Proposed Van Ness BRT Design Would Combine the Best of Both Options

Image: SFCTA

Planners have settled on a design for San Francisco’s first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route on Van Ness Avenue. The result is a plan that combines the benefits of both proposed center-running options to keep construction costs relatively low while allowing Muni flexible use of its bus fleet to serve the line.

In this design, buses would run along either side of a center median, but converge near intersections to load at right-side boarding platforms. That should assuage concerns from Muni management about requiring special buses for the route with doors on both sides to load passengers on a left-side median. It would also forego the expense and disruption of removing the existing planted median while mitigating safety concerns about buses passing each other within a pair of enclosed lanes. The plan would also likely include slightly raised bus lanes and will ban all but one left turn along the corridor between Mission and Lombard Streets.

Some more analysis and planning needs to be done before the final environmental impact report is presented in September and approved by the end of the year, but SF County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) planner Michael Schwartz said the environmental impacts should “fall within the bookends of what’s already been analyzed.”

The line is expected to be up and running in 2016 (here’s why it’s taken so long).

Check out more details on the proposal from the SF ExaminerTransbay Blog, and in this SFCTA Powerpoint presentation [PDF].

Streetsblog readers had a lot to say about the two options presented last time around — what do you think of this hybrid design?

  • DEM

    Looks like a pretty sharp transition approaching the station. Is it still rail ready?

  • They said this is really just conceptual, not to scale, and that the transition probably won’t look as sharp in the actual design.

  • Anonymous

    Van Ness BRT is not planned to be rail-ready. Geary BRT is planned to be rail-ready.

    This actually makes sense as on Van Ness several medium frequency lines combine to form a high frequency corridor, whereas on Geary there is really only one high-frequency line (38/38L), and so would translate better into a rail line.

  • ubringliten

    Looking at the photo, cars still get more space than other alternatives.  People live in the city so they don’t have to drive and yet, more space are designated for cars.  All the major corridors should be designed for public transit not the other way around. 

  • Davistrain

    I think Caltrans has something to say about Van Ness because it’s part of US 101 and thus has a considerable amount of out-of-town traffic heading for the Golden Gate Bridge, and tourists heading for the motels along Lombard St.  It would be nice if the visitors could leave their cars in Colma or Daly City and take BART into
    town, but the typical American tourist doesn’t want to be too far from his or her motor vehicle, and schlepping luggage on public transit is no fun.

  • You’re still getting on and off in the middle of the road, which means 1) zero passengers will arrive on the same side of the road as their destination 2) 100% of passengers will have to wait at a red light before reaching the sidewalk; and 3) lots of passengers will have the lovely experience of standing on the corner waiting for the light to change, watching their bus pass them by.

  • All that plan does, if the picture is any indication, is prevent biking on SF’s most important corridor.

    If I were charged with keeping the private automobile and motorized transport ascendant in San Francisco, this is exactly the plan I would implement.

    The plan provides:
    * plenty of car storage space (parking), 
    * at least two car lanes in either direction (minus the left turn lanes (mostly?), thus speeding cars even more due to reduced ‘friction’, and reducing the ability of people in cars to get where they need to go in a more direct fashion, thus increasing travel distances/circling traffic/pollution/confusion, destroy the not-yet-near-adequate pedestrian experience in all the ways that BRT does this generally (highway-within-a-highway; increased noise from roaring “clean” diesel/hybrid engines; force bikers onto the sidewalks; etc.), 
    * bulb-outs to make sure anyone crazy enough to attempt to ride a bike on the new Van Ness is swiftly disciplined by being forced out into racing car traffic, 
    * a veneer of green/livabilty because the plan is promoted by BRT advocates on a “pro-bus” or “pro-transit” basis instead of what the actual effects of the plan would be — the prevention for at least a generation of the single greatest threat to automobility and the motorization of cities — the humble bicycle.

    I’ve ridden a bike on Van Ness and I’ve taken the bus on Van Ness, and I know which one needs more/better infrastructure more urgently.

    There is only ever going to be one solution to actually allowing people to walk and bike to their destinations — cycletracks (protected bike lanes). Van Ness, like Cesar Chavez and every other planned-BRT corridor in SF, needs cycletracks — what we do with the remaining road space is largely irrelevant.

    SF needs to start getting serious about allowing people to bike on its most important corridors — we know this is a requirement to allow biking to be a real option for people to get around. Being able to bike the most important corridors is not a nice-to-have, it’s a requirement — a prerequisite. Polk Street and every other parallel little side street (Page St.) is not going to cut it. There’s a reason that traffic-calming neighborhood streets has such a limited positive influence on allowing more people to bike — side streets are slow, have more ‘friction’ thus slowing travel of all kinds, including bikes, while making travel there generally more difficult, cumbersome, and dangerous.

    Plus, why would you even bother running low-capacity buses on the most important corridor in the second most dense city in The United States? We shouldn’t be looking to punish the people who are forced to ride public transit — if we’re forcing them to ride motorized transit, at least give them a train ride. Even non-rich people deserve to be treated with respect.

    What do “the Bike-Savvy Dutch” think about this design for a No-Bikes Van Ness, and the rest of the No-Bikes BRT corridors?

  • At peak hours the frequency may be enough that you could look down the hill and see the next bus. Takes away a bit of the sting.

  • Van Ness Denizen

    I’ve ridden a bus and ridden a bike on Van Ness, and I know which one needs more/better infrastructure more urgently.  It’s the bus.  They both need it badly, and Van Ness is horrible for both as currently configured, but at least bikers have a good alternative on Polk Street.  Bus riders don’t.  Currently Van Ness is abysmal for buses.  It’s usually faster to talks. If this is going to speed up bus traffic as it’s predicted to, it’s a great improvement.  And it will still be easy to add bike lanes along the sides when the city realizes that it makes sense to provide bike infrastructure here even if it means taking away some car parking.

  • Anonymous

    “We shouldn’t be looking to punish the people who are forced to ride public transit — if we’re forcing them to ride motorized transit, at least give them a train ride. Even non-rich people deserve to be treated with respect.”

    Such back-handed concern. You appear to be looking down on transit riders as lesser beings than the proud cyclists, oblivious to the fact that many people are not able to ride a bike or would just prefer not to, even with the best bicycle facilities. (For the record, I am a bike commuter who used to be a transit commuter, so I appreciate the need for infrastructure improvements for both methods of transportation.)

    While I would love to see high ridership bus lines replaced with light rail, if that was implemented on Van Ness it would look exactly the same as the above image, except that there would be rails down those bus lanes (and probably a little less weaving.) Don’t hate BRT because this plan doesn’t include cycle lanes, instead direct your ire at the drivers who won’t give up parking on one side of the street for a cycle track. Parking is the worst possible use of space on a congested road where space is limited.

    That said, I would far rather see bike improvements focused on the parallel and quieter Polk St rather than spreading scarce resources too thinly. Van Ness/Polk should be a transit/cycling street pair just like Mission/Valencia and 16th/17th.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    At peak hours the frequency may be enough

    In over 30 attempts (yes, I kept note), I was never once passed by a bus as I walked from  Sacramento to Market along Van Ness in the evenings.

    If you think that Muni is going to improve their below-dismal operational practices — which is the core of all our problems — just because they’re spending millions on infrastructure, well, I’ve got a Central Subway to sell you.

    Origin to destination time is what counts to human beings — average speed of the human’s trip, not the average speed of the bus.  Three or four minutes lost waiting to get to and from the bus stop itself is time that is a order of magnitude harder to get back by running more or faster vehicles.  (Same argument apples to any mode: speeding up the very slowest stuff, meaning most attention to the the 0mph stuff, is what pays the dividends.  And yes, I know, a bus stopped in traffic moves at 0mph.)

    Waiting in the middle of a freeway AND waiting for light cycles to let you get to the bus: it’s a win-win synergy!  Like BART at MacArthur, only with added waiting, plus Muni Ambience.

    Be careful what you ask for.

  • I would also add that I’ll eat a $50 bill if this corridor has functioning transit priority signals.  Muni has zero of them to date, so I can’t imagine why they would put them on US101.

  • Andy Chow

    Frankly, the Van Ness corridor is no different than the Mission/Valencia set up. Mission Street is the primary transit/truck corridor. Valencia is the primary bike corridor, and Guerrero is the traffic sewer.

    Van Ness needs to be the main transit and truck corridor because of connection to the Golden Gate Bridge. You can’t prevent or divert those through traffic because there’s no freeway alternatives to access the Golden Gate. Van Ness is more suitable for commercial vehicles, which are not allowed on Franklin and Gough (and those streets are steeper than Van Ness).

  • Anonymous

    Remind those of us outside the Bay Area…can Clipper be used to board through any door?

  • Jamison W

    And with side running busses, 100% of passengers would have to cross the street to make a complete trip. Side running might mean the bus drops you off at your destination’s front door, but getting back means crossing the street. You are always going to have to do the same amount of street crossing to complete the trip.

    With the center-running busses and side-boarding on the far side of the intersection the light which just let a bus cross and let off its passengers will be cycling to allow cross traffic as the passengers get to the intersection. 

    Yes, this means passengers have to cross the intersection on both ends of their trip, but the crossing is only from the center platform to the side not the entire width of Van Ness. Depending on your destination that is about one or two thirds of Van Ness, but the center third will always be the busway and the pedestrian refuges on either side will make it safer for all pedestrians including Muni passengers.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    but the crossing is only from the center platform to the side not the entire width of Van Ness. 

    Apparently you’re trying to make some kind of point, but what could it be?

    That it’s impossible to cross the full width of Van Ness in a single pedestrian light cycle, therefore being stuck in the middle of the road begging to be allowed to cross the traffic sewer is exactly the same as being dropped off on the sidewalk, because, somehow, crossing northbound and southbound traffic takes twice as long as crossing NB and SB separately?

    That it’s so easy to just dart across three lanes of Van Ness freeway-surrogate traffic that there’s no need to wait for the pedestrian cycle to finally be granted, so therefor being stuck in the middle of the road is exactly the same as being dropped off on the sidewalk?

    In the real world, bus riders who have to wait twice (or more) on every round trip to be granted the rare and infrequent privilege of getting from the bus stop to the sidewalk will have to spend more time cooling their heels (and possibly watching their bus depart without them) than those bus riders who have to wait once per trip to be picked up at the curb — you know, the place where humans rather than motor traffic hang out.

    Van Ness traffic lights will continue to managed for the exclusive benefit of automobile traffic, guaranteed.  The only reason you’re going to be allowed to get from the bus stop to the sidewalk is because the E-W automobile traffic crossing Van Ness is getting its turn, so pedestrians get their half minute to scurry on its coat-tails.

  • Davistrain

    For about 30 years there was no question about the advisability of having transit in the middle of Van Ness–up until the mid 1950’s, the Muni “H” streetcar line tracks were there.

  • SteveS

     Clipper can be used to board any door on any vehicle (not just BRT) starting July 1st

  • I’ve ridden a bus and ridden a bike on Van Ness, and I know which one needs more/better infrastructure more urgently.  It’s the bus.

    The bike mode share on Van Ness right now is about 0%. The bus mode share is probably 10+%. We need to allow the bike mode share on Van Ness to climb up to the 1% mark before we allegedly attempt to improve the bus experience. 

    That said, the bus experience will likely remain stagnant or get worse with BRT, but the biking and walking experiences on Van Ness — to the extent they now exist — will get even worse. The BRT plan will once again provide a massive subsidy to motorized transport at the expense of non-motorized transport. 

    The Van Ness corridor is super-important to would-be bikers — they _will_ use it occasionally, but more often than not, they’ll be on the sidewalk. If you actually care about pedestrians, you’ll fight for cycletracks. It’s a very simple proposition that should not be controversial in the least, but common sense rarely rules the day in transportation, even when people have good intentions.

    BRT just intentionally chokes off auto traffic without attempting to replace the lost throughput with a dignified alternative — this, of course, leads to massive traffic jams and general misery (just ask Bogota). Jane Jacobs knew that intentionally choking off traffic just for the purpose of choking off traffic was a serious mistake. Some people never learn.

    The bulb-outs will prevent the future creation of cycletracks. That’s kind of sadistic, but unfortunately, not surprising.

    From Australia:

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/house-prices-and-transport-are-the-five-star-concerns/story-e6frgd0x-1226334718092

    Our cities are largely thriving. We have traffic jams and over-priced real estate and rowdy Saturday nights, but you have to ask yourself why anyone would invite you to believe our problems are on par with a city where last year five stations of the Transmilenio rapid transit bus system were destroyed by riots sparked by anger at the city’s poor public transport.

    I have a question — why would a city that is largely thriving invite public transport disaster by following in the footsteps of a developing nation with a failed transport system that has recently sparked protests and riots?

    Such back-handed concern. You appear to be looking down on transit riders as lesser beings than the proud cyclists, oblivious to the fact that many people are not able to ride a bike or would just prefer not to, even with the best bicycle facilities.

    I don’t know what ‘back-handed concern’ is. Not sure what the ‘looking down’ stuff is about either. i simply think people should be able to go where they want under their own power, in a safe and dignified fashion, without first getting permission from the Mayor, The City, SFMTA, The State, the federal government, etc. We should be able to walk, bike, skate, whatever. Preventing us from doing these things just continues the trend of massive subsidies to the bus/auto market, at the expensive of livability, self-reliance, health, and the well-being of the planet generally.

    But, for the record, charging for public transit outside of rush hour — where crush loads could be experienced — is a sort of devious insanity that I cannot explain. I’m sure the auto industry loves it, though.

    While I would love to see high ridership bus lines replaced with light rail, if that was implemented on Van Ness it would look exactly the same as the above image, except that there would be rails down those bus lanes (and probably a little less weaving.)

    Not true. LRT requires much less space than buses/BRT. This leaves room for cycletracks. And, importantly, people don’t hate riding the train — it’s been proven to pull drivers from their cars, unlike buses. This has all sorts of important implications, but the big picture is that it makes it easier to get to a car/bus/truck-free city, which will help keep the city above the water line, etc.

    Don’t hate BRT because this plan doesn’t include cycle lanes, instead direct your ire at the drivers who won’t give up parking on one side of the street for a cycle track. Parking is the worst possible use of space on a congested road where space is limited.

    Car parking can be very useful for all sorts of reasons. In GGP, car parking is being used to provide a sort of cycletrack — awesome. Not an ideal situation, but one that can relatively easily be improved on with time. Car parking allow drivers to…park. They bring business. Car parking can be reappropriated for…bike parking and parklets and truck deliveries and taxi pickups.  

    Dedicated bus lanes, on the other hand, have never proven their worth. About all they do is kill the life of a street. What’s worse than an always-empty dedicated bus lane? Not much.

    Frankly, the Van Ness corridor is no different than the Mission/Valencia set up. Mission Street is the primary transit/truck corridor. Valencia is the primary bike corridor, and Guerrero is the traffic sewer.

    any major road without a cycletrack is and will remain a traffic sewer until such time that it gets a cycletrack, and then maybe it will become a _not_ traffic sewer. that’s the whole point of…cycletracks — allow people to get around by bike, turn traffic sewers into streets usable to a majority of the population, including people too young and old to drive, etc. A Van Ness without cycletracks will remain a traffic sewer. Simple.

    Van Ness needs to be the main transit and truck corridor because of connection to the Golden Gate Bridge. You can’t prevent or divert those through traffic because there’s no freeway alternatives to access the Golden Gate. Van Ness is more suitable for commercial vehicles, which are not allowed on Franklin and Gough (and those streets are steeper than Van Ness). 

    Van Ness needs to be the main bike corridor because it’s the most direct route from that part of the city (Marina, Fort Mason, The Wharf) to the heart of the city. Cyclists, too, need to be able to travel seamlessly through SF over the GGB.

    Lots of car and truck and bus traffic already avoids dumping their fumes into SF — fine by me. If they don’t intend to spend some time and money and/or participate in the life of the city, then they can go around.

    Pedestrians and cyclists have few if any freeways anywhere — why should cars? We’ve prioritized cars for a century — we don’t have to do it anymore. We can do whatever we want — it’s just a matter of priorities. If you want to make sure people can speed through SF and leave nothing but fumes and some carnage, keep Van Ness the traffic sewer it is, or make it even worse — build BRT. If you decide you want Van Ness to be a decent place to travel by foot or bike, a decent place to live, work, and play, then maybe we should do something different — build cycletracks.

    Van Ness, like all other roads into, out of, and through SF _will_ be tamed — I’d just prefer we do it now rather than wait another 20 years.

  • Andy Chow

    There’s no way that I can partially agree with this bike-is-morally-superior attitude. What you are saying is not about enhancing transportation choices, but about that everyone should you what you do and accommodate only what you believe. You’re no different than vegan advocates who want every restaurants to stop serving anything other than vegan.

    When considering multiple transportation options in a given area, it should include the entire corridor and not only a single street. People who live on Gough who want to ride the bus need to walk a block to Van Ness. They don’t get bus service on every corner on every street. For bicyclists, they can bike on every street, but Polk Street offers a better environment (which can be improved). For those who drive, unless they want to stop on every block, they go to streets with timed signals.

    All the parallel streets to Van Ness intersect with every street that also intersects with Van Ness. So the argument that bikes needs to be on Van Ness doesn’t work. Going on Polk from the Marina to Civic Center takes the same distance as Van Ness. Bike are not banned on Van Ness. So if someone who lives along it can ride on it too, even if they eventually decide to go to Polk on one of the cross street.

    Trucks is a part of life in the city. Unless you want to life in subsistence lifestyle in the middle of nowhere, some vehicle will have to deliver the things that you need. Because Van Ness is a commercial area, commercial truck traffic is inevitable. Van Ness is a preferred corridor so that these vehicles do go into residential neighborhoods or other streets that are prioritized for bikes.

  • There’s no way that I can partially agree with this bike-is-morally-superior attitude.

    When giving the option to bike or drive, I believe biking _is_ the morally superior choice, but I don’t think that’s a productive way to think about the decisions before us.

    What you are saying is not about enhancing transportation choices, but about that everyone should you what you do and accommodate only what you believe.

    No idea why you would say this. Regardless, ‘transportation choice’ is overrated — people deserve to be able to walk and bike/skate/whatever to their destinations — that’s the choice they must be provided — it should be guaranteed as a human right. The discussion about which mode of motorized transport to favor over which other mode of motorized transport should only occur _after_ we’ve provided everyone with the ability to get to their destinations under their own power (human-powered transport — aka HPT).

     You’re no different than vegan advocates who want every restaurants to stop serving anything other than vegan.

    I don’t know if I’m different or not, but I think your analogy is off. To put my argument in the anti-meat/restaurant world — I don’t want every restaurant to stop serving any/all meat — I just want every restaurant to offer at least one non-meat dish. That is, I want a non-motorized option. Right now, I have that on Van Ness — walking. That’s great, but it’s not enough — so I’m demanding at least two kinds of non-meat options — maybe one ‘regular’ non-meat plate, and a second one that is wheat-free. My two ‘required plates’ for every single street/road/bridge/tunnel is 1) walking, and 2) biking/skating/etc.

    When considering multiple transportation options in a given area, it should include the entire corridor and not only a single street.
    I’m fine with considering all streets, but when I say ‘corridor’ I am thinking of “the main street/road/bridge/tunnel on/through a corridor” — thus, the main street through a corridor _is_ the corridor. People need to be able to walk and bike on our main streets/roads/etc. for the simple reason that…that’s often where the businesses/entities/organizations/people/places are, and people need to be able to walk and bike on the shortest path distances available, with the least amount of friction/resistance/danger. And direct routes provides by major roads/corridors/arterials offer the shortest path to other places that are not close by.  Direct paths are what is required if we want to allow a very high percentage of people to get around via HPT. Thus, if you want to achieve this, people must be allowed to bike on Van Ness, and every other planned no-bike BRT route.

    People who live on Gough who want to ride the bus need to walk a block to Van Ness. They don’t get bus service on every corner on every street. For bicyclists, they can bike on every street, but Polk Street offers a better environment (which can be improved). For those who drive, unless they want to stop on every block, they go to streets with timed signals.
    Bicyclists can technically bike on many/most streets/corridors in/around SF, but realistically, most bikers and would-be bikers are barred from biking on most streets in/around SF. I’d offer voter intimidation as an analogy — KKK members were to existing black potential/voters as car/truck/bus drivers are to potential/bikers. ‘Biker intimidation’ is why most people don’t bike on Van Ness nor anywhere else in SF, and most people won’t ever consider biking on the streets of SF unless there are very serious changes to the streets/laws.
    There’s a twist in this analogy because most drivers don’t _intend_ to terrorize bikers — it just happens due to the nature of non-squishy cars which are difficult-to-impossible to make content-sensitive and squishy humans (the bull in the china shop). Some drivers do intentionally terrorize and injure/kill cyclists — we know this. But worse is the people who don’t care enough about bikers or pedestrians enough to injure or kill them, but do anyways. This is actually worse than terrorism — like unintentionally stepping on ants on the sidewalk

    All the parallel streets to Van Ness intersect with every street that also intersects with Van Ness. So the argument that bikes needs to be on Van Ness doesn’t work. Going on Polk from the Marina to Civic Center takes the same distance as Van Ness. Bike are not banned on Van Ness. So if someone who lives along it can ride on it too, even if they eventually decide to go to Polk on one of the cross street.

    We only need to allow bikes on Van Ness if we want to have a lot of people biking on Van Ness and in SF. Walkers and bikers need the most direct/shortest paths. Do walk, bike, bus, then car directions on Google Maps. You’ll see the walking distance if often shortest. That’s good. But the biking distance if often longer than the motorized modes of transport — this is not good — and not an accurate reflection of reality in any case, since most people won’t bike on streets on which they are not welcome — which is most major streets in SF. Have to ‘go over just one block’ this way or that way matters — if some mode has to take the long way around, make it motorized transport — that is, if we want to encourage walking and biking.

    If I’m going to Tommy’s Joynt at Van Ness and Geary, unless I’m right on Geary, I’m going to want to go on Van Ness until I see Tommy’s — but right now, I can’t realistically do that — I have to go to some ridiculously-slow, crowded, dangerous side street like Polk. 

    The main streets of SF grew where they did for various important reasons — geographical, political, etc. — walkers and bikers need access to them.

    Trucks is a part of life in the city. Unless you want to life in subsistence lifestyle in the middle of nowhere, some vehicle will have to deliver the things that you need. Because Van Ness is a commercial area, commercial truck traffic is inevitable. Van Ness is a preferred corridor so that these vehicles do go into residential neighborhoods or other streets that are prioritized for bikes.

    Nowhere is it written in stone that trucks or cars or any motorized transport will be part of daily SF life in even 20 years. Cargo bikes are replacing trucks in cities all over the world, and we’re even seeing the reappearance of cargo trams. Eventually we should replace all transport, motorized or not, that is deleterious to city life.

    Here is just some of the recent news:

    Cargo bikes in Dublin: http://www.springwise.com/government/dublincargo/

    Cargo bikes are cross between a bike and a truck: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bike-blog/2012/may/02/cargo-bike-city-courier-truck 

    Cargo bike sharing in Germany: http://sustainablog.org/2012/05/cargo-bike-sharing-platform-germany/

    Cargo trams: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tram#Cargo_trams

    I get that there are people who believe in the segregation of modes of transport onto different streets/corridors — I just don’t agree with it. To me, it’s similar to the segregation of uses (single use as opposed to mixed use) we’ve seen in zoning laws for the past 50+ years — a catastrophe. Cars over here, trucks over there, buses over there, trains over here, pedestrians over there, trains under there, etc. It’s ridiculous. We don’t need to make things so complicated — just let people go where they want to go under their own power, and if there’s any street space left over, do with it what you will — cars, trucks, buses, trains, plant gardens, whatever.

  • Anonymous

    No mention about stopping distance. The whole route is only 3 km. 4 stops in the middle should be plenty. 

    And yes, 2016? Why does it take so long?

  • Peter M

     The project fact sheet on the SFCTA website shows from Market to Lombard there would be stops at Market, McAllister, Eddy, Geary/O’Farrell, Sutter, Sacramento, Jackson and Union. Which makes for weird inconsistent stop spacing, some stops will be 2.5 blocks apart, and others will be 5 blocks apart.

  • mikesonn

    Probably has more to do with transfer lines crossing Van Ness than stop spacing distances.

  • Sprague

    Thanks for posting this, Aaron, and thanks for including a link to the great article explaining the reasons for this project’s delays.  This project looks great.  It’d be even better if, one day, low-floor buses are put in use.  This would further speed service and make the riding experience more pleasurable for everyone but most especially for wheelchair users, the mobility impaired, and passengers with strollers or other heavy/bulky items.  As to zealous criticism of this project for its lack of improved cycle infrastructure, please don’t forget that everyone, including cyclists, may one day need to rely on the bus for transport.  As much as we may feel immune to injury, every cyclist is an accident away from being unable to ride and in need of alternatives.  Also, many cyclists like to have a dry option on rainy days.  A cycle track can be added later.  In the meantime, there are plans to improve Polk Street’s bike lane.

  • Anonymous

    The problem with your logic is that you consider buses to have the same effect as cars- hence your repeated references to “the bus/auto market”. If you think that bus riders are in the same boat as private car owners, you’re far divorced from reality. A bus rider creates a fraction of the emissions and a fraction of the congestion of a private car owner, and therefore people should be encouraged to ride transit rather drive.

    Cycling and walking are also good substitutes for driving, but only for people physically capable of doing so, and only for short to medium distances. Your obsession with ‘Human Power Transport’ over everything else is an insult to every senior or disabled person with a mobility difficulty. Please, go down to your local senior center, tell them they should be getting on their bikes rather than taking the bus, and see what reaction you get.

    As for riding a bus not being dignified experience – often it is not, but only because we marginalize bus riders through poor street design. This plan will improve the experience of riding a bus and move the experience closer to that of light rail, so why is this a reason to oppose BRT?

    And as for your claim that LRT takes up less space than BRT, take a look at this actually existing example of LRT from within this very city, and tell me that it takes up less space or is substantially different from the BRT proposal above.

    Simply put, we should be encouraging people to ride transit AND encourage them to cycle/walk, as both will reduce emissions and congestion, but some people have valid reasons to prefer one over the other. That preference should be respected. Not respecting that preference runs contrary to the goals of reducing emissions and reducing congestion.

  • The problem with your logic is that you consider buses to have the same effect as cars- hence your repeated references to “the bus/auto market”.

    No. 

    There is a strong symbiotic relationship between bus makers and auto makers — so strong, in fact, that sometimes they’re the same company — think Daimler, Volvo, Tata, etc. 

    But really, the bus industry can’t even be called an industry when compared to the car industry — it’s like 1/10,000th the size — if that. Asking a car company if they want to get into or stay in the bus business, even if it makes some money, is like asking an A-list Hollywood movie actor if they want to be in a television series sitcom — only the washed up and/or drugged out are gonna even think about it.

    Cars and buses (like movies and television) don’t compete — we know that — nobody who can afford to drive will ride the bus. Cars and buses, however run on the same state subsidies — mainly taxpayer-funded highways/roads, direct and indirect subsidies to the oil industry, unpaid-for externalities like police/fire/rescue/injury/death/health costs/pollution, etc. This is why it’s in the interest of the auto/bus companies to work together (symbiotically). 

    If buses were a threat to the growth of the auto companies, then GM would not have funded the rise of the bus industry in the first place, and the destruction of the tram industry, and public transit itself, so many years ago. BRT is just Bustitution 2.0. If a bus company ever threatened to install a decent suspension, they’d be bought by GM and quickly dismantled.

    BRT makes sure that all the major routes into/from/through a city remain completely motorized. Rule out the possibility of walking and biking and you’re left with only three options: 1) cars, 2) buses, 3) trains. Guess who wins?

    Cycling and walking are also good substitutes for driving, but only for people physically capable of doing so, and only for short to medium distances.

    Ridiculous. Walking and cycling are for everyone. And if someone is not capable, we have the ability to make cycling available to almost everyone. And when that is not possible, people have motorized wheelchairs. I see them cruising down the bikes lanes on San Jose’s multi-lane highways all the time (we don’t do sidewalks too much). And we know bike lanes and cycletracks get use from all manner of wheeled vehicles — skateboards, scooters, shopping carts, motorized versions of all of these, etc.
    Your obsession with ‘Human Power Transport’ over everything else is an insult to every senior or disabled person with a mobility difficulty. Please, go down to your local senior center, tell them they should be getting on their bikes rather than taking the bus, and see what reaction you get.

    Don’t be sol melodramatic. I’m obsessed w/ HPT because that’s the only way to offer people their dignity back. I shouldn’t need the permission of Obama, Brown, Lee, MUNI, or anyone else to go where i want to go when i want to go. 

    Part of the so many of our people — young, medium-aged, and older — are decrepit are because we’ve never allowed them to get around under their own power. That needs to change. All you’re doing by preventing walking and biking on the major thoroughfares is critically injuring the public’s health, and that has real consequences on an individual basis — it really does diminish and destroy people’s lives.

    As for riding a bus not being dignified experience – often it is not, but only because we marginalize bus riders through poor street design. This plan will improve the experience of riding a bus and move the experience closer to that of light rail, so why is this a reason to oppose BRT?

    Street design has little to nothing to do with the “Losers enter here” (as described recently by JHK) bus ride experience. All BRT does, as I’ve said, is institutionalize the motorization-only nature of the most important corridors of San Francisco. This is the primary reason why BRT should be opposed outright. 

    Bogota’s experience has shown definitively that Bus Road Transit is a failed technology — that is, a failure for cities — a major success for the auto/bus industries. It’s not irreversible — it’ll just extend the punishment of San Francisco’s most vulnerable for another generation — a crushing blow for taxpayers, environmentalists, etc.

    And as for your claim that LRT takes up less space than BRT, take a look at this actually existing example of LRT from within this very city, and tell me that it takes up less space or is substantially different from the BRT proposal above.

    The Embarcadero is a disaster that was designed 20+ years ago — are you suggesting we continue to recreate disasters? The failure of the Embarcadero to safely and comfortably accommodate HPT is now getting serious attention and it will be addressed. It will be difficult to fix it appropriately, but it will be made sufficiently less horrific. One great advantage we have is that the trains require less right of way width than buses would. If the LRT along the Embarcadero were BRT, we would not have this luxury. There are myriad other advantages of LRT over BRT, of course.

    Simply put, we should be encouraging people to ride transit AND encourage them to cycle/walk, as both will reduce emissions and congestion, but some people have valid reasons to prefer one over the other. That preference should be respected. Not respecting that preference runs contrary to the goals of reducing emissions and reducing congestion.

    We should allow people to walk and bike, then encourage them to walk and bike, in that order, before we do anything else. Spending millions on even more motorization before we even allow people to walk and bike safely and comfortably is a disaster, against all common sense, should be considered criminal, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Wow. You’re pretty impossible to debate with. Just so you know, an assertion with nothing to back it up does not count as a rebuttal.

    But really, the bus industry can’t even be called an industry when compared to the car industry — it’s like 1/10,000th the size — if that.

    I agree. It’s you who conflated the two by discussing “the bus/auto market”, not me.

    BRT makes sure that all the major routes into/from/through a city remain completely motorized. Rule out the possibility of walking and biking and you’re left with only three options: 1) cars, 2) buses, 3) trains. Guess who wins? 

    No-one is “ruling out the possibility of walking and biking” on Van Ness, and the city is actively encouraging biking on neighboring Polk St. Again, I have to ask, why is improving conditions for bus riders- and therefore the ridership of buses compared to private vehicles- a bad thing? Granted we shouldn’t do that at the expense of bicycle facilities, but we’re not. Two car lanes will be replaced with dedicated bus lanes, and cycling facilities, existing or future, are not impacted.

    Don’t be sol melodramatic. I’m obsessed w/ HPT because that’s the only way to offer people their dignity back. I shouldn’t need the permission of Obama, Brown, Lee, MUNI, or anyone else to go where i want to go when i want to go.

    Personally, I find using quality public transportation to be pretty dignifying, often more so than cycling when it’s cold and wet. You are projecting your own opinions on what is dignified and what is not onto everyone else, whereas I am saying we should make both cycling and public transportation as dignified as possible and allow people to exercise their preference. And if using public transportation requires the permission of our elected officials, then so does using dedicated cycling facilities- both require lobbying for and funding from various levels of government.

    One of the reasons so many of our people — young, medium-aged, and older — are decrepit is because we’ve never allowed them to get around under their own power. That needs to change. All you’re doing by preventing walking and biking on the major thoroughfares is critically injuring the public’s health, and that has real consequences on an individual basis — it really does diminish and destroy people’s lives.

    I wasn’t aware that no-one got old and infirm before the invention of motorized transportation. I will be sure to let the biologists and anthropologists know that they have that part of human history completely wrong.Street design has little to nothing to do with the “Losers enter here” (as described recently by JHK) bus ride experience

    When you travel by bus, you spend part of your time waiting for the bus, and part of your time riding the bus. Generally speaking, waiting is perceived to be more unpleasant than riding, so it’s important to minimize that waiting time and make it as pleasant as possible. BRT helps achieve that by providing a better waiting environment and a shorter and more consistent waiting time.

    The Embarcadero is a disaster that was designed 20+ years ago — are you suggesting we continue to recreate disasters?

    No, I’m responding to your claim that LRT takes up more space on the road than BRT by providing you with an actually existing example of LRT which appears to take up just as much space as the Van Ness BRT design. If you want a more recent example, check out Third St.

  • I agree. It’s you who conflated the two by discussing “the bus/auto market”, not me.

    The two industries — or market segments — to the extent that they are actually separate — share many of the same goals — but one overarching shared goal is to make sure people are not allowed to move about under their own power. The car and bus markets do not cannibalize one another — they are complementary to one another — that is why they can be referred to as ‘the bus/auto market’. There’s nothing to conflate about this.

    No-one is “ruling out the possibility of walking and biking” on Van Ness, and the city is actively encouraging biking on neighboring Polk St. Again, I have to ask, why is improving conditions for bus riders- and therefore the ridership of buses compared to private vehicles- a bad thing? Granted we shouldn’t do that at the expense of bicycle facilities, but we’re not. Two car lanes will be replaced with dedicated bus lanes, and cycling facilities, existing or future, are not impacted.

    A bus highway in the middle of Van Ness will make walking and biking there even more dangerous and difficult — for cycling, possibly impossible. 

    Making small side streets like Polk decent for biking is not sufficient to allow people to bike in significant numbers — we need access to the most major corridors — this is not speculation, it is fact — based on studies of every society that knows high cycling rates. We could traffic calm every single street/road/bridge/tunnel in all of San Francisco, and if we didn’t get the biggest, most major, most direct routes, we’d only ever achieve a mode share of possibly up to 10%. Really, it’s a very simple equation — make the major corridors available to bikers if you want to allow a lot of people to bike. Or, concentrate on the Polk streets of the city and make sure mode share is not significantly affected.

    I think the bus experience will get worse — if the situation in Bogota is any indication, the bus experience will almost certainly get much worse. 

    Taking away car lanes and giving them to buses only puts more pressure on the roadway from cars — this effectively makes carving out room for cycletracks impossible

    Personally, I find using quality public transportation to be pretty dignifying, often more so than cycling when it’s cold and wet. You are projecting your own opinions on what is dignified and what is not onto everyone else, whereas I am saying we should make both cycling and public transportation as dignified as possible and allow people to exercise their preference. And if using public transportation requires the permission of our elected officials, then so does using dedicated cycling facilities- both require lobbying for and funding from various levels of government. You’re buying into the motorists’ argument that your facilities are free because you didn’t pay for them upfront.

    ‘Choice riders’ don’t take the bus — that’s another fact — it has nothing to do with me, personally, though I am often a choice rider, and when I have a choice, I, too, avoid the bus, along with the rest of most of America.

    The permission argument is based on the fact that people with a bike are not beholden to the whims of public transit officials, mayors or coucilpersons, etc. — we can just hop on our bikes and go.

    I wasn’t aware that no-one got old and infirm before the invention of motorized transportation. I will be sure to let the biologists and anthropologists know that they have that part of human history completely wrong.

    Battle those straw men, but the fact is that life expectancy is decreasing all around the world for many reasons — one primary reason is the motorization of society. People are growing decrepit earlier, living lower-quality lives, etc. All the sarcasm in the world won’t save them.

    When you travel by bus, you spend part of your time waiting for the bus, and part of your time riding the bus. Generally speaking, waiting is perceived to be more unpleasant than riding, so it’s important to minimize that waiting time and make it as pleasant as possible. BRT helps achieve that by providing a better waiting environment and a shorter and more consistent waiting time.
    Standing in the middle of a 6-lane highway, on the inside of a 2-lane bus highway, amid the roar of cars and buses — this is a better waiting environment than the sidewalk?

    Express buses run all over America, including SF — there’s no need to build a new highway through SF just to accommodate express buses.

    Our first priority should be to allow people to walk and bike places — we need cycletracks on Van Ness, not more and bigger and faster buses. For the record, waiting time for riding your bike is usually 0 minutes.

    No, I’m responding to your claim that BRT takes up more space on the road than LRT by providing you with an actually existing example of LRT which appears to take up just as much space as the Van Ness BRT design. If you want a more recent example, check out Third St.

    Even if this were an exception, and I have no idea if it is, it would not be the rule. BRT requires more right of way width than rail — this is common knowledge. But that’s not even the most salient point — people hate to ride the bus, which keeps pressure on the roadway because people want to drive, which ultimately prevents cycletracks. If you had LRT, at least some people would consider switching out of their cars — as has been proven — which decreases pressure on the roadway from car drivers, leaving open the possibility that cycletracks can one day be implemented.

  • Nathanael

     This *chicane* design is quite inferior to your average light rail line.  But I guess that’s the way SF likes it.

  • Nathanael

     So, Van Ness is a bit like Market, where several medium frequency rail lines combine to form a high frequency corridor…

    …um, why are they building a rail-unfriendly design again?

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