Tomorrow: Hearing on Traffic Signals to Speed Muni on Haight, McAllister

A snapshot of the SFMTA’s plans for Upper Haight. See the full plan here [PDF].
On the agenda [PDF] for tomorrow’s SFMTA public engineering hearing are proposals to speed up Muni lines with transit-priority traffic signals and bus bulb-outs along Haight and McAllister Streets. These types of changes are central to the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project, but some residents have voiced concerns about replacing stop signs with traffic signals and requiring pedestrians to wait before crossing.

The SFMTA plans to replace stop signs with signals at ten intersections on Haight and five on McAllister. These would be transit-priority signals, meaning that they will stay green when they detect approaching buses on the 5-Fulton, 71-Haight/Noriega, and 6-Parnassus lines.

On the 5, the SFMTA predicts that the signals alone will save 1.5 minutes in each direction, in addition to six minutes saved by adding bus bulb-outs, removing and relocating some stops, and adding right-turn lanes to keep turning cars out of the way. On Haight itself, those improvements are also expected to save three minutes for the 71 and 6, in addition to several more minutes of savings thanks to the contra-flow bus lane being constructed at Market Street. The SFMTA says intersections without signals or stop signs will receive traffic calming treatments, to encourage drivers to yield to people crossing.

Natalie Burdick of Walk SF said the Muni TEP proposals “should not conflict with the SFMTA’s own stated priority for ensuring the safety of the city’s road users.”

“Signalized intersections can support safer walking environments if they are designed effectively,” she said. “For instance, signals can be timed to calm traffic with lower speeds, and provide regular phases for pedestrian crossings.”

A snapshot of the SFMTA’s plans for McAllister [PDF].
“Transit and walking are complementary modes,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich. “Transit extends the range of walking, and every transit trip involves a walk at one or both ends.” Radulovich said he only wishes the plans included more bulb-outs, which would reduce crossing distances and improve visibility for pedestrians.

“I understand the desire to use traffic signals to improve the speed and reliability of important crosstown routes like the 71 and the 5,” he added. “Even if it means that some pedestrians will have to wait at those signals, it will benefit many thousands of riders per day — including many of the same folks who walk these same streets.”

You can weigh in on the street changes by speaking at the hearing at City Hall tomorrow at 10 a.m., in room 416, or by emailing sustainable.streets@sfmta.com.

Here’s the list of intersections on the agenda [PDF] for signals:

22(a). ESTABLISH – TRAFFIC SIGNAL
A. Haight Street at Shrader Street (replaces 4-way stop signs)
B. Haight Street at Clayton Street (replaces 4-way stop signs)
C. Haight Street at Central Avenue (replaces 4-way stop signs)
D. Haight Street at Baker Street (replaces 4-way stop signs)
E. Haight Street at Broderick Street (replaces 4-way stop signs)
F. Haight Street at Scott Street (replaces 4-way stop signs)
G. Haight Street at Pierce Street (replaces 4-way stop signs)
H. Haight Street at Webster Street (replaces 4-way stop signs)
I. Haight Street at Buchanan Street (replaces 4-way stop signs)
J. Haight Street at Laguna Street (replaces 4-way stop signs)

24(f). ESTABLISH – TRAFFIC SIGNAL
A. McAllister Street at Baker Street
B. McAllister Street at Broderick Street
C. McAllister Street at Scott Street
D. McAllister Street at Pierce Street
E. McAllister Street at Steiner Street

  • Michael Smith

    Note that the SFMTA is now downplaying far better solutions. The TEP has many cost effective solutions for improving transit without making the situation worse for neighbors, pedestrians, and bicyclists. These include stop consolidation, bus bulbs, and adding transit preferential signalling to *existing* traffic signalling. Plus some intersections can be changed from 4-way stops to 2-way, speeding up transit more than signals every could and not slowing pedestrians. As long as good traffic calming is put in this would be an effective solution for several of the intersections that have reasonably low cross traffic and where there are good sight lines. Given the limited budget, by pursuing more cost effective solutions they would be able to maximize the improvement to travel time.

    But the SFMTA is concentrating only on a traffic signals, which sometimes actually slow down buses (even with TPS the buses will not always get a green light) and certainly make intersections less safe due to higher speed car traffic running lights instead of at least slowing down.

    And for some intersections it would be far better to just keep the 4-way stop. In particular, Pierce & Haight is already a stop for the 6 so it can’t be helped at all. And it is the wiggle, meaning that a huge number of bicyclists will end up running the light.

    Replacing all those 4-way stops with signals seems to indicate that they simply are not looking at what is best for each intersection. The best solution is surely a combination of new signals, converting some 4-way stops to 2-way, and keeping some 4-way stops as is. Why are they concentrating on the way that makes the area worse for pedestrians?

  • Jesse

    It might also help to remove a few of the stops along Haight. There is about a stop every block, and two on the same block!

  • Elias Zamaria

    They are going to remove some stops. The stops at Haight and Central and at Haight and Cole will be removed.

  • Elias Zamaria

    Correction: the PDF linked from the article looks kind of unclear. It says “The transit stops at Baker and at Central would be consolidated into a new stop at Lyon St.”, but later says that the stop at Baker would be relocated to the other side of the intersection.

  • Jesse

    woo!

  • Chris

    My hometown in Austria added a lot of “transit priority” signals a road that had a streetcar running on it a few years ago. At least in that case the result was a loss for everyone: signal priority for the streetcars still doesn’t properly work, and pedestrians or bikes (one of the cross streets is a major bike route) have to wait forever or just ignore the light when there’s light traffic.

    Of course we have “yield” instead of America’s brain dead 4-way stops, so the streetcar already had priority all way previous (in Austria streetcars, but not busses have priority over pedestrians on crosswalks!).

    To me adding signals often seems to be a works program for “poor” consultants and equipment manufacturers.

  • Why add shiny, new, high-tech, oh-what-fun-for-traffic-engineers-to-get-to-overengineer-something traffic signals when you could simply eliminate stop signs and add low-tech traffic calming instead?

    Why indeed.

  • Mario Tanev

    Whereas transit priority in Zurich works like a charm. Perhaps it depends on the competency and discipline of who implements it.

  • Mario Tanev

    Can’t a 4-way stop-sign be replaced with a 4-way blinking red light? Those are equivalent in terms of rules. Then, when a bus approaches, it can switch to green for the bus and to red for the other directions. Pedestrians can get a countdown as soon as a bus as somewhat near in order to allow switching to red.

    Will this be considered confusing or technically challenging to implement? It seems to have the benefits of transit priority while also not blocking pedestrians in times where there is no bus.

  • KWillets

    I was traveling last week, so I missed this, but I noticed something odd about the Haight/Buchanan Eastbound configuration:

    • A bus-only signal gives Muni a green light before
    the rest of traffic, allowing Muni to bypass a line
    of cars waiting at the light instead of waiting for
    room to merge into traffic.

    • Enables bus to reach transit only lane in center
    from the curbside stop at Buchanan.

    • Would save time and improve reliability

    Wouldn’t a bulbout make the transit-only lane easier to reach? I can’t imagine how the bus will make it from the curb out to this center lane when motorists have blocked the right lane like they do every morning.

  • Sprague

    Overall these proposed changes appear to be welcome news for Muni riders and pedestrians. It’s great if Muni service will be sped up and I almost always support bus stop consolidation. However, eliminating the bus stops at Haight and Cole (where important Muni routes intersect, ie. 33, 43, and 71 – in addition to the 37) appears to be a disservice to Muni riders. This is the most direct transfer point for inbound 43 riders wishing to transfer to the inbound 33 or outbound 71 (and vice versa). Eliminating this stop will result in riders missing transfers and incurring longer travel times (especially in light of often irregular/unreliable headways on these routes), resulting in actually slower Muni trips. Since Muni buses will continue to stop at this intersection (due to the all-way stop signs, which won’t be eliminated) there appears to be no good reason to eliminate the Muni bus stops here.

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