Our friends at Streetsblog San Francisco offer some solid coverage of an offer Audi has made to the city: install two blocks of pedestrian amenities, including widened sidewalks and seating areas, on Powell Street between Ellis and Geary. We won’t duplicate what they wrote, but will note that beyond the pedestrian benefits, which could be considerable, this should make cable car operation in that area safer and more reliable.
With parked automobiles and trucks in the curb lane, running board riders take the risk of getting whacked by vehicle mirrors if they let it all hang out just a little too far. And motor vehicles pulling in and out of the parking spaces can cause significant delays.
We’re assured that the design shown above is only conceptual; final decisions will be made locally. We hope so. The concept of the Otis Spunkmeyer lookalike drinking some kind of green Caribbean cocktail on Powell is a tad jarring. To add to the somewhat surreal scene, there’s no cable car in sight, but riding the tracks we can clearly discern — a vintage VW Microbus! Did Ken Kesey design this?
Seriously, if they actually intend to install benches like the ones “conceptually” shown, the people who actually occupy them probably won’t look like the folks in the drawing. Will the result be inviting to pedestrians, or will it turn into a gauntlet like you often find in the cable car passenger queue at Powell and Market?
With the right installation, though, this could be a huge plus for lower Powell Street, giving pedestrians much needed additional room to walk and clearing the way for at least a modest improvement in cable car service.
Best of all, if this temporary installation works, it can help pave the way for something permanent, perhaps modeled on the existing one-block cable car plaza between Market and Ellis.
The promenade is scheduled to be installed by April 2011. It is being managed by the Union Square Business Improvement District.