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$10 toll considered for Lombard Street

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Crooked street attracts 2.1 million visitors each year and ire from nearby homeowners

Lombard Street.
Photo by Uladzik Kryhin

It may sound like a crooked business, but driving down the famous and scenic stretch of Lombard Street switchbacks may soon cost as much as $10 under a plan being considered by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority [SFCTA].

Homeowners on the postcard-famous street have complained to City Hall in recent years about the chronic attention their block receives. The county estimates that this one block, noted for its curvy slope, receives roughly 2.1 million visitors per year.

According to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority’s “Crooked Street Study,” one way to potentially fix this influx of tourists involves an electronic toll system similar to the one employed on regional bridges:

One of the most direct ways to manage automobile congestion, including the vehicle queues that form at peak periods, would be to use an electronic system to manage reservations for and price access to the Crooked Street.

[...] An all-electronic system, supported by a website, mobile app, and on-street kiosks would enable reservations, payments, and user support without the need for a staffed, physical booth or toll gate onsite, thereby minimizing visual impact and operational cost. The primary goal of the system would be to manage demand while being self-sustaining, and prices and number of available reservation slots would be set per this goal.

SF Weekly notes that simply driving from Hyde to Leavenworth would cost five dollars on a weekday and $10 on weekends. The toll would not apply to city residents or to pedestrians.

“[Y]ears ago, it wasn’t this bad,” Russian Hill resident Rick Haelig told Curbed SF in 2016. “But now everyone has a phone. They’re not only jamming the foot of Lombard, but tourists are now stopping their cars in the middle of the street to get out of their cars to take pics.”

The toll is just one of several potential fixes under consideration, including solutions as simple as more strictly enforcing traffic violation and littering laws.

Harlequins Tour to San Francisco
Tourists riding down the famous stretch.
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images for Harlequins

According to the county’s Lombard Study released in 2017, previous experiments in cramping the street’s style yielded mixed results:

In June 2014, the SFMTA conducted a temporary closure of the street to vehicles (the Crooked Street was closed from the hours of Noon to 7:00 PM each day).

[...] While there was a reduction in the vehicle queue during the actual hours of the closure, much vehicle demand was pushed to the hours just before and after the closure was in effect; other visitors chose to visit by foot, increasing pedestrian crowding and pick-up/drop-off congestion on and around the Crooked Street.

SFCTA specifies that it is not considering privatizing the street, closing it, or leveling any tolls on pedestrians; and that “straightening the street” is out of the question. Dirty looks were presumably reserved for whoever suggested the latter.

An open house is scheduled for January 30, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Yick Wo Elementary School, 2245 Jones to discuss potential future plans for Lombard.