The Embarcadero Enhancement Project
The Embarcadero is one of San Francisco’s most iconic destinations and landmarks. It is a thriving business corridor, a key transportation artery, a top tourism destination, a popular recreational route, and a worldwide attraction.
The Embarcadero also has a traffic safety problem. Heavy, diverse and sometimes competing travel demands produce daily conflicts between different user groups, both in the roadway and on the adjacent shared use promenade. These conflicts lead to uncomfortable and unsafe conditions that, in too many instances, result in serious injury and loss of life. Much of the roadway appears on the city’s Vision Zero High Injury Network, which represents the 13% of city streets where 75% of the severe and fatal injuries occur.
To address these ongoing safety issues the SFMTA, Port of San Francisco, and San Francisco Public Works are collaborating on a project that will increase safety, comfort, and accessibility for all who travel along The Embarcadero – while continuing to move people and goods in support of a vibrant waterfront.
Working with a diverse set of stakeholders, the Embarcadero Enhancement Project will develop and implement a series of “Complete Street” improvements along The Embarcadero from Townsend Street near Oracle Park to North Point Street near Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. These improvements will include:
- a physically protected, two-way bikeway on the water-side of The Embarcadero
- pedestrian safety enhancements at intersections and along the shared use promenade
- roadway paving, wayfinding upgrades, and revisions to travel lanes and parking/loading zones
- additional operational safety measures and education/enforcement coordination
Changes that would result from the project include the integration of the existing northbound bike lane into a two-way waterside bikeway; improved organization and accessibility of the promenade, and the removal of the third northbound vehicular travel lane between Howard Street and Pier 5 (approximately at Pacific Street), and between Sansome Street and Pier 33 (approximately at Francisco Street). Additionally, the project would introduce a limited number of turn restrictions and traffic signal changes to simplify and improve the efficiency of intersections and would revise curb allocations (for loading, parking, two-away zones, and other uses) to better reflect current and future demands.
The project is envisioned to be built in several phases. Larger capital-intensive phases would enhance pedestrian crossings to meet current Americans with Disabilities (ADA) standards and provide shorter crossing distances where feasible through sidewalk widening along the Embarcadero and across multiple side-streets. Other capital features could include a raised bikeway design (to be at the same level as the existing promenade), traffic signal upgrades, narrowing and other changes to center medians, potential streetcar station revisions at Broadway, and changeable message signs to help support vehicular access to existing parking lots/garages and to communicate real-time parking availability, traffic delays or detours. The project may also include less capital-intensive phase(s) that implement circulation and safety changes in the shorter-term using predominantly paint, posts, signs, and signal timing adjustments as part of the SFMTA’s Vision Zero Quick Build Initiative.
The project team will engage the public to inform and solicit feedback on conceptual designs, costs and trade-offs, and overall implementation strategies with the goal of achieving a design that is physically and financially viable, reflects public values, and enhances safety and the experience of people who walk, bike, take transit, or drive along The Embarcadero. Additional education and enforcement measures will also be explored and coordinated with engineering measures to support project goals.
The project’s current phase is funded by SFMTA local funds and local sales tax revenue administered by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA).
In response to public calls for faster action to improve safety, both citywide and specifically for The Embarcadero, the Port and SFMTA have been working to identify ‘quick-build’ solutions consistent with the SFMTA’s Vision Zero Quick Build Initiative. Quick Build projects are intended to be reversible, adjustable traffic safety improvements that can be built and evaluated within months, as opposed to years, in order to achieve safety goals in the near-term while informing longer-term capital project designs.
In January 2020, the project team announced a proposal to advance a quick-build version of the two-way, water-side, on-street protected bikeway on The Embarcadero between Mission and Folsom streets, as well as paving and striping improvements to southbound Embarcadero. In conjunction with other safety and streetscape projects on Howard and Folsom streets, this proposal would extend the growing network of protected bikeways in the SOMA neighborhood up to the recently expanded Downtown San Francisco Ferry Terminal and ‘front door’ of the waterfront. The project would also provide an opportunity to preview and evaluate the Embarcadero Enhancement Project bikeway design – including a potential future quick build extension north to Broadway – while helping relieve congestion and support motorized vehicle restrictions along the shared use Promenade in the near-term.
Implementation of the Mission to Folsom quick build segment could occur in late spring or early summer of 2020. Evaluation, including a user survey, would begin immediately and continue into the fall along with corridor-wide public outreach and education/enforcement activities. Additional potential quick-build locations are expected to be identified later this year, pending further public outreach and agency coordination as part of finalizing the overall project description and environmental review.
Current Phase or Stage
The SFMTA has secured $875,000 of SFCTA Prop K sales tax revenue and other local funds to advance the project through the current Project Approvals and Environmental Determination (PAED) phase. In coordination with the Port, Public Works, the Planning Department, and a technical consultant team the key project tasks in this phase are as follows:
- Base mapping, data collection, and preliminary engineering to support environmental review
- Continued public outreach and engagement
- Approvals and scoping of detailed design for prioritized segment(s), including potential Quick-Build segments
Every year, dozens of people are killed and more than 500 are severely injured while travelling on city streets. Between 2011 and 2019, 242 people were injured and two fatalities took place on The Embarcadero. These deaths and injuries are unacceptable and preventable, and San Francisco is committed to eliminating them.
By adopting a policy called Vision Zero in 2014, the City and County of San Francisco is committed to building better and safer streets, educating the public on traffic safety, enforcing traffic laws, and prioritizing resources to implement effective initiatives that save lives. Vision Zero aims to eliminate all traffic deaths in San Francisco by 2024 and the SFMTA is prioritizing efforts on the corridors that have the highest number of serious and fatal collisions.
The Embarcadero Enhancement Project is in support of Vision Zero and will implement targeted, proven safety improvements on the corridor.
The primary goals of The Embarcadero Enhancement Project are to:
- Safety – Enhance safety for all street users by reducing conflicts between modes
- Comfort – Provide a comfortable, low-stress environment for traveling along the waterfront through better organization of space, improved traffic compliance, and better signage/ wayfinding
- Access – Improve pedestrian accessibility and prioritize/enhance commercial and passenger loading at the curb
- Mobility – Ensure the efficient movement of people and goods to support economic vitality
PROJECT DETAILS & HISTORY
From 2014 to 2018, the Embarcadero Enhancement Project team held dozens of in-person meetings with key stakeholders including the Northeast Waterfront Advisory Group, Central Waterfront Advisory Group, Maritime Commerce Advisory Committee, Ballpark Mission Bay Transportation Committee, San Francisco Hotel Council, SF Travel, SF Tour Guide Guild, South Beach/Rincon/Mission Bay Neighborhood Association, District 3 SFMTA Working Group, Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District, Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant Association, as well as individual stakeholders such as the Ferry Building, Exploratorium, and many others.
During this time, the Project team also hosted five public open meetings, including three design workshops where residents, merchants, travelers, and the general public were invited to share their vision of the waterfront, desires for reconfiguring the roadway, and values relating to transportation, open space, and land use. In 2016, over 500 people attended an open house and responded to a survey to help assess bikeway alignment alternatives and other trade-offs, resulting in a conceptual design for a two-way, waterside protected bikeway adjacent to the promenade.
In October of 2018, approximately 200 people attended an open house showcasing the conceptual design for the project, with 140 people completing a survey to gauge stakeholder support and priorities for the project moving forward. A summary of survey results is available on the project website.
Additional stakeholder meetings took place throughout 2019 as the project moved into the preliminary engineering and environmental review phase, and more substantial public engagement is planned for 2020.
Operational and Quick-Build Improvements
Throughout the planning phase of the Embarcadero Enhancement Project, the SFMTA and Port of San Francisco partnered to address safety issues with near-term and operational upgrades wherever possible. In 2016, these efforts included striping, signage and parking upgrades between Howard and 2nd streets, as well as a new bicycle signal at North Point Street. The city also updated crosswalks along much of corridor with high-visibility striping and advanced stop lines for vehicles, including bicycles, to reduce conflicts at intersections. Improved safety messaging and signs along the share use promenade were also installed south of the Ferry Building.
To help provide a safer, more consistent, and more intuitive experience for all users, the SFMTA and Port implemented near-term safety improvements to southbound Embarcadero between Broadway and Mission streets in fall 2018 by removing the peak period tow-away restriction. This change allows all-day parking and established a full-time, green bike lane. Vehicle right-turn lanes were provided at Washington and Mission streets to support the continued movement of people and goods.
In 2019, important safety fixes to the Sansome/Chestnut and Battery intersections of The Embarcadero were completed as part of the Sansome and Battery Connections Project. Additional crosswalk upgrades along The Embarcadero (new high-visibility striping, focused between Green and Bay streets) were initiated in 2019 and will be completed in 2020.
Additional operational and Quick-Build implementation opportunities will be explored throughout 2020 as part of the project’s current phase.