Note: This story was reported and written in 2017.
By Geoffrey Scott
Residents of the Tenderloin should expect major updates to safety and traffic conditions on one of the district’s major thoroughfares, thanks to the efforts of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the Safer Taylor Street Project, where city planners are working with the community to redesign one of the city’s most dangerous streets.
The Safer Taylor Street Project is a part of the larger Vision Zero SF, an effort by the SFMTA aimed at eliminating all traffic deaths in the city by 2024.
According to the project’s website, about 70 percent of serious traffic injuries and fatalities in San Francisco occur on about 12 percent of city streets. Taylor Street between Market and Sutter, is part of that 12 percent.
Between 2011 and 2016, the seven-block stretch of Taylor saw 109 collisions.
Sixty-nine of these were serious collisions involving cars striking pedestrians or bicyclists, which is an abnormally high average of about one collision per month.
The project has hosted well-attended, pop-up events and design workshops where community members can come voice their opinions on what safety measures could be updated to help reduce the danger.
The last event on Aug. 30 saw hundreds of residents come participate in an interactive workshop which showcased ideas like new protected bike lanes and wider sidewalks.
Specialized loading areas for music venues and hotels were also suggested, which could create permanent loading areas for sound and stage equipment or other large items that would not affect traffic or drivers’ sightlines.
Craig Raphael, Senior Transportation Planner at SFMTA said that the response from the community at these events has been positive, and project managers are considering a broad range of suggestions during the initial planning phase.
Raphael said one of the biggest concerns they have been hearing is the amount of time given to cross the street. Another common concern is that sidewalks are too narrow.
Safer Taylor Street Project is working with nonprofit safety organizations and local businesses to make sure the updates meet all of Tenderloin’s commercial needs while also making the street more user-friendly for pedestrians of all ages and capabilities.
Raphael said that one of the major challenges of any city transportation project is balancing street safety issues with traffic needs to avoid congestion.
“Hotels and the various music venues are generally concerned about congestion,” Raphael said. “However, a lot of the congestion concerns are out of SFMTA’s control. “There are things like the regional economy which is booming right now, resulting in new construction, congestion and so forth.”
Some who live and work in the Tenderloin fear the street project would make an already hard-to-navigate part of town even worse.
Christopher Ledesma, San Francisco resident and actor at the Exit Theatre in the Tenderloin says that with the large amount of construction, “walking downtown can sometimes be an ordeal.”
“My only concern would be that another project taking a few months to a year would make my commute even more difficult,” Ledesma said.
According to a timeline provided by the Safer Taylor Street website, the planning phase will continue through the rest of the year. The third and final community workshop will be held Oct. 2.
A plan will be finalized spring 2018, but implementation of the new design will not begin until 2019.
“After this long planning phase and we reach a consensus, it will still take a couple years to be completed,” Raphael said, “but lots can be done in the near term to make Taylor Street safer with just some new paint.”