September 30, 2013

Planning To Fill The Geary Underpass And A Cranky Citizen's Concerns

Geary%20Underpass.jpg

On the agenda for San Francisco’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee this afternoon, a hearing to begin planning the filling of the Geary underpass between Webster and Steiner Streets, the reunification of the Japantown and Western Addition communities, "and all other aesthetic, transportation, infrastructure, and community opportunities and challenges therein, including the possibility of coordinating efforts with the Central Subway Project and/or Geary Bus Rapid Transit."

As part of the official packet for today's hearing, a cranky citizen's demand for more oversight of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Association (SFMTA) and Muni:

Dear Ostrich Family,
It has become exceedingly obvious that the Mayor and Board of Supervisors are sucking hind teat behind the SFMTA/Muni. This omnipotent agency runs amok without the slightest oversight from those elected officials who should be monitoring this runaway train. Need more money to waste? Raise parking fees and fines. Can’t maintain existing rolling stock? Borrow O&M funds to play for the two-car underground light rail that will serve no purpose and be an additional drain on the broke and broken Muni.
Muni apparently has the power to whatever they want – especially in North Beach. The Pagoda demolition and other Muni construction does not have to follow the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) process: no right to appeal, no noticing requirements, no review of hazardous material disposal plans, no binding public input whatever. This was related by Cynthia Goldstein, the head of The Board of Appeals. It seems that Section VIII A of the City Charter can be interpreted to give SFMTA/Muni self-granting of construction permits, and to operate outside the usual DBI rules. Ed Reiskin, John Fungi, and the rest of the SFMTA/Muni hooligans were NOT elected – yet they have carte blanche to do whatever the hell will satisfy other unelected power players – Willie Brown and Rose Pack for example.
This usurpation of power from duly elected officials is unacceptable. It smells of corruption and borders on the criminal. It must be stopped. When the Central Subway bombs – as it surely will – and costs the city diminished service and tax dollars for cost overruns – do-nothing city officials must be held accountable for their negligence.
You have been informed,
Constant Cranky Curmudgeon
(aka Lee Goodin)

The New Plans And Latest Recommendations For Japantown [SocketSite]
As Central Subway Contingency Fund Shrinks, Contract Up For Vote [SocketSite]

First Published: September 30, 2013 4:00 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Filling this underpass seems like a mistake. Pedestrians and cars can cross freely above the traffic now. If this takes place pedestrians will cross Geary at grade which seems more dangerous.

Posted by: d-b at September 30, 2013 6:18 AM

Wonderful news. If this takes place we're one step closer to changing Geary back to a street from the current freeway setup.

Posted by: anon at September 30, 2013 7:12 AM

Because of this underpass, a four-block stretch of Geary is dead space. Really dead.

This will not only reunite the neighborhoods, it will spark a comeback for businesses on both sides of the street.

Now, why don't they turn that underpass into a water storage cistern? Shame to waste a perfectly good hole in the ground.

Posted by: North Beach Tony at September 30, 2013 7:12 AM

God, what a stupid idea. In what sense are Japantown and the Fillmore separated? It's true, you can't jaywalk mid-block on either side of Fillmore.

The way it is now, the intersection of Fillmore and Geary is, well, pretty pleasant from a pedestrian POV. It's low-traffic, slow, easy to cross on red, has two BIG bus stops with plenty of room to stand and sit. People getting dropped off at the Fillmore and nearby restaurants don't have to contend with cars rushing by or rushing around a corner. If you want to experience this "improvement", go stand at Steiner and Geary and soak in the pedestrian friendliness. Better yet, go to Scott and Geary. The light there gives you what seems like hours to wait to cross and ponder the meaning of the universe.

Posted by: BobN at September 30, 2013 7:13 AM

I understand current urban planning preferences would not build this underpass now but why would we just fill it in? Why not deck over? Seems like a waste of resources

Posted by: Zig at September 30, 2013 7:16 AM

The four blocks are not "dead space". One block is quite busy, with the Fillmore, a busy bus stop, the Post Office and a handful of businesses with a small parking lot. The next block is a park. On the other side of the street, there's the public pool and fields. Heading back to Fillmore, the next block is half residential and the other half has a couple stores. They're "dead" because there's nothing beyond them.

On the other side of Fillmore, the first block has Kabuki Springs, the rest is relatively dead because Japantown faces Post. The other side is parking lot for residences for two blocks and, in the block closest to Fillmore, the Safeway parking and a couple storefronts which also open onto the other side of the building where there's a pedestrian area going diagonally to the Safeway. Most pedestrian traffic in that complex is directed to the plaza at Fillmore and O'Farrell as intended by urban planners with more brains than today's crop.

People don't walk along Geary because it's noisy and dirty.

Posted by: BobN at September 30, 2013 7:21 AM

If they really wanted to do something interesting, they'd deck over the 50 feet or so on either side of Fillmore and build some stores. There's plenty of "headroom" above the traffic below. Then we'd have our own Ponte Vecchio...

Posted by: BobN at September 30, 2013 7:24 AM

The point is to slow Geary traffic down so that walking along Geary or standing at the corner of Steiner and Geary isn't so unpleasant.

And yes, the parks are "dead space", since no one uses them due to a 50+ mph freeway right next to them.

I hope we can remove the horrid pedestrian overpassings as well. Those are actually much worse than this traffic undercrossing in creating the freeway mentality so common with drivers on this stretch.

Posted by: anon at September 30, 2013 7:47 AM

I'm not understanding, is the problem with Geary the dead space or a distasteful mentality?

Posted by: EH at September 30, 2013 8:57 AM

Filling an underpass for no apparently good reason? Where would the cars go? This seems like the answer to a question nobody asked. And a colossal waste of resources.

It already takes 30+ minutes to drive from downtown out to the Richmond, and can take close to an hour on the 38 bus, aka misery on wheels. Why intentionally slow things down even further? Are we trying to set a city record for how long it takes to go ~4 miles?

Posted by: Legacy Dude at September 30, 2013 9:28 AM

If they want to fill it, they should make the entire Geary St. corridor accessible to an underground muni. Just filling it in and not doing any traffic study is just stupid.

Posted by: ex-SFr at September 30, 2013 9:50 AM

Geary is such a major thoroughfare that I would perfectly envision fast rail transit underground, light rail on the 2 center surface lanes, bike lanes and 4 lanes for cars.

That would unlock tons of housing pressure from other areas. Car traffic would flow pretty well if not faster due to the lower number of people who just HAVE TO drive because of the very poor alternative options.

Posted by: lol at September 30, 2013 10:03 AM

A much better idea would be to extend the underpass in both directions to Franklin and Masonic, respectively.

And has anybody actually asked the people in Japantown if they would like to be "reunited" with the Western Addiction? Not likely.

Posted by: Bang Ding Ow at September 30, 2013 10:10 AM

Filling the underpass is a first step toward an eventual subway.

Posted by: anon at September 30, 2013 10:10 AM

they are filling in the underpass to accommodate BRT from what I understand

Posted by: S at September 30, 2013 10:14 AM

It seems the SFMTA will concentrate on ANYTHING other than fixing MUNI.

Posted by: 94123 at September 30, 2013 10:30 AM

it would be great if geary st, from masonic to van ness were underground like this piece is. Slowing down traffic here is a big mistake that will lead to mass congestion. having these thoroughfares in the city is important

what a waste of money. does anyone really want these 2 neighborhoods combined?

Posted by: Spencer at September 30, 2013 10:37 AM

Having most of Van Ness and Geary closed at the same time for construction projects could create the traffic congestion City transit planners always wished for. They could then point their fingers at increased congestion to demand more parking removal, more slowing ("calming") of major thoroughfares, more bike lanes and parklets, but no new increased or better Muni service. This project will increase a Geary bus ride by at least 10 minutes. I guess this is the price we will have to pay in the current fashionable jihad against automobiles .

I say put the cars underground and cover the street for a true neighborhood connection.

Posted by: FedUp at September 30, 2013 10:46 AM

"Filling the underpass is a first step toward an eventual subway."

HA! I literally laughed out loud when I read that. Giant launchpads are a first step towards eventual shuttles to Mars. Should we build our launchpad now? Besides, won't they eventually have to redig/rebore a filled underpass if they do ever put a subway through here?

"they are filling in the underpass to accommodate BRT from what I understand"

So which is it, BRT or subway? Wouldn't it be more logical to devote a lane of the existing underpass to BRT rather than fill it?

Somebody educate me, please. What does filling this underpass really accomplish aside from making traffic much worse?

Posted by: Legacy Dude at September 30, 2013 10:48 AM

Filling in the Geary underpass is insane.

As it is now, people can easily cross over the east-west arterial street and use the bus stop. I live in the neighborhood and walk to the Kabuki-Sundance theater often using the overpass.

Besides, what will happen to the lovely BLU public art installation on the overpass for which we paid $$$? :/

Having all that traffic at surface level will not be any more pleasant than the current freeway on-ramp section of Octavia Street between Oak and Market street, which is devoid of pedestrians.

I prefer channeling the heavy automobile traffic underneath instead of through the Fillmore street intersection.

Posted by: Jackson at September 30, 2013 10:58 AM

See the breaking glass
In the underpass

See the breaking glass
In the underpass

Warm leatherette

Posted by: Snark17 at September 30, 2013 10:59 AM

@legacy dude - it's going to be BRT for now. There were complications in designing it because of this underpass so I "think" that's one reason they want to remove it. It would be too difficult to accommodate a station and the dedicated lanes there for some reason. BRT is being built as "light rail ready" so if funds ever become available it can be reworked as a light rail line. No plans for a subway anytime soon.

Posted by: S at September 30, 2013 11:05 AM

First ever Socketsite No Wave reference?

Posted by: Truth at September 30, 2013 11:09 AM

MTA's plan is for BRT, not rail, and not underground. BRT would certainly include a stop at Fillmore. So if you put BRT through the existing underpass, how would you design the stop there? It would need elevators, ADA access, etc, in addition to basic pedestrian flow. The necessary infrastructure would take up the underpass on its own. So it's smart to fill it and make the Geary/Fillmore transfer all at grade.

Posted by: James at September 30, 2013 11:29 AM

"Warm Leatherette" was written and originally recorded by The Normal, aka Daniel Miller, in Britain, as early synthesizer electronica (with a punk/new wave attitude). No Wave usually refers to late '70's- early '80's New York artists like James Chance, Lydia Lunch, DNA, etc.

(First Socketsite sidetrack to quibble over first No Wave usage.)

Posted by: Dan at September 30, 2013 11:39 AM

The Grace Jones version is superior in every way to the original.

Posted by: wc1 at September 30, 2013 11:50 AM

Slowing down Geary and making it less of a freeway is only going to push additional freeway traffic onto Bush/Pine. The traffic plan for that area is bizarre. California and Geary are widened and designed to be major thoroughfares, but the bulk of the traffic is routed down streets designed to be residential.

Posted by: hugh at September 30, 2013 11:51 AM

I am aware of all of that. And I am also aware that the Grace Jones cover was a big NYC alternate disco track, a
scene if not entirely synonymous/lockstep with No Wave, then contemporaneous and with lots of overlaps.

Posted by: Truth at September 30, 2013 11:53 AM

When traffic is slowed, the streets actually can handle more auto traffic as less of a cushion is required between cars due to the slower speeds. Of course it will take longer to get where you're going though ;)

SF really is very car-centric. Other people have to use the streets as well and it's about time that there is some space on our roads being allocated to other uses.

Posted by: S at September 30, 2013 12:04 PM

Grace Jones covered a number of well-known artists on that album. I wouldn't characterize it as No Wave, though undoubtedly the New York scene was an influence.

And though many more people heard the Grace Jones cover, the original was more influential on the development of electronica-- especially as the first record on Miller's Mute label.

Posted by: Dan at September 30, 2013 12:05 PM

@S: Geary will never be light rail ready. BRT, if it happens, won't be up and running for another decade. SF has made zero transit improvements in one of the busiest transit corridors not only in the city, but on the west coast.

As for decking it over...go ahead and cover this stretch of Geary, but leave the tunnel for through traffic.

Posted by: Mark at September 30, 2013 12:42 PM

From Cathedral Hill to Masonic, hardly any block of Geary has active pedestrian and retail use. I don't what logic can claim the underpass lead to the dead space. Quite the contrary thanks to the underpass, there are two slow lane on either side. The condition to create active pedestrian use is greatly enhanced because of the slow lanes. This is much the same concept as the lauded Octavia Boulevard.

If you want to "reunite" the two side of Geary, consider widen the deck along Fillmore St and create a park over it. It is much calmer than 6 lanes of busy traffic.

Posted by: Wai Yip Tung at September 30, 2013 12:46 PM

@s,

When traffic is slowed, the streets actually can handle more auto traffic as less of a cushion is required between cars due to the slower speeds.

I don't believe this is true. One may argue they handle the same amount of traffic. Let's says all cars adhere to 3 second rule, such that the gap between fast traffic is longer because the go further in 3 seconds than slow traffic. The a fully saturated street have the exact same throughput because one car will get out every 3 second, irrespective of speed.

The travel time takes longer as you say.

Posted by: Wai Yip Tung at September 30, 2013 12:55 PM

^true^

The number of cars per minute is not directly dependent on traffic speed. Some thoroughfares can have 2000 cars per minute either at 5MPH or 40MPH.

Posted by: lol at September 30, 2013 1:29 PM

I'll just say that I think this is a terrible idea.
If they want to unite Japantown with the Western Addition, then filling in this underpass is the OPPOSITE of what they should be doing.
The grade-separated area here is one of the few places along the entire stretch of Geary that actually is connected and pedestrian-friendly, and now they want to remove it?

Perhaps people who advocate this plan have never actually visited the area? Perhaps they are just stupid? I don't care, I just hope rational minds prevail here.

Posted by: anon at September 30, 2013 1:33 PM

Any change to Geary from Franklin to Masonic is likely a good one. You can't get much worse than what is there now, from an urban planning perspective (unless more streets were grade-separated...)

Posted by: anon at September 30, 2013 1:38 PM

Maybe we could fill in the Broadway tunnel as well to reintroduce Russian Hill to Chinatown?

Posted by: Legacy Dude at September 30, 2013 1:49 PM

And yes, the parks are "dead space", since no one uses them due to a 50+ mph freeway right next to them.

They aren't retail dead space.

Posted by: BobN at September 30, 2013 2:09 PM

The city planners want to transform 8 lanes of major crosstown traffic, transporting some couple hundred thousand people per day on busses and in cars, into a quiet little neighborhood road.

There are two ways to do this:

1. Evict every resident and business in the Richmond district and then demolish every building, so that no one will ever want to travel down Geary again.
2. Take the expensive yet still sane idea of Jackson above, to "put the cars underground and cover the street."

Putting a hundred thousand cars per day at the same elevation as pedestrians is NOT the way to create neighborhood connection and feel.

Posted by: Geary at September 30, 2013 2:10 PM

Keep in mind that BRT, and the associated plan to fill in Masonic and Fillmore, is an unfunded project that is over a decade away from breaking ground. Van Ness BRT and CSW will be up and running long, long before then (2017).

This is mach ado about no action.

As for the angry letter, there is plenty of oversight on the SFMTA. Board meetings are public and there are mayoral and BoS citizen appointments as well (CAC). This is part of 1999's Prop E.

Posted by: Mark Ballew at September 30, 2013 2:33 PM

Putting a hundred thousand cars per day at the same elevation as pedestrians is NOT the way to create neighborhood connection and feel.

Which is the reason why all of Lombard is below grade? Or why Hayes Valley is a truly awful neighborhood. lol lol lol lol

Posted by: anon at September 30, 2013 2:37 PM

They aren't retail dead space.

Um, so? No one said anything about retail dead space until you just mentioned it now. They're dead space - as in space that no one uses for any purpose.

Posted by: anon at September 30, 2013 2:39 PM

Why now?

Unless it's part of a comprehensive plan for Geary from Downtown to the Richmond, just wait and use the time and resources on other things.

Posted by: wc1 at September 30, 2013 2:51 PM

@Geary: regarding your first point, SF already dozed a hundred city blocks in the early 60s to create the beautiful Geary Blvd that we all know and love. Had the city acted on running BART under Geary this would have been the optimal time to do so.

Posted by: Mark at September 30, 2013 3:02 PM

possibly the dumbest idea ever. lets create more pedestrian friendly area by putting cars and pedestrians next to each other. These morons are so anti-car they can't figure out their as$ from a hole in the ground. Basic logic is not being used here. It is good for SF that there is a high speed thoroughfare here. It is also good that it is not at pedestrian level, because that limits accidents. cars need to move as fast as they can. we need commerce, not just a bunch of hippies handing out flowers to cars.

i like the idea of filling in broadway to link nob hill and north beach as someone said above. What is we fill in the bay, so oakland and SF can be together and to slow ship traffic. those sailboats are dangerous to swimmers. Or we could even fill in the pacific to promote peace and harmony with asia and to slow down runaway freighters

Posted by: moto mayhem at September 30, 2013 3:53 PM

lets create more pedestrian friendly area by putting cars and pedestrians next to each other.

I'm baffled that you find this hard to understand. So, I assume that you think that the ped-friendly way of doing things is freeways and pedestrian-only streets? How did that work in the 60-80s?

A tunnel is completely different from an overpass, so no idea why you're comparing Broadway to Geary.

Posted by: anon at September 30, 2013 4:06 PM

They're dead space - as in space that no one uses for any purpose.

And what about making the roadway at grade all along there will stop it from being "dead space"?

It's dead because it's an unpleasant place to walk. The sides of Octavia are dead because they're an unpleasant place to walk. There are alternatives a mere block away and they're busy.

Posted by: BobN at September 30, 2013 4:07 PM

@ wai yip tong

If you imagine a block long stretch of a typical street here with three lanes with bumper to bumper traffic and you imagine that same block with traffic flowing at 35 mph, the block with stopped traffic will have more cars on it at once at a given moment.

@lol

If you have 2000 cars per minute at 5mph and the same amount at 40 mph, the streets will no doubt be different in terms of lanes/capacity, i/e the 40mph road would have to be larger in terms of lanes.

omg sounds like a word problem!! :)

Posted by: S at September 30, 2013 4:15 PM

Build a subway. Enough said.

Posted by: Alex at September 30, 2013 4:16 PM

OT: I would be willing to pay a subscription fee for SS if we could have threaded comments (and a voting system.) Comments get disorganized really quickly on some articles.

Posted by: Joel at September 30, 2013 5:13 PM

Dupont Circle in Washington. Connecticut Ave does the same thing. Great for traffic flow but aesthetically grim. I don't see this intersection as being hugely significant in terms of traffic flow on Geary. So why not fill it in. A water feature would be nice...

Posted by: $AN FRANCI$CO at September 30, 2013 5:16 PM

@$an franci$co: the underpass at Dupont Circle handled streetcar traffic on Connecticut Ave. and had platforms on either side that were accessible by stairs to the surface park and P St. When I lived there in the 90s they tried to convert the western semi-circle of it as Dupont Down Under (or something like that) with restaurants. It failed. But, you're right...it isn't a pretty sight, especially for such a magnificent circle.

Posted by: Mark at September 30, 2013 7:29 PM

$40 million is the estimated cost to fill in the roadway at Fillmore.

Posted by: Jake at September 30, 2013 9:23 PM

Where does the SFMTA find 40 million to fill in an underpass but at the same time claim they cannot find enough funds to repair and update existing MUNI trams, trains and busses? How are they able to build bike lanes but not keep stations clean? How is the SFMTA able to find funds to build the a "subway to nowhere" when they cannot even keep escalators in operation?

Posted by: MTAwatcher at September 30, 2013 9:46 PM

@s,

What matter is not how many cars are on the road at any moment. What matter is how many cars can traffic through the road within a period, that is the throughput. Bumper to bumper traffic typical has very low throughput. Not only is the speed slow, a lot of time the traffic stops completely, resulting in 0 throughput.

Also earlier I said that the throughput of slow and fast traffic are the same at one car per 3 seconds. My math was oversimplified. I haven't taken the length of the car into account. Taken that into consideration, fast traffic has higher throughput than slow traffic. E.g. assuming a car is about 15ft long, at 15mph, one car can come through every 4.2s, that is 857 cars per hour. At 35mph, one car can come through every 3.4s, or 1071 cars per hour.

Posted by: Wai Yip Tung at September 30, 2013 10:25 PM

And what about making the roadway at grade all along there will stop it from being "dead space"?

Um, it will slow down cars. Slower cars mean less noise and a more pleasant place to walk. Or are you saying that cars will not be slowed by this? Wasn't that one of your other arguments?

Posted by: anon at September 30, 2013 10:45 PM

@MTAwatcher:

I think most of the funds for SF's BRT builds will come from the federal DOT FTA 5309, which can cover up to 80% of the capital costs.

Van Ness BRT is requesting $75 million in the DOT 2014 FY budget.

FTA 5309 helped fund the Third St Light Rail and the Central Subway.

Posted by: Jake at September 30, 2013 10:46 PM

I have never seen any evidence that Federal funds will be used to fill in the Geary underpass, or for the Polk Street and Masonic bike paths, or numerous parking and auto lane removal projects throughout the city. (Jake, work at the SFMTA perhaps?)

There ARE Federal funds available for MUNI to repair rails, stations, tunnels and aging equipment, but I guess the MTA is so busy hating cars, they have failed to take notice of this. (Unlike Chicago which is rebuilding over 40% of the CTA stations, or NYC, or even Los Angeles)

Posted by: anon at October 1, 2013 3:49 AM

anon. slowing down cars is a pretty dumb idea for this place. it will just cause mass congestion. this is one of the few faster thoroughfares.

Posted by: Spencer at October 1, 2013 2:03 PM

^You've told me many times that SF has zero congestion. Unlikely that one small change will cause "mass congestion" if that's the case.

Posted by: anon at October 1, 2013 2:10 PM

this is a major change to the main East West automobile artery in the city. Its not "one small change"

Honestly, why do you hate cars? you can't take them away without having good alternatives already in place. for those of us who live in SF and work outside of SF, the alternative to a 30 minute drive is walk to bus, then take another bus, then bart or SAMtrans, then another bus, then walk. 2 hours of public transportation is not a reasonable tradeoff for a car. In my situation, I would be willing to pay $500 per month to the city to keep my car and upgrade the streets for cars. the lack of long term planning while taking care of short term needs is laughable.

Posted by: Spencer at October 1, 2013 2:18 PM

I don't hate cars. I can drive down a road at 30 mph and not see it as a gigantic injustice that I can't go 50 mph, that's all.

Why in the world would I propose that you take a bus? That's a bizarre statement. I loathe, loathe public transportation, but I also loathe freeways cutting through neighborhoods. The two statements are not contradictory.

Posted by: anon at October 1, 2013 2:27 PM

Instead of relying on freeways to meet its transportation needs, the city sought to place greater emphasis on mass transportation. In 1973, the San Francisco City Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors adopted the "Transit First Policy", giving top priority to public transit investments as the centerpiece of the city's transportation policy and adopting street capacity and parking policies to discourage increases in automobile traffic. This policy encourages multi-modalism, including the use of transit and other transportation choices, including bicycling and walking, rather than the continued use of the single-occupant vehicle.

San Francisco has been a Transit First city since 1973, we are just now getting around to un-doing some of the damage done to neighborhoods by earlier car-centric City Planners.

Posted by: NoeValleyJim at October 1, 2013 2:52 PM

Oh hey Spencer, you were asking for references for my statement that walking is more dangerous than cycling in San Francisco, something that I originally got from Walk SF. I emailed Elizabeth Stampe, the ED of WalkSF and she sent me the following research papers:

Motor Vehicle Crash Injury Rates by Mode of Travel, United States: Using Exposure-Based Methods to Quantify Differences
Laurie F. Beck1, Ann M. Dellinger1, and Mary E. O’Neil2

Promoting Safe Walking and Cycling to Improve
Public Health: Lessons From The Netherlands and Germany
| John Pucher, PhD, and Lewis Dijkstra, PhD

Pedestrian injuries and fatalities in San Francisco:
frequency, distribution, causes, and responses
Presentation to the Board of Supervisors
RAJIV BHATIA, MD, MPH
ANA VALIDZIC, MPH
MEGAN WIER, MPH
SAN FRANCISCO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH
April 7th, 2011

The latter in particular seems to indicate that this is true in the City of San Francisco. The exact value depends on location, but fatality rates per mile are similar in both modes of travel. Injury rates are higher for cyclists though.

Posted by: NoeValleyJim at October 1, 2013 3:08 PM

Filling in the Geary underpass is an awful idea. It will only add to traffic, create more greenhouse gases because of the added traffic, and not improve the neighborhood. Look at the underpass at Masonic, it has not done anything negative to the neighborhood. If you fill in the underpass at Geary, it will do nothing to improve the neighborhood. The neighborhood is bad because it has murders and lots of petty crime. None of that would change by filling in the underpass. The Japantown Mall would have to be redone. As a long time resident of Fillmore, I appreciate being able to cross Geary at Fillmore without waiting for a long green light to allow a hundred cars through. In the end, it will be a giant waste of money that will only make traffic worse.

Posted by: FillmoreResident at October 1, 2013 3:27 PM

Look at the underpass at Masonic, it has not done anything negative to the neighborhood.

I just fell out of my chair laughing.

Posted by: anon at October 1, 2013 4:31 PM

It would be better to just bury more section of Geary and create a mid-town tunnel effect and better connect / unilize the above ground space.

Posted by: eddy at October 1, 2013 5:45 PM

Let's not forget Geary is also the main route to Kaiser's ER. Do we really want to slow traffic here?

Question for the anti-car crusaders: let's say you fall off your precious bike and break something, and are in massive pain. Or your kid gets injured. How great is it going to feel sitting in traffic for an hour to go 4 miles because because you undid all the "damage" of the car-centric planners?

Posted by: Legacy Dude at October 1, 2013 6:22 PM

^I guess I'm one of those "anti-car crusaders", but I don't bike, I drive everywhere. I just don't see why we need to keep a freeway in the middle of the city. I can still drive on a street with a traffic light.

Ambulances have lights and sirens which allow them to run red lights and speed and pass other cars. Perhaps you didn't know that?

Posted by: anon at October 1, 2013 6:27 PM

How does an ambulance get through total gridlock after you've intentionally slowed/choked traffic on one of the city's busiest roads? You yourself said the goal was to make traffic slower, which includes ambulances, does it not?

But thanks for at least confirming that you're a hypocrite (rail against cars and parking on nearly every thread, yet you drive everywhere).

Posted by: Legacy Dude at October 1, 2013 6:48 PM

Okay, I get the argument that the 8 lanes on Geary (including the frontage lanes) separate Japantown from Fillmore.

But filling in the underpass isn't as simple as finding dirt. In this seismic area, it's going to take a lot of effort to fill in this area...and likely will continue to cost for upkeep of the road at a higher rate than currently exists for other roads of the same size.

I got a better idea: Look for more money and regrade more blocks of Geary to be below grade...and then build over it...Creating a broad park space ABOVE the below-grade right of way vehicles. Expensive? yes. But it will keep traffic flowing, will revitalize that area, encouraging more destination travelers to the area and increasing tax revenues from area businesses.

Posted by: GemineyeSF at October 1, 2013 9:57 PM

You yourself said the goal was to make traffic slower, which includes ambulances, does it not?

Traffic is made slower by the need to pass through a stoplight, which ambulances do not have to stop at.

But thanks for at least confirming that you're a hypocrite (rail against cars and parking on nearly every thread, yet you drive everywhere).

Hypocrite? How? I'm asking to have the city not focus everything around cars, not to ban cars. I have nothing against cars, I just want the city built around people, and the full cost of cars internalized to each individual user. I'm more than happy to pay that cost myself.

Posted by: anon at October 1, 2013 10:33 PM

I drive this stretch almost everyday and have never been able to zoom through the underpass. The lights are timed such that you have to wait at red lights before, in the trench and after. I don't see a problem with the speed of driving.

40 million to change this? I'm not convinced it is worth it.

Posted by: Carson O'Genic at October 1, 2013 11:42 PM

People generally travel whatever mode is the quickest, so after BRT is up and running, it should carry much more than the 38 does today. And the 38 Geary is already the busiest bus line in the West, carrying over 50,000 passengers a day. The 38L is actually quite fast from the Outer Richmond, I have taken it many times. It takes about 30 minutes from 33rd to Market Street and BRT should cut that down considerably. Improving this route is the easiest and quickest way to having a positive impact on the most Muni customers.

If you slow car traffic through here, not only will the neighborhood get better, it will encourage more people to switch modes to transit. So less automobile traffic, which means less pollution and fewer people getting injured and killed, less congestion for other road users and overall less consumption of irreplaceable fossil fuels. And less greenhouse gases to boot!

Hard to see anything to dislike about this plan, really. If emergency vehicles really have a problem, we can create a dedicated lane for them. I am sure they will use BRT lanes if needed though. Having a lane blocked off to regular vehicle traffic should be great for them actually.

It would be great to have the kind of money to do things like undergrounding some of the streets, but not only is the money not there, neither is the political will. Whenever people have come up with plans to build a subway along Geary, local merchants have shot it down. And of course, Marin County voters refused to join the BART system when it was founded, eliminating that opportunity to build something here.

Posted by: NoeValleyJim at October 2, 2013 12:01 AM

Wasn't that one of your other arguments?

Not me. I don't drive. I walk A LOT. I live in the 'hood. I go through there multiple times a week and I don't want to share the intersection with thousands and thousands of cars whether they're going slow or fast.

Posted by: BobN at October 2, 2013 4:58 AM

Either the entire staff of the SFMTA is posting on this site, or traffic / transit experts who teach at university urban planning departments have chose to share with us their wisdom. Since those who feel putting car traffic up at same level as Pedestrians and Fillmore is "better", and spending money filling this underpass instead of on bus and train repairs is what is needed, I will just sit back as all the traffic and parking planning experts continue to take all the air in the room with their so-called informed facts. After all, they must all be experts.

Who cares if those who live in the actual neighborhood say they do not want this change for they are not experts in traffic engineering like everyone else posting here it would seem.

Posted by: FixMuni at October 2, 2013 5:09 AM

Who cares if those who live in the actual neighborhood say they do not want this change

Do you have any evidence that this is the case? I know a couple folks from the neighborhood and their number one complaint is about the wide gash caused by Geary at Fillmore, couple with the horrible pedestrian overpasses just before and after this.

Posted by: anon at October 2, 2013 7:25 AM

@NoeValleyJim-

I've also taken that bus several times. The 38L does indeed take ~30 minutes of ride time from 33rd to Market. But add in the time of walking to the stop and waiting for the L, then walking to your destination from Market, and that's close to an hour commute, one way, assuming you can get on the first bus that comes by. One hour door to door to go literally 5 miles. So even the 38L is twice as slow as driving (let's not even start on the 38). I have a lot of friends who live in the Richmond, and they all drive for this reason.

The optimal solution is a subway under Geary, which we all realize will never happen for various reasons.

Second-best solution, as many have suggested, is to put the traffic underground. They've done this in many parts of central Munich and it works really well from my recollection. But again, unlikely to ever happen.

Third best solution is BRT, which will only shave a few minutes off commute times at the margins. But even that will take over a decade to implement.

In the meantime, we're contemplating filling in a perfectly good underpass for no logical reason, perhaps to sacrifice tens of millions of dollars to the transit deities out of frustration?

Welcome to our "world class" city, where transit comes first (since 1973!). But it only comes every 20 minutes and is already full when it gets here. And after that it only goes 5 miles per hour...

Posted by: Legacy Dude at October 2, 2013 8:48 AM

their number one complaint is about the wide gash caused by Geary at Fillmore, couple with the horrible pedestrian overpasses just before and after this.

You'd think the shootings and loitering would score higher in complaints than the "gash".

The pedestrian bridges are terrible, sort of. One is no longer necessary as they've installed crosswalks at grade (Steiner).

Posted by: BobN at October 2, 2013 6:50 PM

There sure seem to be a lot of 'cranky citizens' (aka critical thinkers) commenting here. BTW, I live in the area and think it would be horrible to slow traffic to a crawl in the area. Right now, it's easy to walk across the bridge and we're all more concerned with violent/property crime and litter around here. Or, how about fixing the smog spewing muni biodiesel buses that pollute our air? This is just another excuse for Ed Lee to rent an expensive machine from his handlers in China.

Posted by: resident at October 5, 2013 10:23 PM

It's not for "no logical reason" it is so that the BRT can be built. Haven't a couple of people already said that Legacy Dude? Do you not believe them or something?

Posted by: NoeValleyJim at October 7, 2013 12:05 AM

This is madness. There's already space for BRT through the non-underpass lanes on each side, where the bus already runs today. Wouldn't filling in the underpass also further clog traffic on Fillmore, including the 22-Fillmore bus? I can't see how forcing people to cross a major street can possibly link neighborhoods more than the current bridges, which are far more pedestrian friendly.

Posted by: sickofthis at October 8, 2013 1:45 PM

@sickofthis - BRT will no longer use the side lanes, that's kind of the point. Middle lanes are MUCH faster for the buses and the tens of thousands of people using the 38.

Posted by: anon at October 8, 2013 2:24 PM

Post a comment


(required - will be published)


(required - will not be published, sold, or shared)


(optional - your "Posted by" name will link to this URL)

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)


Continue Perusing SocketSite:

« Mortgage Rates Drop To Two Month Low | HOME | Polk Street Parking Lot Shuttered, Apartments Ready To Rise »