Tolls for Lombard Street tourists wind closer to reality

After releasing a draft report last month of a study suggesting a reservation and toll system for tourists who visit San Francisco’s “crookedest street,” the San Francisco County Transportation Authority board approved further study of such a system.

Commissioners, made of up of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, approved on Tuesday allowing transit planners to further study the options laid out in report by the authority staff, including having tourists who want to drive down the crooked street make an advance reservation and pay a toll.

Other recommendations from the study included having more parking control and police in area, new wayfinding signage, and engaging with the tourism industry and tour bus operators.

Commissioner Mark Farrell, who represents residents who live in the Russian Hill neighborhood as a city supervisor, said five years ago he had heard from residents that about the heavy traffic issue and began working with the transportation authority staff in coming up with options.

Since then, motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic has worsened, with more than two million visitors visiting the winding street every year, and traffic doubling:

“Here we have a situation here where it has become out of control for residents.”

Farrell added that the issue just does affect one block of Lombard Street, but multiple surrounding neighborhoods around the crooked street:

“It’s a public safety hazard. It’s a quality of life issue. It’s also an environmental issue.”

James Hickman, a resident on the crooked street on Lombard Street, said residents experience everything that happens on the street and said residents have reached a tipping point with having no traffic management system in place and no enforcement:

“It is literally is a no law zone on the street at all hours.”

Commissioner London Breed spoke of the crime happening many of San Francisco’s tourists attractions and how The City needs to do a better job in securing those areas:

“When they come here and visit the crooked street, when they visit Twin Peaks, when they visit the Painted Ladies, their experience is met with something that we should figure out a way to make sure it’s avoided.”

Farrell said he had asked for more police officers from the Central Station, but said the area was not a high priority area and that allocating officers to the crooked street is a challenge.

He also clarified to the board that what was before them was to further to study the options in the study and not committing right now to a reservations and toll system.

The board will hear back from transportation authority staff once the study is complete, said Farrell.