(TNS) — San Francisco will receive $11 million from the federal government for projects to encourage carpools, time traffic signals for transit and pedestrian safety, and test driverless passenger shuttles at Treasure Island.
The grants, to be announced Thursday by the U.S. Department of Transportation, come from a fund that is usually distributed to cities and states to manage highway congestion, said Tom Maguire, sustainable streets director for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. He said federal officials recognized that San Francisco has other priorities that are worth supporting.
“We’re going to use the money to advance transit first and Vision Zero,” the city’s 10-year plan to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2024, Maguire said.
City agencies are trying to improve pedestrian safety by focusing on the most dangerous streets and intersections, improving roadways and signs, stepping up police enforcement and launching education campaigns to get more drivers to yield to pedestrians. The results so far haven’t been encouraging: 20 traffic deaths, including 10 pedestrians, in the first eight months of 2016, compared with 12 pedestrian fatalities and 19 overall deaths in the same period in 2015, according to the MTA.
Total funding for the planned projects is $32 million over four years, with $11 million from the Transportation Department and the rest in matching local funds and private contributions.
One project seeks to better protect pedestrians in the Tenderloin, which Maguire described as “ground zero for pedestrian injuries and fatalities.” Traffic lights will be adjusted to give pedestrians more time to cross the street and to try to reduce the occasions in which drivers are turning while pedestrians are in the crosswalk, Maguire said. He said the project would also seek to use sensors and other devices built into vehicles to protect pedestrians and would expand citywide if it works in the Tenderloin.
Another grant is designated for “smart traffic signals,” which will be timed to give priority to mass transit, particularly in congested hours. For example, Maguire said, lights on Third Street downtown can be programmed to stay green when a train is approaching.
Grants will also fund high-occupancy-vehicle lanes on access roads to freeways and the Bay Bridge, and new pickup curbs for carpools. New apps or other high-tech mechanisms could help link commuters at the curbs with would-be carpool drivers, said Darton Ito, the MTA’s deputy director for innovation.
The funding also includes several projects to deal with traffic to and from Treasure Island, where San Francisco supervisors have approved construction of 8,000 new housing units for 20,000 residents over the next 10 to 15 years.
The traffic-management plans include a future toll for drivers from the Bay Bridge to Treasure Island, a fee that would increase during peak traffic periods, said Tilly Chang, executive director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which will oversee transit for the island.
She said visitors will also be charged parking fees, revenue that will be used to pay for mass transit on Treasure Island. In addition, the price of every new housing unit on the island will include a fee for a monthly transit pass, Chang said.
Another federally funded innovation will be an automated, driverless shuttle to carry passengers around Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island, Chang said. She said the shuttle would carry 12 people, or six people plus a wheelchair, and would be tested to see how it performs on steep grades and in sea air and fog.
“We believe it’s safe,” Chang said. “It’s been in operation in Europe for many years.” She said the project would require state legislative approval and includes funding for UC Berkeley to evaluate the shuttle’s performance.
Mayor Ed Lee applauded the new projects. In a statement, he said the federal grants would “utilize advanced transportation technology to address traffic congestion on our streets and allow for a smarter and more equitable transportation system for all San Franciscans.”
©2016 the San Francisco Chronicle, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.