Living at a tourist attraction continues to takes its toll on Russian Hill neighbors with houses along the famous one-way crooked section of Lombard Street, and so they continue to demand that something, anything, be done, including charging a toll on tourists for driving down the block.
Since 2014, area Supervisor Mark Farrell has pushed transit officials to explore options ranging from a ticketed system to closing the street to non-resident cars completely. A pilot program of weekend car closures resulted in utter chaos as delighted pedestrians packed the street, so that's out, and after more than a year of study the toll idea was one floated last September.
A final report on the big Lombard Street Question was released by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority today, and that has Farrell telling the Chronicle that he'll take action, likely with the toll option, as a result of the report's recommendations, although it would take two years to implement that system by his estimation.
"This used to be a great place to live, but the city has turned its head and let this happen," one longtime Lombard Street resident, Greg Bundage, told NBC Bay Area last year. "And even though it may be an icon, we deserve to have some privacy."
Other neighbors, like one who didn't give her name, disagree, calling the toll idea "tacky."
"The bottom line is that the quality of life for residents, not only on the crooked street itself but the vast surrounding neighborhoods, has deteriorated to the point where the city has to step in and make a difference,” Farrell told the Chronicle. First, he's working with state Senator Scott Wiener on a bill that would give the city the authority to put a toll on a publicly maintained street, and from there, the Transportation Authority and its board of SF Supervisors would have to approve the system.
According to the report, "One of the most direct ways to manage automobile congestion, including the vehicle queues that form at peak periods, would be to use an electronic system to manage reservations for and price access to the Crooked Street."
The idea is, in part to turn the street into a museum — or at least take cues from timed-ticket Museum systems. "Much like museums limit the amount of tickets available at any given time for popular exhibits, and allow those who plan ahead to reserve a time in advance, this strategy would allow for the flow and demand of automobiles entering the Crooked Street to be regulated, reducing queue lengths." Currently, cars in the Russian Hill area can be backed up for blocks in line to ride down Lombard.
In a version of the toll system, FasTrak readers and cameras would be mounted at the Hyde Street intersection with Lombard, and visitors could prepay for a reservation. Drivers could perhaps enter the street without a reservation but pay more to do so, and those without FastTrak could pay like at the Golden Gate Bridge, with a bill sent to the address corresponding to their license plate. Residents of the block would be exempt from tolls.
Transportation Authority planner Andrew Heidel clarified that goal of the proposal is to reduce cars on the street, not line city coffers. His agency will study questions like how many reservations to offer, how many cars should be on the street at a time, how much to charge them, and whether to charge a toll at all times or just on certain days or certain times.