The Telegraph Avenue Complete Streets project has experienced its ups and downs over the past few years. In 2014, the City initiated a community process to reimagine Telegraph and address its high rate of injury collisions. What emerged from that study, an interim design project launched two years ago in KoNo between 20th Street and 29th Street, illustrated what a safer Telegraph could look like. But a comprehensive solution for the entirety of the corridor proved elusive due to constraints along its most popular segment in Temescal. With an upcoming repaving between 46th and 51st Streets in Spring 2019, the City is poised to restart conversations around redesigning the street.
Although no concepts have been put forward, the City’s 2014 design options study provides a starting point for considering what’s possible along Telegraph. Three design concepts were identified in Temescal
- Option 1: a five-lane street with protected bikeways and no parking
- Option 2: a five-lane street with bike lanes and one lane of parking
- Option 3: a five-lane street with two lanes of parking (consistent with today’s cross-section)
Unlike other segments of Telegraph, the City did not identify a road diet option because doing so would be inconsistent with their auto Level of Service (LOS) operations standards. In essence, the City identified moving vehicles through Temescal as the modal priority and left bicyclists and merchants to fight over the remaining space. Both sides had reasonable arguments: Telegraph absolutely needs protected bikeways to serve the current and latent demand for bicycling, but there are also very few parking or loading spaces available for businesses if all parking were to be removed (similar concerns were voiced against AC Transit’s BRT project eight years ago). Unsurprisingly, no resolution was achieved, so no design recommendations were made.
The City’s thinking around LOS has certainly evolved since 2014, but a road diet may still be infeasible through Temescal. The KoNo road diet received strong criticism from AC Transit over increasing bus delays. A road diet in Temescal could have even more pronounced consequences.
Once the City arrives at a preferred design, yet another challenge is how to pay for it. Simpler interventions like paint, soft hit posts, and temporary bus bulbs were included in the KoNo resurfacing project, but the lack of permanence of these features created some problems. Without concrete curbs, the KoNo project introduced a chaotic parking condition that resulted in frequent bikeway blockages and obstructions of pedestrian visibility. A permanent solution in Temescal that connects to streetscape improvements spanning 20th to 41st Streets would be ideal, but such projects take time to design and line up funding.
Given the physical, operational, financial, and schedule constraints associated with redesigning Telegraph in Temescal, it would be a stunning achievement if the City materially changes the status quo condition. Hopefully, the City can break through the inertia and achieve a street that works for everyone, but it’s going to be a difficult road ahead.