2007/08/06

Paris or Los Angeles?

The battle's on my San Franciscan friends, and the Chronicle has identified precisely what's at stake. We're going to get a chance to decide what kind of city we want to be because two upcoming ballot measures are directly in conflict with each other.

First the initiatives: On the one hand we've got billionaire and GAP founder, Don Fisher assisted by bunches of merchants groups who want to stuff more cars into our city by relaxing the rules on the creation of off-street parking. On the other hand we've got SF Board of Supervisors President, Aaron Peskin and the liberals who want to provide additional funding for MUNI (our municipal transit system). But here's the problem, the MUNI initiative also reaffirms our current parking restrictions. So we can't have it both ways.

Now for some numbers: This city has approximately 470,000 vehicles registered to it's 820,000 inhabitants. That's low by American standards, but what isn't low is the fact that it translates to almost 10,000 vehicles packed into every one of our 49 square miles. On top of that, on any weekday another 35K cars are driven into San Francisco.

Now the merchants will tell you that this shouldn't be a "transit only city", but they're wrong. If there is any city in America that should be transit only (or at least very, very transit-friendly) it's San Francisco! Do we want more downtown congestion? No! Do we want more pollution? No! Do we want more frustrated cagers clogging up our transit lanes, maiming our pedestrians, bicyclists, and each other? NO!!!

In short people, San Francisco should remain a transit first city because we simply don't have the square mileage to be another Los Angeles, and really...who needs another LA anyway?

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22 Comments:

Froggy,
I like the cut of your jib. More user-friendly public transit is what this city needs.

Funny, I saw that article on the paper laying on the coffee table this morning and thought to myself, "I wonder what Kvatch would make of this?".

Thanks for the mind-reading parlor tricks.
By retaining their streetcars San Francisco escaped the fate of many North American cities that fell to a conspiracy in the 1920s and '30s. Standard Oil of California, Mack Truck, Phillips Petroleum and Firestone Tire were all in on it. The idea was that if you made mass transit user-unfriendly, it would force people to buy their own cars. At the time only about 10% of Americans owned a car.

I think putting TONS of streetcars into a city core, and banning private automobiles altogether would make a lot of sense. Moving goods could be accomplished by allowing truck traffic only at night, say between 1 and 5 am. During the day, every fifth streetcar would just be a flatbed platform that you could get on and off with packages, even bicycles and pets. You wouldn't have to worry about people cheating to get on either, because it would be free.

How the hell would you pay for it? Simple. With the value of the real estate that would be freed up that is now devoted to parking garages.
Anything that cuts down on cars anywhere has my vote.
Thanks PT. I can't think of anything I'd like less than another 100K cars in San Francisco.

SadButTrue... As I live close to downtown, I'm all for banning everything but taxi and delivery traffic in the city center--again, more like Paris and less like LA is where we should be going.

PoP... Well put. I'm with you.
We need a Muni system that actually works before we ban cars.

It is my dream that we charge non-residents a $25 toll to drive in this City.
One more thing about which I think we need to pay attention to Europe...transit.
Catherine... Welcome to Blognonymous.

Though I've given MUNI considerable grief in my time, MUNI is still better than 99% of all transit systems in the nation--despite it's miserable on-time performance. I mean...what other transit system comes so close to the "no more than 3 blocks from anywhere in the city," pledge? And when it comes to value, the "$45/mo all you can ride pass," is unequaled anywhere in the United States.

Aaron... Agreed, though the real trick is what to do about long-distance transit where the time involved with train travel makes it somewhat impractical.
As a former long time resident, I demand a vote. Please?

Stay with the transit. It's not a good as the .15/ride I paid when I first moved there in 1958 but it's still one of the best.

SF was shortsighted when it tore up so many of its trolley lines but it's redeemed itself somewhat.

I never owned a car until the last couple of years I lived there. I wouldn't have then but I was doing a lot of weekend traveling. It spent the weeks parked in a garage for $100/month.

San Francisco is not designed for driving. It's a nightmare already downtown. I'd like to see something like a commute tax on the people who work in the city, live elsewhere, and contribute almost nothing.
I missed Catherine's comment. Sorry for repeating what she just said.
But if it wasn't for cars we wouldn't have ll those great car chases in San Francisco. No one careening down Lombard's tight curves and getting airborne on the hills. What about Steve McQueen and Bullett?

Ah, hell, I know you're right. More cities need better mass transit. If cities would make mass transit free, just think about the amount of money they would actually save on road improvements, etc. Not to mention cutting down on CO2 levels.
Granny... $.15?! Awesome! So we're 10X that price now. OK, I can deal, and you're so right that San Francisco is not designed for driving. Hell it's not even designed for walking (all those damn hills). :-) I just refer to it as "nature's gym"!

Robert... PT would agree with you about the free transit thing. I don't, but for reasons that don't have anything to do with encouraging ridership--whole different discussion.
HELL YEAH! Free mass transit! Woohoo!

OK, I got it out of my system.
As someone who spent 5 years living out on The Avenues, I can tell you that trying to live carless in SF is a very, very different kettle of fish when you live on 46th Avenue and Pacheco than when you live on 6th and Kirkham. Trying to haul a week's worth of groceries home via a bus and several blocks of walking just plain sucks.

And then there's the commute issue. I kid you not, it's faster to drive to San Mateo than it is to take mass transit to downtown SF from the Outer Sunset. I've had jobs in both places and the travel time to my San Mateo job was faster and more consistent than to the downtown SF job.

Small wonder I was a SF car owner.
HELL YEAH! Free mass transit! Woohoo!

How did I know that was coming?! ;-)

I can tell you that trying to live carless in SF is a very, very different kettle of fish when you live on 46th Avenue and Pacheco

Fiat lux...Welcome to Blognonymous.

You're right. It's not easy in some areas of town, but I simply can't argue with $12,000 extra dollars in my bank account per year. As for the commute, driving to San Mateo may be faster, but it's an hour (or more) of dead time. I commute to Santa Clara once per week via Caltrain and the VTA and I get 2:15 of my workday done going down and coming back. Not a dead minute in there. Also we have car sharing in the city now, and it helps with those things that simply can't be done on a bus.
Given that I ride my bike to work - don't be jealous, but my commute time is 8 mins door to door - straight down the corridor, and I dodge autos, cabs, the F-line, etc...doesn't make me a hero, but I really think that if we closed down Market street to nothing but pedestrian and public transit, it would be a huge win. We could convert the whole corridor from the Ferry building to the Castro into one grand boulevard, gentrification aside, it would move our fair city from the stellar location it is to the jewel in the crown of the USA...much like Paris, I would presume, but I've never been there to vouch for her (either one, that is).
Oh, I had another thought, really if you think about it - if you have ever frustratingly driven your automobile down Market street at either end of rush hour, you would realize that walking is substantially faster.
WS... Not jealous at all. 4 days a week, I work from home. :-)

But...the notion of a pedestrian boulvard for Market is an awesome idea! It's not drivable as it is now anyway.

Here's another idea... Convert the center of Van Ness to F-line style classic streetcars. Would really beautify a corridor that needs some revitalization.
The "F" in F-Line stands for FABULOUS!

OK, I promise I'll stop now.
As a former Bay Area resident I vote for more MUNI funding and maintaining (or increasing) parking restrictions.
PT...

The F-line IS fabulous! I take it every chance I get, especially the Milano streetcars.

Tom... I'm all over that! We'll just have to see how the election works out. Public transit advocates tend to be a uppity, politically involved lot. So we'll probably be ok.
Just my opinion, but I think most bigger cities should go to more transit. I have visited Chicago a couple of times and although ti still has its problems, I love the rail system. I have been to many bars there and never once have I had to get a car.

Since I hate parking and traffic, it was great for me.
The F in the F-Line stands for Fabulous most certainly, and it's not just because it ends and originates in the Castro! I love your idea Kvatch....F down the whole of Van Ness is brilliant.

Let's do it! Oh, wait, the days of Willie Brown style development are over...or are they?

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