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.