Muni’s 38-Geary riders may get some relief even before bus rapid transit lanes come to the line’s Richmond segment in 2019. The SFMTA and SF County Transportation Authority are developing plans to install “early” improvements over the next few years, like bus bulbs, extended transit-only lanes, and transit signal priority.
Those upgrades would be made east of Stanyan Street, on the segment of the Geary corridor that is not poised to get center-running BRT lanes, said SFCTA planner Chester Fung. Center BRT lanes, originally expected to open in 2012, were dropped from the agency’s “preferred alternative” plan this year because of engineering obstacles presented by the Masonic and Presidio tunnels. The larger BRT project is still going through a lengthy environmental review and design process.
But on the eastern segments outside of the Richmond, where buses will continue to run on curbside lanes just as they do today, planners are looking to make “phased” upgrades that don’t have to wait. These will consist of “things that are more easily done, and less involved from an infrastructure and engineering standpoint,” and therefore don’t have to wait for the larger project, said Fung.
The SFMTA has already added red paint to the existing transit-only lanes on inner Geary and O’Farrell streets this year. Transit-priority bus detection is being installed on traffic signals at 86 intersections along the corridor.
According to SFCTA presentation materials [PDF], the route could see these upgrades between next year and 2017:
- Bus-only lanes extended by one to two miles, between Gough and Stanyan streets
- Transit and pedestrian bulb-outs at up to 15 spots
- Bus zone extensions to fit more buses at up to 15 busy stops
- Up to five stops removed, and “up to two local-only stops created,” at Spruce and Laguna Streets
- Up to 15 right-turn “pocket” lanes to keep queuing cars out of the way
- Some stops moved from the near side of the intersection to the far side, to take advantage of transit signal priority
- Countdown pedestrian signals installed at six intersections
Fung said SFMTA planners are still working on details, like locations, for many of those improvements, and they would represent less than half of the upgrades planned for the segment east of Stanyan. Altogether, the “early” improvements are expected to save riders four to six minutes in each direction — and would result in bus reliability improving by 20 percent as buses arrive closer to their scheduled arrival times. The total cost would be $15 to $20 million, which is expected to be included in the existing Geary BRT budget estimates.
Additionally, the SFCTA presentation pointed out, the SFMTA has also purchased 61 new articulated, low-floor Muni buses, which should speed up boardings on the lines they’re used.
Fung said that any changes to bus stops or car parking would have to be approved at the SFMTA’s public engineering hearings.