Jane Warner Plaza: Transit Mall or Highway?

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A Uber car with Nevada plates driving over the crosswalk at Hartford and 17th St as it snakes between F-line streetcars and buses. The Uber is picking up a passenger in the Chevron Station and cutting over to Market Street.

Jane Warner Plaza at the Castro Street “Dead End” section of 17th St has an unregulated completely out of control freeway coursing through like one of those underground creeks you hear about. But this freeway shares our transit mall, our sidewalks and imperils people walking on several different streets and is anything but underground.

Seeking greater understanding of the reasons for the high volume of cars cutting briskly through the Hartford and 17th St intersection I started observing traffic flow and learned quickly that this “Dead End” street isn’t dead at all. It is an uncontrolled intersection connecting 17th St. to Market Street in both directions. Throw in the streetcars, buses and tourists and it is absolute chaos of the more dangerous variety.

HartfordPedestrians
Three recent ambulance calls from cars hitting pedestrians on a relatively quiet backwater corner. Why?

I shot a few short videos to try to share what I observed. In short, the road that is there to serve the Chevron Station is being used for much more than people seeking fuel. In fact the majority of folks using the Chevron Station’s driveways are just crossing through, bypassing the fact that 17th Street is closed to traffic at that point.

There are a bunch of Uber drivers using the Chevron Station as a pickup spot. And there is a substantial number of really bad driving food delivery people using the transit mall as a place to park while they run into various restaurants.

What is conspicuously missing here are protections of any sort for people walking or biking through here. The streetcars unload right onto the open thoroughfares. Tourists are distracted by a plethora of great distractions. Noting the complete rebuilding that is about to occur at Hartford & 17th I requested some basic traffic calming pedestrian safety infrastructure. If they are to install wheelchair ramps then let’s do the job right: curb bulb outs and a raised crosswalk.

Thank you for your request for a bulb-out in coordination with the new curb ramp at Hartford and 17th Street. …  however, there are a limited number of funds available annually for bulb-outs and other capital improvements. …

… the plaza at the end of 17th Street makes the location one where cars are likely to being moving at a slower speed and pedestrians are less likely to be severely injured. … I do not recommend including a bulb-out at this location …

Chava Kronenberg

Pedestrian Program Manager

Sustainable Streets, SFMTA, (December 21, 2018.)

I disagree with Chava Kronenberg (and SFMTA big shots Ricardo Olea and Jamie Parks) pointing out first that SFMTA killed a pedestrian recently in this area illegally trying a new shortcut for buses to get to this plaza. I still remember that day. I was there walking through the neighborhood just like I do now. And our biggest fear here is still the same: crossing the street. (Even very small streets.)

For the benefit of City Hall experts who don’t get out much I submit videos taken in the past few days demonstrating just a wee bit of the dangerous driving that is par for the Jane Warner Plaza course.


Some solution proposals from the locals.

But first, some solutions from our local neighborhood experts who know a few things about a few things. One person suggests we contact the car mapping people who program those car gps systems that everyone uses. Apparently they don’t show the dead end on 17th St so lots of drivers end up doing u-turns when they encounter the transit mall. This could be addressed and done differently. Additional more emphatic signage at 17th & Noe was suggested as well. Signage needs to note “No Access to Market”. “Your GPS is Wrong” and “Left Turn Only Ahead.”

Also the food delivery services have an option on their client interfaces that allow for special instructions. This matters greatly because it can be basis for a demerit if the drivers ignore these requests. Restaurants can use this to request their food pickup people to not block the crosswalks or park illegally in front of their business. It is very effective. So yes, we should use concrete bulb outs and curb ramps but not stop there. This problem can be solved and there are a whole bunch of remedies readily available.


Overview: Transit mall or uncontrolled roadway?

Watch as a transit mall fills with people, becomes calm and tranquil and then suddenly becomes a freeway for a gigantic pickup truck short cutting straight to Market Street. This intense mixing of people and cars with zero protections for pedestrians concerns me deeply. It is dangerous.

 

All day long from early in the morning until late at night under varying light and weather conditions streetcars unload, people walk and cars zip through here on 17th Street between Hartford and Castro and Market. That small triangle is like a free fire zone for cars. Constantly rolling over the sidewalks of 17th Street and Upper Market Street. This continual traffic puts heavy pressure on folks crossing the totally uncontrolled intersection of 17th St & Hartford.


A more detailed examination of specific maneuvers demonstrated by anonymous volunteers.

As the following videos demonstrate, there is a complete range of maneuvers which are possible using the transit mall and adjoining gas station. Let’s start with this lovely example of a motorist zipping from Hartford St to Northbound Castro Street.

 

During a recent rain storm I videoed our public volunteers demonstrating the Market St to 17th St. cut-through, traffic jam potential on this small corridor and a car busting one of the many many U-turns seen in this transit mall pedestrian plaza.

 

That rain was pouring when a guy who looked like Hank Hill (King of the Hill) came cruising up 17th St. to the gas station and on over to Market Street in a 4,000 pound pickup truck, peering through the windshield like he could hardly see where he was going. He was a good argument for increasing the visibility of pedestrians at Hartford & 17th where he came flying through like it was his private driveway. This kind of menacing driving is very intimidating and threatening to folks crossing the street. Can this guy even see us over that high front hood?

 

 

This move isn’t limited to pick up trucks. It is ongoing all day and all night by all manner of vehicle. Here we see a few cars using the gas station to circumvent the closing of 17th to through traffic. Keep in mind that there is a heavy pedestrian presence on that part of Market Street so these cars are often negotiating their way through packed sidewalks.

 

We are looking at hundreds of cars per day executing this maneuver and every one of them passes through the intersection of 17th & Hartford. They don’t stop or slow down until their turn. The point is to shave seconds by using a shortcut. And the signs at that corner don’t tell them to slow down. Here’s a bunch more…

 

There is also a garage in the middle of everyone’s favorite transit mall. This is right next to the crosswalk where The City should be building curb bulb-outs. You can’t see the exact spot because the Muni pickup truck is parked on the curb there between the garage and the crosswalk, right under the “No Standing” sign.

A curb bulb out would mitigate this visibility issue. Cars do cut through that crosswalk at a pretty high rate of speed and it is not day-lighted so they very likely would not see the pedestrian until it was too late. Cars also drive on the wrong side of the street very often here. That is another unexpected vehicle maneuver for pedestrians unique to this location. Observe…

 

One of our other more innovative burgeoning business models in San Francisco involves package delivery. People rent cars or use their Lyfts during off hours and fill the vehicle with packages and then run all over town delivering them. The issue is, of course, parking. Here we see the Chevron station repurposed as a logistical substation, introducing a new land usage for that location. And the cops like to use their lights to drive creatively as we also see here. Moral: you are not safe from cars anywhere near Jane Warner Plaza.

 

 

This young woman riding in her red car (Little Red Riding Hood?) demonstrates the Chevron cut through, inconveniencing the folks walking on Upper Market St while she is at it.

 

It never stops. And every car hits the intersection of Hartford & 17th where pedestrian safety upgrades are needed. But that crosswalk gets much more than the Chevron Highway crowd. Every car that busts a U-turns goes through that corner twice. No need to stop or slow down either. This pickup truck is driving right onto the curb after his in the crosswalks U-turn. This is why that crosswalk should be raised and that corner should have a huge bulb-out.

 

Sometimes so many cars are trying to cut through the Chevron Highway that it causes a mini traffic jam. This is while hundreds of people stroll on the sidewalk of Upper Market Street. Cars pulsing through crowds have become par for the course here.

 

 

There is more to come but for now this will suffice. Please remember that I am not calling for an end to any of this right now. All I am asking for is a small break for folks trying to cross the street at 17th & Hartford. A few curb bulb outs while we are installing the wheelchair access ramps and perhaps a raised sidewalk at Hartford St itself would be a magnificent start and would inconvenience no one. It would cost very little and yet SFMTA says even those pennies are not justifiable.

One comment

  1. This continues to be a failed urban design experiment. No shame in that. The traffic problems, drugs and transient issues tell us to reopen 17tb street. Too many “big issues” to fight. Give the neighbors/neighborhood a break. Open 17th!

    Like

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