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Muni’s Sluggish 30-Stockton Finally Set to Get Greater Priority on the Streets

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Muni’s 30 buses should get some relief on Stockton Street. Photo: geekstinkbreath/Flickr

Muni’s notoriously sluggish 30-Stockton line is finally set to get some upgrades that will give buses higher priority on streets through the dense neighborhoods of Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach, and near Fisherman’s Wharf.

The plans, part of the SFMTA’s “Muni Forward” program, include transit-only lanes, bus bulb-outs and boarding islands, transit signal priority, and stop consolidation on Stockton, Kearny, and North Point Streets, as well as Columbus Avenue. On two street segments where traffic lanes are too narrow to fit buses, car parking and traffic lanes would be removed to provide more maneuvering space.

The 30, one of Muni’s slowest lines, averages a mere 3.6 mph between Market and Sutter Streets, according to a 2007 SF Chronicle article. Before leaving his position as a transportation reporter at the SF Examiner, Will Reisman raced the 30 at walking pace from Chinatown to Market – and won.

The 30-Stockton takes 11 minutes to travel the mile-and-a-half segment north of Market, according to Muni Forward manager Sean Kennedy. The SFMTA estimates that upgrades could speed up the ride through that segment by about 27 percent, and result in a more reliable ride for roughly 70,000 daily riders that use the 30, 45-Union, and 8x-Bayshore Express through there.

A smoother, faster ride would especially benefit transit-dependent residents of Chinatown, which has the city’s lowest rate of car ownership.

“It’s such an oversubscribed route,” said Cindy Wu, a community planner at the Chinatown Community Development Center. (Wu is rumored to be a top candidate for the mayoral appointment for the District 3 Supervisor seat vacated by David Chiu.) “Seniors and residents depend on it for everyday errands, whether it’s grocery shopping or going to the doctor.”

CCDC is “encouraged” by Muni’s proposals to improve surface transit, said Wu, and those are still necessary “even though the Central subway is coming in” to connect Chinatown, Union Square, and SoMa. The 30 and 45 lines have been on a one-block detour near Union Square for four years to accommodate subway construction.

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SFMTA Board Approves Contested Transit Signals, Bulb-Outs on Haight

On transit streets like Haight, the SFMTA is looking to install transit-priority traffic signals to speed up Muni. But are they worth it? Photo: torbakhopper HE DEAD/Flickr

On Tuesday, the SFMTA Board of Directors approved plans to add traffic signals and bulb-outs along Haight Street, which could speed up Muni’s 6 and 71 lines and improve pedestrian safety. The approval came despite complaints from some Upper Haight merchants over removing parking for bus bulb-outs, and mixed support for new traffic signals from pedestrian safety and transit advocates.

Under Muni Forward’s “Rapid” plans for the 71, almost all stop signs along Haight will be replaced with either transit-priority traffic signals, or two-way stops combined with traffic calming treatments. The signals, which stay green when they detect buses, would be installed at Clayton, Baker, Broderick, Scott, Pierce, and Buchanan Streets. Either a two-way stop or a new signal would be possible at Shrader, Central, Webster, and Laguna Streets.

Muni has similar plans for Muni’s 5-Fulton and for other routes under Muni Forward, which previously was called the Transit Effectiveness Project. SFMTA planners say Muni riders stand to save a lot of time thanks to the new signals, combined with a relocation of bus stops from the near side to the far side of intersections. The SFMTA claims it takes an average of 18 seconds to clear a stop sign, counting deceleration, queuing behind cars, and acceleration.

But the speed benefits of signalization are contested by Michael Smith, the former Chief Technology Officer and General Manager of NextBus, who co-founded Walk SF. SFMTA staff have not responded to his challenge to their estimates — neither to a request from Streetsblog, nor at the board hearing — but street safety advocates say that they might not justify costly signals, which restrict movement for people walking and biking (in this case, on the Wiggle). “MTA hasn’t convinced neighbors and pedestrian advocates of that,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich.

“All of these proposals are great, but traffic signals are questionable,” Smith told the SFMTA Board. He presented data [PDF] he said he collected by riding the 71 with a timer “for several hours,” showing that delay times at stop sign intersections on Haight aren’t close to the 18-second estimate.

Based on his analysis, Smith concluded that most of the proposed signals would only save a few seconds, if any, and that the busy Scott Street intersection is the only spot that justifies a signal.

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Muni Delays “Double Berthing” Until December, Citing Sunset Tunnel Work

Muni has once again pushed back its launch of “double berthing” — simultaneous loading of two trains in its Metro stations — until December. SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said that plans for a live test and launch in November were thwarted by recent weekend construction on the Sunset Tunnel.

“Because of rail improvement project work for Sunset Tunnel in November for three weekends, we had to postpone the live demo of double berthing to [the] first weekend of December,” Rose wrote in an email. “Double berthing will be released into revenue service once we run tests; we expect this sometime in December.”

When asked why work on the Sunset Tunnel would impede double berthing tests in the subway under Market Street, Rose only said they can’t happen at the same time. It’s unclear why the two conflict: The two N-Judah stops at the tunnel’s portals in Duboce Park and Cole Valley wouldn’t see double berthing, which can only be implemented at stations with platforms long enough to fit two two-car trains.

A construction project in the Sunset Tunnel has closed it to N-Judah trains (bus service runs as a substitute) over 15 weekends to replace rails, upgrade the overhead wire system, refurbish water safety valves, and install seismic safety retrofits. Outside of the tunnel, the N-Judah project will also include upgraded traffic signals with transit signal priority at nine intersections, and new wheelchair-accessible platforms at 28th Avenue and Judah Street.

The SFMTA says the weekend tunnel construction work will be suspended over the holidays, from Thanksgiving through early January, and that the entire project is expected to be finished by June.

Double berthing was originally supposed to launch in October 2012, but the SFMTA has cited difficulties in upgrading train control and signage software for the delays until this month.

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SFMTA Looks to Boost Muni’s 28-19th Ave With Bus Bulbs, Fewer Stops

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The SFMTA has an online survey available where you can weigh in on the proposed improvements for Muni’s 28-19th Avenue.

Take a ride on Muni’s crowded 28-19th Avenue from the Golden Gate Bridge to SF State University, and you may notice the that bus gets a lot slower south of Golden Gate Park.

That’s because once the bus gets to 19th Avenue in the Sunset, the street’s design robs Muni riders of two major benefits that speed up their ride on Park Presidio Boulevard in the Richmond. On that stretch, the stops are two blocks apart, and buses can stop directly in the traffic lane to load passengers.

But once the bus reaches 19th, the 28 inexplicably stops at every block in the Sunset. If buses pull out of the traffic lane to reach the curb, the bus can only continue moving once private automobiles have passed by. It takes 25 minutes, on average, to traverse 19th from Lincoln Way to Junipero Serra Boulevard, according to Muni.

But 19th Avenue may finally get up to speed — and become safer — thanks to bus bulb-outs and stop consolidation, both planned under the SFMTA’s Muni Forward program (previously known as the Transit Effectiveness Project). The SFMTA held a community meeting on the plans last week, and they seemed to be fairly well-received.

Bulb-outs are scheduled to be constructed in fall 2016, in conjunction with Caltrans’ plans to re-pave the entire stretch of Highway 1 within SF’s city limits, according to Muni Forward program manager Sean Kennedy. Other changes that don’t require concrete work, like stop consolidation, could occur sooner.

Overall, Kennedy said the improvements would speed up the 28′s travel time on 19th by about 20 percent. For the 28 local service, that means a savings of more than four minutes in each direction on that stretch. The 28-Limited would save 1.5 minutes on its run, would see its hours extended from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (instead of just school rush hours), and would be extended to Balboa Park BART.

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SFMTA Wants Stop Lights, Not Signs, To Keep Muni’s 5-Fulton Moving

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An SFMTA board, displayed at a Wednesday community meeting, explained how adding traffic signals can speed up the 5-Fulton. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The latest of SFMTA’s efforts to speed up Muni lines to run into some neighborhood opposition involves its proposed replacement of stop signs with transit-priority traffic signals. Some Western Addition neighbors have protested a proposal to signalize five intersections on McAllister Street to speed up the 5-Fulton, one of the designated “Rapid” routes receiving upgrades under the Muni Forward program (also known as the Transit Effectiveness Project).

Initially, the complaints were driven by fears that signals would bring dangerous speeding to McAllister. Muni planners responded by holding more outreach meetings, and presented data showing that pedestrian injuries declined on similar streets after signals were added. They also say speeds won’t go up significantly, since signals will be synchronized for speeds below 20 mph.

A September hearing on the transit-priority signal plans for McAllister and Haight Street drew strong opposition from neighbors, leading the SFMTA to postpone the plans’ approval and drop a signal . D5 Supervisor London Breed asked the SFMTA to do the extra outreach, but is cautiously supportive of the agency’s efforts, said aide Conor Johnston.

“When it comes to transportation, her priority first and foremost is improving transit,” he said. “The only thing that trumps that is public safety.” Johnston said the data on injury reductions were “helpful, but not a complete answer.”

The stop sign at McAllister and Laguna Streets will remain, though five other intersections are proposed to get signals. Photo: Peter Ehrlich/Flickr

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Behold the New Muni Map

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Coming to a Muni shelter near you.

Tourists and newcomers, be daunted no more. Muni has unveiled its new map.

The complex web of San Francisco’s 82 municipal transit lines has been made more legible through a sleek new layout that will grace Muni shelters early next year. As we wrote in June, the map was developed over ten years by two volunteer cartographers, David Wiggins and Jay Primus, who also happens to be the former manager of SFPark.

The map “helps visualize the service hierarchy,” making it clear “where there’s more service, and where there’s less service,” as Muni’s operations planning and scheduling manager, Julie Kirschbaum, put it in June.

The map also incorporates service changes that streamlined some routes in recent years, such as the new contra-flow transit lane that straightens out the 6 and 71 lines on Haight Street, the new Muni-only left-turn lane for the 29 at Lincoln Way and 19th Avenue, and the two-way traffic conversion at the end of McAllister Street which has sped up the 5. Muni will re-align routes and change frequencies on another 30-plus lines as part of the Transit Effectiveness Project.

The new map also uses an “R” designation for “Rapid,” instead of the traditional “L” for “Limited.” For instance, it lists the “38R” and the “5R” as routes heading out to the Richmond. The 28L is still listed, though it’s unclear if that was just an oversight.

If you want to get a closer, in-person look, the map is on display until February at SPUR’s Urban Cartography exhibit at its Urban Center at 654 Mission Street. A high-resolution version (11 MB) file of the map is available online.

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Muni Metro “Double Berthing” Delayed Again — Wait Until November

Muni has yet again postponed the launch of simultaneously loading two trains in each of its Metro stations, also known as “double berthing.” We last reported that the practice was supposed to begin this month, but SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said the new timeline is “early November,” with no specific date set yet.

While Muni riders salivate for what might seem like a simple step that would speed up underground boardings, Muni Operations Director John Haley has cited “issues with the platform signs and trains” for the delays. Apparently, setting up the software to work with the automatic train control system is turning out to be quite a challenge.

Originally, double berthing was supposed to launch in October 2012. Now, we can only hope it will launch before the new light rail fleet starts running.

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New 5L-Fulton Limited Muni Line Has Brought 2,000 More Daily Riders

Photo: SFMTA

Muni’s one-year-old 5L-Fulton Limited service, which provides a crosstown trip 15 percent faster than the 5-Fulton, has attracted 2,000 additional daily riders to the bus route. That’s according to new data from the SFMTA.

“This is what Transit First looks like,” said Peter Lauterborn, an aide to Supervisor Eric Mar. “We need to keep investing in transit.” Lauterborn is also the manager of the No on Prop L campaign, although Mar’s office isn’t officially associated with it.

Limited-stop service on the 5 has been met with virtually universal praise ever since it was introduced as a pilot project last October, and later made permanent by the SFMTA. The agency also made improvements that speed up both local and limited service, like a road diet that created wider lanes for buses on one section, and removing some lesser-used stops. The SFMTA also plans to install transit-priority traffic signals and bus bulbs along the route.

It’s unclear how many of the 2,000 additional riders are new Muni riders, or shifted from other routes. More details are expected to be presented to the SFMTA Board of Directors at its meeting on Tuesday.

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Haight’s New Contra-Flow Transit Lane Gives Muni Riders a Shortcut

A new center-running transit-only lane on Haight Street between Laguna Street and Octavia Boulevard lets Muni riders bypass freeway-bound drivers. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The new contra-flow transit-only lane opened on the east end of Haight Street last week, providing Muni riders a red carpet that both eliminates a detour and whisks them past queues of auto drivers headed for the Central Freeway. As a longtime rider of the 71-Haight/Noriega and 6-Parnassus lines, my first ride on the new lane was elating — the boost it provides hardly exists anywhere else in the entire Muni system. You might say it’s truly “transit-first.”

Like the Polk Street contra-flow protected bike lane, this colorful piece of novel transportation infrastructure spans just two short but sweet blocks, yet has a much broader impact. Not only will the 71 and 6 run more quickly and reliably from now on, but bus riders are now spared from two body-swaying turns and a couple of stops.

The redesign also came with some additional safety bonuses, like bolder crosswalk stripes, curb extensions, pedestrian refuge islands, a re-paved roadway, and a road diet on Haight that eliminates dangerous left turns onto northbound Octavia Boulevard.

On what was a one-way block between Haight between Octavia and Gough/Market Streets, Muni has its own contra-flow lane that gives the 71 and 6 lines a direct shot. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Check out more photos after the jump.

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SFMTA Proposes New Car Restrictions, Extended Bus Lanes on Lower Market

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The SFMTA has proposed prohibiting private auto drivers from turning on to mid-Market Street and extending its transit-only lanes. Image: SFMTA

Last week, the SFMTA presented its proposal to ban private auto drivers from turning onto Market Street, between Third and Eighth Streets. The move would be complemented with extended transit-only lanes, plus a new system of wayfinding signs aimed at keeping drivers off of Market.

The new plans, named “Safer Market Street,” would be implemented over nearly a year, beginning next spring, and would represent a major step towards a car-free lower Market – a longtime goal of many livable streets advocates, and some city officials.

“These improvements have been long desired by people traveling regularly on Market Street,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum. “It’s clear that tens of thousands of people’s commutes, shopping trips, and any other kind of travel will be significantly improved when the most commonly used travel modes are actually prioritized on Market Street — walking, bicycling and taking transit. This will be a real example of SF leaders living up to their commitments, both to Transit First and Vision Zero.”

As we’ve reported, city studies have shown that lower Market already sees relatively little car traffic, and most drivers only travel on the street for an average of two blocks. Many of them seem to be either searching for parking (which doesn’t exist on the street) or simply lost. Since the implementation of requirements for eastbound drivers to turn off of Market at Sixth and Tenth Streets, Muni speeds have increased, even if some drivers still ignore the signs.

Although SFMTA board member Malcolm Heinicke and other proponents have pushed for a full ban on cars on Market, rather than a step-by-step approach, the proposed turn restrictions would leave only a few places where drivers could turn onto Market east of Tenth. The street would still be open to taxis, commercial vehicles, and people walking, biking, and on transit. The restrictions are seen as a precursor to the Better Market Street makeover, which could make most of the thoroughfare car-free once it begins construction in 2017.

SFMTA officials have long held off on proposing additional car restrictions, citing traffic flow complications created by the construction of the Central Subway. The agency is apparently now ready to move forward.

Market Street, looking east at Seventh Street. Photo: Sergio Ruiz/Flickr

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