Frequenters of the unmitigated madhouse that is the strip of Powell Street between Geary and Ellis Streets have reason to celebrate this morning, as the SFMTA has approved a pilot program that would close off those two blocks to non-commercial vehicle traffic for 18 months. The goal is to reduce automobile traffic and increase pedestrian safety. If the program is deemed a success, the changes could become permanent.
The SFMTA states in their press release that during peak times over 4,000 people walk those two blocks over the course of every hour, and that extreme traffic congestion is often the result.
Also of interest, they say that the congestion is actually reducing the lifespan of the cables that the famous cable cars depend on, while simultaneously increasing the likelihood of a "severe cable car accident."
Cable cars were not designed to operate in stop-and-go traffic, and inching along damages the cable and causes it to fray. As a result of increased congestion in the area, cable life has been reduced about 25% over the past five years. Today, the cables must be replaced every 30 days on average, down from once per 50 days in 2000. These conditions make a severe cable car accident more likely, make it so fewer cable cars are available, and increase the cost associated with operating the cable cars.
Hoodline reports that the Powell Street Safety and Sidewalk Improvement Pilot, as it is officially known, begins
this Friday later this month.