Friday, March 23, 2012

Getting Real in the Whole Foods Parking Lot

Dear Members of the SFMTA board and Director Reiskin -

I watched with interest your recent increase in fines for double parking, sidewalk riding, and obstructing traffic. While I can agree in principal with the idea of increasing the fines for these behaviors, I have to agree with Director Bruce Oka when he said "increasing fines without increasing enforcement would be “useless” as a deterrent".

A situation I would like to bring to your attention is that of the Whole Foods store on 24th Street in Noe Valley. I traverse that street daily, typically at 6:15 PM. When I do this there is an absolute certainty that the following event will happen in front of that store.

First - there will be motor vehicles entering the parking lot but unable to enter the lot because the lot is full. These motor vehicles then stand to wait to enter the parking lot by completely blocking the sidewalk. 24th Street has a heavy pedestrian volume, a l arge percentage of which is parents with young children, both in and out of strollers. This is a safety hazard of great degree.

Second - there will be one of more motor vehicles obstructing traffic in each direction, waiting to enter the parking lot. 24th Street is a narrow street and the distance between the two entrances to the parking lot close enough, that this results in a complete gridlocking of 24th Street. The primary victim of this gridlocking is the 48 Quintara bus which is typically standing room only at this time of day.

Third - once either of these motorists blocking the roadway either manages to pull onto the sidewalk, the vehicles waiting for traffic to clear accellerate as quickly as they can in order to get around the vehicle impeding traffic. This is a grave hazard - the motorist will typically do a quick check to see if there is an oncoming vehicle, but due to selective vision will wait for oncoming motor vehicles but frequently miss the presence of an oncoming cyclist. Bicycle usage on 24th Street has become very high recently - it is the flattest route through Noe Valley, accesses the local businesses, and the speed of traffic is slower on 24th than the "Sharrowed" Jersey Street that parallels 24th one block to the South.

Fourth - most damning, the hapless employees of Whole Foods who try to patrol this situation meekly allow this to happen for the most part. The most value they add is to stop motorists from entering the lot proper once those cars have blocked the sidewalk by stopping to have a chat with said motorist. By the time this happens, it is too late, the safety hazard caused by blocking the sidewalk is in full effect.

Were I in control - admittedly I am not - I would envision two remedies to this issue.

First, identify the times of day when this problem is most acute and send out DPT or SFPD as appropriate and ticket offenders. This would send a clear message to drivers that they must behave in this particular area and a message to Whole Foods that they need to empower their parking patrol to effectively police the area or Whole Foods' customers will start getting expensive tickets and perhaps abandon the store.

Second - as you start looking into expanding metering hours, this stretch of 24th Street should be a prime candidate. The problem described above is primarily an issue from 6-8 PM at night, and on Sundays - when the parking meters are not operational and parking turnover goes to zero. While the patrons of Whole Foods would certainly prefer to park for free directly in front of the store, paying a dollar for 30 minutes of parking on the street in the same block will not be a showstopper for a store known for servicing more affluent customers. And one could hope that some of those affluent customers living in the direct area would consider walking to the store.

Please use the tools available at your disposal to improve this situation which is a hazard to all users of the street and causes delay for everyone, notably those on the 48 Quintara.

Thank You

John Murphy

San Francisco or