Mike Koozmin/2013 S.F. Examiner file photoCharging $3 to motorists entering downtown could generate money for transit projects

Mike Koozmin/2013 S.F. Examiner file photoCharging $3 to motorists entering downtown could generate money for transit projects

Driver fees could help combat gridlock

Downtown San Francisco will be mired in gridlock unless changes are made soon to alleviate automobile traffic — and the most effective method could be a long-discussed and controversial congestion-pricing scheme.

Unless private automobile traffic is reduced by 27 percent over the next three decades, congestion levels in The City will be unmanageable, with vehicles stuck at a standstill and pedestrians and cyclists prone to increasingly dangerous conditions, according to a new report by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, a local planning agency.

However, implementing congestion pricing could cut deeply into that 27 percent figure: The report pegged the number at 10 to 15 percent. It also would generate tens of millions of dollars for other transit needs.

Reaching the total reduction — which would still leave the downtown and South of Market areas “saturated” with traffic — will require a number of different initiatives, according to Tilly Chang, deputy planning director with the authority.

The authority has recommended adding more transit-only lanes in SoMa, particularly on key north-south corridors such as Seventh and Eighth streets. Installing bike paths, widening sidewalks and adding high-occupancy vehicle lanes to freeway on-ramps also could significantly cut back on congestion. And there’s the possibility of designating streets strictly for transit, biking or walking.

“It’s time to really plan proactively to avoid gridlock,” Chang said. “If the growth anticipated in the region happens, we’ll be facing massive delays and really unsafe conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists.”

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, has been working with the authority on the circulation study. Spokesman Paul Rose said the agency is interested in exploring some of the ideas put forth in the authority’s report.

Measures such as increasing the use of employee shuttles can reduce congestion levels by about 1 to 3 percent in downtown San Francisco and an increase in car-sharing could lower traffic by another 3 to 5 percent.

A 2010 report by the authority found that charging a $3 fee for motorists entering the northeast section of San Francisco would generate $60 million to $80 million a year, which could then be invested into transportation improvements. Chang said the authority is waiting on direction from local policymakers on whether to continue exploring that option. Right now, there are no immediate plans to move forward with congestion pricing, she said.

A new nonprofit organization called the Business Council on Climate Change was formed to address issues of congestion and carbon emissions reduction in San Francisco.

While the group has met with the authority about some of its recommendations, it has not taken an official stance on the proposals, said Melissa Capria, the organization’s interim executive director.

Business groups such as the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the Building Owners and Management Association came out against the congestion-pricing plan.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsLocalSan FranciscoSan Francisco County Transportation AuthorityTransittransportation

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

District Attorney Chesa Boudin announces charges against former SFPD Officer Christopher Samoyoa in the 2017 fatal shooting of Keita O’Neill at a press conference outside the Hall of Justice on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
DA Boudin charges fired SFPD officer with manslaughter over fatal shooting

Ex-Officer Christopher Samayoa to face criminal charges in killing of Keita O’Neil

The area near the Castro Muni Metro Station is expected to be affected by construction work on the Twin Peaks Tunnel, with lane closures on Market Street and some loss of parking. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Construction on Twin Peaks Tunnel to begin November 30

Area around Castro Muni Station will see greatest impacts including lane closures on Market Street

Cal Junior Quarterback Chase Garbers completed 28 of 42 passes 315 yards and three touchdowns and two interceptions in his last game against Oregon State. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
The Big Game: Stanford at Cal

What: The 123rd Big Game When: Friday, 1:30 p.m. Where: Memorial Stadium,… Continue reading

(Genaro Molina/Pool/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Newsom calls latest surge of COVID-19 cases ‘unprecendented’

By Eli Walsh Bay City News Foundation California’s latest surge of COVID-19… Continue reading

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, during a news conference on March 10, 2020. (Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
LA County suspends outdoor dining at restaurants as coronavirus surges

By Alex Wigglesworth Los Angeles Times Los Angeles County public health officials… Continue reading

Most Read