Q&A from San Jose Ave Road Diet meeting

Remember that SFMTA is hosting another meeting about the San Jose Avenue Road Diet on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 6 p.m., Glen Park Elementary School. Caltrans and MUNI Forward will also attend.

These are the notes I took at last week’s meeting; they are not official minutes.


August 13, 2015
SFMTA/GPA meeting regarding SJA road diet

Damon Curtis, SFMTA Traffic Engineer
Lewis Liss, SFMTA PIO
Scott Stawicki, Transportation Committee of the Glen Park Association, facilitator


Goal of project:

Slow speeds (to 35mph or lower)
Don’t back up traffic on the freeway mainline [corrected. On the original I had “facilitate turning]


Intent is to end this pilot this year or early next year in advance of repaving slated to happen early next year, likely Feb or March.

SFMTA also looking at side streets and those speeds and engaging with folks who live on side streets to mitigate the impacts of the pilot on those streets.



Will single lane exit be repaired?

Curtis has been talking to Caltrans. They’ve gotten many complaints about paving conditions on the resulting one lane. He’s been told they’ve got a long-term grant they are trying to re-scope to include this lane’s repairs. If that happens, Caltrans is looking at repaving next fall though maintenance is supposed to do some spot repair, hopefully around the same time the city contractor is repaving SJA.


What are the plans to reconnect streets in Mission Terrace and GP?

That’s a good question for your supervisor or planning dept.


If VisionZero is primary motivation for SJ pilot and data driven, where is the data showing there are more collisions on this stretch than neighboring stretches?

Open house will have collision data.


What are some possible post-study options?

Making a recommendation for striping during repaving. More intensive improvements are not in scope right now.


How will you improve traffic flow and signaling at Randall?

MUNIForward has a project on Mission that includes this intersection.


Is Caltrans open to reducing lane to one

(Note from Heather: I didn’t understand this question, I’m sorry to say)
Discussion has happened. Probably will happen again when we go over data in October.


Clarify stretch of roadway belonging to Caltrans/SFMTA and speeds on each

The first vehicle feedback sign is basically the border between freeway and city street, before Monterey and SJA enter the picture, before the triple merge and tunnel. The offramp is 35mph advisory speed. Past triple merge, SJA prior was signed at 45mph, then 25mph during school at Randall. During pilot, 45mph was taken down.


Why not post 35mph signs now.

State law prohibits that. You must engineer a road that 85 percent of drivers perceive to be a 35 mph limit.


Engineering traffic surveys are required to be done every five years. Last one for SJA was done in early 2000s. Data is available. Email Curtis. The former traffic survey supported the 45mph speed limit. So first we have to get people driving slower.


Will there be a concrete divider separating bike lane from roadway?

S/b yes. N/b is a possibility, depending on final recommendations


Are any land use changes be continued as next steps and could housing go back into the cut?

Nothing we’re doing is inconsistent with that longer-term vision. Calming traffic on SJA is the first step toward realizing something grander on the Bernal Cut.


Will next steps include evaluating Randall signal timing

Signal timing will be part of MUNI Forward scope. We are doing some pedestrian bulbouts north of Randall on SJA, enlarging Dolores island. Board at open house will show all pedestrian improvements.


A goal is to reduce cut-through taffic. Where do you want the traffic to go?

Depends on destination of vehicle. Pre-pilot studies (SFCTA did them) their model shows that after phase II we could see as much as 400 or 500 vehicles not using SJA exit. Combo of vehicles staying on freeway, people with destinations further west who could get off at Ocean.


How are you reaching out to commuters who use SJA daily for their feedback?

We’ve heard from a lot of them. They’re finding us. We’ve got info on our website.

Caltrans has a PIO assigned to this.


How do you factor traffic backup on 280 during rush hour. It is dangerous.

Caltrans has told him they’re collecting their data. If there was a severe impact on the mainline, Caltrans would have been in my office, and that hasn’t happened. We’re also taking travel time surveys during peak hours compared with freeflow speeds.


Are cyclists safer?

When we look at collision data, we need a wider longitude than this pilot offers. We’ve listened to folks who use the facilities to get feedback. Our goal is to increase level of comfort.


What concrete suggestions have you received from people who don’t want the diet?

Return the roadway to original conditions.


The street has no driveways, no houses have pedestrian access to the street. How can it be considered a city street rather than an off-ramp?

It’s a city street. It’s an unusual street b/c it’s over a mile before you encounter your first control, but it’s a city street. This corridor is flagged as a high injury corridor owing to vehicular accidents.


If we are stuck with higher MPH speed limit, can we find funding for separated bike lanes?

It’s a possibility.


What process does Caltrans use for making these changes?

They’re looking at how to make a freeway run efficiently. SFMTA we’re focusing on a slightly different set of principles. No one party is really calling the shots, though this was a city-initiated project.


Couldn’t it be policed into behavior that is acceptable?

No. We can’t place a traffic cop at every hot spot.


If K rails are installed, how will street sweeping be affected?

SFMTA working with DPW to handle maintenance of all bicycle infrastructure throughout the city. DPW purchasing a smaller sweeper.


Would you consider a yellow blinking light at Rousseau, etc. as a caution sign?

Working with residents of those streets, they are considering speed humps. Raised half-domes dots are a possibility. He has to look into the California Manual on Uniform Control Devices, the “traffic engineering bible,” to see what the standards say. I don’t think a beacon would be warranted but there are other things we could potentially do.


Turn at Rousseau seems to be most dangerous. Looking at options?

We’ve gotten word of a couple of recent collisions at Rousseau. I’m not sure anything we’ve done has exacerbated that, so I’m not sure how to respond to that. Individual crashes that have happened don’t constitute a pattern, so we can’t say. Collision data is challenging to analyze in such a short time period.


SJA is identified as a HIC. Are their exceptions to speed limit posting rules on an HIC?



Can you put in speed bumps and chicanes before the study is done?

No, we cannot. We’re confined by the existing right-away.


What happens if Phase I and II do not bring 85th percentile speed down to 35mph, and it is a HIC, what happens next?

Unless speeds miraculously increase, or we have a bunch of crashes we can attribute to the pilot in some way or traffic on the freeway mainline backs up to Ocean, that’s the only we have to go back to the drawing board. Beyond that, if we get a slight reduction in speed, then we continue moving forward.


Is there a public comment period after Phase II?

When we take data in Sept., analyze it, sit down with Caltrans, come up with recommended final solution. We’ll share that with the public and potentially tweak it. Hopefully before Thanksgiving. Everybody involved will have an opportunity to comment on what we propose some time in the fall.



As we approach 1 million residents, more lanes for cars are not the solution for congestion

If you’re adding a barricade, you need to clean up the trash. There is a ton of it.






Filed under City road work

16 responses to “Q&A from San Jose Ave Road Diet meeting

  1. Ana M

    Thank you very much for the summary!

  2. noevalleyjim

    Cars still go too fast through here, I hope Caltrans and the MTA come up wit some more ways to slow people down. This area is very dangerous.

  3. AR

    “Is Caltrans open to reducing lane to one” maybe refers to the 280 NB offramp?

  4. I think that’s it, actually! Now I remember one person saying it’s crazy that there’s two exit lanes, that most freeway exits are only one lane, so why wouldn’t this freeway exit be one lane. And right now, even though it turns into one lane underneath the overpass, it’s still two lanes coming off I-280.


  5. Also, I see a huge error in the first section. (cringe) Facilitate turning is not one of the goals. The goals are 35mph and don’t back traffic up onto the freeway mainline. I’ll see if I can edit the post.

  6. Pingback: Aug 25th: SFMTA to host an Open House on San Jose Ave. road diet | College Hill News

  7. Thank you for sharing this update, Heather! I was unable to attend the meeting but appreciate hearing the details.

  8. Jonathan

    Thank you also for this summary. It is very helpful to at least try to understand the issue from different perspectives.

    The backup this morning around 7:30-7:45AM was from about the first San Jose Ave. exit sign (on 280 itself) until the newly-created merge just before the final underpass (before you fully reach San Jose Ave). Again, not as bad as I would have thought for the first full day of school for SFUSD, but it did come to a standstill on the freeway more than once as I was waiting to exit (increased emissions!).

    But then it cleared up after the underpass before backing up to about St. Mary’s Ave. before the Randall light. I turn onto Rousseau so I don’t take the entire length of San Jose Ave and thankfully don’t have to deal with the backup at this light. But of course it does back up on Rousseau heading onto Bosworth often enough, too, but it was only mildly backed up there today.

    I must again disagree with Noevalleyjim…(Jim: Might I respectfully suggest that you state when and how you make your observations that lead you to your stated conclusions?), but the traffic was most definitely slowed down when I traveled this stretch and as cars exit at the aforementioned times when I take this exit. I witnessed no one traveling at an excess speed as most folks were slowed to crawl or standstill as you approached the exit ramp, and when they got through the slowdown, they appeared to me to be all pretty much traveling about the speed limit until reaching the backup before the light at Randall.

    And for the record, I saw no bikes nor any pedestrians.

    As the week progresses, I’ll be keeping tabs of course 😉 .

    BTW, the suggestion to possibly narrow down the exit ramp itself to only 1 lane (which presumably would be the “Exit Only” lane that is there now) might actually be better than it is now. It would eliminate the need to merge so quickly and might thus help to prevent a bad backup onto 280 while still slowing folks down a bit after then exit. I’m open to giving that a try if possible 🙂 .

    Thank you again to Ms. World for the meeting minutes/summary.


    • Justin

      I both bike & drive there daily. The Phase II helped a lot for bike safety (coming from GP onto SJ ave). As said above, cars slow down a bit more than before, however the speeding is worse at times of no traffic, when cars exit from I-280 at 80+MPH and don’t slow down enough until their turn-off on SJ. So I believe both observations (it helped, but sometimes cars just fly) are correct.

  9. noevalleyjim

    I have sat at the J Church stop where there is a sign displaying the speed of traffic and watched dozens of vehicles speeding, some in excess of 55 MPH. There is no excuse for driving 20 MPH over the speed limit in a residential area.

    The MTA’s own study says that average speeds through here are over 45 at Milton:


  10. noevalleyjim

    The MTA is a study over a 72 hour period, not a point in time measurement of speed during rush hour. I suppose the real challenge is to get people to adjust their travel habits so they use the roadway more evenly throughout the day or perhaps take advantage of the J-Church or bicycle instead.

  11. Jonathan

    Hmmm…It was difficult to read the report as the text is so small, but it looks like the data for that study was taken back in January, before the narrowing of the exit to 1 lane at the start of the underpass.

    So stating now that more needs to be done seems to me to be rather premature until a new study is conducted and released to measure traffic amounts and speeds post-narrowing. Simply relying on yours or my visual observations just is not adequate (i.e. what appears to be speeding to one person may not be to another). I do give kudos to the SFMTA for conducting these studies at least, and as I understand it a new study is currently underway.

    For folks like me who use the stretch to commute with very few if any alternative routes available to us, using it more evenly or taking public transportation or using a bike is simply not feasible (in my case, due to the nature of my job, my financial situation, and of course my family obligations). For whatever reason, the advocates for these types of alternatives often times cannot seem to grasp this reality. But this reality is very much the case for so many of us just trying to get by the best we can in this crazy modern world.

    The above is why I post so that commuter viewpoints may also be heard (even if we seem to be rarely ever actually “heard” anymore) …

    Hey, I’d love to fly in on my magic carpet powered by pixie dust or be transported there via a teleporter such as those in Star Trek, but until these things are invented, I do need to get to work and pick up my son mostly on time :).


    • Justin

      Jon, more people on a bike = less cars for you to compete with. Alternative solutions must be realistic, bike-first is not a solid policy – we cannot (and don’t want to) all always take the bike or bus. But if cars don’t yield smart concessions to alternative ways to commute, car commute will be worse-off in the end. The changes persuaded me it was OK to start commuting by bike regularly, and I am never the lone biker on SJ Ave.

  12. When California gained statehood in 1850, San Jose served as its first capital. After more than 150 years as an agricultural center, San Jose experienced increased demand for housing from soldiers and other veterans returning from World War II, as well as aggressive expansion during the 1950s and 1960s by annexing more land area.

  13. Jonathan


    In the interests of continuing to post from the commuter’s point of view, here is the latest from said perspective.

    Now that the SF school system is in full swing and the summer is pretty much over, the traffic going through the SJ offramp in the morning is getting worse and worse, with this morning being particularly insufferable.

    The backups when I use the offramp (around 7:40AM) each morning were definitely present onto 280 itself for all of this week, and today it stretched all the way back to the previous exit (Geneva Ave.). I was at almost a standstill for most of this stretch until I finally arrived at and was able to turn onto Rousseau (to cut through to Bosworth), and was ultimately about 20 minutes late when I arrived at work. I certainly feel for those who had to continue on down San Jose Ave to the light at Randall as this stretch was hardly moving either…I’m sure everyone had to wait through many light cycles.

    I also saw many cars shifting from lane to lane in a mostly vain attempt to get through the offramp, and several were frustrated enough to give up and get back on 280 to probably get off at the next exit. Making such a maneuver is of course rather dangerous as one must get back onto flowing traffic quickly. Accidents will likely increase as more folks start doing this.

    As usual, I see almost no bicyclists nor any pedestrians during these times…certainly not enough to justify the above downside to these changes (IMHO of course 🙂 ).

    The above has been my experience so far. Others?

    SFMTA: When is the next assessment due for this situation? Is there any consideration being given to trying another configuration such as allowing only one lane to exit at San Jose Ave. thus eliminating the merge just before the underpass/bridge that causes the initial backup onto 280?

  14. Leopold

    I am here to agree with Jonathan above.
    Backups in the evening have gotten worse, and I hear people slamming on their brakes everytime I take this way. It’s affecting the slow lane on northbound 280 now, but they don’t want to admit this. I avoid it like the plague. This freeway exit, not city street, did not need these unrealistic changes. Another thruway ruined by SFMTA. I now see that some of the white plastic dividers in the tunnel have been mowed over cause of the over aggressive merging of the lanes in there. Hope that continues, if you get my drift. 😉
    Sure this area had issues, but the closing off of Rousseau to traffic and a modest bike lane would have fixed it.
    But of course, more money wasting studies and over reacting by SFMTA was what they went with.

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