SF looks to extend ‘block the box’ enforcement

San Francisco is about to get tough on vehicles blocking two intersections in The City’s SoMa neighborhood.

Supervisor Jane Kim held a hearing Monday on the conclusion of a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency pilot that focused on two approaches to the Bay Bridge — one on Harrison and Main streets and the other on Second and Bryant Streets.

The two-month pilot focused on the enforcement of drivers who blocked the intersections so that cross traffic and pedestrians were unable to pass through — known as box blocking.

Drivers cross the intersection even though there is not enough room to fully get across. As the light turns red, drivers get stuck in the middle of intersection or on a crosswalk.

It is illegal to block the intersection or pedestrian crosswalk under the state law. Drivers caught by a parking control officer can get a $103 ticket.

Kim said residents have felt intimidated walking in the neighborhood due to the amount of gridlock in the area:

“The experience it has been often for our pedestrians and cyclists that have to maneuver their way around cars particularly the cars that block the box.”

Erin Miller Blankinship, the project manager of the SoMa Gridlock Enforcement Pilot, revealed the results of the pilot at the board’s Land Use and Development committee.

SFBay reported earlier of the results two months ago, which showed fewer vehicles blocking the box when parking control officers were visible and using hand signals to control traffic compared days when officers were not there.

Blankinship said officers were stationed at both of the intersections at Harrison and Main streets and Second and Bryant Streets during peak morning and evening commute times on select days from July to September.

Cameron Samii, the SFMTA’s enforcement manager, said the transit agency could plan for a longer term enforcement program by Dec. 1.

Samii said the transit agency would first start working on educating drivers that box blocking is illegal and make sure signs are clearly visible and posted to not block the intersection.

Six parking control officers could be assigned to the two intersections from the pilot plus enforcing other nearby intersections with the same gridlock problem.

Kim said she had no problem with a Dec. 1 start, but said the transit agency should take the same initiative of enforcement as it does handing out parking tickets to drivers with expired meters in The City:

“I think we’d like to have the same level of responsiveness around this important issue. I imagine PCO operators will be so much more popular if they’re giving out these tickets versus the other ones.”

Resident Debi Gould, who lives on Harrison and Main streets, said her neighbor and friend was hit at the intersection in December 2004.

She said she hopes the transit agency puts a permanent parking control officer at the intersection:

“No district in SF should have to deal with pedestrian, motorcyclist fatalities at all.”