Blog: March, 2010
PARK(ing) Day, Everyday
Mayor Gavin Newsom, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, DPW Director Ed Reiskin and a crowd of supporters gathered yesterday in front of Mojo Bicycle Café on Divisadero at Hayes to celebrate the opening of the city’s first of many new “parklets.” These parklets—parking spaces repurposed as lively sidewalk extensions—are part of the city’s Pavement to Parks initiative.
The new Divisadero Street parklet consists of a wooden platform elevated to sidewalk height and extended across two former parking spaces. Benches, tables and chairs, planters, and bike parking fill the transformed public space.
These parklets can be attributed in some respects to several years of creative PARK(ing) Day activism. PARK(ing) Day was conceived by REBAR in a single San Francisco parking space in 2005. Since then, it has been celebrated in parking spaces across San Francisco and around the world. Opening exactly six months after PARK(ing) Day 2009, the Divisadero parklet shares many of the design aspects first experimented with in the Urban Center’s most recent PARK(ing) Day project—a collaborative effort between SPUR and the Great Streets Project. Architect Riyad Ghannam, who volunteered his time and skills to design the Divisadero parklet, also designed the temporary mobile platforms we used in front of the Urban Center. PARK(ing) Day 2009 was a great day at SPUR—a street-side celebration of sun, friends, neighbors, music, and public space. And it is exciting to see that the hours of construction by Riyad and other volunteers and interns in the depths of the SPUR basement may have had an impact beyond just one perfect day in September.
Left: PARK(ing) Day 2009 at the Urban Center. Right: Divisadero St. parklet. [Images: Colleen McHugh]
Cycling directions are finally on the (Google) map
|Don't be sheepish—try the new Google Maps cycling directions feature.|
In response to years of requests for a bicycling option and over fifty thousand signatures on the “Bike There” petition, Google Maps has unveiled a new feature that helps cyclists find bike-friendly roads and while avoiding less-friendly streets.
In this Web 2.0 era, platforms like NextBus.com and 511.com have made it easier to make use of public transit: by using GPS and mobile applications to map routes, commuters are able to schedule trips with more ease. The new bicycle-route option on Google Maps will hopefully do the same by helping cyclists plan safer routes with fewer steep inclines.
The service is still in beta; in a recent interview on Streetsblog, Google Engineer Scott Shawcroft encouraged users to try the service and submit feedback to help Google improve the map system. As always, meanwhile, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition sells San Francisco cycling maps, with main bicycle routes and elevation changes marked for those cyclists who prefer a low-tech equivalent. Either way, knowing what to expect on a route will definitely make it easier for riders to feel confident about opting to cycle instead of drive.
Recap: the Muni Budget Crisis
[Despite historic shortfalls, SPUR believes the SFMTA can balance its budget without further service
cuts and fare hikes.]
Looks like SPUR's 28-point proposal to balance the Muni budget's been catching on. (We're glad, because we think it makes a lot of sense, too!)
In last Sunday's Chronicle, Rachel Gordon put current events in context by noting other significant Muni reform efforts (including SPUR campaigns in 1993, 1999 and 2007) over the last two decades. On Tuesday, the paper ran an op-ed citing SPUR's "good faith effort to advance the discussion."
In his round-up of the backlash to the MTA's proposed service cuts and fare hikes, Steve Jones of the San Francisco Bay Guardian cited SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf's call for an end to the "gamesmanship" around eliminating millions of dollars in SFPD work orders for "unspecified services." (The $12.2 million gain that could result from these cuts were the largest of any single line item in SPUR's proposal.)
By way of background: the SFMTA is projecting deficits in the $45-$56 million range for the next two fiscal years (the periods between July 1 and June 30 in 2010-11 and 2011-12). Across-the-board service cuts and fare increases (to certain categories of monthly fast passes and transfers) were on the table as cost-saving measures. Last Friday, the MTA board approved a 10 percent cut to service. At yesterday's hearing, however, no additional cuts or fare hikes were approved.
Check Streetsblog SF for the most frequent (and insightful) updates. Their team of intrepid transit reporters will undoubtedly follow this issue through to its bitter end on March 30, when the MTA board votes on whether to declare a fiscal emergency to enact the cuts.
Creating Our Own Champs-Elysées
After learning about new plans for San Francisco's public realm—widened sidewalks and bike lanes on Cesar Chavez Street and throughout the Mission District, a complete makeover of Fisherman’s Wharf—it was time to tackle a public space issue ourselves: Market Street.
SPUR teamed up with Next American City and the AIA to host an interactive charrette. Building on the Better Market Street Project, we brainstormed the transformation of Market into our city's grand boulevard and anchor.
[Image: Nelson Nygaard]
Jeff Tumlin of Nelson Nygaard kicked things off with an outline of what makes a great street: it invites participation, teems with people and offers transparency. It challenges our assumptions, inspires and surprises, plays with light and shadow and makes us feel sexy.
Brimming with sexy ideas, focus groups scattered to various corners of the urban center. Kim Havens of Wilson Meany Sullivan led the Commerce (Planning and Development) discussion and Karin Flood Eklund of MJM Management led Commerce (Shopping). Tim Papandreou of the SF Municipal Transportation Agency and Neal Patel (pictured) of the SF Bike Coalition facilitated the transit and bike conversations, and Jill Manton of the Public Arts Commission and Kit Hodge of the Great Streets Project took on public art and public space.
[Image: Colleen McHugh]
An interesting theme emerged: to achieve our goals, groups needed to work together. Sure, there were some specific requests, such as dedicated bus lanes and stop consolidation (transit) and regular exhibitions (public art). But the majority of ideas required a partnership. Commerce and public space needed help from public art programming to draw in crowds. Public art needed help from public space and transit for fresh new locations for work. Obviously successful transit and bike systems required cooperation. And the list went on.
So can we make Market Street an avenue of constant activity, our own Champs-Elysées? According to this charrette, if we work together, then yes.