More than a dozen city officials and advocates traveled to Mexico City last week to experience firsthand the ease of getting around a city with robust bus rapid transit and bike-share system.
The SF delegation, invited and paid for by organizers at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, included Supervisors John Avalos, Scott Wiener, and Eric Mar, as well as reps from the offices of Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisors David Chiu and Malia Cohen, planners from the SF Municipal Transportation Agency and the SF County Transportation Authority, the Planning Commission, the SF Bicycle Coalition, and SPUR. (Streetsblog New York reporter Noah Kazis made the trip last year — check out the dispatches from his visit here, here, and here.)
Mexico City received ITDP’s Sustainable Transport Award this year, and its Metrobus received the organization’s silver rating for BRT systems. It would have been ranked gold, except that crossing between the center transit lanes and the sidewalk was “frightening,” said Michael Schwartz, the SFCTA’s project manager for Van Ness BRT.
The lack of pedestrian safety improvements, said Schwartz, is one mistake San Francisco won’t make with its BRT corridors. “The experience on the Metrobus was amazing — you move quickly, efficiently, and reliably,” he said. However, after getting off the bus, “even though you have a walk signal, sometimes there’d still be cars crossing. You were definitely on guard all the time.”
Metrobus is a network of four corridors that carries 850,000 people per day — about as many as the entire Muni system. “They’ve become so popular, a lot of the choice transit riders — people getting out of their cars — choose Metrobus over the metro,” said Schwartz.
Granted, there are 21 million people in Mexico’s Federal District metropolitan area, compared to San Francisco’s population of 800,000, and 7 million in the Bay Area. On the busiest Metrobus line, which carries 450,000 riders per day, buses arrive every 45 seconds on average. While Muni’s longest articulated buses stretch about 18 meters, a portion of the Metrobus fleet — the double-articulated buses — are 25 meters long.
SF delegates roundly praised the features that make Metrobus so efficient, like physically separated transit lanes, off-board fare machines, and elevated station platforms.