The Slow Streets program has a an equity problem, one that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency says it will spend the next month trying to rectify.
To date, nearly 25 corridors citywide have been temporarily closed to vehicular thru-traffic in order to create space for socially distant foot and bike travel to essential destinations as well as a safe outdoor environment.
Though the now-popular program started in April, a number of neighborhoods are conspicuously still lacking a robust network of Slow Streets, including those that are home to some of The City’s highest concentrations of essential workers and low-income residents and where crowded housing and transportation conditions persist during the pandemic.
Seven of these neighborhoods will receive targeted community outreach between November 10 and December 10: South of Market, Bayview, Visitacion Valley, Outer Mission, Oceanview/Parkside, Inner Sunset and the Western Addition.
Currently, all of these focus areas include large swaths without any Slow Streets, and neighbors have to travel quite far, in some cases, to reach the nearest vehicle-free roadway.
Now, as the program enters its fourth phase, SFMTA will be “headed directly to historically under-served neighborhoods” that “don’t yet have Slow Streets.”
An SFMTA blog post published in early November said the agency will “take to the streets and engage residents on a neighborhood planning level” through online questionnaires, community meetings, socially distanced on-the-ground outreach and online office hours.
The supervisors who oversee the districts that include these neighborhoods will play a key role in connecting the transit agency to the right community stakeholders.
Preston Kilgore, legislative aide to Supervisor Dean Preston, whose district includes the Inner Sunset and Western Addition as well as the well-trafficked Slow Street on Page Street, said their office is coordinating with the SFMTA to gage interest.
“What we have seen is that there has been overwhelming support for the current slow streets on Page and Golden Gate in District Five,” he said, adding the supervisor’s office did “major community outreach with merchant and neighborhood groups” that it plans to replicate in the Inner Sunset and Western Addition to chart a path forward.
Much of the Slow Streets implementation has been guided by direct feedback from survey respondents, SFMTA says, but it acknowledges this approach has ended in a lopsided result that favors the neighborhoods where many residents have spoken out in favor of the program and suggested potential corridors to be considered for partial closure.
Through the end of September, 6,208 people had provided feedback on Slow Streets through the agency’s survey. Nearly 60 percent of them are concentrated in just five zip codes, largely located in the center of The City.
Neighborhoods towards the fringes — most of which will be the focus of this next round of outreach — have provided the least input, and, consequently, have the fewest Slow Streets.
SFMTA will use this month-long period to find out if there is “interest and support” from these residents and to solicit comments on roads within each neighborhood that it has internally identified as preliminary options for future Slow Streets.
Agency staff will use its findings to inform the proposals for this fourth wave of Slow Streets, and it will present those plans to the SFMTA Board of Directors for approval in early 2021.