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Posts from the "Bus Stop Spacing" Category

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Muni’s New 5L-Fulton Limited Gets High Marks From the Twitterverse

Update: See photos of the Fulton road diet between Stanyan and Baker Streets at the end of the article.

If there’s anywhere you can find a cynical view of Muni service from frustrated riders, it’s Twitter. But riders of the new 5L-Fulton Limited line seem to be tweeting nothing but glowing reviews of the new express service, which Muni launched Monday to speed up trips and reduce crowding.

The 5L is part of a pilot project package of line upgrades and complements the 5′s existing local service, which also had some excess stops removed to speed up trips. The 5L runs the entire length of the route using the 5′s regular electric trolley coaches, serving only the six most heavily-used stops between Market Street and 6th Avenue. Muni planners predict the 5L should run 11 percent faster than the existing local service (and 17 percent faster on the limited-stop stretch alone).

Also part of the project is a road diet on Fulton between Stanyan and Baker Streets (see photos below), which reduced the number of lanes while widening the remaining ones to accommodate buses safely. In addition, some bus stop zones were extended to allow two buses to load at once.

Complaints on the 5L seem to be few and far between, while tweets like these paint the 5L as a resounding success:

 

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5-Fulton Upgrades to Include Limited Service, Road Diet, and Stop Removal

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Two 5-Fulton buses approach the turn at Central Avenue on McAllister Street. Photo: cbcastro/Flickr

The 5-Fulton could get less crowded this fall after Muni launches a package of speed improvements [PDF] in a pilot of the Transit Effectiveness Project.

The SFMTA plans to launch a 5-Fulton Limited line, remove some excess stops, move stops across intersections for smoother loading, and extend the length of bus zones to make room for double bus loading. Early next year, planners said bus bulb-outs would be also be added at seven intersections as part of a re-paving project on Fulton west of 25th Avenue.

A road diet would also be implemented on Fulton between Stanyan Street and Central Avenue, reducing four traffic lanes to two, plus turn lanes. Aside from calming traffic, SFMTA planners said that change would allow for wider traffic lanes to safely fit buses. Currently, the buses must squeeze into 9-foot lanes, resulting in a high frequency of collisions with cars. The new lanes would be 12.5 feet wide.

The new 5-Limited would run the entire length of the route using the 5′s regular electric trolley coaches, serving only the six most heavily-used stops between Market Street and 6th Avenue, running that stretch 17 percent faster than the existing local service, planners said. From the Transbay Terminal to the beach, the 5L would run 11 percent faster than the existing service.

Local bus service, which would be served with hybrid motor buses, would only run as far west as 6th Avenue, and run that stretch 7 percent faster. That means anyone looking to use a local stop on the middle stretch east of 6th, coming to or from the western stretch, would have to transfer between a 5L bus and a 5-local, though planners said relatively few riders seem to make such trips. The 5-Limited would stop running at 7 p.m., after which electric trolley coaches would serve every stop on the line.

With the 5L carrying the bulk of rush-hour commuters on the route at a faster clip, Muni planners say the improvements will go a long way toward reducing crowding. At daytime hours, between 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., the 5 currently runs at an average speed of just 9 mph, said SFMTA planner Dustin White.

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Muni’s 76x-Marin Headlands Express Service Begins This Weekend

Image: SFMTA

The 76-Marin Headlands, a lightly-used route that has the lowest on-time performance of any Muni line, will be converted into a new route starting tomorrow that is expected to improve reliability, run more frequently, and better serve popular destinations. The revamped line, dubbed the 76x-Marin Headlands Express, will also run on Saturdays in addition to the old schedule of Sundays and holidays.

The 76x is expected to shave 15 minutes off the run between downtown San Francisco and the Headlands, with 19 fewer stops. The route’s SF terminus will be moved from the Caltrain Station at 4th and King Streets to Market and Sutter Streets. On the other end, the line will extend three-quarters of a mile to the Point Bonita Lighthouse.

The line’s on-time performance has nowhere to go but up: It currently arrives at just 10 percent of its stops within the on-time window, defined as the period between one minute before the published arrival time and four minutes after. The overhaul of the line, approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors this month as part of the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project, should improve its reliability. Few people ride the 76, but this upgrade will help demonstrate the effectiveness of stop consolidation, a strategy that could improve performance on many more Muni lines.

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Tell SFMTA How You’d Improve Eight Muni Routes at Upcoming Workshops

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The SFMTA is aiming to implement its plans to speed up Muni service under the Transit Effectiveness Project by 2017, beginning with eight priority routes.

Muni's eight priority routes for TEP improvements. Click to enlarge. Image: SFMTA

Starting March 31, the agency will hold nine workshops where the public can weigh in on how to improve these corridors. The toolkit includes bus lanes, bus bulbs, and stop consolidation, among other options. The TEP will also add transit-priority traffic signals at 600+ intersections along these routes. SFMTA staff says bus trips could be sped up by as much as 28 percent, and implementation could begin in late 2013.

To make Muni service on these routes as fast and reliable as possible, it’s crucial that the SFMTA hears public support for the most effective improvements on the table.

You can look up the schedule of workshops to see which lines will be discussed when. An overview of all eight corridors will be held at the SFMTA offices at 1 South Van Ness on Wednesday, April 14 at 10 a.m.

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SPUR: How Will 1.7 Million More People Cross the Bay?

Crossing the Bay from SPUR on Vimeo.

SPUR has produced a new video that asks: How will 1.7 million more people cross the Bay? From the SPUR blog:

In the last century, visionary planners made major investments linking San Francisco and the East Bay. When the 20th century dawned, the only way to get from San Francisco to Oakland was by ferry. We built the Bay Bridge during the Great Depression and the BART tunnel in the early 1970s. It’s been nearly 40 years since then, and the Bay Area has grown by 2.7 million people. Yet we’ve added no new capacity. Even the new Bay Bridge, currently under construction, won’t help: It will be much more resilient to earthquakes, yet no bigger than the bridge it replaces.

SPUR’s first recommendation is to get more people on buses by building what would be a relatively cheap short-term solution: a contra-flow westbound bus lane on the Bay Bridge that would accommodate up to 10,000 new passengers an hour. Its second recommendation calls for incremental improvements to BART, including a better train control system along with trains that have more doors. The third is a long-term recommendation that would require big capital dollars: constructing a second transbay tube to boost BART’s capacity, and potentially accommodate high-speed rail.

The video is SPUR’s first entry into animation and video making. It’s a product of the organization’s 2009 project and report, “The Future of Downtown,” which focused on reducing job sprawl and strategies to expand job growth in San Francisco’s transit-rich downtown. It argued that downtown SF, namely SoMa, has “by far the greatest near-term potential to accommodate regional employment growth with a low carbon footprint.”

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SFMTA Considers Service Restoration, Counts on Labor Savings

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency continues to work with Mayor Gavin Newsom and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu to identify strategies for restoring the remaining 40 percent of service that was cut in May, part of a political negotiation that is expected to cost the agency $20 million.

Though only one piece of the larger service restoration puzzle, through service enhancements and efficiencies, the agency hopes to improve operational efficiency with possible pilots for bus-stop optimization, all-door boarding, Mission Street limited service and N-Judah supplemental bus service, among others.

At a bi-monthly SFMTA Board of Policy and Governance Committee meeting yesterday, several directors discussed options for restoring some of the remaining service [pdf], guided by enhancements and efficiencies that in some cases resulted from data derived from the Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP)

As reported on Streetsblog, one of the service enhancement options is bus stop consolidation on five pilot bus routes, the 9-San Bruno, 14-Mission, 28-19th Avenue, 30-Stockton and 71-Haight. In the proposal, 104 stops would be removed, 13 would be added and 28 would be optimized (moved near side to far side). The SFMTA expects to save an average of 34 daily service hours at a cost of $160/hour over 307 days, or $1.7 million per year.

Another option the committee is considering is an all-door boarding pilot program on several routes with articulated buses, such as the 8X/AX/BX, 14/14L, 38/38L, and the 49 Van Ness. The pilot would only be on articulated buses, which SFMTA Transit Director John Haley explained were considered because the buses are bigger and fare inspectors would be used more efficiently. Under this scenario, the savings from reduced bus boarding times is $.7 million per year, but an increased cost of $1.6 million due to an increase of 16 fare inspectors.

Board directors were generally supportive of the progress the committee is making, but Daniel Murphy of the SFMTA Citizens Advisory Committee, expressed concern about implementing all-door boarding merely as a pilot on some buses and not across the system.

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Muni Service Restoration Task Force Considering Bus Stop Optimization

Photo: Myleen Holero/Orange Photography

Photo: Myleen Hollero/Orange Photography

An SFMTA task force charged with figuring out how to fully restore last May’s Muni service cuts is narrowing its list of actions and strategies to reduce travel time on the system, and bus stop consolidation, or “optimization,” is likely to be adopted as a recommendation. As Streetsblog has reported, stop optimization could greatly improve service, a move long pushed by transit advocates and SFMTA staff as one of the quickest and cheapest ways to speed Muni.

“All the feedback we get, and it’s been consistent over the years, is people are frustrated with the amount of time they spend on a vehicle, it just takes too long, and a big contributor to that is the number of stops,” said SFMTA Transit Director John Haley, who chairs the operations subcommittee of the Muni Service Restoration Task Force.

Haley acknowledged the political challenges of bus stop consolidation (because “every bus stop has a constituency”) but said “you have to put your toe in the water and take a step forward.” Haley doubts it can be implemented system-wide to start, but the task force is reviewing a list of “best prospects,” or high-volume lines where it’s needed most.

“I think it’s very realistic in certain areas,” said SFMTA Director Cameron Beach, who used the 30-Stockton line as an example of a line where bus stops have been eliminated (between Sutter and Market), with resulting service enhancement. “I think it’s incumbent upon the staff and the board to look at ways of improving the system and speeding it up.”

A recent Muni rider survey is also helping to give the issue momentum. Out of 573 riders surveyed in August and September, 61 percent said they would consider walking a longer distance to their stop if they knew it would reduce their overall travel time.

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Chinatown Students Conduct Thorough Surveys of SFMTA Bus Stops

Bill_Yu.jpgCCDC volunteer Bill Yu measures the width of a sidewalk for a bus stop survey. Photos: Matthew Roth

One of the central criticisms of Muni's objective to consolidate bus stops is that it hasn't conducted thorough demographic analysis of the people who use each stop, particularly seniors and the disabled. Rather than rely solely on the distance between stops and the incline of the streets, say critics, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) should make nuanced decisions about each stop based on the amenities near the stops and the people who use them.

But one community group isn't waiting on the SFMTA to do the legwork.

Staff at the Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC) and approximately twenty students with clipboards and measuring tape analyzed 34 bus stops in Chinatown, an initiative the group hopes will be a model adopted by other neighborhood groups and the SFMTA itself. The students who conducted the surveys are part of CCDC's Youth for SROs Leadership Empowerment program, most of them children of recent immigrants to the United States.

"We're trying to offer a community perspective of how people use a bus stop," said CCDC's Deland Chan, who coordinated the surveys with Judy Kuang. "We're trying to capture exactly the value of a bus stop, not in terms of the spacing, but in terms of its importance to community uses, in terms of who uses a bus stop and what the people think they would like to improve with the transit system they encounter on a daily basis."

As part of the rationale for the survey, CCDC said bus stop spacing should be part of the larger goal of facilitating transit as an attractive alternative to driving, integrating design features that improve public health and safety, and ensuring that existing transit services complement and encourage travel by foot.

"Because the MTA do not include the demographic and the land use data, we are collecting all the data," said Bill Yu, a high school senior. Yu said that without looking at neighborhood amenities, a bus stop placement policy would fall short of community needs. "I think this is really helpful for the community, especially the Chinatown neighborhoods. The people who live here need bus stops because they need to take the bus to buy food and other stuff for their basic needs."

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Streetfilms: Making Muni Faster and More Reliable by Consolidating Stops

A common complaint among Muni riders is that the bus simply stops too often. It turns out they may be on to something: according to transit experts and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which operates Muni, consolidating some bus stops is one of the cheapest and quickest ways to speed up Muni.

That's the subject of this film, the second in a series on making Muni faster and more reliable. It was shot and edited by Streetfilms' John Hamilton.

Muni's stops are actually much closer than its own standards advise. Only 17 percent of Muni's bus stops fall within the recommended range of 800-1,000 feet (closer on steep hills); 70 percent are closer than that. As SFMTA staff has pointed out in the past, nationwide research shows most people are willing to walk a quarter-mile to the nearest bus stop.

The SFMTA's first attempt to consolidate stops -- a pilot project on the 38-Geary in the Tenderloin -- turned out poorly for the agency. Residents got the Board of Supervisors to block the proposal, pointing out that it appeared to speed up service for wealthier commuters from the Richmond by forcing Tenderloin residents to walk farther. Now, the SFMTA hopes it can dispel that impression by proposing a comprehensive consolidation plan, at least on the city's busiest routes.

In the film, we hear from the person responsible for developing that plan, Julie Kirschbaum, project manager for the SFMTA's Transit Effectiveness Project, Livable City's Tom Radulovich, San Francisco Transit Riders Union organizer Dave Snyder, and Senior Action Network's Pi Ra.

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Stop Spacing Plan on the Back Burner; Will Muni Let a Crisis go to Waste?

3236115280_ba9536352c.jpgBringing Muni's stop spacing in line with its stated policies could mean shorter travel times - and less service reduction. Flickr photo: frankfarm
Consolidating Muni stops that are too close to meet the MTA's own spacing standards could speed up travel times for riders and save the cash-strapped agency millions of dollars annually. But in a twisted development that typifies the MTA's current budget crisis, the agency says its staff is too busy cutting service to finish a proposal that could lessen those service cuts.

Back in June, Streetsblog reported that Muni could begin consolidating bus stops by February 2010 if all went according to schedule. Needless to say, all has not gone according to schedule. MTA Staff, led by service planning and Transit Effective Project manager Julie Kirschbaum, was scheduled to deliver detailed spacing plans to the agency's Board of Directors in October, with public hearings to follow in November and December.

Instead, Kirschbaum was busy finalizing a proposal for sweeping service changes during that time, which she delivered in early November. Arguably, it was a worthy use of the agency's time and resources, even aside from the pressure to balance its budget. Portions of the TEP were implemented without a major fight, and overall service hours remained virtually even while a small savings was squeezed out of efficiencies in operator schedules.

Before Kirschbaum could catch her breath on the "good cuts," however, the MTA was scrambling to fix another budget gap, this time requiring a round of "bad cuts" that would chop Muni service by a full ten percent.

Those plans were out the door and in public view by last month, followed by a public outcry so spirited that it just may give rise to a proper Muni riders union. The MTA Board will vote on the proposal later this month. Though initially pegged as a $28 million cut in service, recent union negotiations could lessen the blow. Either way, Kirschbaum is tied up with a task far from the lofty goals she was was hired to implement with the TEP, and the MTA is preparing to cut service in a way that has no discernible upside to riders.

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