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Warriors Arena and Transportation Options

This Thursday, September 6, 2012, at 5:30 p.m., the second meeting of the Warriors Arena Piers 30-32 Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) takes place at The Port’s Pier 1 just north of the Ferry Building and will focus on Transportation.

I believe transportation and parking issues are the biggest hurdle because unmitigated, additional traffic congestion would create even more of the following negative externalities that already exist without even considering 15,000 more residents in Rincon Hill and the Transbay Redevelopment area than exists today, without another 21,000 office workers in the approved zoning for commercial/office building lots in Transit Center District Plan recently approved, and the 19,000 spectators anticipated to attend each event at a Warriors Arena:

  • More air pollution in an area already labeled an air pollution hot zone by the San Francisco Department of Public Health (very harmful for the 1,000 or so kids that live or spend weekdays in daycare centers beside moms’ and dads’ offices south of Market Street in the Rincon Hill neighborhood)
  • More dangers for pedestrians when San Francisco already allows 2-3 pedestrian injuries or deaths every day on average
  • Additional delays for Muni and other regional buses that often hit blocked intersections at 1st and Market Street, 3rd and Market Street, and New Montgomery and Market Street on weekday evenings along with a very congested Mission Street across SoMa
  • More handicap placard abuses, making “event pricing” at SFpark parking meters useless for helping to control congestion and reducing available spaces for legitimate handicap placard users – good article on this topic recently appeared suggesting we should start charging everybody, but maintaining special parking spot locations for handicap drivers to deter fraudulent users of the placards and free up spaces for legitimate users
  • More uncomfortable, over-packed, and unsafe Muni metro trains along The Embarcadero that make the system unusable to local residents heading to their homes near Folsom, Brannan, 2nd Street, and 4th Street on event days
  • More delays for emergency response vehicles such as ambulances, fire trucks, and police
  • Less of a livable, neighborhood feel for streets like Beale, Main, and Spear if they are packed with cars honking, blocking intersections, and polluting the air next to the planned linear “living streets” parks in an area with high-density housing and a dearth of public parks
  • More dangerous driver behaviors which deter bicycling despite the new bicycle lanes

This post is to offer some thoughts on Transportation Solutions that may be worth a look when considering how we need to make adjustments regionally to accommodate all of the density and high-intensity uses concentrated in South of Market’s downtown and waterfront area.

First, from wise Joe Wyman, a fabulous suggestion for a floating dock separate from any ferry terminal docks for water taxis and excursion vessels:

Consider providing an floating dock for excursion and water taxi vessels, separate from a ferry dock, as a means of encouraging water trips to the new facility.  The dock could be as small as 24′ wide X 80′ long to allow vessels on either side of the dock.  Dock would provide slips outside of any ferry service so as not to conflict with public demand on event days.

Excursion and water taxi service could bring guests to the facility from all over the bay and other stops along the San Francisco waterfront.  A robust service could even divert automobile traffic from the area by provide remote parking adjacent to another dock (for example Candlestick Park).

I believe a Water Taxi service is long overdue, as evidenced by the overly full F-Market street cars that basically take folks from Market Street to one of two main drop-offs – either Pier 33 for a tour of Alcatraz or Pier 39 for the attractions over there.

It seems like a waterfront arena operating 200 or more days per year really presents a unique opportunity to boost our ferry boat system so that when BART goes offline to the East Bay as it did a few months ago, the Bay Bridge is shut down and cannot carry its daily average load of 280,000 vehicles, or the streets and BART trains are just too packed to provide additional capacity for the arena, the Transit Center District Plan’s 21,000 additional office workers, and the 15,000 additional Rincon Hill and Transbay Redevelopment Area residents anticipated, the ferry service can be robust enough to take on this vital economic and emergency response duty to keep the Bay Area traveling. The big question is how do you accommodate increased ferry boat services when ferries already require fairly high public subsidies? The same could be said for additional San Francisco Muni bus service that would be needed – how will this be paid for?  Let’s worry about money in a later paragraph …

For now, what can be altered slightly from existing service to help take pressure off of our existing infrastructure while not requiring much more investment in public infrastructure?  For Ferry Boats, it seems like they could just add a drop off point at Piers 30-32 on their way to and from South San Francisco, Oakland/Alameda, Vallejo, Marin County spots, and other locations that either Golden Gate Transit or the Water Emergency Transporation Authority’s own San Francisco Bay Ferry Service operates.  On weekday evenings, there are very long lines of people who ride the ferry boats back home from San Francisco, but the boats that come into San Francisco’s Ferry Building are often practically empty. Why let that capacity go to waste? Send the Ferry Boats to Piers 30-32 first – which would also provide an outlet for folks to commute to/from jobs in the high-tech businesses along Townsend, Brannan, Bryant, Harrison, and Folsom in SoMa assuming there are bus lines rerouted to get the high-tech office workers easily to Piers 30-32.  How does that happen?

It happens by allowing the 12-Folsom to go all the way east to Spear Street instead of turning at 2nd Street as it does today – or maybe routing the 10-Townsend bus all the way up to the foot of Townsend Street and turning Northbound on The Embarcadero before turning the 10-Townsend bus left again off of The Embarcadero and onto SW-bound Folsom Street and looping by traveling back SW to Division/13th Street and over to its terminus at De Haro and 17th (letting other existing buses handle moving folks around on the north side of Market Street that used to be handled by the 10-Townsend).  Also, the Transit Effectiveness Project proposes a new 11-Downtown Connector bus – this may be a replacement for the 12-Folsom, and should certainly travel NE all the way to Spear Street instead of turning left onto 2nd Street as currently proposed. With or without an arena on Piers 30-32, it seems kinda nuts that a 5,000 today and growing to 20,000 population in about 10 years residential neighborhood east of 2nd Street in Rincon Hill would not have a bus that comes near our homes and takes us to the parks, schools, and grocery stores in Western SoMa if we all agree that we are a “Transit First City” and don’t want Rincon Hill residents, who have the resources and cars to drive, to add to the traffic congestion already in SoMa (or drive to San Mateo County for shopping).

How do we pay for additional ferry service and adjust bus routes to take advantage of ferry services?

I believe that we should add to the Term Sheet for the Warriors an agreement that there will be a percentage surcharge on every ticket’s face value of 5% (or whatever makes sense – seems like 5% is easy to digest if it is 50 cents on a $10 ticket or $5 on a $100 ticket) to help mitigate transportation issues created by the arena (helping fund more robust ferry boat service, increased South of Market bus line service, and other adjustments needed).  For event ticket holders who choose to park and use a ferry boat to get to the Warriors Arena (or maybe a similar program is established for AT&T Park), provide them with a $2-$3 rebate on the fare to ride the ferry boat.  Ferries cannot transport everybody, but 200 or so passengers per ferry boat instead of 100 or so additional private cars circulating in downtown San Francisco is a welcomed mitigation in my opinion.

Congestion Pricing for weekday evenings, outbound only could provide another $60-$80 million per year – enhancing transit service that reduces air pollution even further and helps clear the roadways for those buses to get across our streets faster. I’m not so sure there is political will to implement congestion pricing, but it’d be a lot smarter and effective means to reduce traffic congestion in downtown San Francisco than fighting every neighborhood to introduce SFpark parking meters which prove worthless when faced with a handicap placard.  Congestion pricing between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. would probably help push more folks towards using the additional ferry boats since BART is already at capacity during those hours – but this is fine because it reduces the subsidies needed as ridership increases, and the ferries are needed for the point in time when BART is shut down, the Bay Bridge is shut down, or an earthquake makes our typical transportation modes suboptimal. Congestion needs to be dealt with now as I already see ambulances, fire trucks, and sometimes police cars stopped by the traffic backups leading to the Bay Bridge or on surrounding streets affected by Transbay or Central Subway construction road closures.

Parking Lots located outside of downtown San Francisco with shuttle bus service to Piers 30-32 are needed – not new, large parking garages on The Embarcadero. The shuttle Muni bus services from 3rd and Mission to Marina Green for last weekend’s America’s Cup World Series races worked fabulously.  There should be similar satellite parking destinations near highways 80, 280, and 101 set up with express buses to Piers 30-32 (and maybe AT&T Park too) to help decrease the pressures on parking in downtown San Francisco.  Many of the parking lots that used to be available in South of Market are quickly disappearing as the land is too valuable to remain undeveloped into high-rise residential or office tower buildings.

Taxi cabs could use the end of Steuart Street or Spear Street as passenger pick-up and/or drop-off locations. The main thing that I see the end of Spear Street used for today is for UPS trucks trading and consolidating packages at the end of their shifts – but UPS really shouldn’t be doing that without paying the City something for their use of the public way anyhow. Taxi cabs might make good use of these stubs near The Embarcadero and Piers 30-32 during the evening hours when events are happening.  We probably do not want taxis double-parked on The Embarcadero to drop off or pick up passengers because we know that it could cause a backup of traffic all the way onto Highway 280. The same goes for buses – the buses should probably get free reign on what is usually street parking along The Embarcadero during events to pull into and out of.  The big To Do with allowing buses to park along the streets is to enforce a “no idling engines for more than 3 minutes” rule with heavy duty fines to mitigate air pollution.

Re-engineer 2nd Street (already happening sorta), Beale Street, Main Street, and Spear Street to work as residential streets and not thoroughfares for the Bay Bridge or The Embarcadero. The livability of Rincon Hill is very compromised right now by the amount of cars that travel east on Folsom Street, turn right onto Main Street, and then turn right with the goal of shifting to the far left lane to get onto the 1st Street entrance to the Bay Bridge.  The Rincon Hill Infrastructure Financing District funds should be used to make the needed changes to reduce those streets’ widths and to cut them in half with mid-block stop lights (such as seen at Yerba Buena Lane on Mission Street near 4th Street) – this also helps keep pedestrians walking from BART or Transbay Transit Center through Rincon Hill safer by slowing cars down.

Finally, the SoMa waterfront neighborhoods really enjoy Sunday Streets because the dearth of public park spaces in our neighborhoods is extreme compared to how many parks are available to the much less densely populated neighborhoods on the west side of San Francisco. Hundreds of babies are being born to Rincon Hill residents in these high-rise condo towers and apartments, and there’s not a single playground in the area for these kids.  It’s important that we can still host a couple of Sunday Streets events on The Embarcadero each year.

Parking Meters – Event pricing okay fine, but residents need to be able to buy pre-paid parking meter cards so they aren’t gouged $7 per hour when going to a local neighborhood serving business or visiting a neighbor across the way. I believe there should be some effort to recognize that residents should get a break for some things when we suffer the consequences of all of the negative externalities that come with being the City’s economic engine for conventions, nightclubs, and arena/ballpark events along with office jobs for high-tech workers and bio-sciences. The fact is a lot of senior citizens are moving to SoMa because our buildings have elevators and the area is relatively flat (no steep hills anyway since Rincon Hill was shaved down by 100 feet in the 1800s to with the 2nd Street Cut and then further to anchor the Bay Bridge).

I’m sure there’s lots of reasons to and not to consider these things, but I want to put them out there to spur discussion and thoughts … Hopefully with brainstorming and good discussion about solutions (instead of complaints about what worries us), hopefully we’ll build the arena and do as little harm to the area’s quality of life as possible in the process.

4 Responses to Warriors Arena and Transportation Options

  1. All great ideas, Jamie. Thank you for putting so much thought into this. I especially like the idea of including the mediation surcharge on the term sheet.

  2. Great ideas Jamie.

  3. A bunch of good thoughts here. I also think using the tourist buses in the evening when they’re normally in the garage would be good–maybe even get more double deckers (not articulated buses, what the Brits call “bendy buses”). And then bring in some “street ambassadors” to handle crowds, traffic, and issues. I think our DPT people are doing a horrible job (if at all) on this subject.

  4. […] Rincon Hill blog offers a perspective about transportation solutions, including a floating dock and water taxis […]