Guest Editorial: No More Delays on Geary BRT

Riders of the 38 Bus have waited long enough for improvements

Geary BRT rendering from SFMTA.
Geary BRT rendering from SFMTA.

Geary Boulevard last had a major upgrade in 1961, as Eisenhower was leaving office. This urban highway through the Richmond neighborhood no longer serves those who rely on it most. Congestion snarls up the almost 60,000 bus riders who commute on Geary daily, and slows cars to a crawl. Poorly designed intersections have turned much of the Boulevard into a safety hazard for neighbors and their children, and created an asphalt divide between the streets north and south.

Geary Boulevard should be so much more than it is today–a true gem of a street that the neighborhood can be proud of, that seamlessly connects the Richmond to downtown, and that is safe for all street users. The community-backed plan before the Board of Supervisors this Thursday would help fulfill that vision, and must move forward.

Geary Boulevard is not just any other neighborhood street. Its buses carry more passengers than any other Muni route in San Francisco. One of the main proposed upgrades to Geary is massive improvements to the bus service. Geary Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, as the new bus service will be known, will make the 38 buses that travel along Geary from the Beach to Downtown similar to MUNI light rail at a fraction of the cost of laying rail track. The 38s will have dedicated lanes, high-quality boarding platforms, and more frequent service. If you ride the 38, the benefits of this investment are clear: you will experience 20 percent shorter travel times and fewer delays. These improvements will have a particular impact on those who, because of the cost of driving and ride-sharing, have no other option than taking the bus – many teachers, students, late-shift workers and seniors.

More frequent and efficient bus service will have a huge benefit to those who drive on Geary as well. As the 38 becomes faster and more reliable, more folks who previously chose to drive will jump on the bus, taking cars off the road. Major improvements to high capacity bus service is one of the most proven and cost-effective ways of relieving congestion, as well as improving local air quality and reducing climate emissions. As additional benefits to adjacent neighborhoods and those who drive on Geary, street repaving and new plantings will help turn this aging Urban Highway into the graceful Urban Boulevard that it once was and can be again.

The remainder of the Geary upgrades, including ADA access and other street improvements will make the Boulevard safer for neighbors, especially seniors and children. Today, pedestrians crossing Geary are eight times more likely to be hit by a car than the citywide average. Adding bulb outs to key intersections, for instance, will put an end to the all too common situation where old folks and children find themselves with one lane still to cross as the lights turn green and cars start to zip by them.

In an era when federal and state transportation dollars are increasingly scarce, the need to find cost-effective transportation solutions has never been more important. Light rail or subways down Geary would cost billions. While we support rail in Geary’s future–and the current upgrades help Geary become rail-ready–today’s reality is that there is no path to securing that kind of funding any time soon. But we can, with this set of Geary upgrades, move forward with important life-and-time-saving improvements now, at a fraction of the cost of rail.

For more than a decade, these upgrades to Geary have undergone robust vetting by the community and have incorporated much of the neighborhood’s feedback. However, like is often the case in our city, a handful of individuals with special interests continue to fight the upgrades to Geary every step of the way. The time has come for the needs of tens of thousands of riders and the hundreds of thousands of people who live, work and travel along the corridor to come first.
If you ride the 38, live in the neighborhood, or simply want to stand up for a transportation system that benefits us all – join us in supporting a better Geary with massively improved bus service.

Please email your Supervisor or attend the final hearing at San Francisco City Hall, room 250 at 2PM on Thursday January 5 (today!) and have your voice heard.

Paige Miller is the Chair of GoGeary, serves on the Geary Citizens Advisory Committee, and is a Richmond District resident. Nick Josefowitz represents District 8, which includes much of the Geary Corridor, on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Board of Directors.

A version of this editorial appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

  • davididid

    Preach!

  • gb52

    BRT needs to get rolling!! The amount of time wasted by our idling buses, drivers and ALL the people stuck on the buses is unacceptable. This is not cars vs transit, this is about moving people. PEOPLE driving cars can choose to take the bus as well, but the fact is that you cant efficiently move this many buses in mixed flow. Now, sure we all want a subway, but it’s an unfunded project, and no, we’re not wasting money on BRT. It’s an investment for people riding on the bus today. Besides, the majority of the cost is not creating the bus lane, it’s enhancing the corridor, replacing aging utilities, AND repaving the street.

  • tchowski

    Yet more lane-eliminating nonsense from nanny-state transit Nazis.

  • CU

    What’s your solution? I love the level of community involvement in San Francisco, but not when people are solely negative. How would you like to see movement and safety improved along Geary?

    Designing for the most efficient vehicles seems like the best way to go for me, over 50,000 people ride MUNI’s 38 Routes daily. Single Occupancy Vehicles aren’t an efficient way of moving massive amounts of people in urban environments, as evidenced daily on Geary.

  • willylo

    not a single economic impact study has been performed.
    this should never have been a final hearing as it was the only hearing on the matter
    and the hybrid solution will not move transit faster…it will just accomplish what the sfmta really wants to…and that is to socially engineer cars out of san francisco…and that shouldnt be their job

  • Jeffrey Baker

    BART directors, please stop writing editorials and get back to work. BART has some kind of epic melt down every single day. You should all be sleeping in your offices and working 20 hours a day.

  • murphstahoe

    MAGA

  • murphstahoe

    I think you mean BART Staff

  • Jimbo

    this is a BS waste of money for a 3 minute improvement. will create more congestion. why would we as taxpayers want to pay for more congestion. Use th $300M as a downpayment for a transformative solution, a subway. Geary BRT is a 1970s solution for the most technologically advanced population. its a total joke

  • Mark

    gb52…if you read the eir, the improvements will help save “…up to 20 minutes roundtrip”. And it won’t be till 2030. And that savings is for peak commute hour traffic. It is in the eir. But the SFMTA, everywhere you look, NEVER talks about 2030 time savings, or that it is only for the people who ride during the slowest commute times. Think about it. All the ra-ra people who want this and are looking forward to time savings….you have to wait till 2030 and you have to be the small amount of people riding during the slowest commute time. Read about it. The non-commute times will be the same. Because Geary is “over capacity” – the SFMTA’s words, not mine. They are doing this to reduce car travel into downtown. READ the EIR. If you don’t read the EIR, and didn’t listen to Colin Dentel-Post choke on the question about where the time savings are coming from, you would know, that 10 minute one way and 20 minute round trip was GUESSED at using software and using “whatifs” and “I think so”s to come up with this crap. If you haven’t read about BRT, then you don’t know about BRT. BRT is tasked with making sure more people ride the bus. That means, they want to see development in the Richmond. That means all you idiots who want THIS FORM OF BRT WHICH IS NOT BRT ANYWAY with rent control who live on along Geary are going to see developers come in and new condos get built. Bye bye to your rent controlled units. Just like what they are engineering in the Mission. See ya.The construction will kill off much of the small business along Geary and then developers will come in and built million dollar condos so the 20 and 30 something techies can have a nice house, and the City can get more tax money to create their vision of people not in cars but in flying jetpacks cruising around to get their next $15 cocktail. NOTE: I REPEAT: you will have to wait till 2030 to see if this plan was correct. And with the $300 Million price tag plus $50 million a year to keep it going, you will have a lot of money spent…$300 plus $50 million each year till 2030, to save that ten minutes each way. For the small amount of commuters riding during the slowest time window. So when the red paint starts peeling off because the City has to spend their own money and not the feds for the red paint, and the streets look like crap because of it (one mile of red paint will cost $1,689,600 to install. Multiply that times 8. (4 miles in each direction). $13,516,800 JUST FOR RED PAINT FOR GEARY. And the Chronicle points out that the SFMTA data shows that the red paint is not helping buses travel faster. DO YOU UNDERSTAND? THE CHRONICLE POINTS OUT, THE RED PAINT IS NOT HELPING BUSES MOVE FASTER. You proponents of this tremendous waste of taxpayer money are just sucking off the public tax dollar tit. Hope it tastes good in a few years.

  • Expert Blockotect

    “You proponents of this tremendous waste of taxpayer money are just sucking off the public tax dollar tit.”

    Who in the city isn’t? Do you not drive on the roads? Do you not use the water, sewer, and electric utilities? Are you not protected by the fire and police department? Will the ambulance not come when you dial 911?

    Your argument makes no sense…”It’s won’t save enough time to be worthy of building…yet all of this new development will go up along Geary.”

    If new development were to go up on Geary and housing demand soared, it’ll be because getting to/from downtown became more efficient…thus justifying building the project.

    If the project were built and didn’t save commuters a significant amount of time, there won’t be any additional demand to build new development along Geary.

  • Mark

    I drive on public roads. I pay taxes every time I fill up at the pump. And when I register my car. Weird Question that you proposed. I do use the water, sewer, and electric utilities in San Francisco. And I pay a monthly bill to reimburse the companies that supply said items. Another brilliant question by you. The fire and police are paid by my taxes that I pay. Why would you ask those questions?

    It won’t save time unless you consider “…up to 10 minutes each way (in 2030, for the peak commute times only)” to be a time savings. Part of the Geary BRT project is to upgrade utilities. Do you know what Redevelopment Agencies used to do? They used to come in and force out people who rented and owned real estate, and then redeveloped it with newer RE projects that would help the City get higher tax dollars. Gov. Brown eliminated all such agencies in 2010. The courts also reduced the ability of said Agencies to use Eminent Domain to separate owners and renters from their properties prior to the elimination by Brown. BRT is the new Redevelopment Agency. The infrastructure upgrades, paid for by you and me, will benefit the developers. But first, the blocks of Geary will be shut down for months as this infrastructure is upgraded. How long will some of those businesses last? Not long. The upgrades for the infrastructure running down Geary Blvd will be a free ride for developers. Demand for housing on Geary Blvd exists if right now. You don’t need “…up to ten minutes each way” savings on the bus out 14 years from now – which means they don’t have a rat’s ass idea of what it will really be in 14 years – the demand for housing is here NOW. Or haven’t you noticed? The Big Developers are just waiting for these businesses to die, see the landlords squirm, and purchase property so they can redevelop it. If the Sensible build was selected, then the infrastructure upgrades do not happen. The businesses remain…the market takes MUCH longer to redevelop Geary Blvd. Geary would be redeveloped in time, but much slower.

    The Mission is going to be redeveloped much quicker than it would have if they didn’t ram their red lanes and forced right turns down the street. Watch.

    This last one of yours – “If the project were built and didn’t save commuters a significant amount of time, there won’t be any additional demand to build new development along Geary” is similar to the earlier argument of yours, but, let’s just look at what you said at the end. You think if the bus transit went in, and the buses didn’t run any faster, there would be no additional demand for new development along Geary? The technical argument here is that the developers HOPE that the supply of available real estate goes up as existing businesses choke and vacant store fronts multiply. More supply, lower real estate prices, faster redevelopment of existing older buildings and “soft” sites. What the SF Planning Department deems as underutilized properties. You can go to their website and see the many properties along Geary Blvd that are earmarked by the SF Planning Department as potential, future residential sites. The time savings of Geary BRT is HYPOTHETICAL. It is definitely forecast out to 2030. So, you likely will not reap any of the magical transit times until 2030, and again, it is “…up to 10 minutes in each direction”, Not, “You WILL save ten minutes in each direction” and, again, this only applies to the slowest commute window currently – the peak transit commute times. Not non-commute times.

    Anyway, you won’t be able to comprehend any of this unless you realize that people pay for water, electricity, etc, when they pay their monthly bill. Let me know when you get that part.

  • Expert Blockotect

    “I drive on public roads. I pay taxes every time I fill up at the pump”…”Why would you ask those questions?”

    Because you’re “sucking off the public tax dollar tit” just as much as anyone else in the city. Thank you for proving my point. But hey, “let me know when you get that part.”

  • Mark

    No, you really need to go back to school. I pay to use the road. I am not free loading. And how about the other part of your argument? Water? Electricity? lol…good try…The SFMTA spends your money (if you pay taxes. I have no idea if you are employed or a ward of the state) like it was water. The people behind this Hybrid are for the SFMTA wasting taxpayer money, hence, they promote sucking tax payer money like a pig at a trough. And you, you need to learn how to construct an argument.

  • Expert Blockotect

    So does everyone else in the city. Even people who ride the buses. Can you believe it? And I thought pigs couldn’t fly!

  • Mark

    You used driving roads, and using electricity and water, etc as examples of sucking public money from the public tit. None of that is a way to bolster your argument. Those are services some people pay for through gasoline taxes and vehicle registration. To encourage wasting taxpayer money to build something that is not needed, beginning with the SFMTA who gets paid with taxpayer dollars, that is called sucking the public taxpayer money. Waste. Your utility bill examples are quite confusing and make no sense to me, but maybe other people agree with you. Also, the people that ride the buses are not the focus of my argument. It is the people that want to waste taxpayer money. If they happen to be bus riders, then it does apply to them. But I am pretty sure this is lost on you, since paying one’s utility bill for you is using tax payer money. Have a good day. Enjoy your milk.

  • Expert Blockotect

    Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize people rode the bus for free. What’s the matter? Are you running out of bullsh*t to spew?

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