SFCTA: Geary BRT Will Take Hundreds of Cars Off the Street Every Hour

Geary BRT is expected to reduce car traffic on the street in large numbers. This graph shows hourly car volumes projected in the westbound direction. Image: SFCTA

Once bus rapid transit is finally up and running, Geary Boulevard will carry thousands fewer cars every day in 2020, compared to a scenario where it doesn’t get built.

A rendering of the recommended plan for Geary BRT at 17th Avenue in the Richmond. Image: SFCTA

That’s according to a preliminary analysis [PDF] presented by the SF County Transportation Authority. The traffic counts vary, depending on which of several design alternatives are built, and some of the cars taken off Geary during rush hours would divert to parallel streets instead. Nonetheless, a Geary without bus rapid transit would have more cars than one with it.

Just how big is the difference? A traffic projection for the intersection of Geary and Divisadero Street shows about 2,200 westbound cars each hour — compared to about 1,000 fewer cars with the Geary BRT “3-Consolidated” option. However, the SFCTA doesn’t plan to build that option, as it would require the expensive undertaking of filling in the Fillmore underpass.

The SFCTA’s “preferred” option is the “hybrid” alternative, which only includes bus-only center lanes in the Richmond District. The other three quarters of the Geary corridor would get side-running bus lanes, many of which exist today.

Hourly car volumes projected in the eastbound direction. Image: SFCTA

Under the “hybrid” scenario, projected car traffic at Geary’s intersections with Arguello and Park Presidio Boulevards within the Richmond are only a bit higher than in the 3-C scenario — a few hundred more cars a day on Geary. At Geary and Divisadero, however, eastbound car volumes are almost as high as in the status quo, and westbound car volumes are somewhere in the middle.

As for the numbers of drivers expected to use parallel streets instead, the numbers range between 200 and 700 cars hourly during peak hours, depending on the intersection. The effect is most pronounced at Webster Street, just east of the Fillmore underpass, where Geary is only slated to get side-running bus lanes.

It’s also worth noting that driving speeds on Geary are expected to remain mostly unchanged, with drivers seeing the slowest speeds under the status quo, and the fewest delays under the more aggressive 3-C scenario. Each BRT scenario would, however, slow down eastbound drivers within the speed-plagued stretch between the Masonic tunnel and Laguna Street.

Image: SFCTA

The bigger implication of this study, of course, is that it reinforces the notion that, when streets are prioritized for higher-quality transit service, people will opt to use it. That effect has been seen in other cities. As Walter Hook, executive director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, said in a Streetfilm, BRT lines typically yield a 10-20 percent shift away from cars. When New York City implemented “Select Bus Service” improvements and a parking-protected bike lane on Second Avenue, car traffic on one segment dropped 11 to 23 percent.

Once San Francisco eventually, finally constructs BRT, we’ll have our own local example to point to.

  • Good news! On BRT in general: my friend Brock dedicated a recent episode of his 510-oriented podcast, The Eastern Shore, to AC Transit’s BRT project:

    http://theeasternshore.podbean.com/e/the-eastern-shore-005-bus-rapid-transit-in-the-east-bay/

    Joël Ramos from TransForm and Jim Cunradi from AC Transit were his guests, and had good comments on that project and potential lessons for other jurisdictions.

  • Justin

    I would have rather seen alternative 3 throughout most of the Geary BRT and including the Masonic tunnels and Fillmore overpass and alternative 2 on Geary/Starr King way past Laguna St heading east, in the westbound direction alternative 2 on Geary ending and the transition to alternative 3 at Geary and Gough St or Geary and Laguna St. I just hope that we’re building REAL genuine Bus Rapid Transit otherwise the real benefits of it won’t genuinely be seen and realized

  • runn3r85

    You actually have to build the damn thing. SF talks and talks and talks and nothing gets done. In the meantime, lots of taxpayer money is spent for studies and all we get are these great Microsoft word charts.

  • Adam

    Yes please build it already. I lived in the richmond for 6 years and its been all bullshit talk. Get going sfcta, this is why your agency is a joke.

  • Osowoofy

    thanks for the link….i’m really interested in this project.

  • Michael Smith

    Just a reminder, the hybrid proposal isn’t even BRT. For real BRT, and significant travel times reductions, you will have to look at how other cities do things.

  • Maybe someday the Geary subway will even get built. I’m not holding my breath, though, of course.

  • Diane Feinstein

    But all my friends who are consultants get to hoover up the money. That’s the real purpose and method.

  • Nathanael

    sigh. It’s been obvious for a long time that Geary should have center-running light rail with exclusive lanes from Point Lobos all the way to Gough Street, and a subway the remaining 1 mile from there to Market. (Merge with the main Muni subway or the 3rd St / Central line, I don’t care which. Or in a pinch just terminate under Union Square.)

    I do not know why SF is so hostile to actually building this. Instead, we see ever-more-watered-down bus lane proposals.

  • Correction: Geary BRT will take FREEDOM off the roads!!!

  • Dark Soul

    DIdnt you hear that Muni want cars off the roads thats is basically unbalanced and freedom being take away.