Are SFMTA’s Proposed Shuttle Stops Enough to End Muni Conflicts?

A snapshot of the SFMTA's proposed Muni stops to be shared with private shuttles. See the full map in this PDF
A snapshot of the SFMTA’s proposed Muni stops to be shared with private shuttles. See the full map in this PDF

The SFMTA has released a proposed map of Muni stops where commuter shuttles would be permitted to load passengers, part of the agency’s 18-month pilot program to test private-bus regulation. Shuttles currently use many of these stops, and the resulting conflicts between shuttles and Muni buses has led to transit delays. SFMTA says it hopes to reduce bus conflicts by replacing car parking with new loading zones, marked with white curbs, where shuttles can load passengers out of Muni’s way.

With the vast majority of SF’s curb space devoted to storing private automobiles, hiving off a sliver of that space to make room for both public and private transit to co-exist shouldn’t make a huge difference. But, of the roughly 80 shared stops proposed on the map, just nine have white zones. Four of those would ban parking during morning peak hours, and five would during both morning and evening peak hours. A handful of bus stop zones would also be extended.

Are nine new white zones enough to minimize conflicts between Muni and shuttles? Transit advocates are still assessing that answer — but it’s not a simple one, since there isn’t hard data on how much shuttles delay Muni, or where it happens most often.

For many of the stops, it could be that there aren’t enough conflicts to warrant a white zone. As shown in a three-hour time lapse video of the shared stop outside the home of transportation planner Paul Supawanich, most of the 36 shuttle buses that arrived within that period didn’t block a Muni bus.

“I hope that it was based on metrics, and wasn’t a politically arrived-at figure,” said Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City. While shuttles take cars off the road by providing convenient alternatives to driving, “The benefit of that is diminished if they’re also delaying Muni. If we’re going to have the shuttles using [bus] stops, it’s gotta be in such away that they’re creating no delay for public transit. And that’s not what’s happening now. I think we could get there, but little has been asked of the shuttle operators.”

The SFMTA’s pilot program will charge shuttle operators $1 per use of each stop, a sum that the SFMTA estimates will cover the costs of running the program. The SFMTA is prevented by law from charging more than demonstrable costs, but anti-gentrification protesters have called for higher fees, as they blame tech shuttles for high rents. The SFMTA says that the implementation of the pilot program will include serious enforcement of the new regulations, including fining shuttle operators who use stops that aren’t permitted.

As we’ve written, tech workers who drive to work don’t face the same sort of backlash faced by tech workers who take shuttles, even though car owners occupy far more curb space and contribute just as much to driving up rents. Protests targeting those who take shuttles to work in Silicon Valley distract from the deeper issues: A cycle of sprawl and gentrification, both forces that reinforce one other as cities up and down the Peninsula fail to build enough housing for their burgeoning workforces.

“The tough issues — the questions about gentrification, property values, the nature of the city, and class divides — don’t have an easy transportation management solution,” said Radulovich. “The transportation issues do.”

The list of stop changes can be viewed on the agenda [PDF] for an SFMTA engineering hearing scheduled for Friday, June 20. After that, they’re expected to be passed along to the SFMTA Board of Directors for final approval of the pilot.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Worst cartography ever.

  • coolbabybookworm

    I don’t see the UCSF shuttle stop at 4th and Market on there, or does it not count since they simply block the rightmost travel lane rather than using the Muni stop or the delivery zone? I was hoping this pilot would be a trojan horse to start regulating and tracking the shuttles that never leave San Francisco for the hospitals and universities here, but maybe that was wishful thinking.

  • tungwaiyip

    The Supawanich video is excellent. We need more survey like this rather than making as a matter of fact assumptions. Shuttle blocking Muni is the only legitimate argument against the shuttle program. Does it actually happen in reality? Looking at this video, not so much. But even if it does, I still think it is totally great program. At this stop, the number of shuttle riders to Muni riders is about 10 to 1! The deserve the use of the street space because they are serving so many people so well! People say the shuttle is not paying Muni enough for the use of the stop. I say Muni should be paying the shuttle for doing their job. They are saving Muni load of money for the new bus and new union workers necessary if they have to serve these people.

  • tungwaiyip

    Typical government stuff. We are spoiled by Google Map.

  • @tungwaiyip – Got get union-bashing in there somewhere. Really, though, we need to consider the impact on roads of shuttles + Muni, or more drastically, double-decker luxury buses vs. transit. No point in leaving road maintenance out of the equation.

  • @tungwaiyip – Gotta get union-bashing in there somewhere. Really, though, we need to consider the impact on roads of shuttles + Muni, or more drastically, double-decker luxury buses vs. transit. No point in leaving road maintenance out of the equation.

  • tungwaiyip

    If the road is build to standard it should be able to handle double decker bus. In the long run we all share the maintenance cost. That’s how infrastructure usually works. We don’t scrutinize opening of grocery store or fire station or UPS operation just because they might put wear and tear on the road. The road is designed to be used.

  • artpaul

    I live on Hayes St., where the MTA wants to run these behemoths. It is two lanes, and is a popular, and official, cross-town route for bicyclists and peds. Have we been notified of this proposed change? No, but my daughter just pointed out these little green stickers that have been added to the MUNI stop at Masonic and Hayes.
    A few other notes: It is zoned residential/commercial, meaning there are the occasional double-parked deliver trucks. There are several schools on the route, including elementaries and City College (John Adams Campus). We also have MV and UCSF shuttles.
    Let the shuttles run along Fell and Oak, since they just want to get in and out of the City on 101 anyway!
    BTW, if they wanted to actually do something that would be popular with residents and visitors (and take some of the heat off themselves), let everyone ride them, not just employees! They’re using public space, after all.

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