Summer Grants, Shareback updates, announcing our app!

Philadelphia & Boise City Shareback: Recap

  Volunteers get down after a successful share-back in Boise!

Volunteers get down after a successful share-back in Boise!

A big thank you to everyone who came to our sharebacks last week in Boise and Philly! We had a blast hearing from our amazing volunteers about what they learned and accomplished, had great conversations about what the National Street Service can do next to focus the conversation about streets on people, and celebrated what we’ve built together! One of the things we've heard loud and clear is that people want the NSS to connect more with local policy and design initiatives. Please don't hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or ideas for how the Street Service can dovetail with work happening in your cities.

Check out our Instagram for highlights!


Stay involved with the National Street Service

The National Street Service is going on summer break next month while we process what we’ve learned and make a plan for what’s next. But, before we do we wanted to leave a few things behind. See below for exciting ways to stay connected to the National Street Service and keep momentum going through the summer.




We are thrilled to offer ten grants of between $5 and $500 in support of National Street Service participants who want to build ‘street experiments’ exploring how to make streets better places for people. These grants are an opportunity to iterate your street experiment, host community conversations, or explore an idea that came up while observing and reflecting on your street. To be eligible, complete our Soul Searching training and fill out an application form by Monday July 9. Experiments must be completed by October 1. Find out more and apply at . Questions? Send them to by July 3. All questions and answers will be posted on the grants webpage above on July 5.



Online training

We are proud to offer our complete Soul Searching training kit, which is a crash course in street transformation. The course covers our process step-by-step, from observing and reflecting on your street through to creating a small ‘street experiment’ to test your ideas to improve your local streets. The entire kit can be downloaded from our website - visit to get started.




Streets! App for iOS

We are proud to announce the revamp of our app for iPhone, Streets! which covers the entire Soul Searching training, in convenient digital format. Try it today -

Up next...

Next month before we go on summer break we’ll be sharing news on what’s next for the NSS as well as note from our City Leads. See you in July!

  See you in July!

See you in July!

Celebrations and Invitations

Celebrations and Invitations

The National Street Service has been busy celebrating streets, changing the conversation about what streets are for, and creating new street experiences. Now it's time for us to share our insights with a larger audience. We hope you will join us for our City Sharebacks next Tuesday, June 19 in Boise and Thursday, June 21 in Philadelphia. Details are below. 

National Street Service Tri-Block Party in Philadelphia

  • National Street Service Volunteers will host three simultaneous block parties on Sunday, May 20th from 2:00 - 6:00pm.
  • The locations are:
    • South Philadelphia - 22nd + Carpenter, (near bus route 7)
    • West Philadelphia - 47th + Hazel Ave, (located along the 34 trolley line)
    • North Philadelphia - 11th + Huntington Street, (near North Philadelphia Station - BSL)
  • All three parties are free and open to the public, and will offer food, drinks, prizes, and family friendly activities.
  • More information about the event is available here -

PHILADELPHIA, Penn., May. 14, 2018 – Volunteers from the National Street Service will host three simultaneous block parties in Philadelphia on Sunday, May 20th from 2:00-6:00 pm featuring food, drinks, prizes and family friendly activities. The event is being organized by the National Street Service, an organization which mobilizes everyday people to observe, reflect on, and care for the streets that matter to them and their communities. At the Tri-Block Party, volunteers will share what they have learned to build support for better use of street space in Philadelphia.

“Philadelphia is the block party capital of the country” says Alexa Bosse, a City Lead coordinating volunteers for the events. “We wanted to use this familiar tradition as a way to invite the community to engage with National Street Service volunteers in a conversation about streets.”

The event will take place across three sites - South Philadelphia at 22nd and Carpenter near bus route 7, West Philadelphia at 47th and Hazel Ave near the 34 trolley line, and North Philadelphia at 11th and Huntington Street near North Philadelphia Station - BSL.

The block parties will be hosted by the 25 Philadelphians who have just completed their National Street Service volunteer training. The training program is designed to help them closely observe their streets, in order to reflect on what is working well and where there are opportunities for improvement. The event is an opportunity to share what they have learned, and spark people’s curiosity about how streets can better serve all who share them.

“Our volunteers are building games and activities which will inspire Philadelphians to think differently about their streets. We want to show people how they can help their communities by building streets that make people feel safe and welcome” says Eve Belizaire, also a City Lead. “By hosting three parties at once, we hope to unite the entire city around our cause”

In the lead up to the Tri-Block Party, National Street Service volunteers will distribute welcome mats around the city. “These are welcome mats with a twist - they read ‘Welcome to Public Space.’ So they remind you that the streets are for people” says Bosse. “Philadelphians walk everywhere and the streets are where we interact with the city and our neighbors. These welcome mats are a reminder that the streets belong to everyone who uses them.”

The North Philadelphia party will showcase the work of the first youth team of the National Street Service. This team of talented teens has been influential to the National Street Service as a voice for youth and people of color. The team have been hard at work building and installing street improvements, including a ‘dream wall’ which connects people of all ages to share their hopes and dreams on the street, and a ‘mailbox’ which invites community input on how to make streets more safe and welcoming. Youth team lead Alex Peay says “these kids have an opportunity they can’t even imagine - a chance to build their leadership skills and get real work experience, all while learning how to make an impact in their communities.” Dre’ana, a youth team volunteer says “I love that we are the first youth team for the National Street Service. My hope is that we will show people that youth are more than just ‘trouble’ - we are change.”

About the National Street Service

The National Street Service works across neighborhoods, generations, cultures, and city lines to celebrate the people, places, and moments that make our streets so valuable. We honor the soul of our cities by working with everyday people to make streets better places for everyone.

You can find out more at


Boise's Public Lands Tour

  • National Street Service Volunteers will host Boise’s Public Lands Tour on Saturday, May 12th from 1:00 pm to 5:00pm.
  • The locations are:
    • Orchard & Denton - Thriftology
      555 North Orchard Street
      Boise, ID 83706
    • Broad Street between 5th and 6th
      Central Addition in Downtown Boise
      Boise, ID 83702
    • Vista & Targee
      2250 S Vista Ave
      Boise, ID 83705
  • The trolley and all three locations are FREE and open to the public
  • To find out more, visit

BOISE, Idaho, May. 7, 2018 – Volunteers from the National Street Service will host The Boise Public Lands tour, a free event which celebrates the streets of Boise on Saturday, May 12th from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. The event will feature snacks, drinks, ice-cream and family-friendly activities.

"Our streets are also public lands," said Casey McLellan, a City Lead for the National Street service, who is leading volunteers for the event. "We thought it made sense to borrow from the language of natural areas to bring home the fact that these streets belong to people, and to invite everyone to share what they want from these valuable resources."

At Vista & Targee in the El Ada Community Action Parking lot will be the starting point for a guided walking tour and an interactive photo wall, which offer visitors a chance to reflect on the value and potential of Boise’s streets.

At Orchard and Denton, volunteers will transform Thriftology’s parking lot into a comfortable and protected place for people to interact and engage complete with games and music.

On Broad Street between 5th and 6th Street, there will be dancers, games, and activities to explore what permission and ownership of the streets can mean to the community.

The three sites will be linked by a free trolley, which will run every half hour between the locations. The first trolley will depart from the corner of Vista Ave and Targee St at 1:30 p.m. Visitors who make it to all three stops will be offered a prize.


The event will be hosted by the 25 local Boiseans who have just completed their National Street Service volunteer training. The training program is designed to help them closely observe their streets, in order to reflect on what is working well and where there are opportunities for improvement. “The volunteers have learned so much about what they love about their streets through this program,” says Deanna Smith, also a National Street Service City Lead in Boise. “The Public Lands Tour is an experiment into whether they can light that spark in their neighbors as well.” 

About the National Street Service

The National Street Service works across neighborhoods, generations, cultures, and city lines to celebrate the people, places, and moments that make our streets so valuable. We honor the soul of our cities by working with everyday people to make streets better places for everyone. The program is a collaboration between Greenfield Labs, a team created by Ford to explore the future of mobility through human-centered design; and Gehl, a global urban design service. You can find out more at

Journals from the Street: The Street is Yours

May 2, 2018

Journals from the Street: The Street is Yours

We are now 7 weeks into our 10 week pilot of the NSS in Philadelphia and Boise. Over 50 volunteers have now completed the NSS Street Soul Searching Curriculum and implemented their own experiment ideas on their streets to test ways to make the street a more inviting place for everyone. During the next few weeks everyone will be working on phase three: The Street is Ours! project, collectively working as a team to implement a final project that will showcase what the NSS can look like in each City. Stay tuned.

Upcoming Events

Boise, ID  

Boise's Public Lands Tour
The Boise Public Lands Tour is a celebration of streets as places for people in Boise. Open to the public!
Saturday, May 12th - location and times to be announced - stay tuned!

Boise Final Shareback
A showcase and celebration of the work that our National Street Service Volunteers completed in Boise.
Tuesday, 19th of June - 5:00 to 8:00pm - location to be announced - stay tuned!

Philadelphia, PA  

Tri-Block Party
Please join us in simultaneous street celebration at one of our three street parties taking place in Philadelphia. Open to the public!
Sunday, May 20th, 2:00 to 6:00pm
South Philly - 22nd + Carpenter (near bus route 7)
West Philly - 47th + Hazel Ave (located along the 34 trolley line)
North Philly - 11th + Huntington Street (near North Philadelphia Station - BSL)

Philadelphia Final Shareback
A showcase and celebration of the work that our National Street Service Volunteers completed in Philadelphia.
Thursday, 21st of June - 5:00 to 8:00pm - Center / Architecture + Design 1218 Arch Street Philadelphia PA 19107. 

Journal From the Street: 
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Reflections by: 
Alexa Bosse, Philly City Lead


The simple act of entering the street for the sole intention of engaging with the street for soul searching activities allowed new layers of information and beauty to reveal themselves. Some of the stories I heard included people noticing a mural that they had walked past but never noticed before; sparkly tile mosaics embedded in a patch of sidewalk; a change of sidewalk texture that made it more difficult to push a cart across; and an array of discovered green patches and local treasures. To share their experiences with others, people began to post signs that said, “Eyes up, phones down”, “Take a deep breath”, and “This is a great place to meet a neighbor” – all in an attempt to share with their neighbors their newly discovered sense of place and ownership of the streets.

Of course, there were observations of less desirable things as well. People noted trash, illegal parking on sidewalks, lack of places to sit, lack of shade and greenery, and streets that were loud, windy and unpleasant to walk down on an early-spring day in Philadelphia. People grappled with ideas for ways to improve some of these less comfortable streets, focusing on ways to highlight positive aspects despite the shortcomings of the surroundings.

Overall the passion that the volunteers brought to the soul searching was inspiring. One told me that she had met more neighbors in the last week then she had in the 2 years she had been living there. Another told me that he would never walk past a bike rack or street tree or sign post and think about it in the same way again. It shows me that even with these small moves and observations we can start to change the way that people appreciate and interact with the spaces that they use every day. Our truly public spaces – the streets.

 Kellie and Hannah’s Chalk Corner. They gave every person on the block a piece of chalk and asked them to draw what they loved and/or wanted to see added to the street.

Kellie and Hannah’s Chalk Corner. They gave every person on the block a piece of chalk and asked them to draw what they loved and/or wanted to see added to the street.

Journal From the Street: 
Boise, Idaho

Reflections by: 
Casey McLellan, Boise City Lead

The Kick-off Summit was our first opportunity to get everyone together and celebrate what was learned so far throughout the program. The night was full of great conversation, questions, and excitement. The goal for the event was to brainstorm projects unique to each volunteer’s experience. For some, ideas came quickly, for others, a more methodical process. Fortunately, the benefit of working in a large group is positive words and encouragement are readily available. With the Soul-Searching phase of the program behind us, volunteers now had the opportunity to go out and share their own values of the street with others. Question was, what exactly would this look like?

The small experiment and project phase was a new concept for everyone. How often do we do random projects in our street? For most, never. Is it even allowed? This idea of tactical urbanism was an intimidating one. As the ideas slowly trickled in and things started to take shape, you could feel the nervous excitement building. The next step – put the idea into action!

It is amazing to see the creativity and ideas the volunteers bring to the table. Each project was entirely different. Some examples were a non-traditional way-finding project encouraging people to highlight a communal map with hidden gems and pathways throughout their streets; an interactive sidewalk with fun, games, and art to engage kids and families while walking through their neighborhood; and a feedback board placed near the downtown transit center inviting people to rate their overall experience during their morning commute. The experiential learning process of this phase was an important one. Even with these great ideas, many expressed an initial hesitation when carrying out the actual implementation of their projects. The question of permission was a recurring theme. People expressed a similar wave of emotions with each of their projects. There was an initial hesitation to start and uncertainty of what others would think. All of this started to dissipate as they embraced the process. Some projects were left out throughout the day while others were more person-to-person focused. People were encouraged by the positive feedback and the impact their projects generally had, with many expressing a desire to do more. By going out into their streets and doing these projects, people felt a sense of ownership and voice. This is something we plan to carry into the next phase of our program – a large project in the community sharing all that we’ve learned. We are excited to get back to the brainstorming process and find a way to communicate our shared values of the street with others.

 Kenny’s sign is an homage to National Forest signs, which also proclaim public land as one of “many uses”

Kenny’s sign is an homage to National Forest signs, which also proclaim public land as one of “many uses”


Up Next: Serving San Antonio and Pontiac

We are now accepting volunteer applications for our two newest cities - Pontiac MI, and San Antonio TX! Join us in our quest to build human centred streets - visit our website to learn more and apply for our volunteer training:

The NSS hits the streets #3: The Street Speaks

The National Street Services believe that our needs and history are reflected in the street. Our streets are fundamentally connected to our sense of self. Unfortunately, not everyone experiences the street equally. In fact, the layout of many streets is hard-wired to support some people and modes over others. So we created a program that sought to awaken people who the street privileges, to the fact that that their needs are often met at the expense of others with less privilege, or to the detriment of our shared values for safe, livable, enjoyable places to be.

The NSS hits the streets #2: Street Rangers

Our streets should be constantly changing places: the ability to adapt, accommodate, get reused and meet new needs as well as old ones, keeps a street valuable and useful. Great streets are forever being perfected. But what if you live on a street that’s changing, and you don’t feel good about that change? Or perhaps you desperately want to see change and it’s just not happening. How do we keep streets vibrant places that meet our needs today, while respecting our heritage and history and what made our streets great to begin with?

The NSS hits the streets #1: Price Tag the City

How many different ways can we value our city streets? There are things that immediately jump to mind, like the investment in a roadway, or the revenue the city receives from parking meters. And then there are more intangible values, like what a street tree contributes to the cleanliness of the air and water in the city, or what a bench gives to every individual who rests there.

Street Rangers Making an Impact

“I have power over the changes on my street.” Would you agree or disagree?

We at the National Street Service believe that the best way to be open to change is to get involved in it, and the best way to see change is to take the first step. The street is public space, and we as a community should have a strong voice in deciding how to best use it. But how can we engage everyone in the community in this process?

Through our Street Ranger program, we worked with 20 Street Rangers to help them feel a part of the change in their street and feel more confidence in their ability to make changes in future.

Our Street Rangers successfully completed a wide range of activities, demonstrating considerable talent and enthusiasm for street advocacy (thanks everyone!).

  • Street Rangers launched 14 conversations with city government officials around requests for physical street infrastructure.
  • Street Rangers added 10 chalk outlines to the street as a bold statement on where benches for rest and reflection should be installed.
  • Street Rangers worked with the Public Bench project to install 5 uniquely painted public benches. In fact, one is on the ground already!

Our Rangers also reported a significant increase in the power they felt they had to make changes in the street, all through taking small but important actions to improve on an issue of importance to them.

Our Street Ranger program was a broad success, validating our hunch that we can see a great deal of positive change by activating the people in every community who care deeply, but perhaps haven’t found the right opportunity to get involved. Stay tuned for what’s coming next for the National Street Service’s Street Ranger program (and let us know if you want to be involved,

In the meantime, read on to hear more about how our week of participation went.

Introducing the Street Rangers

Who are these fabulous people who made so much change, and indeed saw change themselves, in just one week? And what did we ask them to do?

Let’s learn more through the story of Street Ranger Em Havens, who generously agreed to let us share some details of what she got up to during her Street Ranger week.

Getting Started

Our first task for Em, and indeed all our Street Rangers, was the simple task of street observation. Setting a timer for 10 minutes, Em noticed that the street serves medical staff and passersby heading to and from nearby USCF, as well as neighbors headed in and out of their homes. Drawing on her personal history in Portland, Oregon, Em remarked that she missed the porch culture she experienced there, a culture where people stop and chat and engage with their neighbors. Yet, she also noticed that when people do run into each other on her chosen street in San Francisco, they are always friendly. Taking the leap to action, Em identified this as an opportunity to build upon this sentiment and provide more infrastructure to allow people to more casually collide and connect.

Done with her observation, it was time for Em to decide what to focus her Ranger energies on during the week. We offered Street Rangers three options:

  • Providing people with rest and reflection.
  • Protecting people who walk.
  • Protecting people who bike.
  We offered three options for street enhancement that the Rangers could choose from.

We offered three options for street enhancement that the Rangers could choose from.

Em decided she wanted to add spaces for rest and reflection, building on her own personal theory of change about the importance of providing spaces to better “collide and connect”. Like all our Rangers, she then got started on the 5 action items we provided - each of which had been carefully tailored for that topic area.

Making a mark

Observation is an important valuable activity but it’s also fairly passive, and our Street Ranger program was ultimately about taking action. But taking action for better streets can be daunting. How do you take the first step? To that end, one of the most powerful tools in our Street Ranger advocacy kit was a humble stick of chalk.

As Em discovered, chalk was transformative both for those drawing with it, and for those passing by and witnessing our Rangers’ creations. The chalk provided a means to physically interact with the environment while leaving a mark (in a low risk way), helping both the creator and the passerby translate the idea of new infrastructure into a more relatable and more tangible visual. Chalking the street was definitely an easy first step, but it also happened to be fun. Streets are serious business, but like anything that’s human-centered, need a healthy dose of fun from time to time. We try and ensure the National Street Service embodies this principle, from the focus on street chalk to the design of everything we produce.

Whatever they thought of the hidden powers of chalk, many of our street rangers, including Em, made amazing use of it.

Some of our rangers went beyond the physical, employing “digital chalk” to create renderings of their vision for the street. We aren’t fussy: any creative, non-destructive (and respectful!) means of expressing your vision for a better street, is fine with us.

Change, made

Chalk is powerful, but when it comes to changing the street for the better, rarely enough. The next step for our Rangers was, in many cases, to reach out to other organizations and authorities to put their personal visions for change into action.

  thanks to Ranger Em and local Public Bench Project hero Chris Duderstadt, this street now has a new facility for rest and reflection

thanks to Ranger Em and local Public Bench Project hero Chris Duderstadt, this street now has a new facility for rest and reflection

In Em’s case, we recommended she contact Chris Duderstadt of the Public Bench Project, who has installed over 75 benches in San Francisco. Em reached out, and Chris generously provided guidelines for how to get a public bench added to her street. He even designed a rendering, worked with Em to get the color just right, and then installed it, all while recovering from back surgery (thanks Chris!). While we wanted our Rangers to feel empowered, putting something physical into the street isn’t always easy: it requires navigating often hidden rules for what can be placed and where, and negotiating with neighbors and business owners for their tacit approval. Em did a fantastic job of following her intuition and Chris’ direction to get appropriate “social license” for her bench.

It took Em vision, thought, chalk, e-mails and conversations, plus some periwinkle paint to get done, but get it done she did. A beautiful bench now stands near UCSF, hopefully providing rest and reflection to passersby and neighbors for many years to come. Em demonstrated beautifully how a modicum of effort, time and partnership with other members of the community can deliver a better street (even in a physically small way). Thank you for your service, Em!

Setting sights higher

Physical installations like benches are a great way to dip your toes into advocacy for better streets. But like it or not, much of the responsibility (and power) to change streets lies with our politicians and city agencies. Getting involved with political debates and participating in public process can be daunting, so we looked for easy ways to get our Street Rangers engaged. Em, for example, also emailed her supervisor London Breed, urging her to support street designs that are more human focused and provide people with opportunities to socialize. We at the National Street Service believe that such requests can be powerful, especially when paired with photos and anecdotes from the observations. They go above and beyond a mass e-mail or petition, because they demonstrate the obvious commitment of the person making the request.

Perhaps more importantly, these relatively quick and easy ways of engaging with broader debate around better streets can be especially empowering for the individual. Our Street Rangers took surveys before they got started, and once again at the end, so we could measure how their attitudes and feelings had changed. In particular, we asked how people felt about their sense of power over the changes on their street.

For Em, this week was quite a shift in her perspective. She wrote that “[I] saw more of its beauty and experienced more of its secret social life. I learned that the barrier to entry is low for participating. This has been inspiring and motivating! It is actually pretty easy to take action and make the world more beautiful :) Psyched about the partnership in general and MOST psyched about feeling more connected to my local community.”

Here are some other ways in which Street Rangers reported their own personal change:

“It gave me permission to do things I would never do. With a greater understanding of the issues I had greater comfort in stepping up and speaking out.”

“It changed my mindset from the street is someone else’s responsibility to MY responsibility.”

“I’m feeling more conscious of the pros and cons of my street and how they contribute to the way I think about it.”

“I’m not as observant about my neighborhood as I had thought. The questions posed to me, as a street ranger, have made me think more critically about concrete ways to improve pedestrian life in my neighborhood.”

“My mindset has changed to include thinking about who is responsible for improving the pedestrian experience and to not assume existing conditions are permanent.”

“I’m more aware of the efforts people and local organizations are undertaking to protect pedestrians. Also, I’m recognizing the bureaucratic and funding challenges of implementing these improvements to pedestrian life and that advocacy doesn’t easily translate into action. I’m also more conscious of choosing to walk through and understand the city better.”

Coming to terms

Many of our Rangers really did start a conversation. They were pleasantly surprised that when they wrote to the city, they got a quick response often full of detail and support. They felt an awareness that someone was listening to their concerns, which can be a real hurdle to participating in broader change especially around big challenging issues.

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 10.43.22 AM.png

But some of our Rangers never got an answer. For them, this project revealed inadequacies in the system: how our streets are designed, how they’re managed, and the public engagement process for ensuring that everyone can have a say. One street ranger said, “No one is responsible!” as they struggled with getting traction on their chosen issue. Others felt that the tools we provided them just weren’t enough given the scale of the problem and the effort needed to resolve them. Many Rangers felt they could have done with even more support, something we recognize and will be considering as we move forward.

Staying positive and engaged

While the challenges are significant and it is easy to feel disheartened at setbacks, many of the street rangers noted that they felt “activated” and wanted to do something bigger. Particularly in the context of there being few opportunities for change at a national level, this kind of hyper-local action felt especially tangible and important. We think there is plenty of evidence here that taking a small but personally involved step towards change can encourage people to feel fundamentally more comfortable with change. Our Street Ranger one-week program may be, for some, the first rung on the ladder of participation. We sincerely hope all our Street Rangers don’t stop here, and continue to intervene and advocate for safer, more livable and more human-centered streets in San Francisco and beyond.

What comes next

Our Street Ranger program was a roaring success, but only because our Street Rangers themselves launched themselves into it with enthusiasm and commitment that impressed us all deeply. We are, first and foremost, very grateful they all took a chance on us and committed so much time and energy and love to the project.

Stepping back, we think there is something unique and special about a well thought-through, highly localized support program for activating local change-makers, and will continue to work on ways to improve the program and perhaps consider it at larger scales.

What might this program look like in months and years to come? We have lots of ideas, including trying bigger things in San Francisco and expanding to other cities around the Bay Area - perhaps even the country as a whole. But we’re not done thinking yet, so stay tuned. If you have ideas about what you would like to see Street Rangers work on next, shoot us an email at or connect with us via Instagram: @national_street_service or Twitter: @Nstreetservice #nationalstreetservice

#TheStreetSpeaks - stories from, of and by the street

We've been out and about in San Francisco and Oakland today, sharing our National Street Service Listening Post with the community. The NSS Listening Post provided an opportunity to anyone walking by 16th and Van Ness in San Francisco, or 50th and Telegraph in Oakland, to step out of the flow, rest awhile and listen to what the street had to say. We also installed beautiful signage (by extraordinarily talented designer Liz at at 16th and Van Ness in San Francisco, and 50th and Telegraph in Oakland, with phone numbers anyone can call if they want to hear the stories for themselves. Perhaps most importantly, after each story has played, there's an opportunity to leave one's own story of the street.

Missed our Listening Post or can't make it out to our signs? Try these:

  • Call 415-212-4933 to hear Paula tell her story of the inimitable Chile Lindo and the empanada-based joy she brings to 16th Street.
  • Call 415-212-4986 to hear Coral talk about the struggles and alienation of people living on the street.
  • Call 415-212-4864 to hear Julie Mitchell tell the story of her beloved son, Dylan, who was killed by the driver of a garbage truck at 16th and Van Ness in 2013.
  • Call 415-212-4352 to hear Keys, sometime-fireman on Telegraph, talk about Oakland streets.

If you can't call for any reason (but please do, because you'll have an opportunity to leave your own story), you can also find the audio files at the following links:

National Street Service stories produced by Andrew Stelzer (Paula, Coral, and Elizabeth) Ali Budner (Julie), and Ike Sriskandarajah (Keys).

Music in Paula's story is El Palteado by Shhjjjjjjj

#Streetvalues - The Real Cost of a Parking Spot - what else could it buy?

 For what one metered space costs the City of San Francisco in maintenance, 291 people could ride Muni.

For what one metered space costs the City of San Francisco in maintenance, 291 people could ride Muni.

What does the City of San Francisco spend each year to maintain an on-street parking spot?

  1. The City of San Francisco spent around $30 million on parking enforcement in 2010-2011. In the absence of empirical data for the split between enforcement of paid and unpaid spots, we making the generous and simplifying assumption that the enforcement budget is 50% dedicated to paid spots even though these are fewer in number, because of the revenue incentive associated with enforcing their use. In this estimate, then, the enforcement budget expended towards on-street parking: $15 million.

  2. The City Controller’s office calculated annual expenditures on street maintenance as follows, for a total of $128.4 million annually.

    1. Street cleaning: $26.4 million

    2. Maintenance: $53 million

    3. Surfacing and reconstruction: $49 million

  3. There are 857 miles of maintained public road in San Francisco. (1)

  4. Given that the total number of on-street, metered parking spaces in San Francisco is 26,750 (2), and a parking space size of around 144 square feet, we assume a length of around 14 feet.

  5. 14 feet is ~0.0026 of a mile.

  6. On-street metered parking spaces as a fraction of total public road miles: ( 0.0026 x 26,750 spaces ) / 875 miles = 0.079 or 7% of San Francisco’s roadway miles are on-street metered parking. However, parking spaces typically only make up at most ½ of the roadway space for maintenance purposes, so we discount that number to 3.5%.

  7. Total annual maintenance costs of on-street metered parking per year in San Francisco = 3.5% * $128.4 M = $4.49M. Including the cost of enforcement, at $15M / year, the total costs of on-street metered parking come to $19.49M.

  8. Per metered parking space, this amounts to $19.49M / 26,750 = $729 / space / year.


What about an on-street unmetered spot?

  1. We assume that the costs of maintaining an unmetered spot are essentially the same as those for a metered spot: $4.49M / 26,750 = $167.85 per year.

  2. The number of unmetered spots is 248,700. (3)

  3. We assume that 50% of enforcement costs are expended on those spots: $15M / 248,700 = $60.31 per unmetered spot per year in enforcement costs.

  4. The per spot maintenance cost of a parking spot in SF we assume as $167.85 per space per year.

  5. So the total cost per unmetered parking space: $60.31+167.85 = $228.16 / space / year.


What does these amounts buy?

  1. Muni tickets: regular single trip is $2.50. (4)

    1. On-street metered: 291 Muni tickets

    2. Off-street unmetered: 91 Muni tickets

  2. Car-share time: Zipcar publishes its San Francisco rates at $7/hour (5), assuming you’re already a member.

    1. On-street metered: 104 hours of car-sharing time.

    2. On-street unmetered: 32.5 hours of car-sharing time.

  3. Bike-share time: Motivate lists (6) a 24 hour pass at $9 and a year pass at $88. Which means:

    1. On-street metered: 81 day passes or 8 annual memberships.

    2. On-street unmetered: 28 day passes or 2 annual memberships.



  1. Caltrans report:

  2. SF Park census:

  3. SF Park census




#Streetvalues - If This Parking Lane was a Sidewalk, or a Traffic Lane

 If a parking lane were converted into a sidewalk, it could accommodate 7,200 people per hour. As a lane for private traffic, it could move up to 1,600 people per hour.

If a parking lane were converted into a sidewalk, it could accommodate 7,200 people per hour. As a lane for private traffic, it could move up to 1,600 people per hour.

  1. NACTO calculates that a typical sidewalk can accommodate 9,000 people per hour or 60 people per meter per minute, allowing 1.5 m2 (16.15 ft2) per pedestrian and a 75 meters (246 feet) per minute walking speed. (1)

  2. Assuming a SF parking space is around 10 feet (3 meters) wide, a parking space repurposed as sidewalk could potentially move 120 people per minute or 7,200 per hour through parking-lane-as-sidewalk.

  3. An equivalent street lane width of 10 ft exclusively occupied by private motor vehicles is estimated at 600-1,600 persons per hour, assuming 600-800 vehicles per hour and 1-2 passengers per vehicle (2). Taking the upper bound for vehicles, 1,600 people/hour can move through parking-lane-as-dedicated-private-traffic-lane.




#Streetvalues - What is Biking Worth to local business?

 A bike rack is worth $1935 per month to local businesses.

A bike rack is worth $1935 per month to local businesses.

  1. A Portland study found that people who traveled to a shopping area by bike spent 24% more per month than those who traveled by car. Similar trends were found for Toronto and three cities in New Zealand. (1)

    1. Auto spending per month: $61.03

    2. Bike spending per month: $75.66

  2. The SFMTA can install up to 12 bikes in a parking space, as a bike corral.

  3. The SCFTA studied parking occupancy rates in commercial districts at midday across four neighborhoods, finding an average of 85.5% occupancy (2). Turnover across the same neighborhoods averaged 0.8 vehicles per hour per spot.

  4. Applying the same turnover rates to a car parking space as to a bike corral in the same location and an 8 hour active retail window each day, we can estimate unique bike and auto visitors as:

    1. Auto: 128

    2. Bicycle: 1,536

  5. Using Portland figures for different retail expenditure levels for people who bike versus drive over month, the value of dedicating a parking space to bike racks = 1,536 * 75.66 = $116,213. This, however, assumes that all 1,536 turnovers of the bike parking spot are completely new and spend their entire monthly estimate in one trip - which is likely unreasonable.

  6. We assume instead that car and rack usage is by repeat visitor, each of whom makes 5 trips a month.

  7. This drops unique visitors for bike racks to 307 and 25 for the parking spot.

  8. The total value for bike rack usage to local retail is therefore 307 * 75.66 over a month = $23,227 and for the parking space is $1,525.

  9. Divided by the number of bike racks, each bike rack is now worth $1,935 per month to local retail.


Other facts of note:

  1. When San Francisco revamped Valencia St and installed bike lanes and wider sidewalks, 66% of merchants saw increased sales. (3)

  2. A 2008 study found that a parking space delivers 19 cents in retail revenue per hour per square foot of on-street car parking. Bike parking delivers 69 cents per square foot. (4)

  3. A 2013 survey of San Francisco’s Polk St found that only 15% of people arrived by car.

  4. One estimate suggests that a bike rack in San Francisco costs the SFMTA around $540 to install (5). After that time, the rack is effectively zero maintenance (or at least no clear figures exist for maintenance costs). Compared with parking maintenance, the 5 year cost of a bike rack relative to a parking space:

    1. On-street metered: $3,645, or nearly 7 times greater.

    2. On-street unmetered: $912, or nearly 1.6 times greater.



  1.  Kelly J. Clifton, Sara Morrissey, and Chloe Ritter, “Business Cycles: Catering to the Bicycling Market,” TR News 280, 2012: 26-32.; T Fleming, S Turner, and L Tarjomi, “Reallocation of road space,” NZ Transport Agency research report 530,2013.; Clean Air Partnership, “Bike Lanes, On-Street Parking and Business: A Study of Bloor Street in Toronto’s Annex Neighbourhood,” 2009. Cited in


  3. Emily Drennen, “Economic Effects of Traffic Calming on Urban Small Businesses,” San Francisco State University, 2003.

  4.  Allison Lee, “What is the Economic Contribution of Cyclists Compared to Car Drivers in Inner Suburban Melbourne’s Shopping Strips?” Master’s Thesis, University of Melbourne, 2008.


#Streetvalues - If We Grew Vegetables Instead of Cars

 If we grew vegetables in parking spaces instead of cars, we could grow 216 heads of broccoli every year.

If we grew vegetables in parking spaces instead of cars, we could grow 216 heads of broccoli every year.

Based on a Rutgers study (1) for mixed stand, small-scale agriculture, a general yield expectation is 0.5 lb per square foot, or 0.5*144 = 72 lb of annual vegetables yield for a parking space sized plot. Selected vegetable yields (upper bound):

  1. Broccoli: 0.75 lb/square foot. At around ½lb for a single head (2), that’s 216 heads.

  2. Tomatoes: 2 lb/square foot. At 5 oz a tomato (3), that’s 921 tomatoes.

  3. Asparagus: 0.1 lb/square foot

  4. Beets: 1.2 lb/square foot. At 0.44 lb/beet (4), that’s 393 beets.

  5. Lettuce: 0.4lb/square foot

  6. Sweet potatoes: 0.33 lb/square foot

  7. Spinach: 0.36 lb/square foot










#Streetvalues - What is The Value of a Street Tree?

 A single public tree provides an annual benefit of  $158.80

A single public tree provides an annual benefit of $158.80

  1. According to the census of the SF Urban Forest Plan (Planning Department, City of San Francisco), a single public tree provides an annual benefit of $158.80 (1). This includes energy savings, air quality improvements, stormwater interception, atmospheric CO2 reduction and aesthetic contributions.

    1. Reducing electric and CNG use by shading: $10.36/tree.

    2. Sequestered atmospheric CO2: $0.99/tree.

    3. Absorption and deposition of chemical pollutants: $2.1/tree

    4. Stormwater intercepted: $80.46/tree

    5. Aesthetic/socioeconomic: $67.52/tree.

  2. Total per capita benefits of the SF tree population are $4.86 per capita, with expenditures to maintain the tree population at $1.11 per capita. This translates into a 4-fold return on investment on the city’s investment in street trees.

  3. Current costs of maintaining a single street tree are estimated at $160-175 per year (2). This is almost identical to the estimated cost of maintaining an on-street spot in San Francisco (~$167/space/year), but you don’t get a tree out of it.

  4. In 2012-2013, the City recouped $54.6 million in parking meter revenues (3). At a total cost of ownership of $729/space/year, the city has only a 2.7 x ROI on every parking space. In other words, a street tree has a 50% higher ROI to the city than a parking space.





#Streetvalues - The Hidden Value of One Square Foot

 One square foot of Parking Space contributes $13 per year to the city. One square foot of commercial building contributes $50 per year.

One square foot of Parking Space contributes $13 per year to the city. One square foot of commercial building contributes $50 per year.

What is the revenue to the City of San Francisco from a square foot of parking space?

  1. As of 2014, there were 275,000 parking spaces in San Francisco. (1)

  2. Only 26,750 were on-street and metered. (1)

  3. The City of San Francisco collected $54.6 million from parking meters in 2012-2013. (2)

  4. The standard dimension for off-street parking in San Francisco is 144 square feet. (3)

  5. The average annual revenue per parking space is $54.6M / 26,750 places = $1985.45.

  6. The average annual revenue per square foot of parking space is $1985.45 / 144 square feet = $13.78/square foot.


What is the revenue to the City of San Francisco from a square foot of retail space?

  1. The City of San Francisco sourced $572,385,000 from business taxes in its FY 2014-2015 annual budget.

  2. Over the same period, the City sourced $136,100,000 from sales taxes.

  3. Total revenues sourced from commercial activity in 2014-2015 (excluding some more minor taxes), were: $572,385,000 + $136,100,000 = $708,485,000.

  4. The total land area of retail/entertainment land use in San Francisco is 4,621,410 square feet. (4)

  5. The total land area of office land use in San Francisco is 9,428,258 square feet. (5)

  6. The total floor area of commercial (office, retail, entertainment) land use in San Francisco is 4,621,410 + 9,428,258 = 14,049,668 square feet.

  7. The total revenue per square foot of commercial land area in San Francisco is $708,485,000 / 14,049,668 square feet = $50.42/square foot.


  1. SF Park census:

  2. SF Controller’s report:

  3. SF Planning Code:

  4. GET

  5. GET