Lombard Street, San Fransisco, USA

August 2, 2020
Lombard Street, San Francisco, California, USA

Location | Lombard Street, San Francisco, CA, USA

Lombard Street is perhaps the most famous crooked street in the world with 2 million yearly visitors. It is a one-way block where eight sharp turns (total of 600 feet/180 meters) help reduce the steepness. It was built in 1922 to reduce the hill’s natural steep 27% grade, which was far too steep for the most common cars.

In 2017, the City of San Fransisco published a study – Managing Access to the “Crooked Street” – proposing some short- and mid-term strategies which could resolve the key challenges of visitor access and circulation to Lombard Street and the surrounding neighbourhood. The four key recommendations adopted by the City included: 

  1. Improved Enforcement of Existing Regulations
    Potential Solution: Increase the number of Parking Control Officers, expanding their hours of deployment and the locations they patrol.
  2. Engagement of Tourism Industry as Partners in Visitor Management
    Potential Solution: Develop an education and marketing campaign/partnership with various tourism operators to remind them how they can be a good neighbour, in terms of tour group size, timing, and loading/unloading.
  3. Engineering and Signage Enhancements
    Potential Solution: Traffic engineering interventions including painted or raised sidewalk extensions, barriers, or wayfinding signage could help to address conflicts and near-misses between pedestrians, drivers, and transit.
  4. Reservations and Pricing System for Vehicles
    Potential Solution: Implement a system to manage paid reservations for access to the “Crooked Street”. Such a strategy could allow for the flow and demand of vehicles entering the street to be regulated, reducing queue lengths.


The Outcome 

As a result of surveys, community meetings and open houses, the community showed a strong support for the reservations and pricing system to address traffic and tourism challenged. This led to a second study published in 2019 – Lombard Crooked Street Reservation and Pricing System – where the City of San Fransisco outlined the design options of a paid reservation system and how traffic congestion could be sufficiently handled while also keeping safety, continued tourism, liveability of the neighbourhood and financial viability a top priority.

The recommendation included that the system should:

  • Operate 9am to 9pm
  • Cost $5 on weekdays, $10 on weekends and holidays
  • Includes staff to check reservations and help direct vehicles
  • Allows for a limited number of free passes to San Francisco residents through the city’s Discover and Go program.


Revised Scheme 

However, governor Gavin Newsom rejected the proposal due to “social equity issues”. He emphasised that the “iconic attraction should be available to all, regardless of their ability to pay”. Consequently, now the City of San Fransisco is working to revise the same scheme to be free of charge. Due to COVID-19 it is estimated that the new legislation for the regulation of Lombard Street will not come out before 2021.


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