SFMTA wants to restart 'don't block the box' campaign

Carolyn Tyler Image
ByCarolyn Tyler KGO logo
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
SFMTA wants to restart 'don't block the box' campaign
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Back in the 1980s San Francisco used a strategy called "don't block the box" to calm gridlock on city streets. Now they want to bring it back.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco may bring back a strategy it used decades ago to try to calm gridlock on city streets. It's called "don't block the box."

One city official says South of Market is the epicenter of San Francisco's gridlock. At 2nd and Bryant streets motorists heading to the Bay Bridge or the freeway try unsuccessfully to make it across the intersection just as the light turns red. It's called "blocking the box." They block the flow of traffic and sometimes the crosswalks, forcing pedestrians to weave in and out.

"I fear for my life every time I leave work, seriously. It's as if no one is even walking," pedestrian Christine Queen said.

"We can't have enforcement resources at every intersection all the time, so we want to be strategic and target the ones that have the biggest impact," Ed Reiskin from San Francisco's Municipal Transportation Agency said.

The SFMTA conducted a pilot program focusing on two busy intersections -- Main and Harrison and 2nd and Bryant streets. Between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. they had parking control officers write tickets for two days. Then, on two more days they directed traffic as well as issue citations.

"What we really want is compliance, not a bunch of tickets," Reiskin said.

The results showed a dramatic change in behavior, especially at Main and Harrison. There was an 82 percent drop in blocking the box. And at 2nd and Bryant streets there was a 27 percent decrease.

There was a public awareness campaign back in 1987. No one is sure why that ended, but the SFMTA is now recommending a restart -- enforcement combined with education.