29-Sunset to Get Muni-Only Left-Turn Lane at Lincoln and 19th Ave

A draft plan from 2007 for a left-turn Muni lane (bottom) at Lincoln Way and 19th Ave./Crossover Drive. The SFMTA says the project will finally be implemented by this summer. Image: SFCTA

Muni’s 29-Sunset line will get an exclusive left-turn lane this summer at Lincoln Way and 19th Ave., allowing buses to skip an egregiously slow detour around the block, which it currently makes before heading north into Golden Gate Park. Left turns at the intersection are currently prohibited, and will remain so for other traffic.

A northbound 29 bus seen crossing Lincoln on to Crossover Drive after completing a loop around the block. With the new left-turn lane, the bus will be able to reach Crossover directly. Photo: MuniDave/Flickr

Ride the 29 northbound today, and you’ll experience how frustrating it can be — at Lincoln and 20th Avenue, the bus turns right, then left onto a congested block of Irving Street, then left again on to 19th, then it makes a stop at Lincoln before heading into the park, where 19th becomes Crossover Drive. The whole thing takes anywhere from three to seven minutes, according to the SFMTA.

The new left-turn lane will untie this time-consuming knot, allowing Muni to make a direct left turn on to Crossover, where the existing stop at 19th and Lincoln will be moved into Golden Gate Park.

This improvement, which is notably not part of the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project (it precedes the TEP), has been in the works for at least seven years. SFMTA planner Cheryl Liu explained in an email that it faced a series of delays, including being “placed on hold” when the agency made budget cuts in 2009:

The good news is that we are in the process of implementing the required changes to facilitate the new left turn lane on Lincoln at 19th.  We are coordinating with multiple agencies to add a new sidewalk on Cross Over Drive north of Lincoln, install a new shelter, add the new left turn lane and also add a detection system and traffic signal for the special left turn phase that the bus will receive to make the left turn.  We anticipate completing the project this Summer.  The project did experience a series of delays associated with its complex nature, the need to involve various stakeholders, and limited SFMTA staff resources in conjunction with other priorities.

The SFMTA received a grant fund in September 2007 for planning and preliminary design of a new transit stop and related improvements based on the results of a traffic impact test. SFMTA staff presented the proposal [PDF] as a discussion item to a ParkRecreation and Open Space Advisory Committee (PROSAC) meeting in October 2007 and the item was approved as a concept. In 2008, SFMTA began working with the Department of Public Works and Caltrans to develop the design. In 2009, the project was unfortunately placed on hold as staff had to focus on budget-related transit service changes.

The 29’s existing route, highlighted in thick black. Image: SFMTA

Work was resumed in January 2010. The SFMTA Transportation Advisory Staff Committee (TASC) approved the proposal in March 2010.  An environmental clearance from the Planning Department was obtained in July 2010. SFMTA departmental public hearing approved related parking and traffic changes in September 2010. In September 2011, the Proposal was presented [PDF] to OSMPA (Outer Sunset Merchants and Professional Association). The Recreation and Park Commission approved the project in February 2012. Delays occurred again due to a need of directing staff resources to the analysis, outreach, engineering and environmental review related to the Transit Effectiveness Project. In 2013, it was determined that the work will be added to an existing construction contract as a change order in order to expedite. We are now working toward completing the work in summer 2014.

The project has support from the SF Transit Riders Union and the Outer Sunset Merchants Association, as seen in letters to the SFMTA attached to the 2011 presentation memo.

The real estate for the left-turn lane will be created by removing a handful of curbside parking spots and shifting the eastbound traffic lanes to the right, according to the memos. The new traffic signal system will detect buses and provide a four- to five-second window for them to make the turn.

  • Finally they are implementing this. The current route is really annoying when some modifications can make it an easy turn lane for buses only, similar to what’s been done on southbound Park Presidio and Geary to allow Golden Gate Transit buses to turn left onto Geary.

  • SFnative74

    Great to see this finally happening! It’s a faster route for the 29 and it reduces the number of turns across busy crosswalks – a nice safety benefit. And, the last thing Irving needs is a bus that does not need to be on the street.

  • gb52

    MUNI transit priority is a must throughout the city. This is a great improvement except I do have some reservations with a bus stop inside the park (especially waiting for a bus late at night). But another great candidate is along the M-Oceanview where it crosses 19th, or the L-Taraval where it crosses 19th ave. Both are areas where signal priority could make a significant difference for a lot of people.

  • It took seven years to allow a bus to make a left hand turn? At this rate, the TEP recommendations should finally be implemented by the year 2652.

  • murphstahoe

    They need to have the detection system only pick up a bus, so we can have some fun watching non-buses pull into the left turn lane and never get a green arrow.

  • jonobate

    That’s actually the case: “To ensure that only Muni buses will use the proposed eastbound left turn lane on Lincoln Way, SFMTA will use wireless detection technology so that only Muni buses can activate the left turn traffic signal indication. Special striping will be used for the left turn lane to prohibit other vehicles from using it.”

  • Mario Tanev

    Interesting. I wonder what would happen if it malfunctions.

  • Guest

    There’s a lot bigger project in the works for the M Line. It would run the M under 19th Ave and move the tracks to the west side of the street, in front of Stonestown and SFSU.

  • jonobate

    I guess it will be a similar setup to the intersection of Market at Clayton. Only the 33 is allowed to make that turn; the bus is detected automatically and gets a vertical white bar (I think) while all other directions get a red.

    If the sensor doesn’t pick up the bus, which happens when they are using diesel buses due to a re-route, the driver has to get out of the bus and push a button to activate the lights. (This button: https://www.google.com/maps/@37.758109,-122.443945,3a,75y,227.95h,62.95t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sLBGg8J3UwVhPvpSvadqKOQ!2e0 or this button: https://www.google.com/maps/@37.758355,-122.444194,3a,26.7y,45.46h,81.14t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1szlpH7NMPlIoW2t4xyDOUgQ!2e0 ) I know the 29 is already diesel, so they will need to use some other detection method, but possibly they will include a push button as a fallback.

  • Jim

    Caltrans was the biggest hurdle. The Muni-only left turn light at 19th and Lincoln was installed when all traffic lights were replaced along Park Presidio and 19th in 2007, but was not activated.

  • Jim

    Transit priority will probably be enabled through some sort of RF or infrared technology. The new 8700 series buses already have the latest transponders installed in the front on the bus. No other agency will potentially use this turn, so a detector loop isn’t necessarily needed. Although, detection loops are already installed under the proposed turn lane; they will need to be deactivated, and a new set installed in the new through lane.

    When the 10 use to semi-loop to the Transbay terminal, signal priority was set up at 1st and Howard. A camera would detect the bus in the #1 lane on 1st, and the bus would make a right onto Howard. That set up didn’t always work because a bird or high winds would misalign the camera.

  • Sprague

    This is a great improvement that will hopefully be implemented without further delay. To allay safety concerns and accommodate anticipated pedestrian traffic, a sidewalk could be installed along the eastern edge of Crossover Drive just to the north of Lincoln Way. (The draft rendering above does not show a sidewalk to the west of the concrete pillar/gate.)

  • Motrin

    If the 29 bus instead were to turn left off Lincoln at 25th, this problem would have been solved years ago at far less cost.

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