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Media Watch

Did the Chronicle Forget SF Has a Transit-First Policy?

6:42 PM PST on March 3, 2009

33_Stanyan_1.jpg33 Stanyan making the turn at Market and Clayton

Though Chronicle Watch can at times be interesting, today's post is misleading, even oxymoronic. The headline "Muni Buses
Delay Traffic at Intersection" implies cars are more important, though San Francisco's Transit First policy mandates the
MTA and other agencies prioritize the movement of buses, light rail vehicles,
bicycles and pedestrians before motorists.

Jonathan Curiel quotes the driver who originally complained to the Chronicle, calling the bus delay a "traffic hazard," though he offers nothing to substantiate the claim. The bias in his reporting is frustrating enough, but Curiel goes on to say "Though the backup (and delay) were considerably shorter when Chronicle Watch visited the scene, the signal caused enough of an imposition to forward Fasman's concern to the [MTA]."

If minor delays due to turning buses is an imposition on drivers, then that is the cost of maintaining a policy that privileges the needs of the many over the comfort of a few.  Solo drivers should not have priority over buses or trains. 

Though this is not as irresponsible as the sham "investigation" into bicycle crashes the Chronicle published last March, it does nothing to improve the image of the transit operators responsible for making transit function better.  And it's particularly damaging when the paper disparages (even indirectly through the frustrated driver) one of the minority of intersections in the city where transit has priority.

MTA Spokesman Judson True went remarkably soft on the paper, saying the  priority for the MTA at the intersection is "to accommodate the buses" and to "ensure the safety of the intersection, we want to save as many seconds as we can."

Insisting that the Chronicle understands the Transit First Policy, True repeated his message to Streetsblog: "There’s no reason we should create traffic congestion as long as the signal is allowing the bus to get through."

Joel Pomerantz, who describes himself as a regular 33 Stanyan passenger for 25 years, had a different take on the intersection:

The only time there is a "many minutes" backup is when the cars ignore their signals and stop lines, after which they suddenly see the bus and stop in the middle of the bus's turn area, and have to wiggle out of it, sometimes backward. With cars behind them, that can be a mess. Otherwise, three buses can go through in under one minute (I've seen it)--at least now that the turning radius has improved by scrapping the older buses.

Flickr photo: octoferret

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