Noe Valley Voice October 1999

Traffic Is Just As Bad As It's Always Been

By Alison Pence

Is it just me or is 24th Street more congested than ever? I find that driving down 24th Street can be a challenge. Threading through the double-parked trucks, SUVs, Muni buses, fire trucks, bike riders -- not to mention the pedestrians -- I'm lucky to avoid an accident.

Like most residents, I have practically stopped driving to 24th Street to shop. Where would I put the car? I circle around the block with my son starting to cry in the back. He wants to get out. So do I. We go home, leave the car, and walk.

It must be a challenge for the truck drivers, too. Even though we have more yellow zones, they often wind up parking in the middle of the street between Noe and Sanchez while unloading their goods. Have the deliveries become more numerous?

"I've worked here for 25 years," says Gary Grozetti, manager of Bell Market, "and our deliveries have not changed." Ron Wilson, manager at Real Food Company, says the same thing and that no one has complained to him about the trucks.

Helen Norris across the street at Common Scents admits that traffic is heavy at times, perhaps worse than it was. She adds, however, "I really can't complain about the traffic because a semi-truck makes a delivery here once a week."

I asked Lois Perillo, our beat officer based at Mission Station, if traffic had gotten worse on 24th Street. She didn't think so. "It's always been congested," she told me.

24th Street Revisited

My perception that 24th Street has had an increase in traffic could be due to the fact that I am not commuting to work anymore. Days go by before I get in the car. When I go to 24th Street, I enter a world with a lot more action than I'm used to. Also, the cars, jeeps, and vans are giant-size now. Some of them are so tall they block your view of the road.

In any case, I set out to find the truth. I called the Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) and talked to Traffic Engineer Ricardo Olea. He remembered that there had been a traffic study on 24th Street some years back. He offered to repeat the study so that we could compare results. He cautioned that the data would not be able to distinguish between cars and trucks. The test simply counts the number of vehicles that go over a strip on the pavement during a 24-hour period.

My editor also noted that any conclusions drawn from the traffic studies might not be scientifically accurate because the second test was to be done on a different day of the week and at the tail end of summer vacation. Still, we told Olea to go ahead and that the Voice certainly appreciated his effort.

Over 11,000 Vehicles a Day

On June 27, 1994 (a Monday), at 3 p.m., two thin cables were stretched across 24th Street at Noe. One cable counted eastbound traffic and the other westbound traffic. They recorded 11,784 vehicles crossing the strip over the next 24 hours.

The 1994 study also identified peak hours for morning and evening traffic. The eastbound cars (heading toward the Mission) peaked at 7:30 a.m. with 463 cars and at 4 p.m. with 409 vehicles. Westbound traffic (going toward Twin Peaks) peaked at 10:15 a.m. with 475 vehicles and 5:30 p.m. with 548 vehicles.

Five years later, on Thursday, Aug. 26, 1999, the cables were laid down again. This time the strips recorded 11,339 vehicles in the 24 hours tested. Again, the study started at 3 p.m. and ended at 2:59 p.m. the following day.

Peak hours eastbound in 1999 were 9:30 a.m. with 370 vehicles and 12 p.m. with 358 vehicles. Peak hours westbound were 11 a.m. with 402 vehicles and 6:45 p.m. with 483 vehicles.

The weather was clear for both the 1994 and 1999 study.

Little Change Since 1994

The data, in graph form, is remarkably similar for both years. It shows a steady flow of traffic on 24th Street from morning till night, with a short lull at around 3 p.m. In 1999, the average number of eastbound vehicles from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. is 306, not far below the "peak" numbers of 370 or 358.

Olea went over the data with me and concluded that there had been little change in traffic patterns in the past five years.

Still, it's surprising how many vehicles are driving on 24th Street. If you add up the numbers during peak hours -- from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. -- you get over 9,000. That translates to 750 cars an hour, or 1 every 5 seconds!

What can they all be doing? Are they, like me, looking for a parking space? I can just imagine the study being thrown out because cameras show the same cars circling the block again and again.

Are they driving to and from jobs in Noe Valley? Shopping for clothes? Stopping by the grocery store after work?

There's a peak hour at noon. Does 24th Street attract an enormous lunch crowd?

That's fine, but is there some way to convince people to leave their cars at home? Perhaps we could run a Downtown Noe Valley shuttle service.

I would like a study that could answer these questions. Till then, please write and let me know your thoughts.

Send letters to the Noe Valley Voice at 1021 Sanchez St., San Francisco, CA 94114. Or e-mail

Traffic on 24th Street Is Heavy Both Ways

1999 Westbound Traffic Study ­ 24th Street East of Noe Street*

Hour of Day No. Vehicles Each * represents 20 vehicles

from 12 AM to 1 AM 70 ****

1 AM 47 **

2 AM 24 *

3 AM 18 *

4 AM 28 *

5 AM 50 ***

6 AM 185 *********

7 AM 195 **********

8 AM 315 ****************

9 AM 334 *****************

10 AM 330 *****************

11 AM 402 ********************

12 PM 435 **********************

1 PM 423 *********************

2 PM 430 **********************

3 PM 361 ******************

4 PM 413 *********************

5 PM 439 **********************

6 PM 432 **********************

7 PM 474 ************************

8 PM 362 ******************

9 PM 276 **************

10 PM 204 **********

11 PM 128 ******

Total westbound volume: 6,375 vehicles

Peak hours westbound on 24th Street:
Morning peak hour volume of 402 begins at 11:00 AM.
Evening peak hour volume of 483 begins at 6:45 PM.

1999 Eastbound Traffic Study ­ 24th Street West of Noe Street*

Hour of Day No. Vehicles Each * represents 20 vehicles

from 12 AM to 1 AM 51 ***

1 AM 39 **

2 AM 17 *

3 AM 20 *

4 AM 19 *

5 AM 58 ***

6 AM 134 *******

7 AM 247 ************

8 AM 282 **************

9 AM 346 *****************

10 AM 316 ****************

11 AM 341 *****************

12 PM 358 ******************

1 PM 314 ****************

2 PM 292 ***************

3 PM 261 *************

4 PM 334 *****************

5 PM 308 ***************

6 PM 314 ****************

7 PM 275 **************

8 PM 232 ************

9 PM 182 *********

10 PM 142 *******

11 PM 82 ****

Total eastbound volume: 4,964 vehicles

Peak hours eastbound on 24th Street:
Morning peak hour volume of 370 begins at 9:30 AM.
Evening peak hour volume of 358 begins at 12:00 PM.

Total volume for eastbound and westbound traffic was 11,339 vehicles.

*Study conducted by the San Francisco Department of Parking and Traffic. Data collection began at 3 PM on Thursday, August 26, 1999.

Crunching the Numbers: At the request of Voice reporter Alison Pence, the city's Department of Parking and Traffic recently undertook a study of traffic on 24th Street. Two cables placed at Noe and 24th streets measured 11, 339 vehicles in a 24-hour period. The results clearly show that more people are driving up the hill toward Castro -- 56 percent -- than down toward Dolores Street. Peak congestion occurs at noon and 7 p.m.