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Geary Bus Rapid Transit Study Approved by County Transportation Authority

12:36 PM PST on January 9, 2017

The County Transportation Authority warming up for a long afternoon and evening of comments before the final approval of the EIR for Geary BRT. Photo: Streetsblog

Yesterday evening at San Francisco City Hall, the County Transportation Authority Board unanimously approved the Geary Bus Rapid Transit project's design and Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The approval brings the $300 million project, which has been a decade in the making, one step closer to fruition.

For any readers just getting up to speed on the Geary project, the CTA has this video/rendering on its website:

And from the SFMTA web page on the project:

Improvements proposed in the Geary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project offer solutions to meet rising transportation demands and make travelling on Geary Boulevard, Geary and O’Farrell streets more efficient, safe and vibrant for everyone. Over the past year, the SFMTA and the SF County Transportation Authority have worked with communities along the corridor to refine the design details, which you can learn more about below. The proposed transit improvements, like center-running bus-only lanes, would save Muni customers up to 20 minutes round trip and make service more reliable.

Streetsblog has covered many of the issues on this project in previous posts. The meeting, like meetings about street and transit improvements to Taraval, Mission, and elsewhere, offered no shortage of heated comment and hyperbole--the board heard nearly three hours of testimony from transit advocates on one side, and local business owners and senior-citizen residents on the other.

Opponents of the project took the familiar tack of delay, delay, delay. "I really can not understand what is the rush. We have new supervisors coming in three days,” echoed David Heller, President, Greater Geary Boulevard Merchants."This is about survival."

Over 100 people came to comment on the Geary BRT approval. Photo: Streetsblog
Over 100 people came to comment on the Geary BRT approval. Photo: Streetsblog

But the Supervisors on the Commission called out the absurdity of asking for even more meetings and comment time. "There have been 60 community meetings, over 300 comments in the Draft EIR," said Supervisor Eric Mar, who sits on the CTA Board.

Meanwhile, Peter Straus of the San Francisco Transit Riders objected to the "hybrid" alternative--it will be "true BRT," meaning with center running, bus-only lanes, only from 27th Avenue to Palm. "We urge you to certify the EIR," said Straus. "However, we cannot support designation of the hybrid. If we can't afford a subway at this time, and we clearly can't, then we must develop a vision for a subway on the surface--and that's what quality BRT is supposed to be."

Some officials referred to the project as getting Geary "rail ready." This is an important step which will eventually improve the lives of bus riders and help make Geary safer, but how can anyone claim this moves the city closer to building a subway on the corridor? Considering the line already carries some 50,000 riders, it's not as if the BRT is needed to prove demand.

Thea Selby and Peter Straus among the many supports of Geary BRT (and Caltrain electrification). Photo: Streetsblog
Thea Selby and Peter Straus among the many supports of Geary BRT. Photo: Streetsblog

That said, "I hope long term this BRT on Geary ultimately is secondary to a subway system. That’s ultimately where we’re going to see a major difference," said Supervisor Mark Farrell.

Geary BRT still isn't a done deal. The SFMTA board has to approve Phase One improvements, hopefully by the summer, before engineering and construction can begin.

CTA spokesman Eric Young doing an interview outside the hearing room with ABC. Photo: Streetsblog
SFCTA spokesman Eric Young doing an interview on the Geary BRT project outside the hearing room with ABC. Photo: Streetsblog

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