[Carfreeliving] Why so many hoops of our own making?
Mike.Sallaberry at sfgov.org
Fri Apr 29 14:33:02 MDT 2005
OK, well, I didn't expect my little, matter of fact, person to person
email to end up on a group list and spur such passion, but here are some
of my thoughts, from my perspective as a cubicle-bound, pasty-faced,
car-loving traffic engineer. I wrote this last night before going to the
Golden Wheels and saved it as a draft, thinking I may not want to send it.
But I read it again and figured, eh, what the heck!
- Closing Market St is a big deal. If one worked on some of the projects
we're working on, one might better grasp how difficult these changes can
be. One block on 14th St, for instance, recently blew up with the
community and lead to a lot of rigamarole and is still delayed. Post St
bike lanes...perfect example. DPT supported the bike lanes past Steiner
and tried it years ago, it got shot down big time by the neighborhood.
Closing 12 blocks of Market completely to cars? Oh yeah, no problem!
Thankfully, we do have active and effective supporters of these sorts of
changes in the community, but even with this support, and the support of
Supervisors, these changes can be very difficult. Don't fool yourself.
- Closing Market St is not a DPT decision or a Muni decision. It's a
policy-maker decision. So go ahead and go to the Supervisors and Mayor
and convince them to do it. If the project is that easy, there should be
no problem getting them to do so. I'm all for closing Market St to
private automobiles, and would be happy to work with policy makers to
figure out how to make it work. but otherwise don't waste your time with
employees like me. When I become Mayor, then come talk to me.
- Even if you get rid of or rewrite CEQA requirements for traffic
capacity, someone still has to answer to the many people who drive or take
a bus that may be delayed due to the increased congestion. As bicycle and
ped activists focused on specific goals, you can take a more cavalier
attitude about the subject, but people who work for the city or are voted
into their positions cannot do that so easily.
- I'm hardly a social scientist, but I figure major changes like those in
Bogota tend to happen when conditions have deteriorated so badly that such
sudden about-faces are necessary and more easily justifiable. Revolution
vs evolution. You don't have that here. We basically have a pretty good
situation in SF. People who think it is so horrible to ride or walk in
this town...have they been to many other cities?? Seriously. This is not
heaven on earth and there's a lot to do to make it better, and I know
impassioned positions make for more effective advocacy, but please, don't
cry to me about how horrible it is here. Give me a break.
- Time...yes, things too often take a while. A traffic signal takes about
2 years from idea to installation, so this is hardly a bike or ped project
phenomenon. We're trying to get bike improvements in as fast as we can
while still being responsible, and we're always looking at ways to speed
up the process. We hardly love wallowing in paperwork, jumping through
bureaucratic hoops, and dawdling in delays.
OK, that should do it for now. Please forward all responses to my
Your favorite car-free traffic engineer,
OK OK, top 3. Top 10? On the list???
Emily Drennen <bicyclesf at yahoo.com>
Sent by: Carfreeliving-bounces at livablecity.org
04/28/2005 02:38 PM
Mike Sallaberry <michael_sallaberry at sfgov.org>, Carfreeliving
<carfreeliving at livablecity.org>
[Carfreeliving] Why so many hoops of our own making?
I wasn't sure about the traffic lane reduction plan for part of Market
Street, so thanks for the correction. But the reason I said what I did
about closing Market Street off to autos is that *it shouldn't be this
hard* to do it. In Portland, several of their downtown streets are
completely closed off to autos. Some of these streets even have 2 bus-only
lanes per street! I appreciate the "getting done what we can" mentality,
but I think that us advocates/agencies give in too easily. If we really
thought that Market Street needs to be closed to autos, it shouldn't be
that hard to get it done. We'd have some support on the Board. We even had
a planning study about it, for goodness sakes! Let's fight the good
fight., and not shrink from opposition. (Ironically, I bet most of the
opposition will like Market Street once it is done, and they'll find that
it brings them increased business.)
I also think a lot about all the hoops we make bike/ped/transit/traffic
calming projects jump through, including making bike lanes be "trial"
projects needing approval later, extensive public outreach efforts, the
whole enviro review/CEQA/LOS thing, etc. I do appreciate the careful
consideration all of these steps provides, however, I wonder how much
tripping over our own shoes we make ourselves do. If the mayor of Bogota
can completely transform his city with bike, ped, and transit projects in
a few short years, why do we struggle and struggle to get just a few
things done each year? How much of the process is absolutely required, how
much of it is about saving the City from possible liability, and how much
is done a certain way out of habit ("this is just how we do it")?
I am not asking these questions out of ignorance about city processes, but
out of a real desire to see how much "extra work" we could cut away if the
Board gave DPT, TA, etc. that direction. While I am sure this will get me
slammed by folks, I just don't see much bold thinking coming out of any of
our agencies or nonprofit groups these days. I wish we could really stick
our necks out there with the vision of *what we really want*, and
negotiate down from there if we need to, as opposed to bringing forward
already watered-down/non-threatening projects and policies. Market Street
is the perfect example of where we could have done something MAGICAL to
make it the heart of our City, but we're only going to make it a bit
better. A wasted opportunity, inho.
Something Dave told me last weekend is really resonating with me: pressure
the desicion-makers, not the bureaocrats. Agencies, by their nature, don't
want to get negative press or be too controversial. But, if their elected
descion-makers tell them to do something, they have a responsibility to do
so. Plus, they have political cover. With so many supportive Supes right
now, are we wasting our potential political clout to make big changes?
Don't get me wrong- I absolutely want to continue to work with staff at
the agencies. They are invaluable in getting changes made. But, when
leadership at a city agency says that something "can't" or "won't" happen,
I want us to really think if that is true, and if getting support from
elected decision-makers would be a way to see it happen.
The TA's CEQA/LOS working group will hopefully come up with some
streamlining recommendations for bike, ped, amd transit projects. I hope
they come up with some good, implementable ideas. But, I fear that we'll
still be jumping through hoops of our own making.
Emily, I saw a quote of your's in some article about Market St about how
we are not even removing traffic lanes. We are indeed removing a lane of
traffic on some sections of Market St. In each direction btwn VN and 8th,
there will be a transit lane, a car lane, and a bike lane.
As for closing the street, that is a discussion that will take a while to
resolve. The bike lanes are improvements we can do now so we are moving
ahead with those.
bicyclesf at yahoo.com
Acting Executive Director, Walk San Francisco
Advisory Council Member, Bay Area Air Quality Management District
Citizen's Advisory Committee Member, Metropolitian Transportation Agency
Past Chair, SF Bicycle Advisory Committee
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