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SFMTA plans open house for street safety project

by Tony Taylor

An installed curb ramp along Market Street near the intersection of Guerrero and Laguna streets is part of the Upper Market safety project that intends to increase pedestrian and bicyclist safety. Photo: Tony Taylor
An installed curb ramp along Market Street near the intersection of Guerrero and Laguna streets is part of the Upper Market safety project that intends to increase pedestrian and bicyclist safety. Photo: Tony Taylor  

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's upcoming street construction project, which intends to increase pedestrian, traffic, and bicycle safety, is seeking a final round of community feedback on potential circulation changes and upgrades along the Upper Market Street corridor.

As part of the ongoing community dialogue and phased implementation associated with the project, in partnership with San Francisco Public Works, SFMTA will host the Upper Market Street Safety Project open house Wednesday, February 28.

The project includes the design and implementation of safety improvements for people walking, riding bikes, taking transit, and driving in the Upper Market Street corridor from Castro Street to Octavia Boulevard.

Also included in the project is the elimination of most left turns onto Market Street from the Duboce Triangle area and the addition of a new left turn from eastbound Market Street onto northbound Castro Street.

As stated on the SFMTA website, "The core of the project is a suite of engineering improvements including signal timing, striping, and concrete work to improve the safety and comfort of pedestrian crossings, better separate bicycle and vehicle traffic, and improve the safety of intersections for vehicles and bicycles."

Over the past two years, SFMTA has studied potential turn restrictions and other signal phasing changes that would improve efficiency along the Upper Market Street corridor. The safety project includes engineering recommendations for Upper Market Street's complex six-legged intersections at 17th and Castro, 16th and Noe, 15th and Sanchez, and Guerrero and Laguna streets. The recommendations would reduce potential for conflict and make travel along the corridor more predictable and intuitive, officials said.

Clients of Openhouse, which has apartments for seniors and an LGBT service center located just north of Market Street on Laguna Street, are affected daily by the complicated intersection.

"We appreciate that the city is taking steps to try to make this area safer. While parking is certainly a challenge in our neighborhood, safety is our number one concern at this point." Karyn Skultety, a bisexual woman who's executive director of Openhouse, told the Bay Area Reporter.

"The Guerrero-Laguna-Market Street intersections, along with the stop signs on Hermann and Laguna [Street], are a real danger for our seniors, staff members, and visitors," she added. "The question is if this is going to be enough to make a difference."

SFMTA representatives did not return a request for comment.

Intended goals include better signal separation, simplifying turn movements, and promoting more predictable behaviors. Project staff expect to present a finalized proposal for altered circulation to the SFMTA board later this spring.

The Public Works landscape team is also inviting additional input on the location and priority of features such as landscaping, lighting, seating, and other potential elements like street furniture to accompany the street and sidewalk upgrades approved by the SFMTA Board in May 2017. This feedback will help generate a draft design proposal by this fall to support the construction expected in late 2019.

According to a release from SFMTA, $500,000 has been dedicated for public realm upgrades.

While initial construction impacts will be minimal with a few curb ramp installations, the bulk of construction activities will include forming concrete islands and re-striping traffic lanes.

As noted on the SFMTA website, construction crews will largely avoid peak commute hours, though for much of late February and early March, Market Street will be reduced to one lane in each direction midday. Lane closures on Guerrero and Laguna streets will also occur, but should be brief, the agency stated.

Construction along the two-block segment of Market Street between Octavia Boulevard and Duboce Avenue and Buchanan Street is expected to be completed by the end of March, depending on weather. Improvements will include a curbside bikeway protected from moving vehicles by concrete islands, a large pedestrian safety zone where Guerrero Street meets Market Street, and painted pedestrian refuge islands at the Laguna, Hermann, and Market Street crosswalks.

Painted safety zones have already been installed at intersections on Howard, Polk, and Sixth streets with khaki-colored painted areas and flexible white posts that wrap around the sidewalk corner.

"We are installing painted safety zones on the city's pedestrian high-injury network, where just 6 percent of city streets account for 60 percent of pedestrian injuries and fatalities," the SFMTA website states. "[These] zones are one of the elements we are quickly installing to improve safety in support of our Vision Zero goal of eliminating all traffic deaths."

Vision Zero aims to eliminate all traffic deaths in San Francisco by 2024 and SFMTA is prioritizing efforts on the corridors that have the highest number of serious and fatal collisions.

Parking
Parking changes will be made on side streets to replace metered parking lost along Market Street. New metered spaces on parts of Hermann, Laguna, Waller, and Duboce streets will replace unregulated and residential permit/time-limited spaces. The new metered spaces will have a four-hour time limit to ensure a supply of open spaces are available to support commercial businesses on Market Street.

More passenger and vehicle loading zones are also expected along Market Street.

From October 2014 to April 2017, the Upper Market Street Safety Project team held 22 in-person meetings with key organizations including the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, Castro Merchants, Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, and the Market-Octavia Citizens Advisory Committee.

The project team also hosted seven public open meetings, including a curb space management workshop in October 2015 to gather community feedback on corridor parking and safety issues including double-parking and loading concerns.

Daniel Bergerac, a gay man who's president of the Castro Merchants business group and owns a dog-washing business in the neighborhood, declined the B.A.R.'s request for comment.

At the business group's February 1 meeting, Bergerac disclosed that it had informed city transit officials of its displeasure that it had reworked the plans for the section of Market Street near the LGBT Community Center to remove the metered parking spots on the street.

Skultety said that Openhouse and WalkSF have been working together, with the community, to communicate their concerns.

"We hope the city will continue to work with us on this project to make sure we are creating a safe area for people of all ages," she said.

The SFMTA open house will be held Wednesday, February 28, from 5 to 8 p.m. in the cafeteria at Sanchez Elementary School, 325 Sanchez Street.

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