525 Harrison Site

If you think Bay Bridge traffic and congestion are bad now, or happen to be Hines which is working on plans for 180 condos to rise up to 16 stories on the Rincon Hill parcel at 525 Harrison Street, the current site of the Factory Club and Auto Spa, we have some potentially worse news to share.

525 Harrison Street Rendering

A joint AC Transit and Transbay Joint Powers Authority study to analyze congestion along the Bay Bridge Corridor concluded that, without a significant investment in transit infrastructure, conditions are projected to “substantially worsen over the next decade,” affecting performance of Transbay bus service and the future Transbay Transit Center and potentially impacting, in the words of AC Transit, “the economic vitality of downtown San Francisco.”

In order to help reduce congestion in the near-term, AC Transit has been working on plans for a “critical” new contraflow exit from the bridge to the new Transbay Transit Center, a lane which would cut across the 525 Harrison Street development site.

The early designs for the new ramp would not only shave up to 970 square feet off the corner of the 525 Harrison Street site, but would run right through the podium of the proposed development as designed.

525 Harrison Street Rendering

And with the environmental review for the development wrapping up, and Hines having already filed the paperwork to get the permit ball rolling and allow for a quick start assuming its plans, as rendered above, are approved, AC Transit’s Board of Directors has formally requested that any approval of the 525 Harrison Street project be “contingent upon accommodating the potential for a contraflow lane off-ramp exit,” which would require a redesign of the development.

Noted by the AC Transit’s Board President in a follow-up letter to San Francisco’s Planning Director, the City’s Transit First policies as touted would appear to “prioritize transit infrastructure investment.”  We’ll let you know if San Francisco’s Planning Commission concurs.

105 thoughts on “Bay Bridge Congestion Threatens New Development”
  1. Do we really need another high-rise pricey condo on Rincon Hill. Look at the existing rendering. Street level is dark and hemmed in by freeway ramps. No street level ambiance as it is.

    Who would want to live in such close proximity to the surrounding traffic chaos.

    Could the City take this land and use it for mitigating traffic and maybe add a slice of open space the jungle of towers in the area?!

    1. Who would want to live in such close proximity to the surrounding traffic chaos.

      Someone who can’t afford to live in less-close proximity to the surrounding traffic chaos?

      add a slice of open space the jungle of towers in the area?

      If it’s not even suitable for air-filtered and soundproofed apartments, why would anyone want to hang out in “open space” there? Picnic under the exhaust?

      1. You agree then this is not a place one would want to live unless that is all they could afford. But there are plenty of other condos in SF that are not as pricey as this will be and that offer a far better environment for the condo owner and their family.

        Yes, a park in the normal sense might not work because of the heavy pollution here but just open green space surrounding the new off-ramp.

        This is a perfect example of a rightful eminent domain situation.

        1. I think it can be possible for a well-designed building could mitigate the negative factors.

          It seems strange to me when people criticize something because 1) it’s bad and no one will want it and 2) it’s too expensive. If it sells for a high price, then obviously someone wanted it. If there are better places available, that’s great, but why do you think they would be cheaper?

          And what’s the point of the open green space, if you can’t even use it? Seems so wasteful. At that point, may as well make it a parking lot.

        2. If no one wants to live there, the units won’t be “pricey” so either we could get what we need–“affordable” living spaces–or Hines’s market reasearch is correct and people do want to live there, believing good engineering can mitigate the negatives. In any case, why should we want to stop Hines from trying? If it turns out the units don’t sell, it’ll be their loss (and a gain for those who get a bargain).

          1. Please find an example in San Francisco where it is not the case, then we’ll talk.

    2. “Who would want to live in such close proximity to the surrounding traffic chaos.”

      Thousands of people, apparently. It’s a free country. They choose to live there.

    3. Do we really need to spend tens of millions of dollars to jury-rig an accommodation to sprawl? Or should we instead double-down on increased density so there are more workers actually living in the city?

  2. No problem with the development proceeding so long as the accommodation for the proposed transit use is made.

  3. Is it too bad for Hines, or too bad for the California taxpayer funding an eminent domain purchase?

  4. If it’s not developed and instead becomes “open space” or a “park” it will become ANOTHER homeless encampment.

    Develop it. Build it. Make it work with the new contra flow lane.

  5. whatever we do- let’s be sure to have it be a short-term decision based on cars. this should not factor into the larger conversation (and budget discussion) about adding another transbay tube. no, no. let’s only look 10 years into the future.

    1. Problem is the problem is imminent – another Transbay tube? How far away is that – 30 plus years. If it can even get funding look at the time it took to build the new Bay Bridge.

      Practically speaking another transbay tube is irrelevant to development going on in the next 10 – 20 years.

      1. Right, because development and transit aren’t meant to be linked together in any capacity, according to your logic.

        1. That’s the problem. Development and transit are supposed to be linked together – physically as well as time-wise. You can’t allow the insane development going on SOMA including the Warriors arena with no concurrent major transit improvements being made. And none are – and none are planned for anytime soon. Decades.

          The Transbay tube, BTW, is not de fide coming to the Mission Bay area. Some plans have it going to north of the SF airport from the Coliseum station. Serving the burgeoning workforce on the Peninsula and connection to Millbrae Tanforan BART stations. Plus extending BART from Millbrae to Santa Clara county. Seems like a wise plan given the growing number of workers commuting from the East Bay to the mid to south Peninsula.

          That is a recipe for disaster.

          1. I realize vehicular traffic may be considered an anathema to transit issues, but it is definitely time to revisit the question of a second (southern) crossing to take some of the pressure off the Bay Bridge. The largest “issue” with same would be just exactly from where to where. I would say the western anchorage would be an artificial island bifurcating traffic between the 101 Bayshore causeway and the Lennar Candlestick development.

            We’re not talking a repeat of the recent Bay Bridge eastern crossing fiasco, but a simple San Mateo Bridge-like structure. It might be surprising how quickly such a project might be proposed, debated, studied, designed and built if we just once adopted an action over “the process” approach.

      1. The lane is for public buses *and carpools*, but is rendered necessary because of the number of *cars* on the rest of the bridge.

        1. I’m not sure where you’re getting carpools. It says the lane will carry “buses and potentially HOT cars/trucks.” (Does “HOT” mean HOV? Serious question.)

          You are of course right that this wouldn’t be necessary if there were fewer cars on the bridge. But unless there were an immediately available alternative that would actually restrict car traffic on the bridge, it seems like good policy to ensure that that congestion doesn’t hurt the mass transportation that you’d prefer people to take. In theory, by increasing the difference in bus vs. car commute times, this would actually lower incentives to drive versus bus and marginally reduce congestion.

          1. HOV == High Occupancy Vehicle, a.k.a. Carpool lanes
            HOT == High Occupancy Toll, a.k.a. Lexus Lanes. Carpools are free, single drivers may ride by paying a toll.

          2. i like the idea of HOT lanes. Im sure plenty of wealthy people would pay for access to get across faster and we could put aside that money to build another cross-bay bridge

          3. Absolutely “NO” to HOT. Defeats the purpose of attempting to induce people out of private vehicles in favor of mass transit. What a ridiculous suggestion

          4. HOT is good is priced set high enough to gain a lot of new money for new transportation projections, such as a subway or a new bridge

          5. When the new piece of the Bay Bridge comes in $6 billion + over budget there is not HOT Toll structure that could ever be high enough to pay for transportation expansion. The financial reality is the regular taxpayers subsidize the capital construction cost of the HOT facilities – but the HOT users reap time benefits at the expense of all of the other drivers.

    2. i agree with you. we should be looking at the long term use of cars and the increase in cars we will see over the next 10-20 yrs. we should be looking at another cross bay bridge from oakland airport area to South San Francisco.

  6. Can someone explain that “contraflow offramp exit” drawing?
    That looks like “deadman’s curve” to me.

    [Editor’s Note: We’ve added a diagram to help make sense of the exit ramp design above.]

  7. How long before a newly minted resident of “Onramp Estates” is arrested for throwing eggs off the balcony?

  8. damn, finally a nice design! Hines will get BIG BUCKS if it loses the land…perhaps that was their plan all along (since city agencies lacks foresight to plan such expensive development in advance)

  9. Leave the ramps as they are and let Hines build. Google and others will improve street use efficiency with self driving cars that can travel closer to one another. The city should focus on rail mass transit efforts.

  10. I went to the east bay yesterday and the traffic around 2nd/Bryant was INSANE. Something has to be done, and while that something could be additional housing for people who would normally be in cars going over the bridge, it seems apparent that capacity and planning is lacking in that area. I was behind a horse trailer making a left from Harrison to 2nd, which was gridlocked. Abso-nuts.

    1. I got stuck in that too. Where the hell is the ticketing, the program the SFMTA announced would start Monday? If you’re reading this, the intersections needing enforcement are 2nd&Bryant, 1st&Folsom, 2nd&Harrison, and 2nd&Folsom, in that order of priority.

      Also, please fire the idiots who propose to drop two lanes from 2nd which will spread the stacked bridge-bound traffic into the surrounding neighborhoods.

        1. if they want to make money on tickets, they could go to page st between fillmore and octavia in the morning and ticket almost every cyclist. maybe 100 per hour

  11. As I said before, the entire approach to the BB needs to be torn down and redone. Also, what’s needed is a southern crossing. Of course, none of that is gonna happen so conditions will just get worse, not better. Get used to it people.

    1. Bay Bridge approaches were originally built for the Key System streetcars. The geometry makes no sense for cars. Agreed that no one in the City has the vision or courage to fix this.

  12. Did AC Transit just hear about the Trasbay projects? Couldn’t a monkey have seen this coming 10-15 years ago? Is a monkey running AC Transit? No, I’m sorry, that’s not fair to monkeys everywhere.

    1. The monkeys at the MTC were too busy $6+ billion dollars on a 20 year faulty bridge replacement to pay much attention to making regional transportation work. It’s their job to coordinate this sort of thing. Unfortunately their bananas.

  13. The area is reaching the point of gridlock which hurts everyone. Including the SF business community.

    It was a mistake to allow such a massive re-zoning of SOMA with no real transit plans thought out.

    Building on every square foot of land to the sidewalk line. No parks or greenbelts – go to Seattle if you want to see new development done right. And Seattle is seeing more development than SF right now so it can be done with foresight.

    It is time IMO for a 5 year moratorium on new construction in SOMA and surrounding areas. Enough is in the pipeline to keep construction workers busy for 5 years.

    During the moratorium a thorough evaluation of transit needs and possibilities in this area needs to be done. By an independent group. How much more development can be allowed given the current transit situation. What transit improvements can be made and how much more development can be allowed if they are made.

    San Francisco is not Seattle or Vancouver. It does not have an infinite supply of land on which to build high density housing or office space. SOMA will support only so much and at some point development must essentially end. Major development that is.

    1. I knew sooner or later some wingnut would take the idea of a new construction moratorium and apply it to another neighborhood besides the Mission.

    2. A five year moratorium to come up with the solution which is already apparent to everyone…build a second transbay tube.

        1. A moratorium city wide on all housing for the next 10 yrs. Lets be the next Monaco. Then after my house goes up by 10X, i can sell and retire…..in Monaco

      1. the transbay tub has more to do with people living in east bay and commuting to work downton, really nothing to do with housing in SOMA. In fact, housing in SOMA should take pressure off by housing citizens in SF, since i doubt many of the new SOMA residents will be commuting to east bay for work.

        now it doesnt deal with within city transportation though.

        1. The premise of such a proposal is that commuters are gridlocking SOMA twice a day since that’s where the bridge access is. Instead of throwing more roads at the problem the 2nd transbay tube is meant to get those very people out of their cars and off SOMA’s streets. Most of the ideas for improving Muni itself have been out there for a long time and really just require money (or more importantly political spine) to implement. We don’t need 5 years of more talk, we need 5 years of action.

          1. I don’t get this at all. Does anyone really think these car-commuters are driving rather than taking BART because BART is too crowded? Or because BART trains aren’t spaced 5 minutes closer together?

            Presumably, they’re not taking BART because they don’t live and/or work close to a BART stop.

          2. I have co-workers who have driven in rather than taken BART, because depending on the time of day they know that BART is going to be a sweaty, jostling, SRO ride from hell. Even if you’re stuck in car traffic, it’s your car with your climate comfort and your music.

          3. i took BART to the warriors game on Tues. I will absolutely drive to the game tonight because the train was too crowded, smelly and some jerk off was smoking weed

          4. And is the miserable experience you describe the fault of BART? I recently spent a week in NYC and the difference in the etiquette of the ridership compared to here was remarkable. I’m a bit embarrassed just to recount it.

  14. Now that there’s an actual study published on the congestion in and around the Bay Bridge as it crosses into the city, now is the time to *shut down* the 2nd Street traffic calming plan.

    It makes no sense to me that at the same time as we try to mitigate traffic congestion in this area, 2nd street, which directly and indirectly feeds into/out of this area from King to Market is planned in some cases to be taken down from 5 lanes to 2.

    1. Yes. Removing lanes from 2nd will move the stacked cars into other currently unaffected neighborhood streets.

  15. Finally, some thought about improving infrastructure.

    The City is going to be massively messed up if housing and offices keeps getting built and transit/infrastructure basically unchanged from 40 years ago.

  16. I recommend you folks take a walk up Rincon Hill during the rush hour. You will see a big mess of traffic. It reminds me of Tokyo at rush hour! Getting home to the condos on the hill would be very difficult.

  17. The congestion study is about 5 years old. The contraflow lane and ramps have been on the list of potential projects since the 1990s. They were estimated to cost $40-73 million in 2010 dollars. The main benefit would be to give the commuter buses a way around the increasing AM congestion. The buses carry 3k passengers/hour during peak commute. The forecast shows the congestion getting worse and causing huge delays to anyone stuck in the main traffic flow. By shifting some traffic to the contraflow lane, it might relieve an extra 5-10 years of traffic growth before the car congestion is back where it was. During the peak hours the private cars average 2-3 passengers/vehicle, so there is not much more to be gained from HOV.

    More BART is the only way to add substantial extra capacity to the SF-Oakland corridor. All the other proposals are rearranging what is already too many vehicles to squeeze the last 10% or so from the bridge. FTR, the study estimates that during the AM peak commute hours, the Bridge eastbound is 25k passengers/hour and BART is 17k/hour. This and all the other changes under consideration might get another 2-3k/hour across.

  18. That’s the most ridiculous headline I’ve seen in a while. It’s actually the proposed building which threatens to derail a plan to improve transit into SF. This lane is for busses people first and foremost. The carpool thing is a maybe. And this is not about accommodating sprawl, unless you consider Oakland and Berkekey sprawl. Since we won’t get another Transbay Tube for 25 more years, we have to pump more busses over the Bay Bridge. That means either taking one of the upper deck lanes and converting it to bus only (unlikely), or creating a contra flow lane on the lower deck where there is unused capacity. Moreover, this proposed development is not even allowed by the zoning and Hines is basically asking for a rezoning to give them a windfall for a site that doesn’t allow what they want. What is the city getting back for this?

  19. I love that most of the comments request that we add more capacity for cars rather than doubling-down on transit. Surely this problem can be blamed on someone, but not all the cars.

    1. 3000 people use busses. Many thousands drive the counter-commute which this idea of running buses the “wrong” direction will snarl as badly as the “regular” commute. So as usual this is just a green-sounding idea that will make getting around the Bay Area ever more difficult. Why not turn 2 of the Bay Bridge lanes over to bicycles while we’re at it since they need a way from getting between the iskand and SF.

        1. Why would think the bridge would experience such a low 0.04% bike mode share when it is so much higher on either side?

          1. the 2% of commuteres in SF are travelling<2 miles on average to commute. those in oakland would need to travel 7 miles + however far they are from bridge. Since no one lives very close to the bridge, assuming a minimum of 10 miles. that will cut out a lot of commuters, and virtually no one willl go the other way

          2. I agree the distance might cut out a percentage of commuters. But would it eliminate 98% of bike commuters as you assert? Unlikely

            And you never know, the Bay Bridge might actually attract a greater mode share than ordinary street commuting considering how congested it is. Biking might take about the same time as driving and the toll + parking would be cheaper.

          3. Only ten miles, that’s not much. 45 minutes top and you’re no longer a gas guzzling global warmer…. And you’re having fun! Plus getting to cross two bridges. The building looks like crap by the way; eminent domain is a good reason to start over, try something good this time.

          4. Comment, do you really think any more than a tiny minority of commuters is going to bike ten miles each way (necessitating a shower and change of clothes at each end)? Even if our drought continues indefinitely?

            What percentage of commuters from Marin bike across the GG bridge?

          5. shza – nice… using the drought as an anti-bike argument… that is hilarious. I count the same number of showers per day, even if your comment was valid.

          6. electric bikes are also more accessible than ever… for the people who can’t ride the 10 on their own.

          7. You’re misunderstanding. My point re drought was that the thought of high bike commuting would be even less plausible if we start getting rain again. Shocking as it seems to be to you, most people do not want to ride 10 miles on a bike in the rain.

            Note also that this is all beyond hypothetical, since the only suggestion anyone has made about a bike lane that goes the length of the Bay Bridge was BTinSF’s sarcastic joke above.

      1. Yea, right. A few bicycles to take out TWO LANES OF TRAFFIC.

        Don’t let the Bike Coalition find out about this one.

        1. Just one lane in the contra flow direction if you “zipper” the lane. Cheaper than adding two new outrigger lanes to the western span.

          1. The problem with having a lane dedicated in the contra flow direction is that Caltrans ALWAYS uses at least one lane for this purpose for bridge maintenance. I commute in the contra commute direction daily and I can’t remember the last time all lanes were open in the eastbound direction in the AM.

    1. Yes! It’s normal to put buildings on top of tunnels, so why not put a tunnel through a building? Only the zoning & rights would make it difficult, but that’s legalism and could be negotiated. Physically it would be fairly simple.

  20. Ideally the entire left lane of the bay bridge going in to SF would be a bus/carpool lane – this is very easy to do right now with only a few cans of paint and some signage required (at least physically – legally might be another matter). Nobody really needs to take the harrison exit on the left (at least once the folsom exit on the right is re-opened) – they both dump traffic out exactly 1 block from each other. The problem of course is that the harrison ramp is a bit far from the new transbay terminal approach – if they had thought this through 10 years ago of course they could have done that, but hey…

    1. Most of the cars are already carpool during the peak AM commute into SF. The flow control is the toll plaza on the Oakland side.That is where the backup and congestion are in the AM commute.
      The contraflow lane would be taken from the eastbound traffic and so would add one lane to the AM westbound commute.

  21. As proposed, the Bay Bridge contra-flow moveable concrete barrier removes seven inches from the remaining traffic lanes.

    Collisions between cars and heavy trucks due to narrow lanes of only 11 feet will cause frequent shutdowns resulting in gridlock on the bridge.

    The Federal Highway Administration states 12 feet is criteria for urban freeway lane width.

      1. No, beautiful bridge. We need to turn to more progressive forward thinking transit options. Raising tolls and making lane splitting illegal will help move people off of cars and motorcycles and into public transit.

        1. FTLOG, what’s wrong with motorcycles and lane splitting? (And I say this as someone who is *not* a motorcycle rider.) If everyone rode motorcycles instead of drove in cars, most congestion would be gone immediately (tighter spacing on roads, more efficient use of parking spaces, etc.)

    1. Are you referring to the I-80 “Skyway” which was completely redone in the last 5 years as part of the seismic upgrade of the Bay Bridge?

      1. I referring to everything from where 101 South merges with 80. I gather your point is that they managed to replace it all in the last five years, so what’s my point, right? They were able to do that using a some of these empty lots for staging. Once we hem in the highway with tall buildings — it seems to be the only place we want to designate for tall towers — what will future generations do?

  22. Take the needed 1000sf from the parcel. Compensate Hines by allowing 10 extra stories. Everyone wins.

    1. The AC/Joint Powers folks have the upper hand. Hines has to agree to their request or the property can be taken by eminent domain.

      As to going higher, this building already violates existing code. No way will the Planning Commission allow them to go higher.

      I suspect Hines knew this all along and they expected to win either way. If the building went forward or if they are bought out by eminent domain. Depending on what they paid for the parcel their ROI could be higher with an eminent domain buyout than with a build-out.


  24. Either the Bay Area grows up and starts building what is needed (yes that includes car infrastructure too, the population isn’t going down if you haven’t noticed) or it swallows itself up and creates a traffic and constant gridlock nightmare that could put Chinese cities to shame.

  25. What would be cheaper and faster to build – a second BART transbay tube, or a second San Mateo-ish designed bridge, which incorporates BART into the bridge (and assumes BART is underground on either side of the bridge)?

    I rode such a train in Hong Kong, between my hotel in Kowloon and the convention center by the airport; underground for majority of the trip, but utilized an auto bridge for over water.

    Thought being that the second bridge helps with auto traffic to or from east bay into/through the city (maybe with limited exits in the city) and down the peninsula (and visa versa). There would be BART for those who can utilize the convenience of mass transit to central/high density centers – such as SOMA/FiDi, etc.

    1. In theory a bridge is much cheaper. “In theory” because if the new Bay Bridge span is any guide, the local politicos wouldn’t stand for a simple concrete pier design, and would insist on something showy and magnificent – leading to incredible delays and cost increases.

      1. I don’t think you can seriously so easily dismiss the idea. I would hope lessons have been learned and a combined highway /transit southern crossing bridge makes an awful lot of sense.

        1. Who said I was dismissing the idea? I’m all in favor of a 2nd bridge *and* a 2nd tube. I’m just saying that a 2nd bridge will be more expensive there than in other areas of the country.

    2. Where would you terminate this on the western side? Someplace like Oyster Point? If it is a bridge, then it would either need to be tall enough for the big cargo ships to pass under or be somewhere south of the deep water anchorages between Hunters Point and Alameda. The current ‘Willie Brown’ bridge was barely tall enough for the new container handling cranes to pass under on the way to the port of Oakland.

      FWIW, about 80% of the peak commute traffic on the Bay Bridge is headed for SF destinations and almost all of that is headed for the CBD.

      Also, we don’t want to increase the number of cars headed for the SF CBD from either the east bay or san mateo. The car commute from outside SF is already about half the cars in SF CBD during the worst traffic.

  26. For the life of me I can’t understand why anyone would drive into the City. Not necessary at all.

    1. Not necessary for you maybe, but that’s a broad statement to try to apply to everyone and to every trip. Different circumstances for different people. Sometimes a car is appropriate, sometimes BART is better, sometimes the bus, sometimes the ferry…. Nice to have options.

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