Mission Transit Lane Removal Nudged Closer to Reality

Even though the pain dried only three months ago, there's already talk of removing the bus-only lanes on Mission. Photo: SFMTA.
Even though the paint dried only three months ago, there’s already talk of removing the bus-only lanes on Mission. Photo: SFMTA.

Last April, businesses on Mission Street started to gain some traction in pushing against SFMTA’s “red carpet” bus-only lanes, which they claim—contrary to the available evidence, it should be noted—are hurting their bottom line. The result: Supervisor David Campos asked the SFMTA to “make a radical shift in the program,” as he put it in a Facebook post.

The first step in that “radical shift” is now happening, and it may not bode well for transit advocates. According to an SFMTA release:

District 9 Supervisor David Campos and Ed Reiskin, Director of Transportation for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), today announced a series of activities to gather additional feedback on the Mission Street Improvement Project, which established bus-only lanes on Mission Street from 14th Street to 30th Street. The activities include a community hearing, merchant walks in the project area, and a survey of residents and visitors on Mission Street. The community hearing, to be held on June 20 at 6:00 PM at the Mission Cultural Center, provides an opportunity for community members to discuss their experiences and suggestions for improving the project.

The problem, of course, is public meetings on transit projects seem to attract a disproportionate number of, well, grumps. “One of the things that stands in the way is often times a small number of deluded people are the ones who show up. And they complain and their complaints may be irrational and factually incorrect. But because they show up, they’re the ones who win the day,” said Jeff Tumlin, Principal and Director of Strategy for Nelson\Nygaard Consulting, at an SF Transit Riders event.

"Red Carpet" lanes move closer to get removed. Image: SFMTA.
A rendering from last year of how the lanes now look, more or less. Image: SFMTA.

The SF Transit Riders, which campaigned for the transit lanes on Mission, has already come out strongly against any rollback. “For decades, riders have asked for transit to be rightfully prioritized and Muni finally listened,” they exclaimed in a prepared statement. “We hope that Supervisor Campos’s office, the community, and transit riders…can work with SFMTA to understand this project as crucial and necessary.”

That’s because, as the Transit Riders rightfully point out, a bus-only lane is a much better use of public road space—not because of some sort of transit idealism, but simply because it serves more people. According to SFMTA counts, each day Mission Street carries over 65,000 Muni riders and only about 8,000 cars.

It also makes Mission street safer, according to SFMTA’s data:

With eight full weeks of post-implementation results, Muni reliability has improved and travel time has dropped and continues to drop. Furthermore, Muni has seen only one collision in this corridor since late March. Prior to project implementation we experienced three to four per week, which hampered reliability and forced buses out of service.

That said, the transit-only red lanes on Mission aren’t perfect–this publication has taken SFMTA to task for running buses in the right lanes, which makes it tricky for bikes to use the street. “I think the biggest problem on Mission is that it’s a battle between vehicle traffic/parking vs. bike/ped safety,” wrote Walk SF’s executive director Nicole Ferrara, in an email to Streetsblog. “We could do a center running bus lane and outer bike lanes, but that would mean no car lanes….that’s the biggest hurdle.”

Still, anything that prioritizes transit over private automobiles is a step in the right direction and it would be most unfortunate if Supervisor Campos channels enough political energy to get the lanes removed.

Either way, Streetsblog readers might want to get down to the Mission Cultural Center on Monday, June 20 at 6:00 p.m. to speak in support of “keeping Mission Red.”

  • robo94117

    There are plans to change the position of the tracks on 19th Ave, and move the Holloway station into Parkmerced. The M only shares the roadway with cars in West Portal. This is a dense, commercial district, and it would be inappropriate to go fast. The other problem is the big diagonal crossing of 19th Ave. During peak hours, cars back up onto the track, and the drivers have trouble navigating the sea of SOVs. I think this is being addressed, but I don’t know how yet.

  • robo94117

    Mission Community Hearing, June 20- Mission Cultural Center 6PM
    Please attend and support better transit

  • omaryak

    Valencia’s only one block over … I don’t think bikes should be a priority on Mission. Hopefully the transit lanes stay!

  • omaryak

    It’s easier for light rail to get dedicated infrastructure than buses. It’s a battle of perception

  • Hodor.

  • Eric Rodenbeck

    “As the article is not of infinite length, it does not include every fact in the universe. Your argument is that because something’s not mentioned, you can go ahead and assert it, which is extremely weak.” YES

  • REA

    Simply put. The red carpet is a stupid idea and a way for continued displacement and gentrification to occur in our neighborhood. Mission Street is a historic throughfare and should remain open to vehicles. Those who are new to the Misdion or wish that Latino residents leave want these lanes to further their agenda. Great buses are two minutes faster, but what about maintaining the diversity in a community? Folks always talk about the importance of a diverse city until they see it at a planning meeting distrupting their privilege.

  • City Resident

    Transit lanes have nothing to do with gentrification. If anything, they enable everyone who does not have the privilege of owning a car to travel more quickly and reliably. Transit lanes help all residents and employees of the Mission District, regardless of their ethnicity, their income, or the amount of time they have lived in the neighborhood. I’d argue that these transit lanes might help to reduce gentrification. With faster and more reliable transit, I can get by without a car and have more money left over for housing expenses. Without a car, I am better able to afford to live in the Mission.

  • Elizabeth Creely

    Keep the lanes. Mission Street will benefit from the increase in foot traffic/bicycle commuting.

  • murphstahoe

    You were able to very easily discern that the ruse was very poorly implemented. Occam’s razor – there was no ruse. You made no assumption, you just threw that silly rant out there because you have nothing better to do with your time.

  • murphstahoe

    More traffic on Valencia is fine – it’s just the double parkers that are a bitch.

  • murphstahoe

    Red lanes are gentrification? Am I right? Of course I’m right! TRUMP 2016

  • REA

    I am not arguing the pros/cons of better transit for working poor. We have had the most robust displacement in the history in this city in this neighborhood in the last two years, families evicted in the thousands, and business and hoising displacemets on this very street including arson of some of the buildings on Mission Street. A huge push by developers to transform the and corridor pushing out mom and pop businesses. This is not Trump or transit hating against the poor. Kmow your history and that of gentrification in this city. The timing of these lanes is in my opinion part of of that effort change. I was birn and raised in the Mission my gamilyhas lived here for two generations. You have to do better then its good for bus riders when the city hasn’t given a shit about transit riders for 20 years

  • jonobate

    1) Gentrification is change
    2) Transit lanes are change
    3) TRANSIT LANES ARE GENTRIFICATION!!!!!11

  • gneiss

    I am sorry that you think that recent efforts by the city to make our streets better for transit counts as “gentrification”. But, if you think that rolling back the changes will in any way stop the displacement of families and businesses from the Mission then you are living in a fantasy land. Those forces are much larger, driven by demographic shifts happening at all levels of California society and are more due to land use constraints and tax policies than anything else.

    The effect of removing the improvements would just make life harder for the already stretched families and individuals that depend on transit every day. It will delaying their ability to get to their jobs and back home again and make their commutes less predictable. Do you really want the 65,000 bus riders impacted negatively to preserve your vision of what the Mission should be?

  • murphstahoe

    I am sorry you think REA cares about gentrification, and not just parking and open lanes for his car. His family has been here for two generations and he’s very happy about the recent doubling of his property values.

  • @REA – Since you’re making the argument that this causes gentrification, how do you explain the last wave of gentrification, during the dot-com years? That wave hit the Mission hard, displacing working-class residents and their jobs as well from the city, but no transit improvements at all. Instead, we got a Muni Meltdown.

  • RichLL

    Your handle has made about 10 times as many Disqus posts as mine, so if I have nothing better to do with my time, you have nothing else to do with your time at all, evidently.

    Given your prolific trolling of almost every local website all day, every day, the pot here is definitely calling the kettle black.

    I still think you need to get over NoeGate.

  • RichLL

    An invalid syllogistic form, as you know. However, if two things happen together a lot, then even though neither causes the other, people can reasonably draw some conclusions. Correlation may not be causation, but they’re not necessarily orthogonal either.

    In this case bus and like lanes do not cause gentrification, but they may be symptoms and indicators of it.

    When gentrification catches hold, neighborhoods change. I happen to think they are good changes – they become safer, cleaner, nicer, better maintained and, yes, the demand for traffic calming and quieter streets does tend to be accentuated when an area becomes more affluent.

    The problem here was the premise that gentrification is bad. It isn’t.

  • murphstahoe

    Do your stats include RoyTT ?

  • Marta Sanchez

    What if you have kids, are disabled, asthmatic, a senior, have to carry 50 pounds of food. Completely unrealistic

  • Marta Sanchez

    If it’s working so great why are there thousands of complaints city-wide? The evidence is from New York City which tells me there is no evidence. The only ones who approve of this are those with agendas like urban planners. My daughter used to take the bus with her 2 year old to General from the Excelsior and it only took 20 minutes. Now it takes an hour and I drive her. So much for less cars

  • Marta Sanchez

    Clueless armchair quarterback business advice.

  • neroden

    Disabled? Asthmatic? A senior? You’ll be on the bus or in a taxi, because you can’t drive safely. Get a clue.

  • neroden

    Actually, it’s good business advice. But most business owners are morons who run their businesses into the ground. During the early days of the Internet revolution, as an early Internet adopter, I gave some extremely good advice regarding *how to take advantage of it * to every business owner I ran into; those who took the advice boomed, but nearly every one of them rejected it because they were clueless, and their businesses mostly closed as a result. Their mistake.

  • neroden

    The M already *has* its own lane for miles. That’s the thing.

  • jason L

    In a May, 2016 Quarterly report to the General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee, Page 1, “This past quarter SFMTA completed initial work on the 14 Mission: Division to Randal (Inner) Project, including the implementation of transit-only lanes, turn restrictions and stop consolidation…These improvements have reduced bus travel times along the stretch of MIssion by two minutes” TWO MINUTES ! Common sense dictates that the two minutes could have been saved by stop consolidation ONLY.

    And by the way, if that isn’t a slanted article, then I’ve never seen one!

  • jason L

    How many blocks is it Division to Randal? 17 to 20? Again, the two minutes could be saved by the consolidation of the bus stops. The SFMTA does nothing more than attempt to justify their existence on a daily basis to the detriment of the majority. They sit in their luxury office space in a building shared with Uber. SFMTA occupies the top floor (22nd) and has windows with a panoramic view of the City. Their tactics are nothing short of outrageous.

  • jason L

    Please explain the twp minute improvement in transit times which could have been accomplished by consolidating the stops ONLY. SFMTS knows this and that’s why the remove stops, i.e, to get faster transit times. It’s a smoke and mirrors tactic.

  • The Mission transit-only lanes made the bus no longer a possibility for your daughter?

  • murphstahoe

    “why are there thousands of complaints city-wide?”

    [citation needed]

  • @murphstahoe – I cleverly hid some of my Disqus updates in a Twitter handle that doesn’t have a space between my first and last names, all to obscure the fact that I’m the same person. Don’t tell RichTT or RoyLL or whoever our anonymous doxxer is, he’ll blow a gasket.

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