Published Monday, January 5, 2009, by the San Francisco Examiner
Muni to snap traffic with route cameras
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will be retiming
many of its older downtown traffic signals to expressly favor Muni
By Mike Aldax
Drivers tired of stop-and-go traffic in The City might see some relief
along the busiest corridors before the end of the year.
On Tuesday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is
expected to approve funding for a 250-day project to install cameras
and digital-messaging signs along some of The City's most congested
The cameras will allow the transit agency to monitor traffic
conditions in real time and the digital signs will alert drivers
to accidents, construction work and information on parking garage
capacity, among other details.
The $1.07 million project -- funded with a sales tax approved by
voters in 2003 -- includes seven messaging signs and 11 cameras along
Third, Fell and Oak streets, as well as Octavia Boulevard and other
hot spots in the SoMa neighborhood, the transit agency said.
The project is a significant part of the transit agency's SFgo
program, a long-running effort to upgrade traffic signals in San
Francisco's most congested areas, said spokeswoman Kristen Holland.
Most of The City's 1,200 traffic signals do not react to road
conditions, but the new SFgo technology will allow for monitoring and
adjusting signals in real time along the busiest streets, particularly
when unexpected occurrences such as accidents, protests or special
events create gridlock.
The idea is not just to ease the frustrations of drivers, but to offer
more green lights to buses and streetcars so they reach stops on time,
the agency said.
"Full implementation [of SFgo] will help us respond to events and
provide motorists and other travelers information in real time on
how to move about The City," Holland said.
Muni, oft-scorned for being unreliable, is trying to reach a voter-
mandated on-time performance of 85 percent. The agency is unique
among its public-transit peers across the U.S. in that a large
majority of its vehicles must compete with automobile traffic.
Along with SFgo, the transit agency is also retiming many of its
older downtown traffic signals to expressly favor Muni vehicles. By
next spring, riders will see more green lights along Market and King
streets and The Embarcadero when traffic signals at 60 downtown
intersections are adjusted.
The SFgo project will improve fluidity in the following areas:
Oak and Fell streets
Van Ness Avenue
19th Avenue-Park Presidio-Lombard Street