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Mission Transit Lane Removal Nudged Closer to Reality

Even though the pain dried only three months ago, there's already talk of removing the bus-only lanes on Mission. Photo: SFMTA.
Even though the paint dried only three months ago, there's already talk of removing the bus-only lanes on Mission. Photo: SFMTA.
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Last April, businesses on Mission Street started to gain some traction in pushing against SFMTA's "red carpet" bus-only lanes, which they claim—contrary to the available evidence, it should be noted—are hurting their bottom line. The result: Supervisor David Campos asked the SFMTA to "make a radical shift in the program," as he put it in a Facebook post.

The first step in that "radical shift" is now happening, and it may not bode well for transit advocates. According to an SFMTA release:

District 9 Supervisor David Campos and Ed Reiskin, Director of Transportation for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), today announced a series of activities to gather additional feedback on the Mission Street Improvement Project, which established bus-only lanes on Mission Street from 14th Street to 30th Street. The activities include a community hearing, merchant walks in the project area, and a survey of residents and visitors on Mission Street. The community hearing, to be held on June 20 at 6:00 PM at the Mission Cultural Center, provides an opportunity for community members to discuss their experiences and suggestions for improving the project.

The problem, of course, is public meetings on transit projects seem to attract a disproportionate number of, well, grumps. “One of the things that stands in the way is often times a small number of deluded people are the ones who show up. And they complain and their complaints may be irrational and factually incorrect. But because they show up, they’re the ones who win the day,” said Jeff Tumlin, Principal and Director of Strategy for NelsonNygaard Consulting, at an SF Transit Riders event.

"Red Carpet" lanes move closer to get removed. Image: SFMTA.
A rendering from last year of how the lanes now look, more or less. Image: SFMTA.
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The SF Transit Riders, which campaigned for the transit lanes on Mission, has already come out strongly against any rollback. "For decades, riders have asked for transit to be rightfully prioritized and Muni finally listened," they exclaimed in a prepared statement. "We hope that Supervisor Campos’s office, the community, and transit riders...can work with SFMTA to understand this project as crucial and necessary."

That's because, as the Transit Riders rightfully point out, a bus-only lane is a much better use of public road space—not because of some sort of transit idealism, but simply because it serves more people. According to SFMTA counts, each day Mission Street carries over 65,000 Muni riders and only about 8,000 cars.

It also makes Mission street safer, according to SFMTA's data:

With eight full weeks of post-implementation results, Muni reliability has improved and travel time has dropped and continues to drop. Furthermore, Muni has seen only one collision in this corridor since late March. Prior to project implementation we experienced three to four per week, which hampered reliability and forced buses out of service.

That said, the transit-only red lanes on Mission aren't perfect--this publication has taken SFMTA to task for running buses in the right lanes, which makes it tricky for bikes to use the street. "I think the biggest problem on Mission is that it's a battle between vehicle traffic/parking vs. bike/ped safety," wrote Walk SF's executive director Nicole Ferrara, in an email to Streetsblog. "We could do a center running bus lane and outer bike lanes, but that would mean no car lanes....that's the biggest hurdle."

Still, anything that prioritizes transit over private automobiles is a step in the right direction and it would be most unfortunate if Supervisor Campos channels enough political energy to get the lanes removed.

Either way, Streetsblog readers might want to get down to the Mission Cultural Center on Monday, June 20 at 6:00 p.m. to speak in support of "keeping Mission Red."

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