Undo: Two-Lane San Jose Ave. Freeway Exit Will Be Restored


Well, the great San Jose Avenue Traffic Calming Experiment has officially been declared an abject failure. The effort to slow traffic along San Jose Avenue by reducing the exit to San Jose Avenue from I-280 northbound from two lanes to one instead succeeded mainly in causing epic traffic backups along I-280 and  more motor vehicle accidents. Oopsie!

In addition, the scheme created additional sadness and delay in South Bernal and St. Mary’s, so now the exit will return to its original two-lane configuration. The Glen Park Association reports:

The 280 freeway offramp to San Jose Avenue will return to a two-lane configuration, owing to a high number of accidents following an experiment to slow traffic by narrowing it.

Seven accidents were recorded on the offramp between June and November, 2015, after engineers reconfigured the two exit lanes to merge into one lane just before the Monterey Street underpass. The offramp reconfiguration was the second phase of the Northbound San Jose Avenue & I-280 Off-Ramp Road Diet Pilot Project, which was intended to slow traffic on San Jose Avenue south of Randall.

In Phase I of that project, San Jose Avenue itself was reduced from three lanes to two. When that measure did not slow traffic, Phase II was implemented, and the offramp was reduced from two lanes to two lanes merging to one.

Since Phase II also failed to reduce speeds and reduce traffic volumes but did increase the number of accidents, Caltrans has decided to return the offramp to its original state. The road is scheduled to be re-paved in May, then re-striped.

If the goal is to reduce speeds along San Jose Avenue, some armchair traffic engineers in Bernal-Glen have a few good ideas about how to accomplish that.

19 thoughts on “Undo: Two-Lane San Jose Ave. Freeway Exit Will Be Restored

  1. I’m in shock. I can’t believe we were actually able to analyze a bad idea and revert it back in such a quick timeframe. I was sure there would be a couple fatalities first.
    You’ve never really risked your life driving until you drive in the third lane at about 6pm on north 280. The right two lanes are backed up on the freeway but it’s the people who realize they are in the wrong lane or change their mind about San Jose Ave and jump into the third lane from a dead stop that are very dangerous.
    Now if they could just fix the monterey ave exit on south 280, but I suspect that requires millions of dollars to make a flyover or subterranean tunnel through the exit light.

    • Absolutely! I drive past there every night and make sure I am in the fast lane to avoid that massive, dangerous clusterfuck. This is good news. Now let’s get rid of the bike lane on Alemany. I’ve never once seen a cyclist brave his/her life on that stretch from Congdon to the flea market.

      • I agree, San Francisco with all the traffic congestion, one way streets, narrow streets, especially downtown isn’t and wasn’t designed for Bicyclists! This is why there is so many bicycle accidents and fatal ones. Just way to much traffic and crazy drivers on the road!!

      • Rather than get rid of it let’s try giving it the same treatment as the buffered sections. There are lots of people actually riding on the sidewalk rather than use that lane.

      • I lived in Excelsior for seven years, including several when Alemany did not have a bike lane. Many cyclists and pedestrians, including myself, worked closely with the city to improve safety along Alemany. I rode from Theresa to Plymouth (beyond the stretch you mention) every day going to SF State. The safety those bike lanes provided was liberating. Even more than the bike lanes, widening the medians to allow those of us who live/d in that neighborhood to cross Alemany safely was an immense improvement.

        You may not have noticed any cyclists, but we are using the bike lanes every day. We have definitely had failed bike lanes. Anyone been around long enough to remember the bike lanes on Monterey, which were quickly removed? The ones on Alemany are golden and here to stay.

    • What about Ocean? That’s the worst one of all. I’m surprised people don’t die there daily.

  2. This was a stupid idea to begin with – a solution looking for a problem. There is not a single house on that part of San Jose with a front door facing San Jose Ave. It is a major artery into the city, so increasing congestion there was a stupid idea.
    Next thing to undo is the bike lane widening on San Jose. Based on their own data SFMTA had to admit that bike ridership did not increase significantly (or at all – the variation was well within the measurement noise). What they failed to mentions is how much extra time (and traffic jam) it has created at the San Jose and Randal St. lights. Yet they do plan to keep this for some obscure, non-quantitative reason.

    • Where is the data on the bike lane? I use it regularly and find it to be a game changer. It serves a part of the city that is not otherwise well connected to the bike grid, so it may take time to develop traffic volumes. But it is an important link for me and many others.

      • I agree. The fact is that while it’s significantly better than it used to be – it’s still not particularly safe. You can’t expect hundreds of people to use those lanes when San Jose ave is not safe and it dumps onto Guerrero and Mission, neither of which have bike lanes.

        If they were a link a couple of more blocks to Tiffany, I think that would help increase ridership.

      • I use the bike lane on San Jose too, and it is an improvement over the previous bike lane. If anyone remembers, it was painted just beyond the curb next to the third car lane (and included the gutter). While the new one is an improvement for cyclists, like me, it remains largely unused. I don’t have hard data, but I do use it regularly in evening rush hour times and I’m basing my comment on that. I always thought the best idea would have been to extend the sidewalk out (also largely unused) to where the previous bike lane ended, thus having a safe and elevated bike lane, sidewalk and 3 traffic lanes. Since the city has determined, rightly in my opinion, to restore the freeway exit, maybe they could consider this idea for the bike lane. I’d certainly feel safer on it than I do now.

      • From Curtis Damon (SFMTA guy in charge)
        The SFMTA would like to correct recently released information about the San Jose Avenue & I-280 Off-Ramp Road Diet Pilot Project. Last week we incorrectly reported that bicycle volumes on northbound San Jose Avenue had increased six-fold from January 2014 to January 2015. A second analysis of the underlying raw data revealed a spreadsheet error overstating the bicycling increase. The actual rise in average daily bicycle ridership on northbound San Jose Avenue during was 15%, with an increase of 14% in the AM Peak Hour and 62% in the PM Peak Hour. All other data, regarding auto volumes and speeds, remains unchanged. Attached is a revised table of the pre- and post-pilot data collected thus far.
        The primary goal of the San Jose Avenue pilot project is to reduce auto speeds on San Jose Avenue in order to make the corridor more livable for nearby residents and improve safety for all users – pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike. The removal of a traffic lane on San Jose Avenue last June and the recent removal of a traffic lane on the freeway off-ramp are intended to achieve that speed reduction goal. The ability to enhance the existing bikeway is a fringe benefit.

        So clearly they are using subjective measures to argue in favor of keeping the 2-lanes lunacy. Have you seen the traffic jams starting at 3 pm?

      • By the way we’re talking about 26 extra bikers in total over a 72-hour period for that 15% relative increase (from 174 to 200). So we’re talking about not even 3 bikers per hour that use that bike lane. Compare that versus more than 20,000 cars NB San Jose Ave Btwn Milton St and St. Marys Ave.
        Does that seem like a balanced approach?

      • Thanks Peter. I’m surprised that the volumes are that low. It doesn’t really jive with my own anecdotal experience as a bike rider and as a commuter that traverses San Jose. I hope they continue monitoring all manner of traffic while they sort out what to do.

        For the record, I’m really glad they recognize that the 1-lane configuration of the 280 ramp was a mistake. Any and all of us commuters will agree about that. But I strongly favor keeping San Jose the way it is: 2 lanes + bike lanes in each direction from Randall to Monterey/Rousseau. Making the bike lanes safer should be easy. Sweeping them periodically would be nice too. The interesting questions concern what to do on either end of that stretch. Improving safe access to the bike lane for northbound traffic will be difficult to say the least.

    • As someone who was hit in the old bike lane going southbound, I love the new bike lanes. Connection between Excelsior and southern SF is sometimes challenging to make on a bike. The wider lanes on San Jose improve safety. The contra flow lane on Lyell improves connection. The bike lanes on Alemany improve safety. All of these things are important when trying to get more cyclists onto two wheels instead of four. I appreciate MTA’s forward thinking on providing safe access for bikes.

  3. Planners have a way of not being able to see the forest for the trees. If it looks good on paper they’re happy. They never have to live with their decisions. Sorry for the negative comment but having worked in transit/transportation for over 25 years I have seen too many bad plans that are suppose to make things better but don’t.;

  4. This was a horrible and dangerous “solution” to a problem that wasn’t a problem to begin with.
    I am actually surprised there were only 7 accidents, and thank goodness no one had to die to get this changed back.
    Never understood how anyone thought that having traffic literally stopped on a freeway was ever a good idea.

  5. I salute the MTA for being able to admit and correct a mistake. Doesn’t happen much in the world.

    I hate to say “I told you so”… actually, I don’t.

    Worse than any of the other examples given is the Mission St./19th Ave/SFSU exit on any weekday morning. The intersection immediately off the freeway was reconfigured several years back and had a golden moment in the sun where it functioned properly.

    Then MTA added an unused bike lane on Sagamore Street and created a ridiculous right/middle lane merge after the traffic light. Now traffic parks on the freeway all the way back to the Ocean Ave. exit. It is unforgiveably stupid and wasteful.

    If someone with integrity at the MTA is willing to reverse terrible mistakes, how do we make ourselves heard above the tiny, myopic, but vocal Bike Coalition?

  6. I don’t understand why Caltrans didn’t make the exit, one lane entirely to begin with, all of those collisions would have been prevented and maybe the traffic exiting to San Jose Ave would be calmer, I guess they’re not going to even give that a try, disappointment!

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