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2. OPPORTUNITIES AND CONSTRAINTS
Opportunities and constraints are listed in an effort to identify factors that will improve the project's value and lead to timely implementation, as well as prerequisites for construction that may be a challenge for public agencies to resolve.
Six major opportunities were identified through consultation with city agencies, community organizations, and public stakeholders, including: demand for a prioritized bicycle/ pedestrian route; integration with the existing bicycle/ pedestrian network; improved connections to transit; packaging portions of the project with privately funded developments; creation of parklands and open space in this "park poor" neighborhood; and recognition of the natural and cultural history of the former Mission Creek.
1. To increase levels of cycling and walking by creating an inviting, non-intimidating, useful bicycle and pedestrian corridor connecting key SF neighborhoods and destinations
The Mission Creek Bikeway would provide badly needed non-motorized access through the very car-oriented area under the Central Freeway. The Bikeway would be designed in such a way that it would appeal to a diverse community, including those who do not typically ride a bicycle for transportation out of fear of street traffic. Because the proposed bikeway would either be separated from vehicle traffic, or utilize low-traffic, calmed streets, it offers non-cyclists an easy way to try urban cycling. Such an opportunity is rare in a city as dense as San Francisco. The swath of land that the railroad preserved for so long can continue to be preserved as a bicycle/ pedestrian corridor to fulfill an existing need, and to ensure that future transit options are preserved.
An example of how providing adequate bicycle facilities can dramatically increase levels of bicycling is Valencia St. in San Francisco. After two traffic lanes were removed and bike lanes striped in March 1999, cycling increased 144% during the PM peak hour.
2. Integration with the existing San Francisco Bicycle/ Pedestrian Network
The MCB will connect to numerous planned and existing Class II and III facilities. The western end of the project will connect with existing bike lanes on Harrison St. as well as the bike route leading to the Mission and Castro Districts along 17th Street. A potential connection from City Bicycle Route 36 to the MCB could be implemented through the new Best Buy parking lot by providing a Class I connection, avoiding what is now a very circuitous route via Harrison and 11th St. A connection with the Townsend St. bike route leading to the Caltrain Station also exists at the 8th and Townsend Circle. Bike lanes already exist on 7th St. from Townsend north to Market Street, connecting cyclists to the City's most well used bike route. An extension of these lanes between Townsend and 16th Streets has been approved by the Board of Supervisors and will be implemented shortly (See SF Bike Map, Appendix B).
3. Provide multi-modal connections with BART 16th St. Station, Caltrain 4th & King Station, MUNI, and the San Francisco Ferry Building
The construction of the MCB would close a long-standing gap between Central San Francisco residential neighborhoods and key regional transit depots. The 16th St. BART station is only five blocks west of the southwestern terminus of the project. In addition, MUNI has identified 16th Street as the alignment for a possible new light rail line between the BART Station and the 3rd Street light rail, which would intersect with the MCB at 16th and Harrison. The MCB would also facilitate access to Caltrain, bringing users to the Mission Creek Channel at 4th St.- only 2 blocks from the terminal or to 8th and Townsend, 4 blocks from the 4th and King Terminal along Townsend St. The connection to Caltrain is one of this project's most promising attributes. Increasing bicycle usage on Caltrain (6% of riders bring bicycles aboard), and the establishment of a Bikestation™ at the Caltrain 4th and King Station (expected within two years) all point to the need for provision of safe, attractive non-motorized circulation routes in the area.
A potential addition to the project would be to utilize the south side of Townsend St. to create a Class I landscaped bikeway between 7th and 4th Streets, and bike lanes between 7th and 8th Streets. With this extension, the Mission Creek Bikeway could directly connect to the Caltrain Station via the 8th and Townsend Circle. MUNI plans to provide enhanced light rail lines serving Mission Bay, which would also be accessible to MCB users at the eastern end of the project. Connecting with the Embarcadero Promenade at Pac Bell Park, bicyclists and pedestrians would also enjoy improved access to the F-line, as well as ferries to Marin, Alameda, and Solano Counties.
4. Take advantage of developments occurring in the area to provide incidental construction and maintenance of segments of the trail
Developments planned for 675 Townsend St. and 601 King St. are prime examples of privately funded projects that can incorporate elements of the MCB with no extra cost to taxpayers. The MCB planning team has already secured an agreement with AF Evans, who is working to redevelop the 601 King St. property, to include construction and maintenance of a one-block section of the MCB between King and Berry Streets (see Exhibit 17, 601 King St. Development, page 33). This is a model to follow as the City moves forward with planning for the rest of the MCB Project.
5. Provide a new strip of parkland in a commercial/ residential area with little existing green space
The Northeast Mission/ South of Market area is a very park-poor area, compared with other areas of San Francisco. The project would involve planting of new trees, greenery and other landscaping along the majority of the bikeway. In addition, more extensive "pocket parks" could be created in specific areas to enhance the user experience and attract sit down uses, such as lunch destination spots.
Areas suitable for implementation of "pocket parks" include: most or all of Treat Ave. between 16th and 15th Streets; a triangle of land at the corner of Bryant and Division; the northeast corner of 9th and Division; Caltrans property between San Bruno and Vermont; the triangle next to the Design Center at Division and Vermont; and the strip of land (sewer easement) between King and Berry. In addition, unnecessarily wide, low traffic streets in the area could be narrowed with significant city-owned space thus becoming available for landscaping, bulb-outs, and wider sidewalks. Berry Street is a good example of such an opportunity.
6. Revive and celebrate the natural history of the Mission Creek
Numerous opportunities exist along the MCB to educate the general public that they are standing on one of San Francisco's major former navigable waterways. Public art, including sculptures, murals (such as the one at 16th and Harrison), stonework, and fountains are all within the realm of possibility. Kiosks detailing the natural and human history of the corridor could be installed at interesting and appropriate locations along the bikeway, such as where bridges were once located. Self-guided tours of the bikeway could be facilitated by signage that corresponds to brochures, available at the Caltrain Station, on the trains, at Pac Bell Park, and at bicycle shops. Themes to be reflected through public art could include history of the Ohlone, Spanish Missionaries, Mexican Rancheros, the railroad, and especially the Mission Creek itself.
Exhibit 7: 1934 air photo of Mission Creek corridor, prior to Central Freeway
Four issues that may constrain the ability of the City to actively move forward on the Mission Creek Project include a need for acquisition of private land, incorporation of Caltrans-controlled land, loss of available car parking, and two major intersections that pose safety issues to bikeway users and could degrade level of service (LOS) for automobiles.
1. Several key parcels along the corridor are privately owned, requiring land acquisitions from private property owners
The largest privately-owned segment of the former Mission Creek rail line is held by a San Francisco-based, family owned business: Byer Properties. The segment of the proposed MCB along Division, on either side of Potrero Avenue, is primarily used for vehicle parking and would need to be acquired from Byer Properties in order to fully realize the preferred alternative (see Land Acquisition Strategies section, p. 38). Working closely with Byer to ensure their support of plans for the Mission Creek Bikeway is essential to the success of the project. The planning team has received indications that Byer Properties would respond to a specific proposal by the City, but the company has not been responsive to proposals from the non-profits working on this project.
2. Other key parcels under the Central Freeway are owned by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) that may be resistant to loss of revenue as a result of incorporating lands into the MCB
Caltrans owns the land adjacent to the former rail spur from Bryant to Potrero, and leases it to Byer Properties for parking. This plan proposes to incorporate state owned land into the MCB, as well as to swap key parcels in a possible trade with Byer Properties. Caltrans would also require a specific proposal from the City to respond to, and would likely require compensation for lands used for the project.
3. Concerns among some neighbors, business interests that a loss of car parking due to project implementation will be detrimental.
Since abandonment of Southern Pacific's Mission Creek rail line in 1991, much of the corridor has been purchased by private interests and converted to parking. In addition, underutilized streets in the area such as Treat Ave. function as parking lots. Removal of dozens of spaces will be necessary to accommodate the new bikeway. If this project is paired with an associated increase in open space and parkland (beyond that proposed herein), the figure could be in the hundreds of spaces. On the bright side, creating a new bikeway in the area will reduce parking demand as a result of a transportation mode shift caused by the presence of a safe, aesthetically pleasing bicycle/ pedestrian route.
A possible solution that would mitigate loss of parking would be to relocate parking spaces to nearby City and Caltrans owned parcels that are currently underutilized. One option would be to vacate San Bruno Ave. between Division and Alameda (similar to what has been done along Utah St), and convert that area to a fenced parking lot. Other solutions could include development of a parking garage by the City or Caltrans, with spaces set aside for businesses that have contributed land for the bikeway. It can be definitively said that the Mission Creek Bikeway as a viable transportation facility will be impossible without significant parking removal and/ or relocation. Particularly along Division Street there simply isn't adequate right-of way for development of a Class I bicycle facility without conversion of either on street or leased parking.
Intersections at Bryant Street and Potrero Avenue pose challenges in creating safe conditions for bicycle/ pedestrian traffic under current local Level of Service (LOS) guidelines.
If bicycle and pedestrian movements are to be accommodated in a safe manner, a dedicated crossing phase is necessary at both Bryant and Potrero. Such a dedicated phase will prevent cars from turning right or left across the paths of trail users who have the right-of-way, creating a safe passage.
The traffic modeling conducted by the SF DPT in conjunction with Parisi Associates engineers reveals that providing a dedicated phase will increase motor vehicle delay to Level of Service (LOS) F, meaning that motorist delay would exceed 60 seconds at peak times (see Technical Design Analysis, page 14). Under the current local CEQA guidelines, LOS E or F requires the need for further study, or a full EIR. EIRs are costly and time consuming, and can greatly delay, if not halt transportation projects.
The irony of this situation is that new bicycle and pedestrian improvements, aimed at reducing congestion and improving air quality, are being mired in lengthy and costly environmental review to document the effects of increased idling time of cars at intersections. Many groups, including the SFBAC, SFBC and Walk SF, have commented that this "catch 22" of transportation planning is one of the primary impediments to new non-motorized facilities in the City of San Francisco.
Over time, improvements to the SF Bike/ Ped Network would result in more trips being taken by bike or on foot. This mode shift would reduce emissions and decrease delay to automobiles. Yet these improvements are being prevented by placing too much emphasis on LOS analyses at isolated intersections. This outdated method of transportation planning needs to be addressed, not only for the benefit of this project, but also for transit/ bicycle/ pedestrian improvements in San Francisco generally.
State legislators have acknowledged this conflict by authoring new legislation (SB 1636 -Figueroa) that will exempt transit-intensive areas from LOS requirements. The Cities of San Jose and Santa Barbara have amended their general plans to acknowledge that current LOS standards are biased against bicycle and pedestrian safety and access, and that more balanced measures are needed.
In the near term, the Board of Supervisors could expedite this project by passing a "statement of overriding consideration" and urge the Planning Department to issue a Negative Declaration, or mitigated Negative Declaration. Such action is frequently taken by the San Jose City Council to allow installation of sidewalks and bike lanes.
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