SFMTA Readies Limited Roll Back on Mission Transit Project

A few of the 65,000 people who take Muni to the Mission. Image: Streetsblog.
A few of the 65,000 people who take Muni daily to the Mission. Image: Streetsblog.

SFMTA staff has released its recommendations for compromises to its recently completed Mission Street transit upgrades. In addition to plans to relocate the outbound Cortland stop to the nearside of the intersection, the staff wants to move forward with (from the agency’s FAQ):

  • Removing two of the required right turns on Mission at 26th and 22nd. This will allow vehicles to travel four blocks on Mission before encountering a required right turn, making it easier to access businesses and find parking along the street. We expect this change to improve traffic circulation without increasing through traffic or delaying bus riders.
  • Exempting taxis from the left turn restriction at 21st Street. This exemption, in the middle of the Mission corridor, will provide more options for taxis to reach their destinations.

SFMTA also reports increased bus reliability and an 85 percent reduction in Muni collisions. So why roll anything back if the improvements are working? Streetsblog readers will recall that these additional changes are in response to anger from local merchants, many of whom complained to Supervisor David Campos about lost parking and turning restrictions. Campos’s staff was unavailable, but in a previous post from his Facebook page, he wrote that  “I have heard from many of you–car commuters frustrated by traffic jams that stretch multiple blocks…That’s why I’m calling on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to make a radical shift in the program.” That resulted in a contentious public meeting on June 20 that brought out transit advocates to speak in favor of the “red-carpet” bus lanes, against business owners who demanded that Mission be changed back to the way it was.

Certainly, the shift that SFMTA is recommending is nothing as “radical” as Campos’s business constituents were requesting, at least so far; SFMTA is not talking about taking away the transit lanes. And the turning restrictions are so routinely violated–as observed by Streetsblog this afternoon–that it’s difficult to imagine eliminating them will make much difference.

Private cars follow a cab north on Mission instead of turning right as is currently required. Photo: Streetsblog.
A line of private cars follow a taxi north on Mission instead of turning right as is currently required. Photo: Streetsblog.

And that speaks to a deeper problem–with a myriad of exceptions to follow, how can different drivers decipher who can turn when and where?  And if a left turn is dangerous for an Uber driver, can it really be safe for a taxi driver? Again, continually accommodating different interests–rather than holding the line on safety–leads to bad outcomes and is no doubt why Vision Zero efforts are failing thus far. “The plan has tried to fit safety in after the fact, rather than building in a Vision Zero lens from the beginning,” wrote Walk San Francisco’s Executive Director Nicole Ferrara, in an email to Streetsblog. “We’re particularly concerned with changes that will allow taxis to make left turns, further confusing drivers and compromising on a key pedestrian safety treatment.”

That said, “It’s reassuring that SFMTA does not intend to recommend changes which significantly compromise the now-documented benefits of improved reliability and faster transit trip times the plan has achieved,” said Peter Straus, from the Executive Board of the San Francisco Transit Riders.

Business owners around the intersections in question, meanwhile, still want Mission restored to how it was before March, when SFMTA put down the “red-carpet” lanes for transit. Patel Varsho, who’s owned “King of Fashions,” a clothing shop on Mission, since 1991, said they’ve felt the cuts to parking and that  “Business is slow.” Mihee Lee owns the “Smile Bar-B-Q,” a nearby lunch counter on Mission at 22nd. “Customers have no parking,” she said. “Business is down 20 percent.” Neither commented specifically on the significance of eliminating the turn restrictions, and instead were concerned primarily about parking.

Either way, as Streetsblog has pointed out before, business owners tend to overestimate how many customers arrive by car. Lee, for example, said she didn’t know how many of her customers take the bus versus driving, making her claim that business was down 20 percent due to changes to the street seem dubious.

Wilfredo Dominguez, owner of Cuzcatlan Travel, wants Mission returned to how it was. Photo: Streetsblog.
Wilfredo Dominguez, owner of Cuzcatlan Travel, wants Mission returned to how it was. Photo: Streetsblog.

Jesse Oropeza, meanwhile, said there’s been no change in business. She works at “Mission Shoe Repair” on 22nd, right by the intersection with Mission. But Wilfredo Dominguez, who’s owned “Cuzcatlan Travel Service” a few shops down for two decades, also said business is down by 20 percent. “It’s hard because of the loss of parking,” he said. “We have loyal customers who drive from Berkeley, San Mateo and San Jose–they [SFMTA] really screwed up by doing what they did. They should send buses to Van Ness.”

Business owner Jacob Bullock said bus service has improved. Photo: Streetsblog.
Business owner Jacob Bullock said bus service has improved. Photo: Streetsblog.

But Jacob Bullock, owner of the “Refinery Grooming Club,” on Mission said: “we still get plenty of business…and I think the bus ride is better.”

One thing the transit lanes doesn't seem to have improved on: bus bunching. Three 14s in a row pulled into the stop on 22nd. Photo: Streetsblog.
Despite claims of improved reliability, the transit lanes don’t seem to have improved bus spacing. Three 14s in a row pulled into the stop on 22nd. Photo: Streetsblog.

The SFMTA Board of Directors will hear public comment on the roll-back proposals on August 16, at 3:00 p.m. in San Francisco City Hall, Room 400. If you are unable to attend, email comments to MTABoard@sfmta.com.

UPDATE: The day after publication, David Campos’s staff sent the following response to the story: “Transit reliability and thriving small businesses are not mutually-exclusive. I hope the SFMTA’s revisions will work as a compromise between the needs of transit riders and small businesses.”

  • chetshome

    do you have some system in mind to determine who is affected or not? I mean, is there a certain distance or proximity that qualifies one to be present?

  • Flatlander

    That’s simply not true. AAA might speak for its members, but not all motorists or vehicle owners. If you intend to count everyone who walks, well, then WalkSF represents roughly 100% of the population. Auto-win.

    Not to forget that AAA did not show up to this meeting, so clearly it’s not a high priority for them.

  • @Flatlander – We voted for strengthening the city’s Transit-First policy in high enough numbers to make it part of the city charter, and we voted down two billionaire-backed propositions that attempted to weaken that.

    Those are votes that count. Not a show of hands or the loudest kvetches at meetings that most of us can’t get to.

  • @Sebra Leaves – Now there’s a totally legit spamvertised website, written mostly by “Author” with some help from “SF Driver” and hyped by “Sebra Leaves.” Can “SF Park Ripoff” be far behind?

    “Restore Transportation Balance” is from Prop L, of course, which went down in flames when actual voters got involved. Come to think of it, Prop L was a bunch of anonymous ranters until the 11th hour when pesky election laws required real names to be put onto contributions and ballot statements and stuff. (It was endorsed by pseudonyms, though.)

  • Alicia

    The majority of people who attend meetings are not the same as the majority of the public.

  • Alicia

    There’s about as much chance of vehicles making that dumb right turn as there is of a cyclist stopping at a stop sign.

    So you’re saying it happens all the time?

  • robo94117

    This whole tempest is some attention-mongering ploy by David Campos. At the June 20 meeting his people allowed the meeting to devolve into a threatening shouting match.
    SFMTA spent months and conducted many community meetings to plan and execute the bus lanes on Mission, and all the planning yielded much faster bus passage.
    Campos has lost my vote for anything. District 9 deserves better representation.

  • RichLL

    Anyone who draws a line will be accused of being arbitrary. But it does not follow that someone who lives miles away should have the same say as the person who is having his parking taken away or his road access reduced.

    My aim is to increase the involvement of local residents with genuine skin in the game, and to reduce that of ideological zealots. Do you disagree with that preference?

  • chetshome

    “Anyone who draws a line will be accused of being arbitrary.” Thank you for stating the point I was meaning to imply. I disagree with you that it’s a useful point of contention, because it’s like wishing for a unicorn pony, because of the difficulty of creating definitions that are fair or helpful.

  • So definitely not a fan of SFParkingRipoff, then. 🙂

    I’m glad to be represented by groups that I’ve joined and paid dues to. I’m not so glad to be ‘represented’ by neighborhood busybodies who claim to represent me. When I have to start attending neighborhood meetings because the head has decided to push their particular agenda, that’s the opposite of representation. In that way there are definitely “activists” that are more representative of their backers than someone like Rose Pak.

  • RichLL

    The idea that people who are more affected by a change should be entitled to more say about that change is hardly a controversial principle. The fact that it cannot always be defined precisely and absolutely does not change that.

  • RichLL

    So anyone who advocates for something you don’t like is a “busybody”?

    But if Republicans pack a local meeting with supporters because they “represent” some other people then that’s OK?

    What you’re really saying is that you only support representation by people who happen to share your personal biases. Understandable, perhaps, but hardly objective or balanced.

  • Sounds quite a lot like what you’re proposing, does it? Let’s ignore those merchants because these other merchants deserve a say.

    I say I’m “not glad” to be represented by some people, you say your aim is “to reduce” the influence of people’s voices.

    What I may desire has nothing to do with whom I’m willing to let speak, unlike you, who has actively voiced the opinion that some people are “activists” who don’t get a say.

    You do understand than any comment in response to you isn’t automatically an equal and opposite action, don’t you? Is this transference? You’ve had this problem before, thinking that pointing out that you were discarding one set of merchants for another meant I had voiced some opinion that the discarded set ought to take priority.

  • chetshome

    But you drone on and on about who should or shouldn’t speak at a meeting (or whose opinions should be dismissed) without proposing any way to do anything about it (because there likely isn’t any way to do anything about it. You drone on and on as if every person falls in one or another distinct camp, when you can’t even define the camps.

  • RichLL

    My point was much simpler. I want to give weight to those who are affected by a change over those who seek to impose change on others. I want to emphasize ordinary local residents rather than out-of-area ideologues. I take more notice of real people than politicians and bureaucrats.

    You appear to want to railroad changes onto a community that doesn’t want them so that you can further your agenda.

    You see local people who oppose your grand vision as “busybodies”. I see them as people wanting a say in their own back yard.

  • RichLL

    No, I merely think that local residents and workers should trump bussed-in activists and ideologues when it comes to considering changes to that community.

    If that means the change doesn’t happen then so be it. Communities are entitled to decide their own destiny. That is why we have local governments, local elections and (in this city) district elections and supervisors.

  • Rob

    you are fractally wrong. look at palo alto, mountain view and menlo park and their abundance of jobs but lack of housing. you can fill in the blanks. you never stated where you live. how much do you get paid per post?

  • RichLL

    Rob, if you want to talk about cities that do not build enough housing for the workers they need, then the number one culprit is San Francisco. There is a net inward daily commute of about 400,000 workers into the city.

  • Rob

    You have not compared that to the percentage of inbound commuters to palo alto. It is your job to look up the facts and prove me wrong. You have not proved me wrong so I assume that since you can not put an argument together you need to go back to high school debate and learn how to debate.

  • RichLL

    I have no reason to single out one particular town like you do. The bigger, more important point is to look at the ratio between workforce and residents across the Bay Area.

    So while it might be true that Palo Alto makes little effort to house all its workers, it is hardly unique in that. By far the biggest culprit in that regard is San Francisco. Solve that problem and the rest is trivial.

    On an average day 100,000 people commute OUT of the city and about 500,000 commute INTO the city. San Francisco’s massive failure to build homes for its workers is the elephant in the room. The South Bay may have that problem too, but the East Bay luckily houses far more workers than it needs, and bails out the entire SF peninsula.

    Thank BART every morning you wake up or you would not be able to afford a home in SF.

  • Rob

    I was talking about palo alto and you brought up SF so I guess you can not dispute my claim. nonetheless, why should I thank BART? It is subsidised and does not even come close to covering its expenses. locally, i do not want it because it lowers my property value. I thought you were arguing for the locals. In fact you said:

    You see local people who oppose your grand vision as “busybodies”. I see them as people wanting a say in their own back yard.

    now you are arguing for the commuters who would like to live in a walkable city, afford a home, and have a job.

  • What I may desire has nothing to do with whom I’m willing to let speak, unlike you, who has actively voiced the opinion that some people are “activists” who don’t get a say.

    You do understand than any comment in response to you isn’t automatically an equal and opposite action, don’t you? Is this transference? You’ve had this problem before, thinking that pointing out that you were discarding one set of merchants for another meant I had voiced some opinion that the discarded set ought to take priority.

    Wait a minute. Is this a Markov random chain generator or just a simple Eliza program you’re generating posts with?

  • jd_x

    “An activist is someone who shows up at every meeting regardless of the location, and makes the exact same point every time.”

    Oh my god, you just described your own activity on this website!

  • RichLL

    I make no apology for wanting to give small local merchants and business owners more say than large retail corporations like Macy’s who are in it only for the money and don’t care about local issues.

    Not for listening more to local residents and workers than to lobby groups, special interest groups and ideological activists who are not directly affected.

  • RichLL

    jd_x, it describes EVERYONE on this site who has any consistency in their comments!

    However the purpose of this site is not to make decisions about bike, bus or walk lanes that affect local residents. Rather it is a location for chat and debate on related topics and, as such, might reasonably be expected to attract those with strong, firm, consistent opinions.

    My activity here is intended to provide more breadth, balance and objectivity than was prevalent before.

  • Flatlander

    What makes you think you are “objective”? Your opinion is just that, an opinion. Objectively, 800,000 San Franciscans can’t drive everywhere without busting the transportation system. Objectively, cars are the only mode of transportation that consistently kills and injures other people. Objectively, drivers are not as critical to merchants’ bottom lines as they believe. You should just admit that you are a subjective ideologue and your opinion is that none of this should matter.

  • RichLL

    A good test of objectivity would be to look at someone’s posting pattern. If they take a balanced view, sometimes supporting cars, sometimes supporting transit, sometimes supporting cyclists etc. then one can reasonably infer objectivity. He looks at each situation uniquely and based on its merits. Their conclusion will reflect the facts and priorities of each case.

    At the opposite extreme you have the kind of person who has no need of facts because their mission is, say, a war on cars. Such people will advocate for removing parking not because it makes sense in that situation but rather because they always want to remove parking. Their ultimate ambition is not improved balance but the eradication of private vehicles.

    Your list of opinions preceded with the word “objectively” there, which in fact are not objective at all, indicates to the casual observer that you are in the latter biased category. That is a rebuttable presumption and, should you advocate for cars and drivers in at least some situations, then the presumption may be withdrawn.

  • dat

    Do you have a day job? Or is commenting on sf area websites your full time gig?

  • RichLL

    Yes. Multi-tasking skills enable one to be the kind of energetic, active and enthusiastic contributor that Streetsblog values, while causing very little downtime to my regular job.

  • SF Guest

    To categorize or label cars as a mode “that consistently kills and injures other people” is patently misleading since the majority of drivers have not killed or injured other people and is illustrative of an anti-car mentality.

    Whether you have data that drivers are not as critical to merchants’ sales is irrespective and secondary to the desires and preferences of its merchants since they are the ones who are in business to make a living. It’s up to you to persuade the merchant into your way of thinking, and if you fail to coerce the merchant into your way of thinking you are the one who failed and not the merchant.

  • Wow, a whole new thread there to try to justify yourself.

    I imagine in another 18 hours you’ll have turned this into “It is really very simple. I am partnering with Rose Pak to fight formula retail on Valencia street. You must be agitating to bring Walmart to Jack London Square.”

  • RichLL

    Sorry, roymeo, but I’m still waiting for a better argument from you than that you’re backing big business over local residents because you don’t like cars.

    I don’t particularly like rose Pak but she’s right about Stockton Street. I don’t particularly like Campos but he’s right about Mission Street. Even stopped clocks are sometimes right.

  • Sorry RichLL, you’re looking for an argument I’ve never made a single statement on. You may want to debate many things, but until you’re able to understand that someone who points out a double-standard you’re applying doesn’t thereby take the diametrically opposed position, you’re really just flailing.

    You can keep inventing imaginary positions for me to hold if you must. Be a dear and let me know where I stand on that Walmart thing, too.

  • RichLL

    Nope, you’re applying the exact same double standard. The only difference between us is that I get that and you are in denial.

  • Nope. I’m not applying and you’re still denying.

  • RichLL

    Sorry, roymeo, but you are. You seek to discount any opinion that disagrees with your anti-car prejudice.

  • Oh, so now it’s not what I’ve said but you’re digging into fortune-cookie psychoanalysis of motivations.

    Your words are just misunderstood or misrepresented but are quite clear and obvious; my words aren’t even necessary because it’s my motivations that are incorrect.

    Nice.

  • RichLL

    Now you have just dissolved into obscurity, as I have noticed you do before. If you could just admit your intrinsic prejudice then at least we could move on.

  • And here I thought this all started because I pointed out a double-standard in a post of yours, now I see that I’ve been committing thoughtcrime this whole time.

  • RichLL

    The key to pointing out double standards is to first ensure that you’re not open to the exact same allegation.

    People in glass houses, and all.

  • *snort*
    I have been found guilty of thoughtcrime.

  • RichLL

    You already tried that line.

    And no, your only crime is unreflected bias.

  • citrate reiterator

    #notallcars

  • citrate reiterator

    Lol, you literally just tried to argue that facts were irrelevant and objective truth was a delusion in another thread here. Coincidentally, it was when you were challenged to find some sources to back up your own assertions.

    “The truth is in the middle” is itself a logical fallacy, not that it matters. Someone who alternates between support for giving space to cars and giving it to other modalities isn’t more objective than someone who consistently supports, e.g., the measures identified in SFMTA’s TEP, they simply have a different preferred balance between cars and transit (and bikes, pedestrians, etc.). That balance also obviously doesn’t have to be zero cars for you to be consistently in favor of reallocating space from cars to other modes *right now.* There’s no referendum coming up that’s going to ask people to ban car ownership in SF; speculating that everyone who disagrees with you secretly wants to ban all cars is up there with NRA propaganda about any gun control being part of a sneaky government conspiracy to take away every gun in the USA.

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