Downtown San Francisco congestion is reaching historic highs, according to transportation analytics firm Inrix. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Business interests hold first-of-its-kind meeting with SF to stop traffic congestion

The denizens of downtown have had it: Traffic congestion has got to go.

To that end, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce pitched to San Francisco a first-of-its-kind meeting with downtown interests and transportation planners in the hopes of tackling congestion in concert.

The idea was sparked by similar meetings convened by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to curb congestion during last year’s Super Bowl City, which proved to be a positive collaboration, said Dee Dee Workman, vice president of public policy at the chamber.

Even though the SFMTA often meets with neighborhood groups to signal transit changes, Workman said downtown has so many disparate groups that it can be tough to corral them all.

“Downtown is kind of its own animal,” she said. “I don’t think there was, or has been, a focal point for them to do outreach.”

Downtown congestion is reaching historic highs. Transportation analytics firm Inrix ranked the San Francisco Bay Area with the third worst traffic congestion during peak travel times in the U.S.

Bob Pishue, a senior economist at Inrix, said that includes downtown too.

“For our traffic scorecard, we didn’t just look at highways but city streets,” Pishue told the San Francisco Examiner. “During the peak periods on city streets, not highways or major arterials, we saw 23.4 percent of travel was congested, the highest of any city we looked at.”

That’s a daily reality for Workman and the two dozen downtown groups that plan to meet with the SFMTA.

But more than just a community kvetch, the meeting is a call to action for The City. Workman said congestion doesn’t merely stymie commuters, businesses and residents in the Financial District, South of Market and Market Street areas, but ripples across neighborhoods.

“There’s gridlock all the time,” said Workman. “We want to talk to the [SF]MTA about what’s happening to the streets of San Francisco and how they’re approaching public transportation planning.”

Juliana Bunim, vice president of strategic communications at the chamber, emphasized the SFMTA has been “really responsive and supportive.”

Paul Rose, a spokesperson for the SFMTA, said the agency and the San Francisco Police Department coordinate on rush-hour traffic enforcement and traffic management by deploying officers, and SFMTA parking control officers enforce “blocking the box” violations at key intersections near the Bay Bridge and AT&T Park.

“As San Francisco’s transportation agency, we are charged with improving all modes of transportation, including driving,” Rose said. “We know there has been an increased demand on San Francisco streets and that is why we are working with our partners to explore additional traffic solutions to make it easier and smoother to get around The City.”

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