Will San Francisco Ever See Serious Enforcement of Bus-Only Lanes?

Yes, this is a bus-only lane. Photo: ##https://twitter.com/mikesonn/status/352586805465477120/photo/1##Mike Sonn/Twitter##

While waiting at a bus stop on Third Street this weekend, Streetsblog reader Mike Sonn tweeted about his frustration with the nearly non-existent enforcement of bus-only lanes. Watching drivers fill up the few traffic lanes set aside for transit with impunity is an everyday part of riding Muni in San Francisco, where ensuring that marked transit lanes are actually used for transit just doesn’t seem to be a priority for police.

A Muni bus “passed us because it couldn’t access the bus stop,” Sonn tweeted. “Come on!!!”

As we’ve reported, the SFMTA is installing enforcement cameras on the front of all Muni buses, but they can only be used to ticket drivers who park in a transit lane. Only police officers can cite motorists for clogging up the transit lanes while driving, because it’s classified as a moving violation. So until Muni becomes a priority for the SFPD — or until the SFMTA implements more effective design measures to signal that bus lanes are off-limits to drivers — Muni riders will be left in the lurch.

America’s Cup vehicles parked in Muni stops, however, are fair game for SFMTA parking enforcement:

Photo: ##https://twitter.com/sfmcas/status/354088628269510656##@sfmcas/Twitter##
  • Osedo

    Yes, I say yes, i say yes to enforcement!!

  • Mario Tanev

    How about change the law? Install a camera at every intersection and send a ticket to anyone caught in the bus lane at intersections.

  • KL

    The problem is also that everyone is trying to make a right turn on Harrison or Folsom. If there is a back up on the Bay Bridge, it spills out onto surface streets. Cars trying to turn right thus backs up in the right lane, which is also the bus lane. While cars can enter the lane when they make a right turn, the cars really have no where to go other than the bus lane.

  • We just gotta have the correct infrastructure.

    In the best case, enforcement works temporarily.

    Give us some protected bike lanes so boat cars can’t park in them, and everyone won’t be forced to take the bus.

    Bus lanes have failed. Let’s reallocate space and keep SF above the water line.

  • mikesonn

    Excuses and there is a right turn lane to the right of the bus only lane anyway.

  • mikesonn

    Thank you for the write up, Aaron. Any action at this point would be nice. Hello, SFPD?!

  • Andy Chow

    If the road is jammed there’s nothing much you can do on enforcement. The problem is that the so called bus lane is meant to be intruded by autos whether to access driveways, on street parking, or trying to turn right at Harrison or Folsom. It is not designed to be effective so the only way to make it work is to have SFMTA traffic officer to control traffic on the ground.

    One way to improve speed is to eliminate the bus lane south of Folsom and relocate existing bus stops with boarding islands like the one on 7th Street by Market. The bus would then travel on the left side lanes so to avoid the parking and the right turning traffic to the bridge.

  • mikesonn

    Look at that top picture, there is only ONE car in the right turn lane, everyone else is in the bus only lane. If they are going past Brannen to Bryant, then they can address the turn situation 100-200′ before that intersection. There is ZERO reason to que up in the bus only lane well over a block ahead of time.

    And SFMTA should not move the bus to the left side to further accommodate bridge traffic. They already added a right turn lane on 3rd at Market (which completely goes against their policy of trying to limit private auto traffic on Market).

  • Sean

    After living in SF for 8 years, I wholeheartedly agree about the bus lanes. Have you seen Mission St downtown? I just moved up to Seattle and I think the bus lanes here are enormously successful. Perhaps SFMTA could take a trip up to see SDOT/WSHDOT.

  • mikesonn

    The SFMTA is all about “fact-finding” trips, but they never seem to find any facts to bring back with them…

  • Anonymous

    One aspect that makes the bus-only lanes less effective is that some of them have limited hours, and you have to look for signs on the side of the road to understand if they’re in effect. This undercuts the effectiveness of the diamond symbol pained on the roadway, because drivers learn that in some situations, it doesn’t mean anything.

  • tony

    Are bikes allowed in the bus only lane? Riding in the general traffic lane in the middle of the street seems treacherous, especially when the bus only lane is free of buses on the right. .

  • Jim

    Cyclists are not legally allowed in CA to ride in bus-only lanes.

  • KL

    What part of the vehicle code is this under?

  • KL

    Agreed on the 3rd at Market, which is quite confusing for many streets that cross Market. There are no signs that tell drivers they cannot turn onto Market.

    In that picture, it looks like the approach of the lower deck is backed up. Since most of the drivers are probably just single occupancy, they probably cannot turn right onto Bryant. Hence they continue to travel until they reach Harrison. While it is true that drivers should be turning 100′-200′ before the intersection, but with a long line of cars trying to make the same turn, trying to cut in closer to Harrison generates a lot of anger from other drivers that have been waiting to make a right turn. So drivers start lining up as far back as Brannan.

  • Andy Chow

    The adjacent lane to the left is pretty clear. So if they aren’t lined up to turn somewhere then there’s no reason for them not to use the other available lanes. Last week I drove up 3rd Street and saw cars backed up on the bus lane to access the bridge (it was during the BART strike). Because I do not need to get onto Harrison, I could use the lane to the left to avoid the back up, but the 30 bus got stuck because it couldn’t access the left lane due to the location of the trolley wires and the length of the poles.

  • mikesonn

    I completely understand WHY drivers do this, but my argument is that it DOESN’T matter. The bus only lane is the BUS ONLY lane. Wait to the left until it is appropriate to merge across the lane into the right turn lane.

  • Andy Chow

    Unless you got a lot more signage to direct where cars queue or a SFMTA traffic officer being there it won’t work. There needs to be some sort of engineering solution there for it to work (whether to move the wires to the left and have boarding islands, or have right turn lanes to the left of the bus lane where right turning drivers have to cross the buses that go straight.)

    In a situation where you got a lot of people basically ignoring the law, there’s not much you can do on the enforcement side after the fact. Traffic officer can prevent massive ignorance, which they did during the BART strike by forcing cars off the bus lane that take buses to the Bay Bridge from the Transbay.

  • mikesonn

    You are full of excuses. I am asking for enforcement, any enforcement. Currently, bus lanes are ignored because there is no penalty. There is no need for further engineering BS, just get some SFPD out there to do their fricking jobs.

  • Andy Chow

    I suggest that there should be traffic officers. So what more would make you happy (like yeah more tickets, etc)? The bus lane is placed there not as a revenue source but a way to speed up bus service. So to keep it that way, you would either need active enforcement with traffic officers, or relocate the lane away from the bridge traffic.

    The best lane is a lane that is effective and doesn’t require constant supervision. The design of the bus lane was half-ass to begin with.

  • Jim

    I suppose it is more of an SF ordinance. See the last page of this PDF. http://sf.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2010/06/Bicyle-and-Transit-Policy-in-SFMTA-Bike-Plan.pdf

  • faye

    i am writing this just to get it off my chest, so take it from a girl who has finally reached her limit: after 3 terrible years of riding the muni and dealing with the broken down city of sf re public transport, i am so happy to leave and move to the suburbs and buy a car. i arrived in this city with so much hope and patience and the primary source of misery has been attempting to be car free and dealing with the muni. i cannot afford to own a car in sf, so i am just choosing the lesser of two evils and leaving. so long, farwell, i will not be missed….if you can’t beat ’em, leave ’em. i learned my lesson and will be a good car consumer from here on it, promise. i hope that god loves me and i never have to return to these insane city streets or any muni vehicles ever again, for the rest of my life…forever and ever. amen.

  • Luke

    It bothers me too. I’m always on my bike and try not to use the bus lanes, but then I’m passed on the right by sone motorists and agitating others behind me. Very uncomfortable. I was actually told by a police officer to go ahead and ride in the bus-only lane because it would be safest.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    Muni is the reason God invented bicycles,

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