Great Highway Pilot Evaluation Project
Background: Car-free Upper Great Highway
The Great Highway is a 3.8-mile-long roadway running along Ocean Beach on the westernmost side of San Francisco. The Upper Great Highway is a two-mile segment of this roadway, between Lincoln Way and Sloat Boulevard. On weekends, this area becomes a 17-acre park with a 2-mile promenade, while on weekdays it is a roadway with an adjacent trail.
The conversion of Upper Great Highway as a car-free promenade began during the COVID-19 pandemic and has provided outdoor recreational space for families, people on bicycles and in wheelchairs, people with walkers or other mobility assistance devices, people with strollers, and people walking, jogging, skateboarding and more.
The area, which was created and designated under San Francisco park jurisdiction in the 1870s as a space for recreation, also provides a valuable scenic public promenade that can accommodate higher volumes of use than the adjacent pathways. In addition, it offers recreational access to the beachfront to people who cannot easily use the beach itself.
Great Highway Visitor Data
Traffic Calming around Great Highway
The Great Highway Outer Sunset Traffic Management Project was developed to address community concerns related to changing traffic patterns during the time that the Upper Great Highway was being used by families, bicyclists, and pedestrians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The work included collecting traffic speed and volume data, evaluating current safety and traffic conditions, using traffic management tools such as signs and traffic diverters to manage traffic and improve safety, as well as identifying street and network changes that could complement future uses of the Great Highway.
During that time, the SFMTA worked in partnership with the Recreation and Parks Department to develop and implement a comprehensive and integrated traffic calming strategy that responded to the concerns that were heard from residents of the Outer Sunset and Richmond Districts. The traffic calming measures were completed in April 2021.
In spring 2021, the SFMTA and the Fehr and Peers consultant team conducted a comprehensive operational analysis to better understand impacts and pressure points in the circulation system as a result of the COVID-19 temporary closures of roads in Golden Gate Park and along the Great Highway. That summer, traffic speed and volume data was collected and analyzed to understand the effectiveness of the traffic calming measures that were implemented. The findings shown that 7 of 7 locations saw a decrease in traffic volumes between January and June 2021 and that 7 of 7 locations saw a reduction in traffic speed. These findings indicate that the traffic calming measures were successful in helping to reduce both speed and volume throughout the Outer Sunset. You can view more at Traffic Monitoring and Westside Circulation Study - August 2021 Update.
In December 2022, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance to maintain the Great Highway between Lincoln Way and Sloat Boulevard as a car-free promenade until December 31, 2025, allowing for a three-year pilot study. This preserves the current schedule of closing the road to motor vehicle traffic on weekends beginning on Friday afternoons at 12 p.m. until Monday mornings at 6:00 a.m. and on holidays.
The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department is ready to implement the plan approved by policymakers. The pilot allows the Recreation and Park Department and the SFMTA to collect more robust data on the Great Highway’s use as both a roadway and a promenade, as well as gather additional public feedback.
We will report our findings every six months to all project stakeholders. Ultimately, this thorough research will be used to make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors for consideration on the Great Highway’s long-term future.
For more information, visit SF Recreation and Park Department - Great Highway Pilot .