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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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New Muni-Only Lanes Streamline Buses on Haight, Lincoln at 19th Avenue

A new left-turn Muni lane at Lincoln Way and 19th Avenue now provides a quicker ride on the 29-Sunset. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Muni riders have just gotten some sweet new transit-only lanes to speed up their commutes. Red paint is on the ground for two new bus lanes: One at Lincoln Way and 19th Avenue, and another on the east end of Haight Street.

A new left-turn lane, exclusively for Muni buses, went into operation this week at Lincoln and 19th, streamlining the ride for commuters on the 29-Sunset. The new lane and traffic signal mean that northbound 29 buses no longer must endure a car-clogged detour onto 20th Avenue and Irving Street. The block-long detour typically took anywhere from three to seven minutes, according to the SFMTA.

The re-route required a new bus stop inside Golden Gate Park, replacing the former stop where buses would load on the other side of Lincoln, before crossing the intersection. A new sidewalk and waiting area have been built, and the SFMTA says a shelter will be added as well. In the meantime, temporary signs explain the change.

The new stop, which is also now used by buses on the 28-19th Avenue and 28-Limited lines, provides an extended curb so that buses can load in the traffic lane. That speeds up buses, since they no longer have to pull out of traffic only to merge back in. The SFMTA does plan to replicate the new configuration by adding bus bulb-outs at other stops along 19th.

The new left-turn traffic signal is only activated when it detects a bus approaching the intersection, and the signal phase lasts only a few seconds so that other motorists can’t use it.

The new stop on 19th sits inside Golden Gate Park, across the street from the old one. Photo: Aaron Bialick

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Tomorrow: Hearing on Traffic Signals to Speed Muni on Haight, McAllister

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A snapshot of the SFMTA’s plans for Upper Haight. See the full plan here [PDF].

On the agenda [PDF] for tomorrow’s SFMTA public engineering hearing are proposals to speed up Muni lines with transit-priority traffic signals and bus bulb-outs along Haight and McAllister Streets. These types of changes are central to the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project, but some residents have voiced concerns about replacing stop signs with traffic signals and requiring pedestrians to wait before crossing.

The SFMTA plans to replace stop signs with signals at ten intersections on Haight and five on McAllister. These would be transit-priority signals, meaning that they will stay green when they detect approaching buses on the 5-Fulton, 71-Haight/Noriega, and 6-Parnassus lines.

On the 5, the SFMTA predicts that the signals alone will save 1.5 minutes in each direction, in addition to six minutes saved by adding bus bulb-outs, removing and relocating some stops, and adding right-turn lanes to keep turning cars out of the way. On Haight itself, those improvements are also expected to save three minutes for the 71 and 6, in addition to several more minutes of savings thanks to the contra-flow bus lane being constructed at Market Street. The SFMTA says intersections without signals or stop signs will receive traffic calming treatments, to encourage drivers to yield to people crossing.

Natalie Burdick of Walk SF said the Muni TEP proposals “should not conflict with the SFMTA’s own stated priority for ensuring the safety of the city’s road users.”

“Signalized intersections can support safer walking environments if they are designed effectively,” she said. “For instance, signals can be timed to calm traffic with lower speeds, and provide regular phases for pedestrian crossings.”

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Parking-First “Save Polk Street” Crowd Attacks Van Ness BRT

A rendering of Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit. Image: SFMTA

“Save Polk Street” has aimed its parking-first agenda at Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit. A couple dozen speakers protested the project an SFMTA hearing last week, distributing fearmongering flyers [PDF] claiming that removing some parking and banning left turns would “kill small businesses,” back up car traffic, and make the street more dangerous.

Dawn Trennert at a meeting about Polk Street last year. Photo: Paul Skilbeck, Examiner.com

The long-delayed Van Ness BRT project was already approved two years ago by the boards of the SFMTA and the SF County Transportation Authority. Last week’s hearing was on specific street changes [PDF], like removing parking for station platforms and pedestrian bulb-outs. No action was taken by the hearing officers, but the street changes are expected to go to the SFMTA Board of Directors for approval in October.

The speakers and the fliers distributed weren’t explicitly associated with Save Polk Street, but many of the same faces and familiar inflammatory rhetoric could be found at the hearing.

Dawn Trennert of the Middle Polk Neighborhood Association, who has been seen at past meetings wearing a “Save Polk St.” t-shirt, spoke at the Van Ness hearing and echoed many of the same refrains calling for the preservation of parking and unfettered car movement.

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Ocean Ave to Get Spruced Up, But Real Transformation Will Have to Wait

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Ocean and Geneva Avenues, outside the City College Main Campus. Photo via the SF Planning Department

City planners are shaping up plans for Ocean Avenue, following public workshops that will help develop a vision for both near-term and long-term improvements. The near-term plans, for the commercial stretch of Ocean west of Phelan Avenue and the City College campus, are far along in their development. Meanwhile, a long-term plan for the remainder of the avenue, stretching eastward to the Balboa Park BART Station, is still in its earlier stages.

Thus far, no major changes have been proposed on Ocean. Most of the street has narrow sidewalks, no bike lanes, and heavy car traffic turning from 280 — making the street dangerous to cross and snarling Muni. A separate plan is in the works to remove and re-configure those ramps years down the road, but a redesign of Ocean could present the opportunity to free up room for walking, biking, and transit.

On Ocean between Manor and Phelan Avenues, the near-term plans — set for construction next spring — include a handful of bulb-outs, new sidewalk greenery, seating, and other street fixtures at three “key” T-intersections: Ashton, Capitol, and Granada Avenues. At those intersections, Lily Langlois, the Planning Department’s project manager, said “the street dead-ends at Ocean, so there’s this kind of focal point, and an opportunity to build on that street pattern by creating those community gathering spaces.”

Community members have already taken proactive measures to improve the public realm on Ocean. Today, an event was held to celebrate a mobile parklet that was developed, designed, and built by high school students from the Youth Art Exchange. It will be placed in front of at least five different local businesses, six months at a time, starting at Fog Lifter Cafe.

Alex Mullaney, publisher of the neighborhood newspaper The Ingleside Light, said he helped push the Department of Public Works to create a plan for streetscape improvements on long-neglected Ocean, and created the Ocean Avenue Association’s Street Life Committee.

The near-term streetscape improvements “will go a long way to modernize Ocean Avenue, and bring it up to speed with a number of other neighborhoods,” he said. ”The new landscaping and amenities will improve quality of life and slow down traffic. Ocean Avenue has one of the highest vacancy rates in the city, along with three extremely dangerous intersections. I have zero doubt that the near-term project will turn around those two issues.”

A mobile parklet now sits on Ocean and will be moved every six months. Photo: Youth Art Exchange via Facebook

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