My husband has a story he tells about the 1989 earthquake. He was at SF State when it hit, and since Muni was knocked out, he had to walk all the way to his home in the Outer Mission. All the traffic signals were out so, all along the way, he says, "homeless guys were directing traffic." It's a nice tale of how when tragedy struck, all of SF came together. I bring this up because, in the below video sent to us by an SFist tipster, there's a man directing traffic, and is really putting his heart into it. The problem is, no one can tell us if that's his job or, like those guys on October 17, 1989, he's just someone who's decided to give SF a hand.
The problems with vehicles blocking SoMa intersections are significant ones. In a report from last week, the Chron said that the SFMTA had just wrapped up a six-day test at the intersections of Main and Harrison and Second and Bryant streets, in which MTA parking control officers were directing traffic and ticketing drivers who pulled into intersections and sat there blocking cross traffic.
Depending on the data collected by interns who were also monitoring the intersections, the SFMTA will decide if the best way to prevent intersection blocking might be tickets, traffic directors, or both, the Chron says.
However, it appears from this SFMTA SoMa Intersection Gridlock (Blocking the Box) Enforcement Pilot Update that outside of that six-day test, there wouldn't be any special effort to direct traffic during typical SoMa conditions.
Which brings us to the video below, taken at 3rd and Howard Streets and uploaded on September 25. In the video, we see a man clad in typical streetwear (not the SFMTA uniforms you see traffic directors wearing here) and an unlogoed safety vest (the kind you can buy at Home Depot for less than six bucks) directing not just traffic but pedestrians.
"Six, five, four, three" he says, reading the pedestrian countdown aloud. "Come on darlin', boogety-boogety-boogety get yourself up on that curb!" he yells, as a woman who diiiiiid enter the crosswalk kind of late hustles to comply.
It's clear that pedestrians and drivers assume that he's some kind of authority figure, deployed to keep them in line. But is he? That's unclear.
I contacted the SFMTA this morning to see if this guy, who is a pretty charming character, was one of their staffers working on, perhaps, a casual Friday? Though a spokesperson told me at 8 a.m. that they were checking on it, despite a follow-up email, I hadn't heard a word since.
So, who is this guy: a non-traditional city staffer, or a man who saw a place where SF needed help and jumped in, like those folks did back in 1989? Perhaps we'll never know.
Update: Scratch that, we now know! According to SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose, "he is not an MTA parking control officer." Just some rando in a vest, then? OK!