Tell SFMTA How You’d Improve Eight Muni Routes at Upcoming Workshops

The SFMTA is aiming to implement its plans to speed up Muni service under the Transit Effectiveness Project by 2017, beginning with eight priority routes.

Muni's eight priority routes for TEP improvements. Click to enlarge. Image: SFMTA

Starting March 31, the agency will hold nine workshops where the public can weigh in on how to improve these corridors. The toolkit includes bus lanes, bus bulbs, and stop consolidation, among other options. The TEP will also add transit-priority traffic signals at 600+ intersections along these routes. SFMTA staff says bus trips could be sped up by as much as 28 percent, and implementation could begin in late 2013.

To make Muni service on these routes as fast and reliable as possible, it’s crucial that the SFMTA hears public support for the most effective improvements on the table.

You can look up the schedule of workshops to see which lines will be discussed when. An overview of all eight corridors will be held at the SFMTA offices at 1 South Van Ness on Wednesday, April 14 at 10 a.m.

  • The J is hopeless. In order to speed it up you need to get rid of the stop signs on Church. If you do that, you create a superfreeway through the neighborhood for cars, attract more cars to Church to cut through to the Castro after coming off 280, and create a hazardous situation for pedestrians.

    Stoplights on Church with priority/triggers for the J? Too many $$$.

    The 30 of course is easy. No private autos on Stockton.

  • Frequency, not speed, is what these and all transit routes really need.  Cutting the wait gives a shorter effective trip time without the negative effects that fast-moving vehicles have on neighborhoods.

  • Anonymous

    That really depends.  The average speed of Muni is 8mph. The problem isn’t simply rider impatience at waiting, it’s the sheer amount of time it takes to get from Point A to Point B.   If a service has 60 minute headways then frequency’s the problem but if a service has 15 minute headways at 8mph then speed’s the problem.

  • David Vartanoff

    The J and N will never work correctly unless the Embarcadero mess is cleaned up.  Active resequencing of outbound trains to represent each route as scheduled needs to be instituted ASAP at least for PM rush hour M-F.    Contrary to murphstahoe, the four way stops signs on both routes should be replaced w/streetcar priority traffic signals while at the same time the track lanes need to be off limits to cars/trucks during daylight.  

    Each of these lines also need serious line management/inspector input.   All of the transit priority traffic lights do nothing for bunches of 3 buses fleeting.   

  • Anonymous

    Higher speed means that you can have more frequency for the same cost (each driver can complete a trip and start a new one sooner).

  • Anonymous

    I agree… But am a fatalist when it comes to the dream of such funding – le sigh.

  • @aslevin:disqus I think what Eric is referring to is the following:

    Say it takes the bus 25 minutes to actually drive from A to B, all told. If the headways are 20 minutes then your total trip time could be 25 minutes or it could be 45 minutes. Increase frequency and reduce headways to 10 minutes, and your total trip time is now 25-35 minutes. More reliable and faster on average.

  • Anonymous

    Josh Bingham: Well, sure– but you’ve just doubled the number of buses and drivers you have to pay for.

    Meanwhile, if you increase speed by 20%, then the trip time is reduced to 20 minutes– but because your buses are turning around faster, you can reduce your headways to 16 minutes (20% less) with the same number of buses and drivers. So your total trip time is 20 to 36 minutes– a few minutes better than your example– AND you haven’t significantly increased operating costs, let alone doubled them.

    That said, I think there’s one thing more important than either speed or frequency: reliability. If it’s unreliable (missed runs, traffic problems, etc), someone getting on a bus that takes from 25-45 minutes has to set out 45 minutes ahead of time– every time– if they want not to be late, which means that the potential of a 25 minute trip is wasted. And if they absolutely must be on time, they have to go an hour or more in advance. Nextbus (assuming it’s reliable) can mitigate the problems of low frequency, but it can’t mitigate unreliability.

  • @baklazhan:disqus I don’t disagree, but a 20% decrease in travel time would be pretty difficult to pull off. It would take the kind of massive capital investment that is only being discussed for Geary and Van Ness BRT. I don’t believe that spending money on transit is a sin, so if I had my way I’d put in that capital investment AND double frequency. Imagine the time savings after that!

    But I don’t get my way. Far less money will be invested in these improvements than the system actually needs, and we will see correspondingly less in the way of improvements to service as a result.

  • Andy Chow

    There are a few things that aren’t discussed much. The first is that Muni needs more low floor buses. Most of the busy routes mentioned use high floor vehicles. Muni at this point doesn’t have low floor articulated or trolley buses. The trolley buses are more problematic because the current ones are supposed to last longer than the current diesel fleet.

    Muni also need to look at reducing crowding as a priority. Extremely crowded buses operate slower than normal.

  • mikesonn


  • Anonymous

    Why dont most if not all Muni buses have signal priority already?

  • Sprague

    Agreed that in a “transit first” city, this should already be the case.  Apparently the TEP will finally add a large number of transit priority signals to SF intersections, if TEP is finally actually implemented.  It goes without saying that new transit priority signals should actually be turned “on” after being installed, something that apparently hasn’t been done along the T-Third.  (From my experience riding near the ballpark, a single car turning left can delay light rail vehicles holding hundreds of riders.  It’s my understanding that signal priority was installed along this route, but is it used or is it operating as well as it can?  Signal priority can really help to speed up transit and get riders to their destinations quicker.  Hopefully with Muni’s new leadership this will be done right.)

  • The J Church is an interesting beast, partly because it parallels BART which is so much faster, more reliable, and more frequent. If you live near Church north of 19th st and want to go downtown, it’s quicker just to walk to the Church/Market station and then grab whatever car is passing through. If you’re at 24th and Church and want to go downtown or to City College, it’s quicker to walk 10 minutes to the 24th st BART stop and take BART. Anyone who lives near 30th must be praying for a BART infill station at 30th.

    The J Church especially seems endlessly slow going in and out of the underground tunnel. Seems to me it would be better for the J Church to end just south of Market and let passengers transfer to the underground there (and add shuttles between Castro and the Embarcadero so that wait times underground are always three minutes or less.) The block of Church between Market and 15th could become transit/pedestrian/bike only to facilitate the passenger transfer and end of line issues, with the added benefit of making that entire intersection less crazed.  All the existing lights on the J Church route should definitely give it signal priority, plus add a few more signal prioritization lights along the route where they make best sense. 

  • Aaron Bialick

    An SFMTA engineer recently explained to me that SF was actually the first American city to implement transit signal priority in the 50’s or so. For reasons I don’t know, the system wasn’t implemented very widely, the signals have since been poorly maintained and aren’t even working a lot of the time, and by now the technology is very outdated. With the TEP, they’ll actually be upgrading to a new type of radio-based priority signal system. From now until 2015, they’ll be securing Prop B funds, issuing a Request for Proposals, and doing technical testing work to make the transition.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    Frequency, not speed, is what these and all transit routes really need

    The 30/41/45/8X, just for, oh, a random example, has little problem with the number of vehicles (nominally or practically) in service on the route.

    It’s the deliberate, systematic, corrupt and actively fraudulent sabotaging of the speed of buses in this corridor by contractor-abetting TA/MTA staffers and by limitlessly corrupt “elected” officials that is the problem.

    As a reminder, just banning right turns from Third onto Market — a half day with some paint — would yield more benefit than the entire Central Subway fraud cess-pit.

    Never mind this catastrophe piled on top of it.

    Muni needs decreased operating costs (meaning higher average speeds, for a start) and better frequency with lower operating costs (ditto).  What it doesn’t need is more TWU-250A members being paid to not move, or more decades-obsolete-design MADE-IN-THE-USA buses depreciating while they don’t move.

    I’m truly surprised to see data-driven you of all people advocate shovelling yet more cash cash at proven failure.  Practical redictability and reliability trump theoretical frequency for nearly any route in any city at any time.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    I’ve seen many of the stop signs go in on Church.  They were nearly always the result of one or two busy-bodies (think of the children! seniors will die every day!) demanding and the city caving instantly, regardless of the non-imaginary costs to Muni.

    Church wasn’t a freeway before every-block stop signs, and wouldn’t be if there were fewer (or if the nutty 23rd traffic light were removed.)  Not that even I would advocate going out and ripping down every sign tomorrow, sans other pretty straightforward street design measures.

    As for the J’s redundancy with BART: it was only ~10 years ago (Muni’s consultant-inflicted Metro Meltdown, Willie “fixing Muni in 100 days”, Breda “light” rail procurement fiasco, etc) that the heavy pedestrian flows up and down 24th (the 48 no longer exists either, for practical purposes) really started.  Before that the J was dismal (by any global standard) but tolerable by SF standards.  The screwed-up high-floor (Muni: only 30 years behind the “light” rail design curve) double-stopping ADA ramp crap really hurts also.

    Since then city has systematically sabotaged the operation of the line, with the attending (and accelerating) mode/operator shift.  It’s not as if walk+BART (or even walk+walk!) is significantly faster, even: it’s the sheer monumental unreliability of the J which drives rational people away.

    As for “Stoplights on Church with priority/triggers for the J? Too many $$$”: it’s very very very very very hard not to see SFMTA’s costs and world-beating “no can do” as self-serving, and perhaps even conspiratorial.  This isn’t rocket science!  Not remotely, not even in the same galaxy as rocket science.  “World Class SFMTA said it can’t be done, so I guess it can’t be done…”

  • @f84b22d3acf35e1589e626b8e51fe1a4:disqus I was actually thinking more about the 5 Fulton and other long lines than about the 30 Stockton. For the 30 I agree that the political will to take street space away from cars and give it to transit would help because the street is so desperately full and slow.

    On other lines I am still skeptical that technological fixes would help much.  Street running transit lines don’t average much above 10 mph, not just in San Francisco but anywhere, because traffic signal timing patterns and the time it takes to load and unload passengers dominate the speed.  I think the T Third demonstrates pretty well that even wide private right of way, wide stop spacing, (supposed) signal priority, and making it difficult for pedestrians to cross the street don’t buy very much speed.

    Increasing frequency costs a fortune, but it does cut waiting time.  I hope there is also a way to do it with engineering, but I haven’t seen it happen.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    Increasing frequency costs a fortune, but it does cut waiting time.  I hope there is also a way to do it with engineering, but I haven’t seen it happen.

    Pretty much all of Central Europe and Scandinavia manage to do it, in my experience.
    Zürich (underground metro system explicitly rejected by plebiscite; trams and buses run on time and on the surface where they’re most useful to human beings) is the poster child, but it’s pretty much the same story anywhere.

    Those “socialist” Germans, Swedes, etc get many times more value for money than brave American capitalists.  And their buses run faster.  (Their escalators also, for that matter!)

    As a quasi-aside Idealizing “show and go, no timetable needed” transit line frequency is  often a sign of analytical laziness or critical blinkering.  People will and do gladly trade a half dozen or more random bunched buses an hour for four that arrive every predictably every 15 minutes.

  • That’s great that Zürich is doing so well with street running.  I hope Muni will also be openminded enough to follow what they are doing right.

    Do you know a good source for ZVV schedule or location data? I was able to find a timetable for the #2 line (Farbhof to Bahnhof Tiefenbrunnen), which apparently takes 33 minutes for an 8.3 km route, or 9.4 mph, in the same ballpark as many Muni lines.  Are their other lines faster?

  • Richard Mlynarik

    Eric, I don’t directly, but I have some ideas.  Send me mail (don’t know yours.)

  • Here’s an on-line game that illustrates most of these public transport priority measures and a social network (on facebook) where you can suggest adding them to real routes:
    It’s a prototype that might be fun to try out in San Francisco for this project. 

  • Anonymous

    Well, the 38 supposedly runs at 8 mph. So 9.4 mph is 17.5% faster. Not too bad. Of course the real question is how reliably does the ZVV follow that schedule. I imagine it’s a lot better at it than Muni.

  • Southvannesstraffic

    Where would the cars go? This is unrealistic.

  • mikesonn

    Are we transit first or not? Right now, we aren’t. Transit only Stockton <$ than Central Subway. Kearny to two-way. Grant pedestrian plaza from Chinatown gate to Filbert.

    Right now drivers use Stockton tunnel from Broadway tunnel as a cut thru, those drivers aren't stopping in Chinatown – no reason to continue to accommodate them.


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