Eyes on the Street: Reason #291 to Build Physically Separated Transit Lanes

Photo: Aaron Bialick

Last night, I stumbled across a confusing scene on Irving Street at Eighth Avenue: An abandoned pick-up truck on the N-Judah tracks, with two trains and a line of cars stuck waiting behind. There were a few onlookers near the truck, but nobody I asked knew what was going on.

Suddenly, six people gathered behind the truck, shifted it into neutral, and pushed it around the corner. Four of them were actually planning to catch the train and rushed off to board it. The other two, who gave their names as Mitchell and Elizabeth, told me they felt compelled to help out the hundreds of people who likely had no idea why they weren’t moving. “Obviously, it would suck to be on that train,” said Mitchell.

So, what’s the story with the truck? When the driver returned, he told me he’d had a fight with his ex-girlfriend while driving down Irving. She apparently grabbed his keys out of the ignition, ran down the street and threw them down a sewer drain. He’d run out to find them.

Obviously, there’s not much a transit agency can do about people stealing keys from private vehicles in the middle of the street. But implementing more physically separated transit lanes would certainly reduce the chances that they’ll jam Muni’s busiest metro line when it happens.

We’re on a light publishing schedule today. See you Monday.

  • AA

    And get rid of all parking spots to make vehicular travel lane next to sidewalk on Irving? Not gonna happen…

  • Slightly elevated lanes like being considered for the Van Ness BRT would be good for Judah and Taraval. 

  • Dave

    Just build a subway.

  • david vartanoff

    The tracks are elevated on Judah from 9th to 19th, but I have watched lame drivers on those tracks.  BTW, the reason that track separation didn’t continue or get done on Tarava;l as planned was because of NIMBY pushback after the first segment was done.  

  • Anonymous

    Yep. It costs a lot of money up front, but the payoff is worth it in the long-run. Look at cities like NYC, Boston, DC, London, Paris, Tokyo, etc … they invested in subways a while back and are massively reaping the benefits now. We just need to think long-term and realize it’s a worthwhile investment. That being said, though it’s expensive, I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t have to be nearly as expensive (per mile) as the Central Subway.

  • Damn, he must’ve done _something_…

  • Asfasdf

    Calm down. No one wants to touch your precious parking. They’re just suggesting that the center lane become transit only.

  • Anonymous

     Subways make sense if you can reap the benefits of the (potentially) massively increased transportation capacity by increasing the density of an area, greatly increasing the economic activity, taxes from which pay back the investment in the subway.

    Given that no significant increase in density is in the cards here, a subway’s only purpose would be for the convenience of the existing riders (and drivers). Which isn’t nothing, but are they willing to pay the billion or two necessary? It seems unlikely.

  • Guest

    You can’t plan for crazy. A rider in a similar mood could pull the emergency brake on the train and run away. Or a driver could do this in front of a freeway ramp (say in the intersection of 13th/svn) and mess up traffic for everyone for miles around, affecting even more people (including those on buses) than this event.

  • Anonymous

    there was a proposal for a Sunset Subway a while back, but it, like a Geary BART and the like is the stuff of legends and scans on Flickr…

  • Anonymous

    I have photos of an epic crash – some foolish driver drove on the elevated tracks and got hit by TWO LRVs (one going each way). Driver was unhurt.

  • Anonymous

    I remember an incident a while ago where a driver of a delivery truck double parked and backed up the traffic in a similar manner. an SFPD officer who used to be assigned to the inner sunset saw the problem, jumped in the truck, and drove it out of the way to the applause of everyone. 

  • It’d be better to fine crazy girlfriend 8,000 hours service to MUNI — or, the total amount of lost time for all the folks she inconvenienced. Penalize the dude, too, for being 

    Physically-separated transit lines have a zillion drawbacks, not the least of which is they make physically-protected bike lanes all but impossible.

    Physically-separated transit lines only make sense if you’re going to have a good frequency on the lines — once every ten minutes or better. Else, it’s best to let other types of motorized transport share the lanes. 

    If misdesigned, you get what we have on N 1st St in San Jose — a completely dysfunctional street that works for no one because the transit lines are physically-separated, and the frequency is every 20 min or so, cars are backed up any time there’s any significant traffic, bike are effectively banned from the street, and the sidewalks are too narrow – one of many challenges for pedestrians.

    The main winner of a subway would be the ever-shrinking number of people who profit from the sale of cars. The losers? Everyone else. 

    People should not be forced to travel underground just to get where they want to go in a reasonable amount of time.

    The decision-making process remains simple — not sure why people want to complicate things. Prioritize walking, then biking, then transit, then whatever else, in that order, all the time every time. All the decisions you make should flow naturally from that priority order. 

  • Anonymous

    @baklazhan:disqus I think you’re somewhat correct, but subways serve more than simply increasing the density of an area: subways are frequently built in already dense areas.

    That said, I think you’d be surprised how different inner sunset would be if you could hop a train for 5 minutes from the mission or 10 minutes from downtown. (At the current speed of muni underground: 5.3 mins per 2 miles between embarcadero and van ness…Mission to Inner Sunset is 2 miles also.)

    San Francisco isn’t set, it’s still in its infancy of evolution.