EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 traffic | Baghdad By The Bay

Posts Tagged 'traffic'

Is San Francisco Traffic That Bad?

Yes. Let’s get that out of the way first. San Francisco traffic in the last few years has gotten a bit horrible and it might be getting worse. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when you wonder why the traffic is so bad:

  1. Taxis: OK, this isn’t really so much of a problem because San Francisco has had 2500 taxi medallions for years now. The biggest problem from the beginning is that taxi drivers love to stay only in the FiDi/SoMA/Wharf areas where all the money is which caused a problem with people who needed transportation in other areas.
  2. Lyft/Uber: The answer to getting a non-SFMTA ride in areas where taxi drivers would tell you, Going off shift now.  There are currently 45,000 Lyft/Uber drivers driving in San Francisco every day. Many of these are people from outside the City who come in because they work 40-70 hour weeks since that’s their only source of income and living outside San Francisco is the only place they can live when they drive for Lyft/Uber.
  3. Tech Buses: While they’re universally hated by many in San Francisco they piss people off more than contribute much to the traffic jams we see in San Francisco.
  4. Chariot and other bus like systems: These come and go every month with someone who’s managed to get enough investment to give them a shot in the arm to disrupt the travel industry. Oh dear. They tend to drive worse than Lyft/Uber drivers from my experience and they appear to disrupt traffic quite a bit considering they only are out during rush hours.
  5. Commuters: I didn’t think there would be that many of them, but in the mornings there are tons coming into the City and in the evenings there are tons leaving the City. Not to point fingers, but I see BMW’s, Mercedes, Audis and Lexus’ [Lexi?] as the majority of these cars.
  6. Bikes: C’mon, I have to add them in. They frequently drive downtown like they own the street and shoot in and out of cars with a total disregard for the welfare of pedestrians or people driving a vehicle that is more than capable of turning them into hamburger if they can’t move out of the way fast enough.

It is really getting bad to say the least. Even out in the Suburbs of San Francisco, or the Sunset District we’re starting to see more traffic as more people like to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, but don’t have a car so they come out here to visit or even move out here because it’s more peaceful.

A few years ago traffic was bad, but not as bad as it is today and the problem I’ve seen is that it’s only going to get worse more likely. I say that because now that the big news is all about how driverless cars are going to disrupt the rideshare industry which of course the rideshare industry was built to disrupt the taxi industry there’s a few things people who know nothing about this industry haven’t noticed.

Driverless car technology is the new Kool-Aid styled drink for techies because, well, it’s a tech thing. I have to admit that I did work for a company as a test driver for these cars and they have come a long way since I started, but they aren’t reading much of the data from what goes on in the rideshare industry.

One company, Cruise Automation posted a recent video of a night time drive with one of their driverless cars that lasts almost an hour and a half. I have to admit that I was pretty impressed with the video, but there are a few things that aren’t mentioned because it’s showing a car driving around downtown San Francisco simulating stops that rideshare drivers do. The problem is in the high speed they show only four stops in the almost hour and a half video in downtown San Francisco. These four stops equal 2 pick ups on 2 drop offs. To do this within an hour and a half isn’t workable in San Francisco. On a bad night in downtown SF you could do 3 pick ups and drop offs downtown within an hour and on a good night you could do 4-5 of the same within an hour. 2 pickups and drop offs within an hour and half would drive the riders crazy.

Currently, according to the California DMV, driverless cars can move at a speed of no more than 25mph. This is fine since that is the general speed limit in San Francisco, but, how often do cars really obey the speed limit? The cars can’t travel on freeways which are frequently used by all of the above mentioned traffic contributors to shave time off trips, so currently the driverless cars are at a disadvantage.

I also have yet to see a driverless car [any driverless car, I don’t want to seem like I’m picking on Cruise] properly pull over to pick someone up. After seeing the progress that has been made I suspect they will find a way to do this in the future, but right now that’s still a sticking point and especially in parts of San Francisco where there simply is no place to pull over you’ll be stuck with slow cars double parking to pick up or drop off passengers and then who will the police officer write a ticket to?

San Francisco is growing like a balloon that is overfilled and one day soon it will likely pop due to any number of things. It’s very hard to get around in the City anymore even for someone like me who’s been driving around here for the past 30+ years. I can’t remember the last time my wife and I have gone somewhere outside the Sunset District in San Francisco other than our monthly trip to take our daughter to a play day in the Mission which we drop her off in the morning before everyone’s awake on the weekend.

I honestly wish I had an answer to this problem, but other than regulation which limits the number of cars or an increase in better public transportation [which is always a loss to the city that provides it] I don’t see an answer. I do think that some people need to see the problems inherent in the direction some people are trying to push things right now.




Golden Gate Park Gone Wrong

While everyone seems to be focused on the West end of GGP nobody has noticed what they’ve done to the Eastern side. It turns out that they’ve moved the parking to where the bike lane is and the bike lane to where the parking is. This is bad for a couple of reasons.

First, the bike lane isn’t used that much so leaving it next to area where the cars drive makes sense. If a person on a bike is riding by and the driver of the car opens the door to get out without noticing the bike the rider can move a little to the left to get out of the way. Now with the bike lane blocked in by cars and the curb, if a passenger opens the door without noticing the bike you will have two injured people.

Also pushing the parked cars out makes driving more difficult. I find myself not being able to drive the speed limit in the Eastern part of the park now, because I now have to drive very close to the cars. So far this only affects JFK Drive East of Transverse Drive, but if they think of moving it to other parts of the park it will be a disaster.

I used to enjoy my drives through the park as they were always pretty peaceful, now even driving slow I have to be aware of hitting cars. As you can see from the picture in front of me [that I took after I came to a full stop next to the Rose Garden] The car in front of me is not centered in the lane and veering to the left, practically driving on the divider line to avoid hitting the parked cars on the right. I suspect we will be seeing more car accidents in the future along this part of the park because of the dumb idea they’ve put in place.

The other thing that is puzzling me is how packed with cars the park is now. I took the picture above in the middle of the week at somewhere around 2pm. Why are all those cars there or were they there before, but I just didn’t realize them because they were farther away from me? From Transverse Drive all the way up to the Conservatory of Flowers was completely packed with cars and I have no idea why.

My Day In Court

So I had to go to traffic court today for a rather odd ticket I received several months ago. First the cop told me that I was going 32mph in a 25mph zone. Driving downhill on Taraval that’s pretty easy to do, but then every Muni driver would have a ticket for that. He sited me for not coming to a full stop at two stop signs which I know the first one he wasn’t behind to witness and the police station is at 24th where he sited me for the second non full stop. I know well enough to know that running a stop sign next to a police station is a stupid idea so I doubt I did that one either, but everyone has their own interpretation of things.

I thought I knew how to work the system, but apparently the system has changed in San Francisco. You used to wait and see if you name was called. If it was you were handed a written statement by the police officer who ticketed you that you could either fight in court or take traffic school. If your name wasn’t called, your ticket was dismissed. Well apparently things have changed and they don’t have to write up a report anymore so your only option is take traffic school, fight it or pay the fine. It turns out people used to opt for the fight when had done traffic school in the last 18 months because the officers usually didn’t show and it would be dismissed. Now they charge the police officer $250 if he/she doesn’t show. That option is now off the table.

So my final charges for having to go to traffic school are the reduced rate of $114 for the ticket plus $55 for traffic school. At least now you can do your traffic school online in San Francisco, but I’m still a bit irked by the douchebag cop who gave me the ticket signing his name with a line and called me a drunk or hungover because I happen to have a slight problem of tremors CAUSED BY A STROKE I HAD 13 YEARS AGO! If he thought I was drunk why didn’t he test me? I don’t mind being read the riot act when I really did something stupid. I was pulled over about 20 years ago for doing close to 60mph down Mission Street at 4am. THAT would have deserved a ticket, but I just had to sit there and be yelled at for 15 minutes by an Irish cop [accent at no extra charge] who let me go because I was only a couple of blocks from the house I was living in at the time.

I have friends who are cops and they are nothing like this douchebag. Most of the time when I’ve been pulled over the few times I have the officers have been rather cordial about it. Usually I just get a warning or a stern talking too and they let me go. Just beware if you’re driving around the Sunset of an overweight cop driving an off-road police motorcycle. They’re kind of hard to spot because they’re new, but this guy will get you. I won’t mention anything else about him so more of you will drive safer.

Burying The Hatchet With The Bay Bridge

As I have written before I’ve always disliked the Bay Bridge mostly for the part about it being easy to get out of the city, but hard to get back in. I have had to wait close to an hour on some weekends because of the back ups. Well things have changed a bit now.

Now that I have Fastrak, it’s a little bit easier. I got a task from TaskRabbit that I thought was virtual, but turned out that I had to drive to Berkeley. Crap, I’ve got to drive the bridge. Well the task went quickly and my gracious task master gave me the added bonus of a tip of over five pounds of homemade chocolate, but that’s for another article.

So there I am during the week driving home at about 4 pm and I see the traffic starting to slow down a bit. OK, here it comes. Actually, wait, why’s everyone getting out of my lane? Apparently people who travel to the East Bay for some reason don’t believe in Fastrak. I was in an empty Fastrak lane and breezed through unhindered.

It was actually, well, kind of nice. It almost reminded me of my daily crossings of the Golden Gate Bridge, just a whole lot longer. I may actually have reasons to visit the East Bay every once in while. If you don’t have Fastrak I suggest you get it. It saves you time and money and you only have to put $25 on it to start. It work not having the hassle of the slow downs to pull out your cash.

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The Streets Of San Francisco

I didn’t used to have to drive much when I was unemployed, but now that I have a job and have to hop in my car every day I’ve realized something that I haven’t in quite a while. The Streets of San Francisco pretty much suck. The street outside my house hasn’t been redone in over 30 years. While I am seeing streets being repaved all over the city for some reason my street seems to be at the bottom of the list.

My wife and I were watching a TV show a couple of months ago about technology and how there’s a machine that can drive down a street and grind up the old asphalt and mix it in with a little bit of new asphalt and lay down the new street very quickly. I’ve seen these machines at work in the city and they can redo a block in a day or two. I’m sure they’re a bit costly, but compared to a group of 10-15 guys working for two weeks to do the same thing they probably pay off much quicker.

Every rainy season we have in SF we start to see cracks in the street that get bigger and turn into potholes. The only places I’ve ever been where the streets are marginally worse is New York City. Driving in your car gets thrown around just like my drive into work everyday. I need to have my wheels realigned on my car at least once if not twice a year because of all the potholes and uneven surfaces. This reminded me of my first trip back East to visit my wife before we were married. They have to deal with snow and the salt they put on the roads so that’s a lot more hard on the roads than what we have out here and they have to replace the roads more often. Driving back East in Massachusetts and Connecticut was like driving on glass. The roads were so smooth and the car just hugged the road like were driving on a LeMan’s race track. It was beautiful.

I know San Francisco has a lot of other things to deal with than the roads and they are replacing the roads quite a bit lately. They just seem to not be using those new machines that make the change come about faster as much as they could. It has been worse I’ll give you that. I remember a drive downtown where there was a large pothole that I didn’t see until it was too late to avoid and when I hit it the pothole actually shifted my car from drive into neutral. That’s not right. Most of the work is down is patchwork and I remember when I was first learning to drive how there was a strip jutting out from the parking space in front of my house that if I could back up just enough to hit the little hump I knew my car was in the right space. I’ve got a driveway now to park in and I shouldn’t have to think about the street humps [not speed humps as they call them now] to know how to park. Yes, as I said earlier there are a lot of other things that need help in the city, but if you have to drive in the city your car gets more wear and tear than it needs to.

Why I hate the Bay Bridge

YAY! I have another chance to rant. I’m sure this won’t bring about any changes, but I have to say that I absolutely, positively, HATE the Bay Bridge.

Why you may ask? If you haven’t had the misfortune to have to travel across the bridge you may not understand. It’s not so bad going over it unless you’re trying to during rush hour. The problem lines when you want to come back.

Now I can see why it’s free to leave San Francisco, but you have to pay to come back, after all, we’re San Francisco so we’re really cool and all that. We’re kind of like Disneyland with some gays and homeless people thrown in to mix things up a bit. The toll booths are managed very badly and there are even line ups to get through during the week day outside of rush hour.

Here’s an example. We decided to take a trip over to IKEA one day to get some new furniture. The drive over was about 30 minutes, but the return trip ended up taking us close to an hour and a half and this was around 12:30 on a Thursday. We were crawling along so slow it was ridiculous. Even the fast trak lanes weren’t so fast as you can’t go through the booth at 50 mph unless you’re a stunt driver. We don’t have much reason to cross the bridge so it would take us well over a year to finish off the original payout to get the fast trak device.

[mappress mapid=”24″]We tried a little experiment. There’s an IKEA down in Palo Alto. We decided to try that trip one day. Totally time down there: 40 minutes. Total time back 35 minutes and there was no toll. The big difference is not only in time, but the fact that it’s an 11 mile drive to Emeryville and a 34 mile drive to Palo Alto. Yet we were able to do it in a total of 45 minutes less driving three times the distance. Nowadays we’ve decided to boycott the Bay Bridge until they get things right.

Most of what we really need is in San Francisco and being in the Sunset it’s actually faster to get on the freeway going south than it is to get on the freeway going north towards the bridge. So unless it’s a major emergency, the Bay Bridge is out for us. Well unless it’s a trip to Treasure Island which you don’t need to go through the toll booth to get there or come back.