Overview
A view of cars and people on the crooked section of Lombard street

Photo: Peter Lee, flickr

Introduction

The “crooked” section of Lombard Street is both a residential neighborhood and one of the most popular tourist destinations in San Francisco, drawing approximately 2 million visitors each year.

As overall tourism in San Francisco has increased, so has the number of tourists on the street, and crowd control issues around the area have become more challenging. The Transportation Authority is studying how a paid reservation system could alleviate congestion in the area. Funds from reservations could pay for the system’s administration and traffic management.

Timeline and Status 

In 2017, the Transportation Authority released a study with recommendations for addressing congestion on the Crooked Street, including a reservations and pricing system for vehicles. 

The Transportation Authority is conducting a second study on how a paid reservations system could successfully address traffic congestion while ensuring safety, financial viability, continued tourism, and livability of the surrounding neighborhood.

This study is underway. The project team is reviewing options around technology, method of enforcement, hours of operation, price level, and exemptions. Feedback from the public, elected officials, City partners, and neighborhood stakeholders will influence these decisions. We are working with San Francisco's legislative delegation on legislation that would make implementation of a paid reservation system possible. 

This study is scheduled for completion in 2019.

Cost and Funding 

This project is supported by the Transportation Authority's Neighborhood Program at the request of District 2 Supervisor and Transportation Authority Board Member Catherine Stefani.

Project/Study Partners

SFMTA

Resources

Final Report: Managing Access to the "Crooked Street," 2017 (PDF)

Contact

Andrew Heidel, Senior Planner, andrew.heidel@sfcta.org 

Key features

What We're Studying: Paid Reservations System 

A reservations system for vehicles, similar to the one recently implemented at Muir Woods, could address most of the neighborhood’s existing challenges with traffic. Vehicles would be required to make a paid reservation to visit Lombard Crooked Street.

The Transportation Authority is working to develop solutions targeted at:

  • Managing auto congestion
  • Maintaining livability of the surrounding neighborhood
  • Managing pedestrian congestion
  • Ensuring traffic safety
  • Implementing a financially-viable solution
  • Preserving tourism at a sustainable level

The Transportation Authority proposed two scenarios in spring 2019 based off of traffic analysis, data collection, and community feedback:

Scenario 1 

A system that operates 24/7 and costs $5 at all times. This scenario would be enforced by an automated system using cameras and license plate information.

Scenario 2

A system that operates 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and costs $5 on weekdays, $10 on weekends and holidays. This system could either be operated automatically or with staff on site to check reservations and help direct vehicles.

How a Paid Reservations System Could Work

Lombard Today: Unmanaged auto traffic creates significant congestion, delay, and pollution in the residential neighborhood surrounding the Crooked Street for up to 12 hours of the day.

Image
An graphic of existing conditions on Lombard where cars may wait up to 45 minutes

Lombard with a Paid Reservations and Pricing System: With a reservation system in place, arriving vehicles are spaced at reasonable intervals to significantly improve congestion for neighborhood residents and save time for visitors.

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A graphic of future Lombard, with a very short car waiting queue

Preliminary efforts by the study team indicated the potential for a fully automated solution to implement a reservation system. Although this possibility has not been ruled out, several concerns have surfaced as the study progresses that warrant further evaluation before determining whether a fully automated solution can be reliably deployed. Currently, the study team is evaluating two possible options for the implementation of the reservation system: one that relies on a fully-automated solution and another that relies on the physical presence of traffic control and enforcement personnel. In either scenario, similar to other tourist destinations such as Muir Woods, reservations would be made and purchased via website in advance of visiting the Crooked Street.

Option 1 – Fully-Automated System

In general, a fully automated pricing / reservation system would rely on technology to manage traffic congestion on the Crooked Street and involve no daily field personnel monitoring operations of the system, with the exception of technicians that would perform routine field maintenance of system components. The automated system would verify the reservation on site via license plate. This solution could be employed under both 24/7 and part time operational scenarios.

Option 2 – Staffed System

A staffed solution would rely on personnel, rather than technology, to manage traffic congestion on the Crooked Street and to monitor operations of the reservation system. Reservations would be verified via a smartphone, ticket, or printout. This solution could only be employed under a part time operational scenario, as 24/7 staffing is cost prohibitive and unnecessary based on traffic levels.

Policy and Technical Needs

There are many questions that would need to be answered before a paid reservations system on the Crooked Street could be implemented. 

On the policy side, additional work must determine what entity would govern and oversee the program, including setting the price for a reservation to access the Crooked Street, as state legislation would be needed to authorize these activities. The designated reservations management entity would likely also be considered to serve as the overall management agency for the Crooked Street, which would lead other functions to manage the street as a tourist attraction.

Multiple technical and operational questions would also need to be answered and informed by further analysis, including demand and financial modeling, and determining what entities should lead planning, design, environmental review, construction, operation, and maintenance of the system.

Background

2017 Study: Managing Access to the "Crooked Street"

In 2017, the Transportation Authority released a study on managing access to the “Crooked Street”—a residential segment of Lombard Street that is also one of San Francisco’s most prominent landmarks. The crooked segment of Lombard Street attracts approximately 2 million visitors each year.

The study was recommended by former District 2 Supervisor and Transportation Authority Board Member Mark Farrell as part of the Neighborhood Program and was conducted in partnership with the SFMTA.

The purpose of the study was to identify and evaluate a range of options to manage visitor access and circulation on Lombard Street between Hyde and Leavenworth streets, while maintaining the character of the block and avoiding spillover effects into adjacent streets. The Study’s approach included goal-setting, existing conditions analysis, alternatives development, public outreach, and evaluation.

The Transportation Authority published the Managing Access to the "Crooked Street" (PDF) study in 2017 outlining recommended short- and mid-term strategies to inform future planning, analysis, and development to resolve the unique challenges facing the Crooked Street and its surrounding neighborhoods.

The Transportation Authority compiled a wide range of potential interventions and improvements and evaluated how well each would meet one or more of the Study’s goals. A short list of options for further study were presented at two public meetings in the fall of 2016, accompanied by a feedback form that community members could respond to online and/or in person.

Study Recommendations

The final report adopted by the Transportation Authority Board recommended four strategies for further planning, analysis and development. These strategies can be implemented in the short- and mid-term.

Improved Enforcement of Existing Regulations

Based on Transportation Authority’s outreach, it was clear there is widespread consensus among community members that more robust enforcement of existing regulations could help address perceived traffic circulation and safety issues on the Crooked Street. One strategy, which received considerable support in public feedback, would be to increase the number of SFMTA Parking Control Officers, expanding their hours of deployment and the locations they patrol. This strategy would build off the “eyes on the street” function played by neighborhood residents is currently supplemented by the Lombard Ambassadors managed by the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Engagement of Tourism Industry as Partners in Visitor Management

Among the solutions identified is the creation of an education and marketing campaign/partnership with the San Francisco Travel Association (SF Travel), tour operators, rental car companies, and hotels. Since many tour operators bring groups to experience the Crooked Street, this effort is an opportunity to remind operators directly about how to be a good neighbor, in terms of tour group size, timing, and loading/unloading. By helping visitors make better informed decisions about when and how to access the Crooked Street, the education campaign could have a positive impact on automobile and pedestrian congestion, as well as resident and visitor access to the Crooked Street. In turn, traffic and personal safety could also improve.

Engineering and Signage Enhancements

Traffic engineering interventions—such as painted or raised sidewalk extensions, barriers, or wayfinding signage—could help to address conflicts and near-misses between pedestrians, drivers, and transit. Additional opportunities for signage enhancements, could include estimated wait times for vehicles in the queue to drive down the Crooked Street, and encouragements for drivers to lock vehicles and to leave personal belongings out of sight when parking in the area.

Reservations and Pricing System for Vehicles

One of the most direct ways to manage automobile congestion, including the vehicle queues that form at peak periods, would be to implement a system to manage paid reservations for access to the Crooked Street. 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.

The primary goal of the system would be to manage demand while being self-sustaining, and prices and number of available reservation slots would be set per this goal.
 

Public engagement

What We've Heard

We have hosted three open houses, conducted surveys, and held meetings with residents, neighbors, and businesses. 

Here's what we've heard: 

  • The day-to-day impact of congestion on quality of life is real and it is negative.
  • Managing vehicle congestion and maintaining livability in the neighborhood are the top two community goals of any solution.
  • Solutions should reduce other impacts like litter, wayfinding, and air quality.
  • There is strong community support for a reservations and pricing system to address traffic and tourism challenges.

Jan 30, 2019 Community Meeting

The Transportation Authority is studying a reservation and pricing system to better manage traffic flow on the crooked section of Lombard Street. On January 30, 2019 we hosted an open house to share details about how this proposed system could work and gather community feedback.

Additional opportunity for feedback:

Learn more about the proposals and submit an online feedback form.

Community meeting resources:

Poster boards (PDF)

PowerPoint presentation (PDF)

What's next

The project team will use community feedback to refine our proposal for a reservation and pricing system for Lombard. In summer 2019 we expect to present our final recommendations to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in their capacity as the Transportation Authority board. Our board will then provide direction on next steps. 

Sign up for email updates to learn about upcoming public meetings and opportunities for engagement. 

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