San Francisco is a city that as my wife once quoted a person from Maine as saying, “Ya can’t get there from here.” Traveling is a difficult task because of the central hills and Golden Gate Park that has caused our transit system to bore holes through the hills to make it easier to get to downtown. The Richmond and Sunset districts occupy approximately half of San Francisco and are divided by the Slot, or Golden Gate Park. Originally, Market street was referred to as the Slot and the SoMA region was called South of the Slot, but today Market St is more of a slit for travelers than a slot.
Golden Gate Park is a massive part of the city being three times the size of New York’s Central Park. The problem with it is while it is a great outdoor open space there’s really only four places to cross the park. I’ll address each of these individually. The first is Ocean Beach where while it is a great place to drive is only two lanes in either direction That’s rather sumptuous compared to other places, but it is also subject to frequent closures due to public events such as the Bay to Breakers and other public events. It’s still one of my first choices when I have to travel to areas northwest in San Francisco.
The next is the 41st avenue [Sunset side] and 43rd avenue [Richmond side]. This is one lane in either direction with two stop signs to slow you down and leads to traffic pile ups.Quite frequently if you need to get to the northwest section of town crossing here will be slower than traveling down to the beach and using Great Highway. It’s a beautiful drive, but it will add time to your drive that feels like house when it is only minutes.
Next is 19th Avenue which while on the Richmond side is Park Presidio all the traffic reporters refer to as 19th avenue. This is the biggest three lanes in either direction transit point for getting to the Golden Gate Bridge. Because of this it is always crowded. There have been times when traveling there are smooth, but they are rare. If an accident occurs here it is usually within Golden Gate Park and will back up traffic all the way to Daly City.
The last is at Stanyan Street which most people ignore because even though it is two lanes in either direction, it’s a nightmare of traffic to wade through even though people supposedly ignore it. The Stanyan street corridor is one of the most congested streets of the city. I always use it as a last resort because even during the day when you would expect little traffic it has lots of traffic.
There are a few other areas you can use to get around such as the Lincoln Blvd and Fulton Street areas that run parallel to the park, but those usually get congested during rush hour because they’re the only areas with wide enough lanes to allow drivers to travel over the speed limit [c’mon admit it who hasn’t hit 60 mph on one of these streets?]
When I used to live out closer to the beach I used to enter on 41st Avenue and actually drive through the park in the mornings. It was a leisurely drive that few people take. While it is on the slow side, it is quite pleasant overall. It may add some time to your trip, but at least you’ll have a smile on your face.
San Francisco needs to realize that with half of the city being taken up with residents of the Richmond and Sunset districts that it needs to find an easy way to get there from here. Richmond residents have Geavy Blvd to get them downtown that while large is frequently crowded. The Sunset has no direct route to downtown by car except the Oak Street/Fell Street corridor along the panhandle which in the mornings is a nightmare to travel. SFMTA riders have access to downtown via West Portal station, yet Richmond riders have only the 38 Geary to get them downtown. Yes, there are other busses in the Richmond, but they take you twice as long as the Geary.
The next Mayor of San Francisco will have to take a look at finding a way to get the citizens of San Francisco from here to there quickly and efficiently.