Lombard Street to Take its Toll
By Assemblymember Phil Ting
San Francisco is fortunate to boast natural and man-made attractions that bring tourists from around the world to our city. These visitors sustain one of the largest sectors of our local economy: our hospitality industry. However, one of our most famous sites is located in a residential neighborhood that has to cope with a constant influx of people and vehicles, affecting residents’ quality of life.
The 1000 block of Lombard Street between Hyde and Leavenworth streets in Russian Hill, otherwise known as the “crooked street,” hosts more than two million visitors per year, many of them desiring to drive their vehicles down its famous curves. On the busiest days of the summer, more than 17,000 people a day visit the crooked street.
Unsurprisingly, this creates traffic queues that can stretch more than three blocks west, past Van Ness Avenue; vehicles attempting to turn onto Lombard from side streets also cause congestion. The wait can be up to 45 minutes to reach the crooked street, releasing emissions the entire time and impeding residents’ access to their homes. Additionally, the Hyde Street cable car and nearby Yick Wo Elementary School can be affected by spillover traffic.
The San Francisco County Transportation Authority (CTA) has conducted studies and gathered input from neighbors and visitors in order to find a solution to manage traffic. This resulted in a recommendation to implement a pricing and reservation system. One survey showed that more than half of those waiting in a vehicle queue were willing to pay $5 to access the crooked street if they didn’t have to wait in line.
San Francisco Supervisor Catherine Stefani and her predecessors in the District Two seat have worked with CTA on this issue for years. Community ambassadors and parking enforcement officers are deployed on weekends to help manage traffic, but the line of cars continues to grow. Temporary closures pushed traffic to the times just before and after the closure.
Now that there is a willingness to pilot a reservation system, state law must enable the City and County to do so. That’s why I have authored Assembly Bill (AB) 1605, to authorize the establishment and administration of this program. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has unanimously voted to support my bill, giving it momentum as it goes through the legislative process.
While CTA will have to finalize details on how the Lombard Street system would work, it may work like what’s in place at Muir Woods. Drivers would be able to reserve a time in advance, regulating the number of vehicles lining up for the crooked street at any one time. An all-electronic system with a website, mobile app and on-street kiosks could be one way to administer the program, eliminating the need for a staffed toll booth.
Please join me in supporting a remedy not only for neighbors of the crooked street but for all those attempting to travel on Van Ness and other nearby streets.
Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City.