Project Frequently Asked Questions

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Why is the SFMTA focused on improving safety at this intersection? 
The SFMTA recommends safety improvements at the West Portal Avenue and Ulloa Street intersection based on traffic safety principles of minimizing the frequency at which pedestrians and vehicles conflict with each other. At a busy, multimodal intersection like this, drivers are also affected by stressors like vehicles behind them resulting in a sense of urgency and, at times, more aggressive driving. This intersection is also large and unusually shaped, requiring longer pedestrian crossing distances. In addition to safety benefits, simplifying the intersection can make it calmer and more intuitive for all people - whether walking, driving, biking or riding transit. 

Would this proposal remove all traffic from West Portal Avenue? 
No. The proposal restricts certain traffic movements on West Portal Avenue and Ulloa Street while continuing to provide access on each block. The proposal would change West Portal Avenue from two lanes of private vehicles in each direction to one lane in each direction between Ulloa and Vicente streets. 

What are the proposal’s parking impacts?  
The project proposal would retain the vast majority of parking in the area. All parking on West Portal Avenue would remain. The only changes to parking currently proposed are:  

  • The removal of up to six part-time loading/part-time parking spaces on Ulloa Street east of West Portal Avenue to accommodate bus stop and terminal space. We have heard feedback from businesses on this block of Ulloa Street about the challenges this would create for their loading and access needs and will be investigating other potential locations for bus stop and terminal needs. 
  • Converting two general parking spaces on Lenox Way to parking for  SFMTA operations vehicles. 

Can you add a traffic signal at West Portal Avenue and Ulloa Street? 
Due to the complexity of the intersection, we found that installing a traffic signal would increase delay for all users, and result in unintended consequences. The length of the traffic signal cycle (the total amount of time the traffic signal needs to show each movement their green light) would be about twice as long as a typical traffic signal cycle in San Francisco. When we implement traffic signals with significantly longer cycle lengths, we tend to find that they result in lower pedestrian and driver compliance, which defeats one of the goals of signalizing. In addition, a signal would increase in delay for all people traveling through the intersection., 

This delay would be worsened when multiple trains need to be served back-to-back, which is a common occurrence considering that the intersection serves upwards of 40 trains during a peak hour once the L Taraval service is restored. 

How will this proposal affect deliveries to West Portal businesses? 
Proposed transit lanes in this area are proposed to be designated for transit and commercial vehicles. While general traffic would not be allowed to travel on westbound Ulloa Street past Claremont Boulevard, commercial vehicles would still be able to. This would allow commercial loading in front of the businesses on the northside of Ulloa Street between Claremont Boulevard and West Portal Avenue. This block could also be used for commercial vehicles to make westbound left turns to access the west side of the 100 block of West Portal Avenue. 

Why don’t you create a car-free street on West Portal? 
If there is interest from the community in a bolder transformation to West Portal Avenue such as prohibiting private vehicles on West Portal Avenue between Ulloa Street and Vicente Street, this would require a longer-term process to consider areawide traffic circulation impacts and identify solutions for necessary vehicle traffic. This near-term project is moving forward quickly to rapidly respond to the tragic collision at the request of Mayor Breed and Supervisor Melgar. However, a more major change to the street merits a longer public process.

If you add a transit lane on West Portal Avenue, what would happen if someone double parks in the general travel lane?
If a general travel lane is obstructed (e.g. by a double-parked truck), drivers in that lane would be allowed to use the adjacent transit lane to safely navigate around the obstruction. They would not be required to wait in the general travel lane until that obstruction has passed.   

How would these changes affect traffic on nearby streets?
We are working on a traffic study that will provide some additional information about the order of magnitude of traffic change we could expect on nearby streets, which will help us understand whether refinements to the circulation changes and/or additional traffic calming measures would be appropriate.

What is the status of SFMTA’s plans to calm traffic at the five-way intersection of Madrone Way, Vicente Street and Wawona Street? 
In response to neighborhood requests for traffic safety improvements here, the SFMTA installed painted safety zones and safe hit posts to decrease the size of the intersection, slow down traffic and improve the visibility of people walking in 2020. In August 2023, these treatments were temporarily removed during a Vicente Street roadway re-construction project. The SFMTA now plans to upgrade the previous improvements by installing concrete traffic islands in the painted safety zones to further enhance safety and calm traffic here. 

What will happen when the L Taraval Improvement Project is completed?
L Taraval rail service is planned to resume this fall. At that time, the L Taraval will operate between the SF Zoo and Embarcadero Station – the same route as pre-COVID. While the SFMTA briefly experimented with a surface only service that interlined the L Taraval and K Ingleside during the early days of the pandemic in 2020, we will not be implementing that service pattern this fall.     

Subway performance has drastically improved since 2019 and delays have consistently been 70% less than pre-COVID operations.  We attribute this remarkable success to innovative preventative maintenance practices (like Fix-It Week) to get ahead of infrastructure issues, better headway management and fewer trains. We anticipate that as downtown continues to recover, and we increase service levels to meet ridership demand, we may observe an increase in subway delays. Consequently, we will be monitoring subway performance and evaluating a range of approaches to mitigate the impacts and address the causes of subway delays, including reducing the number of lines utilizing the subway alignment. As noted above, we don’t anticipate making any changes to the L Taraval alignment this fall. 

Could DoorDash, Uber Eats and GrubHub drivers use lanes proposed for “transit and commercial vehicles only.”  
In the current proposal, the “transit and commercial vehicles only” designation would mean that transit vehicles (e.g. Muni buses and trains) and vehicles with commercial license plates could use that lane. This would include typical delivery vehicles serving West Portal businesses (e.g. a beer truck delivering to a bar or a food supply truck delivering to a restaurant) as well as taxis.  

Drivers for DoorDash or similar companies typically do not have commercial license plates and would not be able to use street space reserved for “transit and commercial vehicles only.” However, drivers like these could continue to use parking spaces and could still reach every single block of the area through lanes open to all vehicles.   

It’s disruptive when a train exits the tunnel onto Ulloa Street and then stops next to the West Portal Library for several minutes before re-entering the tunnel. What are you doing about that?  
We recently received a letter from the Greater West Portal Neighborhood Association raising this same concern. In response, we are trying to minimize the frequency with which we turn trains in this location, and we have instituted a new practice. Our Operations Staff has been given new operating procedures to minimize the duration and impacts caused by using the crossover. Any time that use of the crossover is planned, our Transportation Management Center will coordinate communication with both the train operator making the move and an Inspector from our mobile response unit stationed nearby. The TMC will instruct the operator not to wait for time at the crossover, but to change ends and leave immediately. The Inspector will make sure the move is made quickly and safely and help direct westbound traffic to safely use the eastbound lane if needed. When L Taraval rail service resumes this fall, we expect the frequency we use this crossover will further decrease.

Why can’t you move the 48 Quintara/24th Street and 57 Parkmerced bus stops into the tunnel entrance?  
At times, the SFMTA has used the horseshoe for bus stops and/or terminal space for various bus lines (and is currently used as the terminal for the 91 3rd Street/19th Ave Owl when rail is not in service). This location is no longer used as a daytime terminal due to the following considerations: 

  • Using this location for buses requires a U-Turn-like maneuver to exit the station, which is difficult to safely execute in front of multiple active rail lines, as well as heavy pedestrian volumes, and some vehicle traffic.
  • Conflicts between buses and people transferring to and from buses and trains. Passengers exiting the station may try to run to catch a bus as it is pulling out of the horseshoe, making it more difficult for rail operators to efficiently enter or exit the station.
  • People transferring commonly walk throughout the horseshoe area making it difficult for bus operators to have clear visibility. In addition, the current project proposal would reclaim this space to improve and channelize pedestrian flows into the station.