Thursday, March 31, 2011

The People Plan: How To Move 200,000 Along San Francisco's Waterfront

The timing couldn’t be better, I thought, after being nailed earlier this week with another $65 parking ticket, the going rate in downtown San Francisco, and then enduring the frustrating task of trying to find inexpensive and accessible parking downtown to attend Thursday's unveiling of the draft transportation plan, the "People Plan", that addresses the City's plan to move up to an estimated 200,000 people daily to watch the 2013 America’s Cup events.

The document is one of the City’s first planning documents that was required by March 31 in the Host and Venue Agreement between the City and the Event Authority for the 34th America’s Cup.

Several hundred people including elected officials and VIP guests gathered for the public “unveiling” which was appropriately held outside in one of the densest traffic areas on San Francisco’s waterfront - the Embarcadero in front of the San Francisco Ferry Building.

Mark Buell, America’s Cup Organizing Committee Chairman told the crowd, “I can’t imagine any more critical element to this Plan than how we move people during the event. If San Franciscans care about anything, it’s traffic, it’s parking, it’s movement and I think today’s press conference as the beginning of this effort acknowledges how seriously we take this situation and how we want to get it right.”

The goal of the Plan is to figure out how to organize transportation in a very constricted travel area along the San Francisco waterfront in a way that supports other goals of the event such as sustainability and accessibility to a wide range of the public.

The People Plan which emphasizes transit and bicycles over the private automobile was developed around four organizing principles: resource efficiency, environmental sustainability, strategic adaptability and positive legacy. Stated Mike Martin, the City’s Project Manager for the America’s Cup, “It represents the first step in what we hope will become a public dialogue about these issues so that we can change strategies based on big days versus less well attended days during the Cup.”

While the People Plan is focused on planning for the Cup event, by bringing transit and bicycle systems together the City hopes to provide legacy benefits to the City beyond 2013. “New infrastructure such as capital improvements, new ways to operate and new ways to bring bikes to the waterfront are obviously great selling points for San Francisco tourism in general,” Martin said.

One suggestion is to close down areas along the Embarcadero and Martin said it’s an idea that’s got a lot of people excited. However he cautioned the idea needs further study. “Obviously there are challenges especially along the northern waterfront as businesses and residents there need access. The People Plan requires a really good dialogue with all these folks so that we understand all the considerations in a way that doesn’t cause more dislocation than it solves.”

Martin thinks the most compelling aspect of the Plan will be information: both in terms of peoples’ feedback on the plan but also feeding information to people who are coming from around the country or the area for the event to say, “this is how you get to the event” so they can plan accordingly.

He also cited the use of web tools to enhance the end result of the Plan, “We’ll be excited to us information technology that’s being developed to make platforms for people to really understand what they’re going to see before they even get here.”

Public Comment & Input Needed by May 31, 2011: The draft People Plan and other documents can be viewed at Members of the public and stakeholders are invited to review the Plan and provide feedback on the website of the City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development ( or via email at

These comments will be used to further refine the Plan in advance of a September 30, 2011 deadline, as well as to inform further Event plans and EIR impact and possible mitigation measure analyses. The City currently anticipates that the Planning Department will issue the Draft EIR - an element critical to the America’s Cup 34 - for public review and comment in July 2011.

Photo 1: Mark Buell

Photo 2: San Francisco's Mayor Lee

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