San Francisco’s Most Crooked Street Might Soon Require a Toll
You're far better served jogging down the sidewalk
California lawmakers passed a bill late last week that would both designate a toll and enforce reservation slots for those looking to drive San Francisco’s famously crooked Lombard Street. If signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, tourists would likely have to pay $5 on weekdays, and $10 on weekends or holidays.
This sort of crackdown has been a long time coming for Lombard Street’s one-way block in Russian Hill. The 600-foot-long section features eight different hairpin turns, built in 1922 to help drivers navigate the hill’s 27 percent grade, and thanks to its red bricks, sidewalk hydrangeas, and proximity to the Powell-Hyde cable car (which stops at the top of the street), it hosts curious tourists all day long.
Two million visitors arrive each year, nearly 17,000 over a summer weekend, and while many arrive on foot, countless others want to cross a 5-mph drive down the road off their San Francisco bucket lists, and the line to enter this fray can extend several blocks back. I stayed with a friend on Hyde Street this past January, about a 30 seconds walk from Lombard, and can confirm it’s a perpetual madhouse. Uber drivers that came to pick us up were noticeably frustrated to be in the near vicinity of the street.
As local residents point out, it’s time Lombard understands what it is; an average of 6,000 visitors a day is nothing to sneeze at. The majority of people coming to visit will do what I did — take a photo from the top, walk the steps down, take a photo from the bottom, move on — but others treat the area like a park, and at the moment, it doesn’t have the operational wherewithal to deal with all the visitors. A $5-10 fare range seems like a reasonable compromise to us.
We would caution, though, that before tourists understand a toll is is place, the chaos over there could hit new levels of headache-inducing. Make a point, if you’re in the area, to drive parallel streets.
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