available to those who truly need it makes business more efficient here, and improves quality of life.

And anything that increases the cost of living outside the city will help real estate prices!

Posted by: amused_in_soma at November 24, 2008 11:00 AM

Why do they need congestion pricing, while they are already charging one of the highest taxes in US?. This is a city govt which squeezes people for everything. Either they should be liberterian(pay as you use: for parks, roads, parking..) or be socialistic( everything is free, we will charge tax on everything). Here we get the short end of the stick in both. We have to pay more taxes and pay for using roads, while city uses those funds for their pet programs....

Posted by: SFwatcher at November 24, 2008 11:02 AM

Another step towards San Francisco becoming the Venice Italy of North America. A city already known as the trust fund capitol of America wants to tax cars without building real transit, all the while encouraging tourism and tourists jobs while pushing high paying jobs out of the city.

Why does Chicago not have to try this? Because they have a transit system of trains, metra, subways, and the EL, large and rapid enough to attract most commuters from their cars without being forced to through unfair fees. How about a safe, CLEAN, and usable MUNI first!?

Posted by: cartb4horse at November 24, 2008 11:07 AM

cartb4horse,

Ok, let's get some facts straight here - transit has a smaller mode share in Chicago than it does in SF.

Let me clarify something I said earlier - I would be more than happy to charge tolls for use of 19th Ave through the city and 101/80 through the city. Internally though, congestion charges aren't needed. Car use and congestion can be easily controlled through control and pricing of parking - since cars do have to park somewhere.

Posted by: Brutus at November 24, 2008 11:20 AM

i'm curious, as i have not traveled to other cities where this is implemented; if they charge for driving down a certain street, how would they implement it, and, wouldn't people just use the adjacent streets (even though they are not as synchronized) ? if they charged for driving on 19th Av, i would not hesitate to use 18th av even though there's a stop sign every other block.

Posted by: condoshopper at November 24, 2008 11:25 AM

I've stated this before, but IMO the solution is obvious.
Have public transit ONLY streets and bike only streets.

this way it would be easier/faster to take public transport, and thus people would abandon their cars.

As example, make every 10th street a street ONLY for busses, cable cars, and bikes as example (could also add in cabs if you wanted).

these streets would flow so much faster than the regular streets.

why take your car through horrific traffic when the bus has an easy right of way? and if there were public transport only streets every 10 blocks then nobody would be more than 5 blocks from public transport.

then you wouldn't need congestion charges.

Posted by: ex SF-er at November 24, 2008 11:26 AM

ex-SF-er,

We've had this conversation before, and I agree with your plan. But of course, it will never because cars and parking are the third rail in SF politics. It's ok to talk about charging for things, but eliminate the right of someone to drive somewhere!?!? Hell no!

Your plan would also depend heavily on enforcement, because every street would have to allow local traffic (because there aren't any streets that don't have garage entries) - and I'm not at all confident about any SF plan that depends on someone enforcing something.

Posted by: Brutus at November 24, 2008 11:31 AM

I fail to see how the city is giving away transit into downtown, when you have pay for metered parking or private parking (which is taxed). You also have to factor in that less traffic downtown will adversely affect the amount of money people spending in these zones.

As far as alternates to driving go:
Biking, we don't live in a flat city and it not practically for many people to commute to work or shop in this manner.

Walking, again not practical for many reason for things like weather, distances, personal safety, and time taken.

Taxis, not are not enough drivers in the city, at peak times. It can be very challenging to get cab in the city.

I really don't like trying to changing behavior through negative reinforcement. I am sure there better means to reduce congestion than to make driving downtown so distasteful that people avoid it.

I would rather city stop all of the double parking, enforce the bus lanes, and remove street parking on high traffic corridors, before moving to a London style toll system.

Posted by: Byron at November 24, 2008 11:45 AM

Bikes wouldn't be as dangerous if bicyclists followed traffic rules, like stopping at stop signs.

@ Milkshake:

2 deers - bike - pedestrian = dangerous + 2 cars

or

$700 billion + $700 billion + $306 billion + $X trillion = dangerous ^ e

Posted by: DataDude at November 24, 2008 11:48 AM

One solution is to make everyone pay for parking.

Once people who live outside the city stop driving in and parking for free downtown via the benefit of a handicap permit, they will be forced economically to use public transportation or pay the $25+ per day to utilize a downtown garage.

Since when did having a real or fake disability allow people to park for free?

Posted by: Jimmy C at November 24, 2008 12:15 PM

Biking, we don't live in a flat city and it not practically for many people to commute to work or shop in this manner.

The more fit can cycle while the others can use a Segway or public transport (weather issue resolved).

Bikes wouldn't be as dangerous if bicyclists followed traffic rules, like stopping at stop signs.

Stopping at every block makes cycling a better exercise but not everyone has the legs for it...

When you have a 4-stop crossing, I think bikes should stop only when another vehicle has reached the crossing before them. If the bikes got there first, then they're bound to be the first one starting as well then there's less reason to require them to stop.

More often than not, if I am the first on the crossing cars will make a sign to let me pass through without stopping. Once in a while a car will cut you if you marked the stop because he assumes you'll slow him down and we all know a car driver's time is more valuable than a cyclist's...

Posted by: San FronziScheme at November 24, 2008 12:18 PM

Byron,

First, metered parking downtown is offered at heavily subsidized rates (if you want to see the market rate, take a look at parking garage hourly prices - metered parking, because it is in a prime spot, should cost even more)

Second, SF has one of the highest walking mode shares in the US, after only NYC, Boston, and Philly (higher than many flat urban cities like Chicago).

Third, bike mode share could be much higher with a better bike network. You don't have to ride over huge hills if there are specific (flat) streets that have a good bike lane reserved.

I very much agree with you on the taxi issue though - we need many, many more.

Posted by: Brutus at November 24, 2008 12:24 PM

As both a cyclist and a driver, I firmly believe that 90% of car-on-bike violence in SF is due to cyclists being idiots.

Bicycles are, officially, VEHICLES. Yet they ride on the sidewalk, go the wrong way, ignore lights and stop signs... the list goes on.

The congestion charge is silly, but I can hang with it. First: I'd live "inside the zone", so it wouldn't cost me a dime; second, even if the zone were restricted to the Financial District, it would become a business expense (half off!); and third, it would make my downtown driving quicker and generally more fun.

Posted by: amused at November 24, 2008 12:31 PM

You don't have to ride over huge hills if there are specific (flat) streets that have a good bike lane reserved.

If you live in the Marina, Van Ness and Bay Street are 2 flat enough streets for N/S and E/W traffic. They'd be perfect for commute cycling if there were fewer cars or a physically separated bike lane.

Posted by: San FronziScheme at November 24, 2008 12:36 PM

Sure, let's have bike-only streets -- but only if we can find a way to tax the bikers for using them. We have numerous taxes on vehicles to fund street maintenance (well, supposedly). So, how should we tax bikers?

Bikers require license-plates? Wear clothing with their registration numbers? 50% sales tax on bikes?

Posted by: Usually Named at November 24, 2008 12:59 PM

"SF2OAK: What this scheme might do is 1 exacerbate the rich/poor sf and chase more middle class out"

Yes, what is interesting about congestion pricing, whether in London or here, is that it is always proposed by left-wing governments, but is really a right-wing idea. I takes a small amount of money from the rich, who can afford it easily, and forces the middle and working classes out of their cars. So it benefits those already rich. They get nice empty streets to drive in, and marginal small businesses are forced out by high-end retailers. This has happened most clearly in central London: small mom and pop shopkeepers (of which England is famously "a nation of,") have gone from many of the areas that they formerly populated, and luxury good merchants dominate almost all of Mayfair, St James's, Knightbridge, and most of Marylebone and much of Kensington.

Posted by: Andrew at November 24, 2008 1:12 PM

tax the bikers
We already do. Roads are subsidized by all taxpayers well beyond the car owner's registration fees. If a biker is not a driver, he's actually on the short end of the stick. He's not the one "fully" wearing down/enjoying the street but he still pays for it.

On the contrary, there should be tax credits for cycling:

- Oil independance
- Less use of other natural resources: metals, plastics, many pollutants
- Positive health effects = lower burden on the health system
- Less road wear

Posted by: San FronziScheme at November 24, 2008 1:13 PM


Bikers + peds = more accidents than a strident bikey type would be likely to ever admit.

Posted by: fiea at November 24, 2008 1:27 PM

"As both a cyclist and a driver, I firmly believe that 90% of car-on-bike violence in SF is due to cyclists being idiots."

The detailed studies that I have seen lay the blame between driver/cyclist at about 50/50%. Yeah, there are idiots out there riding bikes in incorrect ways. There are also idiots driving cars. An idiot driving 45MPH in a 4000 car is much more dangerous than an idiot riding 15MPH on a 30 pound bicycle. That was the crux of the set of equations above.

By "danger" we should consider danger inflicted on others. As dangerous as it may be, I'm not too worried about being hurt by a junkie rolling through STOP signs while riding a brakeless fixie backwards and blindfolded while sharing needles with an HIV+ Zimbabwean prostitute. I'm far more worried about the parent reaching behind themselves to catch their kid's falling sippy cup while driving a 2 ton SUV.

FYI, riding on the sidewalk is legal in most of California but generally discouraged because it is more dangerous than biking in the street. This is mainly because people don't expect to see such high speed traffic on sidewalks. Cars making a left turn into a driveway for example.

As for physically separated side paths for bicycles, those are also not as safe as you may think for many of the same reasons that biking on sidewalks is unsafe. Politicians who promote such side paths are often surprised to find that the cyclists they want to help strongly oppose those side paths.

It is quite possible for cyclists to mix with traffic and yeah, much of the success of that mode lies in bicyclists learning how to ride safely and legally.

Back to congestion pricing : Brutus' suggestion of simply charging for *all* parking would be just about as effective so long as parking fees actually reflect the cost of contributing to congestion. I'm not sure how you establish that though.

Two mechanisms I've seen for enforcing congestion pricing both rely on the establishment of contiguous zones. One system (London, I think) relies on the same technology that FasTrak uses with passive transponders. Another uses license plate cameras at gateways into the zone plus a few random cameras within the zone.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at November 24, 2008 1:34 PM

Really. Do we bikers actually pay the same amount as vehicle owners for highway maintenance? My sense is they do not.

In any case, if bikers want equal treatment of that cars with combustion engines have, be careful of what you wish. Bikers will then have to follow regulations more closely. And we will need to issue tickets and take away the right of bikers to ride their bikes if they don't follow the rules -- that means we need to license them.

And so managing licenses will require inefficient bureaucracy , so we need to ensure that the fees from licensing will cover some fat ass sitting behind a window telling you that you didn't fill out your form correctly. And oh, their job is protected too, so you need to pay their pension even though they spend most of their time on pr0n websites during work hours anyway.

Among other things.

You sure you want to be part of this, bikers?

Posted by: Usually Named at November 24, 2008 1:42 PM

I don't know if I fit the "strident bikey type" so conveniently simple but I'll make a quick one-man survey of my accidents:

I've never hit a pedestrian.
I've fallen numerous times on my own (rails, sleet, rain, oil slick).
I've been hit by a bike once.
I've been hit 3 times by cars (not in SF). All these times, the car was not careful enough and either cutting me or opening his door. I never got really injured on account of being paranoid on the road and keeping my distances.

SF is safer than Paris or London from 15 years ago. SF has less traffic and more civility (this doesn't apply to taxis).

Posted by: San FronziScheme at November 24, 2008 1:44 PM

In response to a previous question, a handicapped placard does allow one to park free with no time restrictions. See

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/cityinsider/detail?blogid=55&entry_id=31600

Posted by: fred at November 24, 2008 1:50 PM

fiea - If you have any links about the rate of cyclists injuring or killing pedestrians, I'd really like to see that. The assertion that cyclists are a significant source of harm often emotionally comes up in discussions, but no-one can seem to track down the facts. I've got no doubt that every once and a while a cyclist knocks down a pedestrian dead. But how frequent does this occur ? Daily ? Yearly ? Once every 20 years ?

Meanwhile we know that motorists kill about 100 Americans daily.

Every day.
Day after day.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at November 24, 2008 1:50 PM

The only people who like changes are wet babies.

Because San Francisco is the sandbox for many folks who do not live in the City and COunty of San Francisco, I think it makes good sense to charge a tax of some sort to our visitors who are just as likely as anyone to leave a mess before heading back home.

Posted by: jamie at November 24, 2008 2:04 PM

Do we bikers actually pay the same amount as vehicle owners for highway maintenance?

Bicycles do not need highways ;)

bikers want equal treatment

Nope. I want better treatment because my way of transportation has way less negative impact. Less noise, air pollution, physical danger to others, and my way of transportation does not require to create huge city-splitting trenches/suspended ways (think of that when you go under the 80 or the 101-280 IC).

Cars and highways are a necessity, no question. But we should encourage less, not more. And not helping bikes travel better and safer invariably sends people into their cars like everywhere, USA.

Posted by: San FronziScheme at November 24, 2008 2:07 PM

Ah, christ. I live west of downtown but work SE of SOMA. So, to get to work, I either have to A) pay a toll every day to drive across town, B) Drive a circuitous route, or C) Take a 60 minute bus ride instead of a 12 minute motorcycle ride.

Where I live, you can either take a very very slow bus direct that takes 60 minutes, or take a faster bus to the underground, and then wait for the T to go all the way to the embarcadero, then curve and finally head south, thus taking 60 minutes.

People are not going to give up cars if it means a 120 minute commute versus 24, even if they do have to pay. And without a viable use for the extra cash, everyone is just going to be pissed off, me included. At least when I pay the bridge toll I know some of that money is going to transit agencies and to rebuild the bridge. Paying to cross downtown goes to what exactly? Roads in SOMA sure could use repaving...

Posted by: rr at November 24, 2008 2:12 PM

Usually Named,

How many bikers use highways? Freeways? Not many, yet all of them pay for highways and freeways.

I'm not even a biker (I'm a walker and car-sharer), but I'm sure most bikers would be more than happy to start actually discussing real costs and who pays for the roads/highways/freeways. I'm sure most would gladly pay for licensing their bike if they were able to get out of paying for the freeways and other automobile-only roads.

Posted by: Brutus at November 24, 2008 2:12 PM

SFS @ 12:36pm:

Wouldn't a combination of Bay and Francisco work well for a E/W commute? And similarly Polk for the N/S? I believe they are all bike routes and are one block or so from your favored routes. I do think that it is a necessarily evil to have certain roads that are more suited to cars and it is better for everybody if bicyclists avoided those roads. Van Ness, Bay, Oak, Fell are some such roads that come to mind. I personally avoid those roads like the plague whenever I ride my bike.

In general, my experience around the city is that the bike routes cover the city well, are usually flat (or not very hilly) and you are never more than a couple of blocks from a bike route. You just have to think differently than a car when figuring out your route.

Posted by: anon at November 24, 2008 3:05 PM

Bicycl(ists) don't need highways?!?

How does all your crap get to your door (or the stores that you shop at)? Are we already Venice and the shit just floats up? Or is it dropped from the sky from that new blimp thing?

Posted by: oy-vey at November 24, 2008 3:31 PM

My solutions for congestion, which I'm already implementing.

Toll roads = I spend my money shopping and eating at restaurants from Daly City to San Mateo

Parking meters (up to $18 an hour) - I spend my money shopping and eating at restaurants from Daly City to San Mateo

S.F. Giants games @ up to $18 an hour to park - I just purchased an HDTV. Will not go to another game again.

I feel sorry for the businesses and eating establishments, less people = less revenue. San Francisco is very anti-business.

In fact, I buy gas in Daly City, so I can give the sales tax money to San Mateo County.

I have a choice on where to eat and shop, that's why I head South.

Posted by: Daniel at November 24, 2008 3:33 PM

^^^Yes, yes, yes, that's what everyone always says. And yet, SF has not become an empty shell of itself. Weird, huh?

Posted by: Brutus at November 24, 2008 3:42 PM

I live downtown and work downtown. Anyone who thinks SF is 'congested' is a crack-baby and really needs to do some traveling.

Anyway such a ridiculous idea. Not every single street is going to have a toll collection system, so the only effect is that drivers will take any detour they can to avoid paying tolls.

Not to mention there will be all the more reason for companies to relocate out of SF and people seeking entertainment/shoppers to go elswhere.

And let's face it, public transport just sucks beyond belief. You couldn't pay me to use it. How about making public transport clean, cheap, efficient, and safe. Wow, what an outlandish concept!

Posted by: anon at November 24, 2008 3:43 PM

Daniel - Those are all perfectly fine responses to an increase in price. But one wonders why you bother to live in SF if all the establishments you frequent are outside of SF. It would make much more sense to simply move to Daly City or San Mateo and save a bunch of money on rent or mortgage.

All of the "how much do bikers pay" vs. "how much do cars pay" debate misses the most important point: the primary cost of roads is not laying or maintaining asphalt, it's the land that they occupy. To miss this point on a real estate blog seems particularly ironic. Do we think that a SFH in SF should be priced at its construction cost? Of course not - if that were true, then SF would not cost much more than Manteca. Total collections of gasoline taxes do not come close to covering what we spend on maintaining roads, but even if they did, it would still be irrelevant. Unless gas taxes are high enough to cover the land value of the roads plus the maintenance costs (think several dollars per gallon), then drivers are being subsidized just as surely as people drawing on homeless services are being subsidized. You may still find it to be the preferred policy, but it's silly to try to pretend it's not a subsidy, especially on a real estate blog!

Posted by: gmh at November 24, 2008 3:49 PM

anon - If SF is not congested, then by definition it must have excess street capacity. So you don't mind if we take a bunch of streets and dedicate them to be bus-only in order to run fast, reliable limited stop/express bus service (for example, Geary could be two-way, bus-only from Market to Gough and then have two dedicated center bus lanes physically separated from the other lanes from Gough to 33rd Ave). That would be a good alternative to congestion pricing.

Posted by: anonm at November 24, 2008 3:59 PM

anonm,I agree . Anyone who drives downtown regularly knows the 'secret fast routes' so obviously there is excess capacity that could (should) be used for more bike lanes and bus lanes.

But bus lanes are generally worthless becuase cars use them continually and there is no enforcement when they do so.

Posted by: anon at November 24, 2008 4:04 PM

anon @3:05PM:

I hear you. I use alternate streets as well. i.e. Page Street to go from the Haight to Downtown works pretty well. Flat enough, 4 stops most of the way. It's a good alternative to Oak street. But if you want to go from NoBe to the Marina, there's the scenic way but not much of a "straight dash" street with little cars and less hills. Sometimes I'll take Union and fight it off with the buses in the hills, and sometimes I'll cycle with the cars on Bay.

anon @3:43PM:

Not every single street is going to have a toll collection system

That's not an issue if it is set up like in London. CCTV cameras in the right spots will help you do that. You'll need big signs to warn people (you can't miss the huge "C"s in London).

Posted by: San FronziScheme at November 24, 2008 4:18 PM

I would love it if Geary were a two-way bus only street from Market to Gough then had a dedicated right of way in the middle of Geary out to the beach. Of course my preference owuld be for a light rail system down Geary instead. It is a shame we don't have a real subway/light rail system in the northern half of the city.

Posted by: Rillion at November 24, 2008 4:41 PM

RIllion - Yes, light rail would clearly be justified down Geary given that just the 38 + 38L alone already have more ridership than the busiest MUNI Metro line (N Judah). That would also solve anon's issue about bus lane cheaters - just make sure the paving around the tracks is very rough (e.g. something like cobblestones) except at intersections. That will discourage any cars from driving in them.

Posted by: anonm at November 24, 2008 4:48 PM

There's been lots of talk about bike lanes but everyone forgets that far more people, who live and work in the city, walk to work. For those living in the Greater Downtown area that stretches to Van Ness and includes a good chunk of SoMa, this figure is just a bit shy of 10% whereas biking makes up less than 3%. We don't just need more and better bike lanes, we also need better and wider sidewalks. Specifically I'm thinking of one section of Franklin Street, a traffic sewer if there ever was one cutting right through a residential area, just north of Pacific where the sidewalk space available to walk is literally about 2.5 feet. I don't see how a person who was disabled could possibly pass at this point and it makes walking much less attractive, not just because of the tight space, but because of the roar of constant one-way traffic. Of course this is much more prevalent in SoMa, but it's a real problem in my view in lots of places in the City where we've widened streets and reduced sidewalks for cars, all when nearly an estimated 68% of those commuting to the core Financial District take transit (and of course those people also walk, just not as an exclusive commute mode). Couple that with walkers and bikers and you have perhaps 3/4 of commuters to the Downtown core not driving at all. And yet, as some posters have identified above, we have excess street capacity. If you are still driving into Downtown as a single occupant driver during rush hour as result, I think you should pay for it heftily and use the money to improve the various modes listed above for what constitutues the majority of Downtown commuters.

Posted by: Jake at November 24, 2008 5:08 PM

This is just silly and disturbing. I have a job where I am constant driving to all parts of the city to do businesses with service and retail establishments. The parking already kills me (heaven forbid I should get held up in an account and get a parking ticket), and now I'm going to have to pay to get around downtown?

I agree, this is a very anti-business, anti-middle class move once again. The wealthy won't care about paying to drive downtown, and the lower classes take busses or bike anyway, so who does it hurt the most?

I am a recreational cyclist as well and a huge advocate for light rail – having lived on the N-Judah for 3 years. The city should invest in running a Geary light rail, extending the F line all the way into the Presidio, and running an above ground metro line down Mission or South Van Ness. These were great reduce the bus congestion and improve transit in the busiest areas.

I simply can't afford to do business if the city keeps making it harder on me.

Posted by: liquidpurveyor at November 24, 2008 7:54 PM

Congestion is bad? In the book "Delirious New York - A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan", Rem Koolhaas questions why so many who create planning policy in urban areas really desire to turn them into rural villages. Traffic on Bush Street? Who cares! Horns honking, buildings rising, crowded sidewalks, squeeking busses, it is all part of what urban life is about, and I love it! I hate the empty streets downtown on weekends, and love the crowded energy of Market Street.

Carmel California is waiting for those who want a greener, quieter walk or bike ride from home to the town square. I have no problem with modern transportation vehicles being part of the urban experience, and only wish we had the public transit infrastructure that NYC and Chicago have, because we don't, which is why so many choose to have cars.

Posted by: anon2 at November 24, 2008 9:16 PM

liquidpurveyor - You don't need to worry about parking or driving costs affecting your ability to do business. Your competition will face the same challenges. Though the playing field might move, it will remain level.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at November 24, 2008 11:33 PM

If we don't take action soon and just accept this so-called Congestion Pricing Scheme B.S. What's next from the Democrats and Liberals?

Take your average paycheck, LESS federal, state, city, gas, cable, cell, property, water, PG&E, phone, etc. taxes and fees, this crap, etc. And I can guarantee you that you have about 40% or less real spending power.

Posted by: Mike at November 25, 2008 1:12 AM

gmh wonders why the guy/gal always goes down south to fill his tank, shop & dine- I'm betting s/he's got a rent controlled apartment in SF.

To liquidpurveyor- well absolutely SF does not want you or your ilk in SF (and have you gotten a ticket lately -the least expensive is $33 and there's only 2 violations that will get you off that cheaply and they go up to $300 and I'll bet they average about $70.) I cannot think of a more unfriendly city to you a taxpayer and one hopes a law abiding citizen, and this goes even more so if you are a homeowner- has anyone seen the increase in permit fees lately? (a subject I'd like our editors to explore), and even worse if you are a small landlord with a rent controlled building. They're going to change the words of the song "I left my wallet in San Francisco...

Posted by: SF2OAK` at November 25, 2008 12:21 PM

Ah, christ. I live west of downtown but work SE of SOMA. So, to get to work, I either have to A) pay a toll every day to drive across town, B) Drive a circuitous route, or C) Take a 60 minute bus ride instead of a 12 minute motorcycle ride.

Have you considered taking the 24?

Posted by: NoeValleyJim at November 26, 2008 8:00 AM

While Jake McGoldrick (the real instigator of this silly idea) was jet setting about Europe to research this idea (and who was paying for his travels?) most of us in SF were busy working to pay rent and live in a city which gets more expensive by the year while cutting more and more services.

As for traffic congestion in SF...I would say at least 50% has been created by the city through the elimination of lanes and by road work.

Also, this plan is not only for downtown. McGoldrick wanted to turn the Great Highway into part of his toll road plan.

Posted by: Duane Ackerman at November 28, 2008 2:22 AM

I'm from SF and lived in London from 2000-2004 and saw firsthand what the CC implementation and results were like.

My own bias is that SF needs to be more biz friendly and that our track record isn't great in creating policy that attracts and retains large business - which is at the heart of the city's long-term health. With that said let me give you my perspective on living with the Congestion Charge (cc) in London.

What I saw was an incredibly smooth implementation of a complex political and logistical system that has made London a better place to live and work. I worked for a business that distributed into the city center and we were obviously really cynical about the impact that CC would have. What we found was that the cost of the charge was way more than offset by the greater distribution productivity - making one extra delivery per day paid the CC and then some.

As a resident of London - we lived out of the congestion charge but in Central London - was that the bus system became a ton more and attractive way to get around town. Before the CC we would take it as a last resort if the tube didn't take us where we needed to go. There were dedicated bus lanes that helped keep buses moving and less traffic on the road radically improved trip times into the center. The added revenues of the charge helped supplement public transport with additional buses and trains.

San Francisco is obviously a very different city with less population density and less people, in general. I don't know if the system is right here but I think that to get the best out of a CC system in SF that some basic principles should be considered:
- charge must be high enough to reduce traffic by > 10%. That sounds like a small number but it doesn't that much to make traffic move more rapidly
- the cost of charge can't be higher than what distribution companies would be willing to pay (think FedEx, Sysco - as good examples) based on their increased productivity from lower traffic.
- improvment of MUNI - comfort and speed - crucial to resident acceptance, and is probably the biggest benefit of the entire scheme.
- can the implementation of CC help SF attract new business - does CC help shine a light on SF's commitment to attracting and nurturing alt energy businesses?

I'll be interested to see how this proceeds.

Posted by: Will Hartley at November 28, 2008 9:41 AM

I appreciate Will's view from the streets insights on what happened in London. It sounds like it was actually a boon for businesses that rely on using London streets to get around in the day.

My friends who live in the Big Smoke said that they think that the congestion charge has improved things but they rarely drive to the center anyways. Will's perspective of the change is interesting.

I too wonder whether SF is really congested enough to implement a London-like plan. But certainly improvements could be had by targeting the key bus corridors to enable Muni to deliver reliable service. Right now the vehicle congestion on Mission and Market puts Critical Mass to shame in its ability to back up transit.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at November 29, 2008 9:44 AM

But San Francisco is not London! I know we all want to think of ourselves as a "European City", but we are a very young stick built urban area that is still building its infrastructure. We do not have the underground or above ground public transportation network to lure people away from their cars, and I lived in London also. The tube can get you there faster than a car, but could you say the same about MUNI?

But here is the worst part, we need to stop pretending that business HAS to locate here. Except for Tourism, what exactly is so important about a San Francisco address when there is a huge world city about 450 miles south of us that we love to hate, but has become the capitol of the west coast by default. There is no other city in the U.K. to compete with London, but there are many many cities that can attract business away from San Francisco and have. Let's build a SAFE clean efficient and extensive public transportation network to give people an attractive choice, instead of forcing a dirty, slow and dangerous transportation mandate.

Posted by: whatever at November 29, 2008 12:45 PM

We do not have the underground or above ground public transportation network to lure people away from their cars

Tell that to the 700k riders a day who ride Muni.

Posted by: NoeValleyJim at November 29, 2008 11:35 PM

NVJ, If I want to go from the Marina to Noe Valley, what rapid public transit route would I take? I could go from the Marina Green to 24th street in 15 minutes max in my car, taking Gough-Market-Dolores. Can you guess how long the 22 Fillmore would take (including the wait itself for the bux)? Try about 1 hour (AT LEAST!).

Even as provincial and highly over promoted as San Francisco is, how can anyone compare the public transportation system of "the city" to London, Paris, New York or even Chicago? If you have not lived or visited these places, download their transit maps, or visit their online page showing the actual locations of trains, and frequency of arrival.

We have ONE UNDERGROUND LINE under Market street, and think that because we are crowded, wear black, and drink Lattes that we are a grown up city and need to do what London does. There is no underground lines serving any part of the northern parts of the city, and bus service is horrible. From Market going north there is no underground rapid tranist service, and this is where most hotels, restaurants, and business traffic is. The only route I can think of that has the efficiency of service enjoyed in most cities would be if you lived in the Castro, and took the train to Montgomery Street every day for work. But that is the only underground route we have.

What most fascinates me about San Francisco is the bizarre frequency of service. On the busiest London Underground lines, (District (green), Circle (yellow), Picadilly (Purple), Central (Red)), trains run on average every 2 to 3 minutes, but in "the city" (what some dare call San Francisco) you can have three busses in a row, followed by a 45 minutes gap of no service, and there are not nearly enough BART or MUNI trains, but with only one tunnel, how could they operate more?

I am for congestion pricing if a plan is put in place to build public transit that will BEGIN to serve all parts of the city. Slow busses and Muni trains stuck in traffic will still exist after congestion pricing, but if we had a real undergound transit network, we would begin to experience transit that has been enjoyed in most world class cities for over 60 years.

Posted by: whatever at November 30, 2008 5:18 AM

NVJ- London's underground services 3 million per day.

Posted by: anon at November 30, 2008 7:08 AM

Muni is a friggin' joke. Even third world cities like Bangkok have system(s) that are better than what S.F. has. Compare Muni to the tube or even the NYC Subway? No way.

Posted by: anon at November 30, 2008 7:25 AM

anon - SF has 750,000 residents, London a few more, last time I checked.

Despite Muni's problems, Muni still has a MUCH higher mode share than the transit systems in Chicago, so this talk of Muni not being good enough to lure people from cars is simply a talking point with no basis in reality. Show me some stats that Chicago's system is more used (on a per capita basis) and we'll talk.

Posted by: Brutus at November 30, 2008 2:31 PM

I agree that many third world cities have better subway systems than San Francisco. Asking people to ride slow busses is not an answer for a "world class city". I was really put in my place recently by a friend who mentioned that we should not take a taxi to lunch in Mexico City because of the traffic jams, and instead take the subway. I had visions of homeless and urine soaked stairs, since this is common in San Francisco, but instead found a very modern clean & safe extensive underground metro system. The trains were fast, modern and crowded, but as soon as one train left the station, the next train arrived. You can go almost anywhere in Mexico City underground much faster than in a car or bus, and we could use a lesson in how they are able to keep such busy stations clean and urine free.

Another city that shocked me and puts MUNI to shame is Seoul. Their Metropolitan Subway is huge, modern & fast with trains that are cleaner than Frist Class lounges at SFO (which is not saying much these days).

Brutus, what Chicago has that we do not is a very powerful regional transportation authority that plans for long range future urban and transportatin growth. Looking at CTA (the Chicago city subway system) alone does not tell the whole story, since the Chicagoland area has layers of extensive rail services that have huge ridership to the central city. The sad picture is that San Francisco has decades of work before it can start playing in the big leagues, and may I ask that we begin immediatly by building an underground line from Union Square out Geary to the Pacific Ocean?

As for Chicago....
"The CTA operates the nation's second largest public transportation system and covers the City of Chicago and 40 surrounding suburbs. On an average weekday, 1.6 million rides are taken on the CTA." If you add the over 450,000 daily riders on the Metra trains in Chicago, I would say that Chicago does a pretty good job of getting people around. Is Chicago's system "more used" on a per capita basis? Who cares! At least they have a system that takes you to all points in their city, and to both airports.

Sign me up for the group to help get the Geary Metro Line built, as well as the Divisadero Line, Van Ness-Lombard Line, and the California Street Line. (That would be the type of coverage most urban areas already have)

Posted by: anon2 at November 30, 2008 4:20 PM

anon2,

My point was that "quality" of system has very little to do with ridership, as supported by your numbers. I never said that Chicago's system was not better, I was just disputing the notion that "people don't ride Muni because it sucks and clearly they would if we made the system better to encourage more to ride it." Muni's per capita usage blows ALL transit systems in Chicago out of the water, and that's not even including the BART, AC Transit, GG Transit, and SamTrans trips that start, start and end, or end in SF. SF's transit ridership will always blow Chicago's away simply because SF is much more dense and LESS ATTRACTIVE TO DRIVE in, because of congestion and expense of driving/parking in SF compared to Chicago.

So, while we should certainly support improving Muni for other reasons, please stop with the "Oh, if our system were only as good as Chicago's I'd ride it." That's bull. If you're complaining about transit in SF, you wouldn't ride it in Chicago - because Chicago is much easier/cheaper to park in AND less congested.

Posted by: Brutus at November 30, 2008 6:23 PM

"...you can have three busses in a row, followed by a 45 minutes gap of no service...

This is a great example of why congestion should be controlled. Buses bunch up because streets are congested.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at November 30, 2008 7:35 PM

Bus service will always be slow with or without traffic. Why is San Francisco so far behind other areas in building an underground metro system? Why are so many against investing in a underground metro system that could provide service to areas that are ALSO north of Market Street?

Posted by: anon2 at November 30, 2008 8:33 PM

^^^Feel free to name another American city that has built massive underground subway lines in the past 40 years. And no, DC doesn't count, unless you think that we would get the same amount of federal funding to make it happen. We wasted our chance on BART - the subway to the suburbs. New York has finally received some federal funding for the 2nd Ave line - but that took, what, 80 years?

Subways cost too much for local cities to build. Period. There has been ZERO interest from the feds to put the massive amounts of money into subways that would be needed for SF to build a large network, or even simply a line down Geary.

LA now is putting some local funding together for a Wilshire subway - but even that will need BILLIONS in federal funding before it can become a reality. And - they get to tax ALL of LA County to make it happen, which happens to cover 10 million people of the metro (more than 50% of the metro) compared to our tiny little county only covering 11% of our metro. Marin won't even pay for a new ramp to the GG Bridge, even though it is primarily for them (remember the arguments against the "Marin Commuter tax"?) - you think they're going to pony up cash for a subway in SF?

Dedicated lanes/streets is the best we can hope for, unless Obama is willing to shower us with tens of billions, which seems unlikely.

Posted by: Brutus at November 30, 2008 8:42 PM

You just made the case for why we need a powerful regional transportation authority. I also agree that the U.S. has not invested in real public transit for decades. While Mexico City built subways, we built freeways. Let's hope the new administration changes how federal money is spent on transportation. As someone who has born and raised in Europe for 1/3 of my life, there is no excuse for horrible rail transit in the United States. If the Bay Area were in France or Germany, not only would San Francisco have 14 subway lines, but Bart would be five times it's current size, and high speed rail would already be here.

The shrinking of distance in Europe is amazing since systems like the TGV were introduced, and I noticed my relatives in Lille going to Paris for day trips to shop and dine, and then returning home the same day. This would be like going to get sun in Santa Barbara or Palm Springs for the day, and then returning to S.F. that evening.

Posted by: anon2 at November 30, 2008 9:48 PM

You just made the case for why we need a powerful regional transportation authority.

Oh, absolutely. IF I had it my way, all of Northern Cal would be under one agency, or at least the 9 county Bay Area. It's ridiculous to think that we can even begin to be as efficient as LA County or Cook County with so many different agencies.

Posted by: Brutus at November 30, 2008 9:52 PM

Another LA county mass transit fan? I do not get that at all.

Posted by: fluj at December 1, 2008 9:35 AM

"IF I had it my way, all of Northern Cal would be under one agency, or at least the 9 county Bay Area".

I could not agree more. What I wonder is would some parts of the Bay Area really want public transit coming to their doorsteps, especialy affluent areas in Marin and on the peninsula? I have always thought that areas like Mill Valley may vote as if they are liberal, but are in private as conservative as wealthy suburban households in Alabama or Texas. The last thing they want is people having access to "their" world with trains rolling in bringing economic diversity to their doorsteps.

Posted by: anon2 at December 1, 2008 7:18 PM

fluj,

Have you seen what LA is doing with transit recently (as in past couple of years) and their plans for the future? They put everything in Northern California and most of the rest of the country to shame.

Posted by: Brutus at December 1, 2008 9:05 PM

"Congestive pricing is classic San Francisco problem solving. Given the choice between a bold, sweeping, and innovative new idea that will make headlines across the country, and a basic, nuts-and-bolts solution that isn't sexy, we go for the big splash every time. C'mon, it isn't that people don't want to use public transit - this is one of the greenest cities in the country. It is that the public transit we have isn't a good alternative."

EVEN C.W. Nevis can get it right now and then.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/12/03/BALG14GTN7.DTL&tsp=1


Posted by: anonfedup at December 3, 2008 10:57 PM

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