July 27, 2014

Proposed: Traffic Signal For Intersection Of Church And Cesar Chavez Streets

There's a small sign posted on a pole at Cesar Chavez and Church Streets announcing a hearing about a proposed traffic signal for that intersection. Pretty big news, right? There have been calls for a stoplight at 24th/Church, but this is the first we've heard of one at this busy intersection. Our initial reaction is that it's not necessary unless it can smooth the interaction of pedestrian traffic on Church and all the cars trying to get to 101. Otherwise, this intersection flows pretty smoothly. So where did this proposal come from? Follow us down the rabbit hole (and watch out for PDFs).

Remember the SFMTA's Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP)? When we covered it in 2008 the main issue was bus routes - there was a strong push to alter routes and eliminate stops to speed up the service. Then in 2012 the J Church line was included in Muni Forward's Travel Time Reduction Proposal (TTRP). Basically, the proposal aims to speed the J Church along its route by reducing stops, relocating boarding areas, creating transit-only lanes and (this is the key part) including "traffic calming" at certain intersections (more on that below). The SFMTA study says changes will "reduce the travel time of the J Church within the study area by about 6.5 minutes total in both directions."

Projects like this are never easy in San Francisco, and of course there was an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The huge public response sent everyone back to the drawing board, and many changes were made (for fellow planning dorks here are the three huge PDFs documenting response to public feedback: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). The end result is that the amended EIR was approved with changes on May 22, 2014.

Approval of said EIR is what grants the SFMTA authority to add a traffic signal to Cesar Chavez and Church Streets. But what isn't clear is why the SFMTA is pursing a stoplight at this intersection only. The TTRP stipulates changes along the Church St route at 25th, 26th, and Day Streets -- the "expanded alternative" asks for unspecified "traffic calming" measures for those intersections, but offers a "moderate alternative" that will instead install traffic signals. (The TTRP makes clear that 24th and Church will get a light, but other changes there make for a bigger project that will likely happen later.) The August 1 hearing is asking the public to approve one of those traffic signals without addressing the rest of the J Church route.

If you have an opinion on this traffic light want your voice heard please attend the August 1 hearing at City Hall: 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 416 at 10:00am.

Can't make the hearing? Per SFMTA hearing guidelines (emphasis ours):
Opinions on these proposed changes may be filed in writing prior to the hearing by email (link to sustainable.streets@sfmta.com) with the subject line “Public Hearing.” Written opinions may also be transmitted to the Sustainable Streets Division via fax at 415.701.4737 or by mail: Engineering Public Hearing, Sustainable Streets Division, One South Van Ness Avenue, 7th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103-5417. Submitted opinions will become part of the official public record and will be brought to the attention of the person(s) conducting the hearing.


Anonymous said...

I just wrote them. We do not need a traffic light at Church and Cesar Chavez. That is a main route to both freeways and there is a traffic light at every intersection after Church already but those are all multiple lane intersections.

Mervin said...

I also just send them an email. It's a bad idea and will only cause cars to jam up in front of the houses near that intersection.

djconnel said...

Traffic lights are bad for pedestrians as long as there are gaps in the vehicle flow. W/o a light, pedestrians have right-of-way. With a light, they do not. Traffic lights are way overutilized in this region. It's even worse on the peninsula where the light cycles are seemingly endless.

Anonymous said...

I can think of many corners where a light might be considered but this is not one of them. SF must just have so much extra money they keep trying to find ways to spend it.

Anonymous said...

If the goal is to speed the J then what about a flashing red light for both Church and Cesar Chavez (basically no difference than stop signs now) but when a J approaches the light turns green for the approaching J. The average Muni Metro speed is about 9mph. Top speed for a cable car is 8mph.

Anonymous said...

I've walked across this intersection thousands of times, watched entitled jogger-Moms run across it in front of moving traffic, and also seen even more self-absorbed drivers cut off pedestrians, each ignoring right-of-way. Try more than one perspective for a change!
Maybe we've reached the point where there should be restrictions at every point of human contact; then, if we remove all passenger stops, the J will get downtown on schedule, but empty except for the operator.
Learn to live with other people. You don't deserve special treatment just because you are on foot, or have a stroller, or are on a bike, or have a Clipper card, or are in a car, or in a dumptruck. Cops, firemen and ambulances do get special rights, so pay attention. Don't wait until you hear the loudspeaker. You might get a fine!

Anonymous said...

Don't set up more traffic lights - I want more roundabouts instead! They are so much more efficient for traffic flow. Would be fun to go around the roundabout on the J.