Central SoMa Street Plan

Acknowledging that the existing Central SoMa transportation network isn’t sufficient today, much less sufficient to support a potential doubling of residents and workers in the area as proposed, a plan to improve the network, streets, and environment for pedestrians in SoMa has been drafted.

The six key principles that guided the development of the draft plan:

1. Create a safe, convenient, attractive environment for pedestrians
2. Design transit routes to serve the area and improve performance
3. Improve bicycling conditions
4. Employ Transportation Demand Management Measures
5. Restrict curb cuts
6. Where and when necessary, accommodate regional and through traffic

Proposed improvements include a plethora of new mid-block crosswalks, wider sidewalks, cycletracks, and the redevelopment of Folsom Street as a civic boulevard, as has long been proposed.

The Impact Study for the proposed transportation plan should be finalized by May of 2014 with a Draft Environmental Report for the project slated to be ready in September.

57 thoughts on “The Plan to Transform Central SoMa’s Streets”
  1. Wow! Removal of almost 70% of the street parking and 50% of the traffic lanes for an entire area. This is rather bold, even for the bike crowd at the SFMTA.
    The traffic coming to and from the 101 into this new street plan will create a bottleneck of epic proportions. Get your popcorn, this should be interesting to watch.

  2. Wow, it just looks like whatever street they look at their ultimate goal is to remove as much paring as possible. I looked through that middle school presentation and I’m not I pressed. How about disclosing how many vechicles travel Folsom street everyday? Where exactly do they plan on sending that additional traffic to?
    Here’s a couple ideas to make things better
    1) Prohibit parking within 25 feet of any intersection like most places in the US to improve sight lines for pedestrian safety
    2) if the real goal is transit then put the money where your mouth is and cut and bury a new muni line the length of Folsom from the Embarcadero to Caesar Chavez.
    Like I said it looks like a middle school kid did that presenting what utter garbage.

  3. once they’ve turned the city into disneyland… pretty to look at but impossible to live in or get around… then what?

  4. Forget tunneling- If Muni is removing lanes of traffic anyways, why not take that real estate and use it for new rail lines or dedicated bus lanes (like the plan for Van Ness)? Such a solution would get the same results for less money, and provide a better service to the city than using the space for bike lanes.

  5. Ridiculous – traffic already doesn’t move well, so the answer is to *remove* travel lanes and add mid-block crosswalks (i.e, more lights)?
    If we’re going to be “Transit First”, then we need to do the transit, first – before implementing look-good, feel-good measures that won’t improve anyone’s travel experience.

  6. Seems since there are many parallel streets SOMA so Bikes, Cars and true transit only lanes can be accommodated on different streets.
    What is there now is terrible for pedestrians and bike riders and drivers like me who worry about killing someone

  7. Flipped through the SFMTA “presentation” – 18 pages of pretty urban design-school drawings with no basis in reality. (You can draw all the green ink and little round tree symbols you want along Folsom; that won’t make it a tree-lined Champs Elysee or Commonwealth Avenue.)
    Literally LOL’ed at the sidewalk map – it’s bemoaning that sidewalks throughout Soma don’t meet the 12′ idealized width. Meanwhile every day I walk along Townsend, where a utility has just installed telecom boxes at the W corner of Townsend and Colin Kelly St. that have reduced what used to be a 6′ or 8′ sidewalk to *less than 3’*!
    To put it simply, pretty pie-in-the-sky planning means nothing if it doesn’t actually interface with how people (and companies) are actually using the City infrastructure today…

  8. Not to worry, nothing like this will ever be implemented.
    This kind of thing has been discussed at least since 200, when I bought a condo in SOMA and saw all the plans to completely redo the area (parks! bike lanes! 2nd street and Folsom turned into grand boulevards!)

  9. We have absolutely got to take SFMTA back from the lunatics who hijacked the agency. I have seen these people in “hearings” as the SFMTA likes to call them — they are absolutist anti-car zealots. They see citizens and businesses as an infestation that needs to be exterminated so they can toodle around on their bikes and sip lattes from Four Barrel. They are all disciples of the “streetsblog” cult and its leader Mark Gorton. Its like the bad old days when Jim Jones and his cult held way too much sway. We need to build them a bike lane to someplace else. Fast.

  10. 2 years of planning, talking and arguing followed by 2-3 years of slow construction. Someone needs to work on streamlining this process a bit.
    p.s. When is Cesar Chavez supposed to officially wrap? Still no greenscaping in the medians there. 🙁
    Overall, excited to see more attention being given to SOMA.

  11. Other large cities have a lot more congestion in the interior. SF has a problem in FIDI, but not too much elsewhere (for cross-city traffic). Parking is a much bigger problem. That could be balanced by add”No need to worry, Futurist and spencer have told me numerous times that there is no congestion in the city”
    Anon, driving in SF is easier than almost every major city. ing more off-street parking.
    However, it does appear that our fearless leaders are trying to make congestion much worse and this is a perfect example. How can a list of objective not include making traffic flow more efficient for cars. at least one objective. Cycling is good, but again only covers a very small minority of trips. It can be increased but not to car level. SF is becoming a wealthier city. Wealthy people like cars.
    I just spent a couple of weeks in Paris for work. some points. I worked with 3 different clients there who all live in central paris and work in central Paris. Surprisingly they all drive. Why? The subway stinks and is too crowded, and they are wealthy.
    I took the subway the whole time. I do have to admit it is absolutely disgusting, but it is efficienct. Every train I took smelled like fresh urine. The tunnels are also trash strewn and pretty disgusting (much worse than NY, SF, Boston, DC and others).
    Moving the discussion away, I also found other changes to Paris. Spent a month there about 6 yrs ago. Paris is very dirty, much more than i remembered. And there are a ton of homeless people on the street. In all honesty, i am 100% sure it is currently dirtier than any city ive ever been in in the US. And 70% certain the homeless situation is worse than SF.
    Also, when i was there a few years ago, I almost solely used velib. This time i personally didnt see very many people on bikes, and was surprised. Curious if ridership is decreasing there. not suggesting it is, but i saw less.
    Conversely I spent 1 week in rome this time as well. very very clean city, and clean subway. subway not as efficient but still good and zero urine odor. also clear they clean the tunnels. Also saw a lot more people biking there, but not in special lanes.
    just observations.
    back to SF. If street parking is taken away without an increase in off-street parking, this city is going to be an utter mess. It is hard for me to see how anyone can disagree with that. Cars are not going away. personally i dont think they will go away in 50 yrs. we might have a lot more self driving cars and different cars, but not going away. the major shift is to gas mileage , not bikes. There is a very small minority of people who think otherwise but they are living in a false reality. Bikes help but will never get above 10-15% of commutes in this city.
    ive said before, but i ride about 100-150 miles per week.. sometime 200+ depending on season. this is almost exclusively across the bridge to marin and coast ans sometimes tahoe or sonoma. I ocassionaly ride in GG park with less serious riders, but will not ride across city. I like myself too much and think city roads are for buses and cars. can move more people faster and more efficiently.
    I would love to have a subway for the city, and honestly think every dime of transportation money should be saved and go to that purpose.

  12. That’s funny that you claim that the SFMTA is “anti car”, Stucco_Sux. Odd that an anti-car agency would provide and maintain billions of dollars of facilities specifically for cars and for free or nearly free.
    The rest of your claims are unfounded and somewhat ridiculous, especially that part comparing bike advocacy to Jim Jones’ cult.
    Folks this is simply change. Small incremental change for the good. Embrace it.

  13. Again most of the comments here are only from the perspective of driver access like Spencer’s
    Crossing streets in SOMA is uncomfortable and bikers are being killed on Folsom. I am uncomfortable driving on Folsom sometimes with all the bikers and pedestrians
    Certainly if we are going to follow the mantra on this forum of build-more-higher-always we need to make some accommodation to the reality that most people don’t want to live on one way boulevards where people drive 50 miles per hour and it is in fact unsafe. Otherwise we should not add a bunch of residents to this area and should leave it.

  14. While bordering this project, the presentation doesn’t mention the work planned for 2nd street. I found a two page PDF on the 2nd street work here:
    The plan is the same as the others, pull out lanes, add bike lanes and wider sidewalks. My concern specifically with the 2nd street work is that 2nd is used as a feeder to the Bay Bridge (whether we like it or not). This will just choke the street more, cause more backups/delays, and force (assumed more traffic by 2016/7) traffic onto other streets to try to get to the bridge.
    Maybe 2nd should be less “calming” and more “boulevard.” How about pulling the parking from King to Bryant, but not put in the bike lanes and leave the four lanes already there, widen the sidewalks a little bit for buffer with the traffic, add a few dedicated 10 Townsend stops and pull out the mid-street cross walk on 2nd/South Park. Just let the traffic in this location flow.

  15. C’mon, I walk from 4th & King to FiDi every day – it is not “uncomortable” to cross streets – long-lead lights, with pedestrian advance signal, and countdown clocks. I’ve never felt uncomfortable walking in Soma (at least with respect to cars – the homeless and the feces are another matter…)(In fact most streets S of Folsom or W of 3rd can be easily crossed midblock (a.k.a. jaywalking)!)

  16. “Crossing streets in SOMA is uncomfortable and bikers are being killed on Folsom. I am uncomfortable driving on Folsom sometimes with all the bikers and pedestrians”
    I agree that cycling is not appropriate on 9th, 10th, folsom or bryant. As an avid and expereince cyclist for 25 yrs (as well as hairpin downhill mtn biking), i would not ride in this area. less expereinced people should not be so uneducated about the risks of doing so. alternative routes should be made easier so these can remain quicker streets for cars to get through these areas. Bikes and cars can work together, but making some streets not bike friendly while making others more bike friendly is a better way to serve both needs.

  17. ^^^
    Well I agree with this. It seems possible to design one of the streets with true transit only (BRT lite) lane and protected bike lanes by forcing cars to make right turns every block and leaving others efficient for auto traffic

  18. People who drive here in non-peak times drive waaaaay too fast. This is where bikers are getting injured, hit and runs are common, and crossing the street at night means putting your life at risk. This change will make the streets more walkable, and is necessary for a high density neighborhood.

  19. folks — bikes are a much more efficient means of urban transit than cars are. The city is getting denser, but there is no new *space* for roads, so you cannot just keep adding cars. The city *has* to find ways of diverting folks out of their cars and into other mediums if it is to maintain a functional transportation network. Since *space* on the roads is the limiting factor, along with cost of implementation, improving biking infrastructure is the most space and cost effective solution for the city to grow its transportation throughput with rising population density. Of course cars will always be around, but we need to limit the growth in use of cars.
    And the biking infrastructure improvements DO make a difference — as it gets safer to bike, more people are biking. Of course it will never be everyone, but it will keep growing for a long time. Infrastructure changes take decades. While you may personally think “I would never bike across the city today, it is too dangerous” that assessment will not be the same in 10 years time (assuming the NIMBYS dont stall real progress).
    And yes, Muni should also be improved, and there is motion in that direction, but you are seeing biking happening first because it is *much* cheaper to implement.
    you will always be allowed to drive. you will even be allowed to pay for parking — it just might not be free, but that is appropriate given that it consumes valuable public space that can be put to better use.
    you cannot look at a city as a static thing — these changes are happening because the leaders at looking 20-30+ years down the road and see the hand writing on the wall. Population and density growth into the future are what are driving the changes today.

  20. Seems that the SFMTA is taking these road changes as far as they can. Makes me wonder if there will be a backlash and how soon it will occur.
    Remember: not everyone can and/or will bike no matter how safe it is. Cyclists are still a (vast) minority in population terms in this city.
    Wouldn’t surprise me if a year or two of living with the results of all these changes make people think differently about adding bike lanes at the expense of traffic lanes…

  21. @ Stucco)Sux:
    Good to see your comments about the cult like status of the car haters at SFMTA. Completely true.
    They essentially are hi-jacked by the bike coalition boys, and the arrogant people who run Streetsblog.
    Thanks for your comments and others who feel like I do, about the over-reaching tentacles of anti-car zealots.

  22. I’ve never had trouble biking on Howard or Folsom, as long as no one double parked in my lane and no busses cut me off. And I have no idea why people bike on Mission, even though there are marked lanes one block away on either side.
    To make biking more practical we really need to do just a few things. Cyclists should primarily stick to roads with bike lanes and sharrows (that’s actually what they’re called.) It makes no sense for a bicycle to be on, say, Geary near Fillmore, other than to wave a middle finger at cars.
    In return for bikes no longer gumming up auto lanes, any car, delivery truck, or bus blocking a bike lane should be moved out of the way with a bulldozer. I’m sure city planners have figured out ways to time lights for bicycles, giving them some sort of priority on bike lane routes.
    What we need is the tacit understanding that bikes aren’t cars and cars aren’t bikes. And they need to be kept apart as much as possible.
    As for BRT, it doesn’t sound like it would be that hard to do a trial with cones and some paint and a week or two of work and see how it goes.

  23. I cannot believe they are seriously considering the two way Folsom/Howard proposal. First, their preamble is: lots of people now, even more later. Then they suggest ways to reduce traffic capacity. Really? To reduce Folsom/Howard to one lane in each direction, considering they are now 4 (well, 3 with the new bike lane on Folsom) means capacity and throughput will be impacted severely.
    These roads are heavily used and even now, if there’s a backup getting onto the bridge, Folsom can back up to 6th St. With one lane, bus stops will completely block traffic flow. Turning right from Folsom to 4th often backs up, and with only one lane available, again, flow will be blocked. And shall I mention deliveries? Everyone on Folsom/Howard (business and residential) get truck/FedEx/food/postal/etc deliveries. Those guys currently double park, but with more than one lane, at least they’re not completely blocking traffic. With one lane? Chaos. SFMTA are crazy.

  24. Stucco_Sux has it right ! There is something “absolutist” about the zealots and there needs to be more balance at the SFMTA.
    Meanwhile the overflow crowd at the recent SFMTA hearing loudly protested various cuts to MUNI service throughout the city. While we spend money removing car lanes and parking for bike paths, we get cuts to MUNI service at the same time .
    The Central Soma plan was not popular with the audience.

  25. I would bike in SoMa if these changes were made. Now it’s too dangerous.
    Note it isn’t about whether you would bike. It’s about whether enough people would bike that there would be fewer cars. That should be the goal.
    The truth is the real road hogs are cars.

  26. “you cannot look at a city as a static thing — these changes are happening because the leaders at looking 20-30+ years down the road and see the hand writing on the wall. ”
    You have a lot more faith in city leaders than me. They are not looking 30 yrs ahead. They are looking at what the loudest lobby is telling them to look at. The BOS were not the smartest people in your high school . Those people are at google and Genentech. The 3rd tier are running govt. they can’t see 30 days, much less 30 yrs ahead. I don’t believe anyone here seriously think bikes will take over city transit in 30 yrs

  27. MTA has a 5 year project plan and a 20 year capital plan here:
    No one expect bicycling to “take over city transit” but mode share is expected to increase to 20-25%. This is official city policy, voted on by the BoS and adopted by MTA. Automobile share is expected to drop from today’s 60% to 50% in the next 8 years. This is overwhelming popular with the voters of the City of San Francisco.
    Perhaps there will be some kind of driver backlash, but I seriously doubt it. Most of the people inconvenienced don’t even live in San Francisco and real San Franciscans are tired of out of town drivers speeding through their neighborhoods. This is why we voted for a bond initiative that created the SFCTA and the Better Streets initiative. You can read more about it here:
    MTA is full of bright idealistic planners, about half of whom come from the UC Berkeley Planning Department. I know quite a few of them since this is where my wife went to school. I think they are great, some of the brightest and most capable people in government.

  28. The city needs to figure out what the plan is for SOMA: on the one hand it is zoned “production distribution and repair” with the idea of encouraging business, then on the other hand the come up with a plan like this that leaves no room for the trucks that serve those kind of businesses. The fancy new bike lane on Folsom is nice to ride in, but trucks now use it to stop for deliveries. SOMA is the vehicle circulation system for the whole eastern part of the city – this plan seems to be driven by ideology rather than real planning.

  29. Dumb.
    Oh, and days like this make it so realistic to rely solely on a bike for transportation. Coming home from the gym in the pouring rain I saw a cyclist under an awning phoning a friend to come pick her up (in a car of course). Lol!

  30. I threw my bike on the 14 Mission today instead of riding home in the rain. Not sure what is so wrong about that.

  31. We can expect more reductions in MUNI service, more removals of parking including loading zones which are crucial to this area, and more removals of traffic lanes to “calm” traffic and in reality create terrible traffic jams. If one watches the most recent MTA hearing, the anger expressed by audience members about the COMPLETE focus on bikes by the SFMTA at the expense of all other forms of transportation is falling on Ed Reiskin’s deaf ears. MUNI riders in particular seem the most outraged at cuts of service while plans like this are proposed. http://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=55&clip_id=18907

  32. Put up a concrete divider separating the bike lane from auto lanes. Have the parking be to the left of the bike lanes. Bikes ride along the sidewalks. Geez.. Problem solved with 5 seconds worth of critical thinking.

  33. Bikes and Muni are very different. Bikes need relatively low cost one-time capital projects, where the major obstacles are design and consensus. Muni’s problems involve management, labor contracts, ongoing budget cuts and other issues, and capital projects which cost orders of magnitude more than any bike project.
    I’d love to see Muni improvements, but it has little to do with whether or not any bike improvements happen. If there appears to have been more activity on the bike front, it’s because bike infrastructure is in its infancy, and it’s a lot more dramatic when something goes from 0.3 to 0.5 than it is when something goes from 65 to 69. Spending on bikes is still well under 1% of the MTA’s budget, last I heard.

  34. Rebuilding a whole series of streets is not a ” low cost” investment. New curbing and sidewalks mean relocated sewers and street lighting. New protected bike lanes mean new grading. This street plan is completely driven around the creation of protected bike lanes at the expense of parking, loading zones, traffic flow and commerce..
    Has anyone else noticed how shy the SFMTA has been about sharing the cost of this project. If it costs 60 million to bury the Geary underpass, I would think this extensive project would cost more than 100 million.

  35. In fact, according to a Budget Legislative Analyst’s 2013 report own analysis, the SFMTA currently only spends 1.39% of its capital budget and 0.5% of its operating budget on bike projects.
    We should be spending much more than this, considering 3.5% of all trips are made by bicycle and the plan is to go to 20% by 2020. 43% of San Franciscans bicycle occasionally and could be encouraged to bicycle more if the infrastructure was there to support them.
    If anything the MTA does not focus enough on bicycle projects.
    I don’t know what the cost of this kind of thing would be, but can ask around if people want. $100M is way too high: Cesar Chavez cost $28M and was a similar sized project.

  36. Good plan
    One edit: kill the car lane. Not every street needs small German SUVs on them.
    The safety of our school children takes precedent over the fantasy of a g-d given right to traverse every street in these private vehicles.
    Every street should be reconsidered for safety; shut down 50% of our streets to cars . they mar our city and are not needed.
    All in time.

  37. The car hatred is truly fascinating to me. The fantasy of going back 120 years ago to trolleys, walking and bikes won’t fly with people who want the freedom of traveling faster than 3 to 6 mph. Cars are going green and clean, and will operate almost silently soon. 20 years from now most cars will be non emission producing electric vehicles. What will all the Luddites do then?
    I have had days where meetings have taken me from Palo Alto, to Sausalito, and then back to the city all within 8 hours. Try doing that on a bike, bus , or walking. Forget BART which does not go near any of the areas most of my clients are. Having a car is not a political statement, it is a necessity !!!
    I live in the Marina, and there is no way I’m peddling a bike over three hills just to have hipster coffee without cars putting the beloved “children” in danger. The NYTimes just had an article recently saying that bikes cause far more injuries to riders than autos. And remember, 70% of all bike injuries are from solo falls.

  38. 20 years from now most cars will be non emission producing electric vehicles.
    Most environmental impact from vehicles comes during the production of the vehicle itself, not the use of it. So I’m not sure what your point is.
    The other major environmental impacts of car use are land use impacts, and “green” cars don’t help with that at all. Even if we could go 100% electric tomorrow, with all of that electricity coming from solar and wind (lol), roughly 80% of the environmental impact from cars would still exist.
    It sounds like your job and life requires a car, so keep it. Just don’t force everyone else to have one by forcing the city to cater only to you.

  39. Most of the people inconvenienced don’t even live in San Francisco.
    I think NVJ hit the nail on the head here. And I don’t just mean the provincial part; I also mean the inconvenience part.

  40. El-D/NVJ — there are plenty of people who actually live in the planning area (unlike, I would suspect, the planners themselves) who would be plenty inconvenienced by artificially (and totally unnecessarily) reduced traffic capacity. Yes, people drive here, residents too.

  41. im thinking of purchasing a horse and buggy. Maybe they could make a lane for me too. Why are we so carcentric. Horses are natural. and the manure is good for fertilizing. I think it is about as efficient as a bike and more people could ride a horse. anyone up for joining the horse coalition? We can clog the streets every month and act like jerks. Then they will listen to us. It worked for the bike group. Wells fargo supports it.
    On a more serious note, can rickshaws use these new bikelanes? im thinking of having my cousines from arkansas move in and start a rickshaw business

  42. “We should be spending much more than this, considering 3.5% of all trips are made by bicycle and the plan is to go to 20% by 2020”
    What are those 3.5% of trips? does that count the 1blk ride to the corner market? its not just quantity. somehow the significance of the trip needs to be factored in. I think the 3.5% is vastly overinflated considering the numbers of bikes i see on the streets.
    and 20% by 2020.? Keep dreaming.

  43. Unfortunately, rickshaws do use the bike lanes, at least on the Embarcadero and near Fisherman’s Wharf. They are hard to ride around, requiring riding into a lane of car traffic.

  44. I think the 3.5% is vastly overinflated considering the numbers of bikes i see on the streets.
    Well, my experience would suggest otherwise. On my westbound commute along Market Street, I routinely pull up to red lights and find a pack of a dozen bicyclists, with only a few (single-occupant) cars behind. YMMV

  45. I’m not sure where NVJ got his numbers, but according to The SFMTA 2013-2018 Bicycle Strategy”:
    “Although seventeen percent of San Francisco residents take at least one trip per week by bicycle, two-thirds of San Franciscans (66 percent) never use a bicycle at all.”
    2010 Mode Split
     61% automobile
     17% public transit
     3.5% bicycle
     17.5% walking

  46. The Binder Poll of bicycle use and attitudes, which was commissioned by the SFBC and release recently:
    “And voters are not just generally supporting the idea of bicycle riding, but are already out there riding a bike regularly. 43% of voters are already riding a bike, with 25% of voters in San Francisco riding regularly, meaning a few times a month or more.”
    There isn’t really that much difference between the 1/3 (33%) you state that cycle and the 43% I am referencing. Any difference is probably mostly due to the recent surge in adoption. As a long time cyclist, I can tell you anecdotally that there are many more riders this year than last year, at least on my regular routes.
    20 percent by 2020 is the policy unanimously adopted by the Board of Supervisors, which is probably what prompted that planning doc. It is ambitious, to be sure.

  47. Hey el-d
    Market street is not representative of the city as a whole. I’m in favor of market being closed to private cars from Cannes to emarcadero, except for crossings. Bike usage in the other 98% of the city is almost nil. In the presidio heights, inner Richmond, I see maybe 2 commuters per week.

  48. NVJ,
    If you really believe that there’s not much difference between 33% and 43%, then I’d like to play poker with you sometime.
    But seriously, the Binder poll only asks easy feelgood questions like
    “agree or disagree…Bicycling is good for San Francisco”
    and none of the hard policy questions like
    – should SF divert $160 million from MUNI to fund the Bicycle Plan?
    – should SF issue a $500 million bond to build an “Amsterdam/Copenhagen” bike system?
    Just like the BOS voting for bike ridership objectives that they won’t fund.

  49. Really? The city that is among the most hilly in the world is the best for bike riding? Clearly some anti-family and ageism going on.
    I don’t see grandma biking up Union St. anytime soon. Or a father trying to get his kids to school across town because SFUSD put their kids in random places.
    All that is needed here is some “techies should fund this proposal” to make the San Francisco nonsense complete.

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