Following are excerpts from a timely StreetsblogSF article describing how Toronto cleaned up its previously gridlocked main street.
It’s been just a few short months since most of the car traffic was cleared off King Street, giving the city’s busiest streetcar route an unimpeded path. The impact of the project has been transformative. Local transit officials report that faster and more reliable rail service has resulted in a dramatic boost in ridership. Before Toronto banned through traffic, the King Street streetcar carried 65,000 riders a day. According to the Toronto Transit Commission, peak hour ridership is now up by 25%.
The redesigned street allows drivers to access King Street but compels them to make right turns after a short distance. The Globe and Mail reports that car traffic has declined more than expected and the City of Toronto reports that without car traffic getting in the way, transit is moving much faster. Rush hour trips take about four minutes less from end to end, an improvement of about 16%. Reliability has also improved, with the number of delayed trips down by 33%.
Overall public opinion “seems to be firmly on the side of keeping the car restrictions in place. A recent poll showed strong public support for the pilot project.”
The intersection of Van Ness and Market is so well served by public transit that it is known as the “Hub”, short for “Transit Hub”. What City Hall is now planning for the Hub would transform it into a congested mess.
The City Planning Department estimates that almost 1,700 additional parking spaces could be constructed in the immediate vicinity of Van Ness and Market. If so, developers would derive profits both from their prime transit-oriented locations and the parking.
Add to this the so-far uncontrolled impact of Uber and Lyft. At least 45,000 Uber and Lyft vehicles now operate in San Francisco, which account for over 200,000 auto trips a day. It does not take much imagination to recognize what 1,700 additional off-street parking spaces and hundreds of daily Uber and Lyft pickups and drop-offs would do Van Ness and Market.
If there’s to be no projection against excessive traffic at the Hub, then where?
According to the “TomTom Traffic Index of 2017,” released on February 21, San Francisco is the 3rd most congested city in the United States. To anyone who has witnessed recent traffic conditions in San Francisco this will come as no surprise. Let’s face it, City Government has dropped the ball on traffic congestion. Here are a few of the more obvious problems in need of solutions:
1.) The daily inflow of vehicles from the Peninsula will soon hit 300,000 cars and trucks a day. (More than from the two bridges combined). And yet no one seems to notice. There are ways of moderating this daily inflow.
2.) San Francisco’s transportation capital program is mostly a disaster. While there are some bright spots here and there (e.g. Red Lanes, DTX conceptual design, new buses), much of the City’s transportation resources seem to get spent on enterprises of small consequence. Needed is a better and more analytical way of establishing transportation capital priorities.
3.) Lyft and Uber are privately owned computer-dispatched vehicles that many have found to be convenient. Failing to anticipate the problems that such services would cause in San Francisco, City Hall initially sanctioned and even encouraged their development. We are now seeing the results. The estimated 45,000 Lyft and Uber vehicles currently operating in San Francisco are both further clogging city streets and cutting into Muni ridership.
City Hall does not appear to understand is that if people in San Francisco start abandoning collective travel in favor of individual conveyances….especially Lyft and Uber….the traffic will get gradually increase until congestion itself becomes the limiting factor….and no one is going to like that very much.
A Supervisor has suggested that a $0.20 tax per trip be imposed on Lyft and Uber travel. She’s shooting too low. The tax should be at least $0.20 a mile. In fact the tax or other disincentives should be sufficient to hold the number of computer-dispatched automobiles operating in San Francisco to a predetermined City-established limit, below 45,000 vehicles.
As San Francisco develops and becomes more populated, it becomes increasingly necessary to get smarter about how we plan and develop the accompanying infrastructure.