Supervisor Farrell Delays SFCTA Approval of Van Ness BRT Design

A crucial step in advancing the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit project was delayed for a month today after Supervisor Mark Farrell, a member of the SF County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) Plans and Programs Committee, complained that he wasn’t comfortable voting on the latest design proposal which he said he “hasn’t been briefed on.”

Supervisor Mark Farrell. Photo: ## Low/Flickr##

The committee was expected to approve recommendation of the proposal today, sending it to the full board for a vote next Tuesday. However, Farrell said that it was “absolutely inappropriate” for him vote on it today without feeling adequately informed, and that he still wouldn’t be ready in a week. Although the proposal received unanimous approval from the SFMTA Board of Directors today, the SFCTA committee decided to postpone its vote until its next meeting, in one month.

Staying updated on the project, said Farrell, “is a responsibility of mine, for sure, but it’s also a responsibility of the TA [staff].”

“In my opinion, it is very appropriate and, I think, necessary for all the supervisors and commissioners who get affected by this in their districts to be fully briefed on this before we’re asked to vote on any portion of this, even if it might be non-binding,” he said.

The Van Ness BRT design proposal would preserve the center median while allowing the use of right-door buses. Image: SFCTA

The proposal, widely praised by officials and advocates for combining the best features of two design alternatives, was publicly announced on April 27. Responding to Farrell’s complaints, SFCTA Deputy Director of Planning Tilly Chang said agency staff offered to brief the board members at their previous meeting on April 24. “Some did take us up, and some didn’t take us up,” she said.

She also noted that the project “has been out there” in the media, and staff made a presentation on the proposal to the committee today which they’ve given to neighborhood groups and at other public meetings. Today’s committee meeting agenda also included a report [PDF] on the design proposal and a memo [PDF], dated last Thursday, which provides background information.

Postponing the vote could potentially set the entire project back a month, as Chang said agency staff needs board approval before completing the remaining analysis needed on the proposal. She said the vote would not bind the agency to the design.

The project, currently expected to be completed by fall 2016, has seen numerous delays since it was first conceived in 2004. “The Federal Transit Administration, in particular, is very keen for us to essentially catch up, as we are behind on our schedule,” said Chang. “However, they do understand the need for a strong local process.”

  • Sounds like someone forgot to do his homework…

  • mikesonn

    And we all suffer.

  • mikesonn

    District 2 supervisor holding up a transit project, surprise surprise…

  • Seriously?  This has been in planning for YEARS!!!  Get with the program dude.  

  • Aw man, I can’t wait for this to happen. I’m glad that they’re going with a design that allows right door boarding. An intersection like that would be awesome for a scramble pedestrian light. 

  • kg

    Um… do your job and read the proposal?

  • Mario Tanev

    I am concerned. Someone spoke at the SFMTA meeting saying that some Pacific Heights neighborhood group is opposing this because they are afraid of traffic diversion from Van Ness (unfounded since traffic flow should improve due to prohibited left turns and due to mode shift to transit). I think what happened is that some drivers complained to the supervisor and he was caught uninformed. Hopefully he won’t pull an Alioto-Pier and jeopardize this project.

  • tNOB

    Who cares??!! We will all be riding around in flying cars by then!

  • Pomohomobobomofo

    Isn’t it in your job description as a board member of SFCTA to be informed about contemporary transit projects? No, scratch that: Isn’t is your entire job description to be informed about contemporary transit projects? I know you’re busy as a supe, so all the more reason that if you can’t handle the workload, give it to someone who can. 

  • Fubar

    Isn’t it the job of staff at the SFCTA (the SFCTA is governed by the BOS sitting as Commissioners) to regularly brief Commissioner/Supervisors about projects in their Districts? If District Supervisor/Commissioners are not regularly involved, what kind of outreach is being done?

  • PG

    What a ditz!

  • Anonymous


    Responding to Farrell’s complaints, SFCTA Deputy Director of Planning Tilly Chang said agency staff offered to brief the board members at their previous meeting on April 24. “Some did take us up, and some didn’t take us up,” she said.

    Regardless, Farrell took the SFCTA position. Don’t take that job as a resume stuffer, take it if you can do the job.

    This is a loser move.

  • Sftrajan

    he is a disgrace- following in the path of alioto-pier!

  • ubringliten

    Are you that dumb, Mr. Farrell?  It takes more than a week to read the proposal and this has been going on since 2004.  What a lame excuse!

  • Guest

     He sure sounds like an idiot. Hopefully he won’t be running for any citywide elections…at least I won’t be voting for him thanks to this stunt.

  • Anonymous

    I’m guessing some NIMBYs with lots of money are behind this. His excuse is lame.

  • mikesonn

    Farrell penned an op-ed in the “Marina Times” (local paper for North Beach, Russian Hill, Cow Hollow, Marina, Pac Heights) decrying Sunday metering. 

    It is also one of the “featured” stories on the home page.

  •  In it he says that we should get people to ride transit by making transit more attractive. He is on the BOS and the SFCTA – therefore he is ground zero when it comes to making transit more attractive, but it turns out he doesn’t give actually care about making transit more attractive, otherwise he would be prepared to vote on one of the most important projects we have going towards that end.


  • Filamino

    Prohibiting left turns where left turn pockets are already provided will not change traffic flow. In fact, it will affect the Polk/Franklin more by drivers who now have to make the 3 right turns to make the left turn. 

    Mode shift? Stop making me laugh. I do not see how having faster trips on Van Ness will get drivers out of their cars? The only people who will benefit are people along the 49 route coming from the Mission/Excelsior. Those people typically take Muni already, so I don’t see a mode shift. I don’t see anyone else from other parts of the city who drive to Van Ness now would switch to the bus after this is done. 


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