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SFMTA Board Approves McAllister Muni Upgrades, Traffic Circles

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McAllister and Fillmore Streets, where bus bulb-outs and more visible crosswalks were recently added. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA Board of Directors today approved a package of upgrades on McAllister Street to improve pedestrian safety and speed up buses on the 5-Fulton line as part of Muni Forward. Among the changes, two stop signs will be replaced with transit-priority traffic signals, and two others will be replaced with traffic circles.

The project is expected to shave 20 percent off travel times along the route, which goes from the Outer Richmond to downtown, according to the SFMTA. That added speed will come on top of the boost given to the route two years ago, with the launch of 5-Fulton Rapid service and street upgrades like bus bulb-outs.

The changes approved today include traffic signals that give priority to buses where McAllister intersects with Scott Street and Broderick Street. The original proposal called for signals at five intersections but the plan changed after protests from neighbors. But at two of those intersections — Lyon Street and Steiner Street — McAllister will get traffic circles to calm motor vehicle speeds, the first such treatment on a bus route in SF.

An SFMTA report [PDF] noted that “a number of residents” at a July hearing “voice[d] their feedback that traffic circles do not, in their view, provide adequate pedestrian safety.”

“SFMTA staff believes that this is, in fact, not true,” the report said, citing examples in other cities. Sacramento, for instance, saw a 70 percent drop in crashes “at locations where they implemented a traffic circle.”

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McAllister Street Set to Get Two Traffic Circles Instead of Signals

McAllister, a popular bike route, would get traffic circles to speed up Muni’s 5-Fulton line after a proposal for traffic signals faced opposition. Photo: Aaron Bialick

McAllister Street, a popular bike route where SFMTA’s Muni Forward planners want to speed up the 5-Fulton, would have stop signs replaced by traffic circles at two intersections under the agency’s latest proposal.

Under the plan [PDF], which must be approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors, McAllister would become the first street to get traffic circles on a bus route. Up for debate, however, is how well they’ll serve their intended purpose of calming traffic enough to ensure drivers yield to pedestrians and don’t squeeze out bike commuters.

The proposal for traffic circles at Lyon and Steiner Streets is a substitute for the SFMTA’s original proposal for traffic signals at five intersections. Neighbors protested the plans for signals on McAllister and Haight Street, arguing that they would encourage drivers to speed and hurt “neighborhood character.” Both streets carry major Muni lines that hit frequent stop signs as they head to and from the western neighborhoods.

On McAllister, transit-priority traffic signals are moving ahead at two of the five intersections — Broderick and Scott Streets. They were dropped at Baker and Pierce Streets.

“The idea is there’ll still be stop signs for the side streets, but McAllister would have no stop sign, and the circles would be the calming feature for vehicles heading along McAllister,” said Muni Forward Program Manager Sean Kennedy.

At Lyon and Steiner Streets, traffic circles would replace stop signs, and the Muni stop at Lyon would be removed. Images: SFMTA

At Lyon and Steiner Streets, traffic circles would replace stop signs, and the Muni stop at Lyon would be removed. Images: SFMTA

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Muni Approves Upgrades for 28-19th Ave With Bus Bulbs, Fewer Stops

With the upgrades, 28 riders will have roomier bus stops and faster service. Photo: SFMTA [PDF]

Muni’s 28-19th Avenue will get a speed boost from bus bulbs and stop consolidations approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors yesterday. The upgrades, part of the Muni Forward program, are expected to be constructed starting in the fall of 2016 and completed by 2018.

On 19th Avenue, the 28 currently stops on nearly every block, and buses must pull over to the curb to reach passengers, then wait for a break in traffic to continue. If they’re lucky, bus riders won’t hit a red light soon after.

Under the approved plans [PDF], the 28 will operate like it does on Park Presidio in the Richmond: Stops will be spaced every other block, and sidewalk extensions will let the buses remain in the traffic lane while they stop — no more merging in and out. In addition, stops will be moved to the far side of five intersections so buses can clear traffic signals before passengers board. Signals will also have transit priority to reduce the amount of time buses wait at reds.

Riders who squeeze onto the 28 — many of whom are SF State University students — can expect their trips to get quicker and less crowded. Between Lincoln Way and Junipero Serra Boulevard, local buses would speed up by 20 percent on average, or 5 minutes in each direction. The 28 local’s average speed of 9.2 MPH would increase to 12.2 MPH.

“I’ve always felt like a lottery winner when I see a 28-[Rapid bus] pull up,” said SFMTA Board member Joél Ramos. “That route is so painfully slow.”

The 28-Rapid, which already makes fewer stops, would speed up by 1.5 minutes in each direction, and its hours would be extended. The rapid currently runs during a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon. Under the new plan it would operate continuously from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m (however, that’s a reduction from the previous proposal of 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.). 28-Rapid buses would no longer stop at Lincoln Way or Sloat Boulevard, though local buses would.

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The Final Tally Is in From the 22-Day Muni Challenge

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The final score at City Hall for the 22-Day Muni Challenge, as shown in a screenshot from SFTRU’s “Leaderboard.”

The final score for the 22-Day Muni Challenge is in. Based on the ride tally, about half of SF’s elected officials took seriously their commitment to get the everyday experience of riding Muni. The supervisors who have a record of legislating to improve transit scored well.

Tomorrow evening, you can join five of the top Muni-riding supervisors in a celebratory wrap-up with the SF Transit Riders Union. On the bill are Supervisors Jane Kim, John Avalos, Scott Wiener, Eric Mar, and Julie Christensen — all of whom logged at least 20 rides during the challenge.

The event will include awards for the supes, and not just for the most rides logged. Trophies will go out for “best interaction with a passenger,” “best picture,” and “crankiest tweeter,” among other categories.

When it comes to quantity of rides, however, Wiener dominated with a grand total of 106. I ran into him last week as I exited a 38-Geary bus with my wife at Geary and Fillmore Streets. (Thanks, all-door boarding.)

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22-Day Muni-Riding Challenge, Day 10: Checking the Score at City Hall

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A screenshot of SFTRU's "Leaderboard" showing ride scores, as seen this afternoon.

A screenshot of SFTRU’s “Leaderboard” this afternoon.

We’re nearly halfway into the 22-day Muni riding challenge. How seriously are SF’s elected officials taking their commitment to get familiar with the everyday experience of riding Muni?

Eight supervisors and Mayor Ed Lee signed up for the challenge by the time SFTRU kicked it off on June 1. Based on the tally of onboard tweets reported on the SF Transit Riders Union “Leaderboard,” the ride tally is shaping up about how you’d expect.

The most vocal transit supporters are way out in front: Supervisors Scott Wiener and John Avalos have 38 and 35 rides, respectively — nearly four per day (both started early). In third place is Supervisor David Campos, with 23 rides, followed by Julie Christensen (17) and Eric Mar (8).

On the other end of the spectrum, Mayor Lee and Supervisor Mark Farrell have yet to make good on their last-minute sign-ons. Mayor Lee hasn’t logged a ride since he rode a Muni train with a photographer on day one, and Farrell hasn’t logged a ride at all. Supervisors Malia Cohen and Katy Tang declined to take the challenge.

All told, most officials at City Hall don’t seem to follow the advisory measure enacted by SF voters 22 years ago stating that city officials should ride transit at least twice a week.

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Mayor, Eight Supervisors Promise to Ride Muni Every Day Until June 22

Supervisor Avalos speaks with Supervisor Wiener and SFTRU's Thea Selby in front of City Hall yesterday. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Supervisor Avalos with Supervisor Wiener and SFTRU’s Thea Selby in front of City Hall yesterday. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SF Transit Riders Union’s challenge to ride Muni for 22 days kicked off yesterday with late sign-ons from Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisors London Breed and Mark Farrell, who had initially declined to commit. Supervisors Katy Tang and Malia Cohen still declined, and Supervisor Norman Yee has not confirmed a pledge since he tweeted a selfie on Muni after the challenge was announced in April.

Supervisors David Campos, Scott Wiener, John Avalos, and Eric Mar came out for the press conference at City Hall yesterday. Supervisor Jane Kim was expected, but reportedly unable to make it. Mayor Lee was also absent, though he signed on to the challenge Friday, according to SFTRU.

In April, when SFTRU announced the challenge to ride Muni for 22 days straight, early commitments came from Supervisors Kim, Wiener, Avalos, Campos, Mar, and Julie Christensen. Tilly Chang, executive director of the SF County Transportation Authority, also tweeted a ride photo and attended the event.

“When city officials regularly ride public transportation, they prioritize funding for a more reliable, robust, and visionary transit system to support it,” said SFTRU organizer Thea Selby at the event. “A commitment to this challenge is a commitment to better serve the needs of the people of San Francisco.”

“There has been a real lack of commitment to making the investments that we really have needed to make at Muni for decades,” said Avalos. “We’re now seeing that they’re finally being made,” he added, pointing to the voter-approved $500 million general obligation bond for transportation and a $48 million increase in the SFMTA’s share of the general fund.

Avalos reminded the crowd that Willie Brown promised to fix Muni in 100 days when he ran for mayor in 1995. After he was elected, “He succeeded in doing just the opposite in taking care of Muni the way it needed to be done.”

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Applying the Parklet Strategy to Make Transit Stops Better, Quicker

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Planners are looking to use the parklet model to deliver bus bulb-outs at low cost. Muni and AC Transit (shown) are developing programs with different takes on the concept. Image: Ben Kaufman

San Francisco’s parklet revolution has broadened the possibilities for how curb space can be used. Now, city planners in SF and the East Bay are taking the idea in a new direction: using temporary sidewalk extensions to make transit stops more efficient and attractive.

Three different names for the concept have emerged from planners at three institutions where it was conceived independently — “temporary transit bulbs,” “multi-purpose parklets,” and “stoplets.” Those terms come from, respectively, SF transportation agencies, Alameda-Contra Costa Transit, and Ben Kaufman, a graduate student at the UCLA Department of Urban Planning.

Whatever you call it, the method could allow transit agencies to much more rapidly implement transit bulb-outs — sidewalk extensions at transit stops — and reap the benefits at about one-twentieth the cost of pouring concrete, on average, according to Kaufman.

For his UCLA graduate project, Kaufman is wrapping up a stoplet design guide for AC Transit, which received a Safe Routes to Transit grant to study the idea.

Kaufman sees stoplets as a way to re-invent the bus stop. “Why can’t we create a space that people actually want to sit at, that would make people excited to wait for a bus?” he said. “Instead of being a waiting experience, it can be a relaxing experience.” Like parklets, stoplets would be “adopted” by merchants who want to improve bus stops in front of their storefronts.

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Another Day, Another Driver Blocking Muni’s Busiest Metro Line

N-Judah riders can’t get any relief from idiots who leave their automobiles in the way of Muni’s busiest line.

The entire length of the metro line was shut down for at least 40 minutes Thursday, starting at about 2 p.m., after the driver of an extra-wide pick-up with a raised chassis parked at the curb on Carl Street. The vehicle was so big it obstructed the train’s path, clearly marked by a white stripe.

The SFMTA’s Twitter account reported that the line was blocked at 2 p.m., and that it was cleared by 2:38 p.m.

This time, there were no superhuman feats from N-Judah riders to clear a path — the truck was eventually towed.

Until the streets on the N’s route get improvements like separated transit lanes and car restrictions, riders can continue to expect routine shutdowns caused by clueless motorists. The list of recent causes: Parking a vehicle that’s too wide, attempting to drive into a visibly-marked train tunnel, an angry passenger throwing out the vehicle’s keys, and the most common one — double-parking on the tracks, as exhibited below on Ninth Avenue:

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Three-Bike Bus Racks on Muni: A Solution for Late-Night Transit Woes?

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Photo: SFMTA

Muni is testing front-mounted bike racks that can carry three bicycles (instead of the usual two) on some of its most hilly bus routes. If implemented widely, that third bike space could prevent some late-night travelers from getting “bumped” when racks fill up.

Bike capacity on transit is particularly important in SF and the Bay Area, given geographic barriers like hills and, well, the bay. Late at night, when many buses cover little ground and come just once an hour, getting home can be especially difficult for people with bikes who rely on transit for part of their trip, or who are just too tired to make the ride home. Late-night buses, it seems, often attract the most bikes.

Last month, Janel Sterbentz was one of the lucky ones. She narrowly avoided waiting an extra hour at Market Street and Van Ness Avenue at 2 a.m. on a Friday morning, when the hourly AC Transit All-Nighter bus — the only way to get to the East Bay by transit once BART shuts down — arrived with both of its bike rack spots full.

Unlike Muni, AC Transit and SamTrans allow bikes on board late-night buses at the operator’s discretion.

An AC Transit bus with a three-bike rack at the Transbay Terminal in SF. Photo: Kenya Wheeler/Twitter

An AC Transit bus with a three-bike rack at the Transbay Terminal in SF. Photo: Kenya Wheeler/Twitter

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Mayor Lee Warms to Prop B Muni Funding Increase, Which He Opposed

Mayor Lee on another photo op Muni ride to yesterday’s press conference. Photo: Mayor’s Office/Twitter

Mayor Ed Lee held a press conference yesterday to mark a $48 million increase in transportation funding for Muni and safer streets. But the largest chunk of that increase, and the only one that resulted directly from political leadership, came from Supervisor Scott Wiener’s Proposition B — which Lee fervently opposed.

The funding increase “is a great thing for the eighth-largest transportation center in the country,” Lee told reporters yesterday, touting the boost it would bring to Muni vehicle maintenance and infrastructure. Lee was joined by Wiener, as well as Supervisors London Breed and Julie Christensen.

When the Board of Supervisors approved Prop B for the ballot last July, Lee threatened retribution for the six who voted for it, though he apparently never followed through.

At the time, the mayor called Wiener’s measure “disturbing” and said it “can be very damaging” to the city budget. “I have to hold the supervisors that did this accountable,” he told reporters. “Fiscally, it was not responsible to have done. It disbalances the budget, and it was not what we had all collaboratively agreed to do.”

Prop B passed with 61 percent of the vote in November, mandating an annual increase in funds for transportation and safer streets based on population growth. Since the measure also factors in the last 10 years of growth, it is expected to yield a $24.2 million increase this year.

The $48 million increase to the SFMTA’s budget also includes $7.2 million from the agency’s share of the general fund, a result of greater tax revenue from a booming economy. The other $16.7 million comes from a boost in development impact fees earmarked for street improvements, which resulted from an increase in building construction.

While that $48 million should help SF implement safer streets and better transit, the city could have raised much more had Lee been willing to ask car owners to chip in for the disproportionate costs they incur. However, the mayor passed up an estimated $77 million by repealing Sunday parking meters and abandoning his support for putting a vehicle license fee increase on the ballot.

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