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

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

  • Totally agreed with the other regular 33 rider: that turnaround is remarkably short. Too much so in certain circumstances, since it’s one of the city’s best-kept tourist secrets: it’s free access to a remarkable view. If the city knew what was good for them, revenue-wise, they’d be sending tourists on a 33 tour; lunch at Tartine, frozen margaritas at Moby Dick, spectacular view at Market & Clayton (ooh! aah!), express service to Haight-Ashbury!

    But seriously, drivers at Market and Clayton are the epitome of “needs of the few” especially while they’re sitting directly on top of the twin peaks tunnel.

  • Drivers are complaining about delays at this intersection? It hardly takes any time for the actual turn to happen. The real delay comes from the times that the driver has to pull over because the poles came off the electric wires.

  • CBrinkman

    Poor SF Chron. Soon they will be publishing a Chron Watch to get the pesky pedestrians out of the way of drivers at ALL intersections. I love the 33, and that is one of the best bus views in the City – I used to ride the 33 at least once per week and there was rarely any kind of delay – the bus pulls right through the intersection while the cars wait. What’s the problem with that? Transit First.

  • I write the Chronicle’s green blog, The Thin Green Line (http://www.sfgate.com/blogs/thingreenline), and I’ve linked to SFStreetsblog several times. I agree that this article should have cited the transit first policy. But I don’t think it should have ignored the frustrations of drivers. Why? Because the newspapers job, unlike Streetsblog’s, is not to push for more transit- and pedestrian-friendly streets. It is to reflect the concerns of ALL SF residents, many of whom are drivers. On my blog, I take the position that drivers are just people for whom transit hasn’t become convenient enough yet.

  • CBrinkman

    “Because the newspapers job, unlike Streetsblog’s, is not to push for more transit- and pedestrian-friendly streets”

    That’s for sure. I like the Thin Green Line blog, Cameron – you do a good job on it. But I do think the Chron overall takes a very irresponsible position towards covering transportation in SF. I’ve always assumed it is because few of the people who cover the City live in the City. Any idea how the numbers break down for Chron employees, City versus non, drivers vs public transit/walk/bike? The downtown bldg I work in did a survey and 98% get to work not in a private auto. (Only 1% bike.)

  • SInce when has the Chronicle been in the business of reflecting the concerns of all San Franciscans?

    If that had been the case, then the tired old rag would not be facing economic Armageddon right now. But since it has been used as a cudgel with which the business community attacks those who do not agree with them politically, that dissonance has caused folks to vote with our wallets and abandon the Chronicle in droves.

    Just a quick glance at the Chronicle’s terrible record of electoral success at getting San Franciscans to vote their endorsements shows that they do not come close to reflecting the views of all San Franciscans.

    The job of a newspaper is to sell readers to advertisers. Auto dealerships advertise in the Chronicle all the time, the MUNI rarely if ever. As they say in Texas, y’all daincing with them what brung ya.

    And why does the Chronicle’s Green Blog (TM) stand by idly while Newsom governs by press releases that pronounce policies that never get enacted and end up in political landfills?


  • bob

    The Chronicle will be missed. At least the movie review chair guy will be.


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