SFMTA: Church Street Colored Transit Lanes Coming This Weekend

Photo simulation by SFMTA

After months of apparent weather delays, the SF Muncipal Transportation Agency said today that it will implement red-colored transit-only lanes on Church Street between Duboce Avenue and 16th Street this Saturday and Sunday.

The project, a pilot in the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project, is expected to reduce delays on Muni’s J-Church and 22-Fillmore lines by keeping cars out of Church’s center lanes, where they can slow down Muni vehicles, prevent them from loading passengers at boarding islands, and block turning trains at the busy Duboce and Church intersection, according to the SFMTA.

The transit lanes were originally scheduled for installation in September, but the SFMTA said it needs “three days of no precipitation and 24-hour temperatures above 55 degrees so the paint will dry properly,” and the forecast for this weekend apparently fits the bill.

During construction this weekend, the J-Church route won’t run north of Market Street, and riders will have to transfer.

  • Larry – where do you stand on texting and driving? I mean, you have a car, so clearly you are supportive of that, just like you are supportive of drunk driving. Before you start stoning the cyclists maybe you should clean up your own house. What have you personally done to address these two problems?

  • Larry

    No, and I don’t hate any group. But I do hate the attitude of SOME that they don’t have to abide by the rules -whether on a bike or in a car. And it gets pretty hard not to generalize when so many more cyclists than cars run stop signs and lights. But I don’t think you are one of those people and I agree that we are all just humans trying to safely make our way in the City. I chose to comment on this blog because there are so many comments by people who are completely insensitive to those who need to use cars. It’s so simplistic to say, “well then don’t drive.” There is little attempt at understanding from many of those who post here. They are all about transit/biker/walker good, driver bad. Thank you for taking a more reasonable and nuanced approach, and for not defending Critical Mass, which is the worst thing that ever happened to bicycle-riders in this town in terms of achieving tolerance and understanding.

  • Larry

    OK, so you’re not going to tell me how you feel about Critical Mass. Too bad – I was hoping we’d find a point of agreement. I don’t text at all (yes, I am trapped in 1999). I think texting and driving is incredibly irresponsible. In fact, I was rear-ended by someone a few months ago who was probably texting or talking on his phone. I can’t do anything about other people doing it. So if your point is you can’t do anything about Critical Mass except not join them, you are probably right. Critical Mass is so extreme that no reasonable argument will ever reach them. I hope those that text and drive will eventually come around – there are lots of ads on TV now about the problem.

  • mikesonn

    Bring it back to the transit lanes on Church please.

  • Larry

    You are right! Based on the reasonable, respectful and thoughtful comments from SOME of the people on this blog, I am less resistant to the idea and certainly have no choice but to see how it goes and hope for the best. I do, however, still resent being told to never drive. The end.

  • so many more cyclists than cars run stop signs and lights
    [citation needed]

  • for not defending Critical Mass, which is the worst thing that ever
    happened to bicycle-riders in this town in terms of achieving tolerance
    and understanding

    Chris Bucchere called, he wants his trophy back

  • Larry

    Luckily, Chris doesn’t kill someone every month. But yeah, he gets the worst trophy. CM – 2nd place.

  • Rlrcoaster

    This is really a horrible project for us residents in the 300 block of Church Street. There was absolutely no community input, we weren’t given any notice.
    Bicyclists are corralled into one lane with all cars.
    Garages aren’t accessible to 30 families.
    You have to drive 4 additional blocks, waiting at each light.
    ** It’s affecting our home values. **

    Even worse, the GIGANTIC proposed platform in front of our building at 350-370 Church will further increase vandalism and crime by blocking views. We spend thousand of dollars per year in maintenance due to vandalism.

    Making the 200 and 300 block of Church inaccessible won’t affect Muni service, and only increase inconvenience and road rage.

    SF MTA aka the Motorist Torment Authority, thwarts any democratic process for political correctness, without representing the majority.

  • rlrcoaster

    Clearly you don’t live on the street. It’s now a NIGHTMARE trying to get in and out to go to work! You try walking in someone else’s shoes for a change.

    It’s easier for me to go up to Diamond Heights Safeway.

    I drive farther now, away from my own neighborhood.
    Good going, SF Motorist Torment Authority.

  • rlrcoaster

    I now drive on other side streets, such as Sharon and Landers. And I drive 4 extra blocks each time I need to get into my garage. Safeway on Market is inaccessible, so now I drive to Diamond Heights.

    I cannot take public transit, because I often go to work at 4:30am or end a shift after the Metro shuts down. I’m not going to ride my bike to Stonestown from the Mission at 4am…

    Next, they’re planning on walling off our building with a huge boarding platform. That’ll force us to block the right lane getting in and out of our garages (for 30 families!), because we’ll have to do a 3-point turn.

    Thank you SF Motorist Torment Authority.

  • rlrcoaster

    that’s been my experience. I spend more time stopped in my car now, driving farther.

  • rlrcoaster

    You CANNOT punish people out of their cars.
    First, find out why. Then, create incentives and make it MORE convenient, not less.

  • Anonymous

    speaking of walking in someone else’s shoes. What if you can’t afford to own a car and rely on transit and are constantly stuck behind motorists who can’t even walk a few hundred feet to get groceries? Since apparently you work late/early it shouldn’t be too hard getting in an out due to light traffic at those times.

  • Anonymous

    ok, maybe you can’t take public transit to work if it’s that early but you can certainly walk a few hundred feet to the grocery store. I would suggest getting a small and inexpensive cart to make carrying groceries easier.

  • Anonymous

    the point of this project is to make it more convenient for the thousands of people who use transit by more efficiently using space in our city and prioritizing transit right of way. It’s not about punishing motorists at all.

  • Sprague

    Rlrcoaster, you have pointed out some drawbacks (or perceived or potential drawbacks) from a change like this, yet there are also benefits (for you and your neighbors, too). With time, dedicated transit lanes on your street should very well result in less vehicle congestion, since such lanes will help enable Muni to become a more viable option for more of your neighbors and for the city/region as a whole. It’s also worth pointing out that having more transit riders (and pedestrians accessing your local transit stops) results in more eyes and ears on your street – a common element in reducing crime and vandalism. With all due respect, your claim of having not been given “any notice” is not credible. For months, orange colored signs at local Church Street intersections (as well as signs in Muni buses) announced this change.

    Church Street has had streetcar service for nearly one hundred years. Over time, cities and streets change. A city (and neighborhood) that is more transit accessible is a boon to its residents. Please expect your home value to continue to increase.

  • ** It’s affecting our home values. **

    Please sell me your house. I’ll fade the upside.

  • Anonymous

    Southbound, 7:30pm Sunday evening, Church and 14th/Market: five private cars, three in the right lane and two in the red transit-only lane. Those two scofflaw motorists continued to travel southbound in the bright red transit-only lane past 15th Street.

    Red paint and white stenciling is not currently working, and there is no reason to believe this evening’s 40% violation rate will decline absent the great taboo known as “enforcement.”

    MTA advocates claim this observed level of violation does not actually occur in similar circumstances (e.g. the widely ignored “forced” right turns on Market), but MTA traffic counters were not present this evening. Absent enforcement, this project is already a total failure.

  • Asad Abdi

    Hi, I’ve been reading the weblog a couple of days and merely wanted to say that the way with words is top notch. All the best.

  • Concerning Critical Mass: I haven’t ridden in one for years, but did during the period when it led to a major power shift in SF, one towards cyclists, which I think has been a big positive for the city. The argument that some change in the city will hurt somebody (e.g., the extra 3 block drive Larry mentions) can be as well used to block any change whatsoever. Fact is, there is NO change that is good for EVERYBODY. It’s impossible. No matter what you do, you will screw some group of people. Any politician or planner who promises that “nobody gets hurt” (as Dick Cheney famously claimed of globalization) is a liar or fool. Demanding that nobody sacrifice is simply a recipe for paralysis. But get this: even paralysis, stasis in other words, is differentially hurting some people vs. others. The real question is not whether a particular policy will hurt some group of people, although equity and fairness must be considered. It’s really back to the “greatest good for the greatest number” issue.

    As far as Critical Mass juvenile activity goes, there was some of that. I often demanded of fellow riders that “Muni is our friend so we should always allow buses to pass”. Usually the other riders would agree with me. Yes, some people get their testosterone going. Then to use this as a way to clobber the whole movement is a typical Republican-style hatchet job. It’s a political protest, and during such protests, some people are going to be inconvenienced. Really, that’s part of the price of a free society which allows political protest. Just like demanding only urban improvements that hurt nobody, if you demand that protests never inconvenience anybody, and that they must not contain any rude or crazy people, you are basically saying (even if unintentionally) that protests are banned. No thank you to that.

  • You are still holding to the view that there is an “inherent” demand for automobile service, so that reducing car lanes or convenience on one street simply shifts the traffic elsewhere. In the margin, this is true, or approximately so, in that if you look at any one small change, it will have a very small total change in modal split. Similarly, if you improve service (to car drivers, cyclists, or transit riders), you typically will observe a very small change in modal split. Basically, you can regard modal split as inelastic with respect to small changes in service provided.

    However, over time, the result of many changes compounded together greatly effects mode choice. It would be absurd to claim, for example, that if the freeway network hadn’t been built, we’d have the same number of cars going the same miles but on surface streets (in unbelievable traffic jams of course). Only the construction of the system allowed the huge expansion in auto use that did in fact occur post- World War 2.

    This lack of understanding of the difference between a marginal effect caused by a small change to a system and the compounding effects of such changes over time leads to conclusions that it’s not worth really doing anything. You hear this from public officials all the time, in particular how transit investments haven’t made a significant dent in car traffic. This is due to several factors: 1. In the Bay Area, we’ve spent lots of money on transit, but on very poorly chosen transit which was guaranteed to fail; even the planners’ models showed that. 2. Not sufficient service was provided. Nothing like the hugely comprehensive freeway and arterial system has EVER been provided for transit or cycling. 3. Land use and other institutional frameworks, primarily pricing, strongly bias towards car over-utilization. Even MTC admits that “the car is underpriced” (see their Transit Sustainability project on their website).

    In the end, all arguments against transit improvements and de-emphasizing the car are circular. There is no moral imperative that we maintain car drivers in their current state of highly subsidized and coddled bliss. Larry’s arguments are all of that form, and are recipes for paralysis. The exact same sort of arguments could have been raised in the 1940s, say, against car improvements which frequently damaged transit users’ interests (e.g., ripping streetcar tracks off the Bay Bridge to accommodate more cars), yet somehow those arguments are dismissed as irrelevant, since the current car-centric system is considered to be a “done deal” and not subject to further negotiation. It isn’t.

  • If they are using more fossil fuels, this will also increase their costs, and this will decrease demand (for car travel). As I point out above, mode choice is inelastic with respect to a small change (and rather linear typically). Thus increasing gas prices by 1 cent per gallon doesn’t effect travel much, but increasing it by $1/ga does much more and the eventual effect can become elastic. MTC by the way refused my request to model demand based on the possibility that future gas prices might enter an elastic region (if you’re not familiar with elasticity just tell me lol).

    Now of course you might say that the extra cost associated with those 3 blocks is so minor at the margin that it will affect travel hardly at all. Probably true. But, it is thus also true that the increase in GHGs and other pollutants is marginal and of little significance, for the exact same reason. You cannot logically argue that one marginal effect is significant and the other isn’t unless you have modeling and numbers to back you up, and I don’t think you do.

    The argument that speeding up traffic reduces pollution has ironically been used to justify almost every freeway and freeway widening in the last 30 years. Indeed, engine tests show that a smoother, faster traffic flow reduces pollution. But this is arguing at the margin and the short-term. What this kind of analysis ignores (quite deliberately in this case) is the long-term effect of adding auto capacity, which is induced demand (by providing more supply, thus reducing the perceived “cost” in time of driving relative to other modes and absolutely). This leads to the well-known phenomenon of newly-built roads filling up with traffic almost immediately. The reason for this of course is inadequate pricing mechanisms. We have traffic jams in the US for the exact same reasons there were lines for sugar in the Soviet Union: underpriced resources. Not so funny when it happens to us, eh?

  • That’s correct. It’s absurd to see the traffic lights biased for Divisadero St because it carries more traffic than Haight, when Haight carried 5 bus lines (before they were cut down) and way more PEOPLE than Divisadero. This is nothing more than a kind of legalized discrimination, in which by saying “all vehicles are equal” causes more people-minutes of delay than otherwise… but it’s different people. Transit riders’ minutes are considered less valuable than motorists’ minutes. Indeed, there is truth to this based on average income levels, especially as motoring increases monotonically with income. This then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as in most stable systems, as since transit riders are heavily penalized by current car-centric policies and street designs, most abandon transit as soon as they have sufficient funds to get a car. This is further exacerbated by pricing policies which make car ownership expensive, but driving (marginal costs) cheap, and vice versa for transit. Thus, once you have a car, you have a high economic incentive to use it for all trips. It’s ludicrous that if my partner and I travel to the East Bay we have to pay huge transfer fees that end up exceeding our auto cost. Thus, we are essentially doing society an uncompensated-for favor by choosing transit, since we individually would be better off driving (faster AND cheaper) but society would be worse off (more total costs and externalities including pollution). THIS IS THE CENTRAL CRISIS OF AMERICAN GROUND TRANSPORT.

  • This is correct, it’s the basic problem with Larry’s argument. He’s assuming that with the given change in street design, NOTHING WILL CHANGE since HE HIMSELF is not planning to change how he gets around. But that doesn’t prove ANYTHING about how anybody else’s behavior may change.

  • Punishment and such are value words, they don’t give a clue as to policy initiatives, they’re designed to win arguments emotionally. We could as well say that the current car-centric system punishes transit riders and bicyclists. Indeed, the most remarkable thing about American transit is not how few people ride it, but how MANY people ride it despite decades of government neglect, hostile land-use plans, enormous subsidies to car drivers from all levels of government and business, and incredibly incompetent transit planning. This is the “social engineering” argument, which goes like this: anything that maintains stasis (i.e., the current system) is not social engineering. Anything which gets me more of what I want is not social engineering. When you get me less of what I want, or more of what other people want… THAT is social engineering. Fact is, any political decision, even one to do absolutely nothing, is social engineering. There is no “punishment”, this isn’t a schoolyard issue that “Johnny’s been bad”. This is about the proper policies to use scarce resources, such as urban land, clean air, and energy, most efficiently and equitably. Car drivers have been living high on the hog for decades, and it’s time we redressed that imbalance.

  • Yes, and transit has gotten slower too. So that effect was according to your logic “punishing transit riders”. The real issue is that as population has increased, we haven’t been able to keep up infrastructure for several reasons. One is the American obsession with taxes, particularly gasoline taxes, so that the actual purchasing value of gas taxes has plummeted over the last few decades, but there is no political will to raise them, even to index them to inflation. The other is that all the low-hanging fruit has been taken. Fact is, in San Francisco (and the Bay Area in general) there simply isn’t room for significant expansion of auto capacity. Adding 20% let’s say to our population is quite possible and expected over the next 30 years, but adding 20% to road capacity is not happening. On the other hand, tripling transit capacity would be much cheaper if full-cost accounting is used. The reality is that traffic will probably continue to slow down as population and economic activity ramps up, but infrastructure cannot keep pace. Really, government has bent over backwards to accommodate every possible motorist demand. Motorists whine more than almost every group in society and get enormous subsidies, particularly with regard to externalities. That traffic continues to slow is not because drivers are being “punished” or due to bicyclists or the like. It’s because there’s simply no cheap improvements left, they’ve all been done. To improve traffic ironically now requires not more car capacity but less.

  • If you are saying that people drive because they “have to” not because they “want to”, you’re saying that there should be huge pent-up demand for better alternatives. Yet, you’re arguing essentially for stasis. It’s funny because your argument here goes against a long-term argument that “Americans love their cars” and that there is a “cultural” need for automobilia which is inherently irrational but nevertheless must be served regardless of social cost (politicians have frequently made this argument to me). Your argument seems to me to be the opposite and certainly suggests that if people are released from “having” to drive by good transit they will flock to it. Since we have limited resources, not just money but road space and clean air and energy, we cannot simply have both. We can’t do it all as in the Republican “everyone can be rich” concept, which is absurd. So there must be tradeoffs, this is central to economic theory. Since one dollar spent on transit or 100 square meters of space devoted to transit moves more people if well-planned than the same devoted to cars (as long as you don’t just look at it at the margin of a tiny change, but look instead in the context of large systemic change), you would seem to be arguing for great transit improvements to free millions from slavery to their automobiles. In this, I agree with you. Thanks for this argument… even if unintended!

  • If drivers were charged the full social cost of driving, and similarly for transit users and cyclists, the latter two modes would explode and car use would precipitously decline. It’s not about moral choices of individuals and us arguing about what people “ought” to do. That’s a waste of time, it’s like saying we shouldn’t need police because people “ought not” commit crimes. Fact is, people respond to economic incentives. If you reasonably price automobilia and transit, instead of the distorted system we have now, the former will give way to the latter. Not 100%, there is still a significant place for cars (and planes too, for which this argument also applies, as the airline industry is absurdly subsidized). But the current modal split would change utterly. Would some people be screwed? Yes. Would society be better off? Yes. Can you define a policy structure which screws nobody? No, sorry.

  • If you go to Amsterdam, a cold wet windy city, you’ll find that almost every group you name as essentially “unable” to take transit or cycle is in fact doing just that. You see 70-year-olds on bikes. You see guys in suit-and-tie on bikes. You see parents with kids and bike trailers carrying 50 kg or more of stuff on bikes. In lousy weather. On lousy bikes. Now, it’s true that SF is a hillier city (lol!) by far than is Amsterdam. That reason was used by SF policy makers to NOT serve cyclists for years until some actual, you know, EVIDENCE, showed that SF actually had greater cyclist mode share than any other Bay Area city DESPITE those anti-bike policies and the hills. Still, nothing changed as there were no monied interests backing cycling, until Critical Mass and the SF Bike Coalition gathered power.

    So what’s the difference? Do we then raise the usual cultural or racist arguments I hear all the time from politicians when we get to this juncture in the debate? (It goes like this: “Yes yes, Europeans use transit and cycling more. But we are, you know, AMERICANS, and we’re white, and we love our cars, and Hollywood tells us we love our cars, and General Motors and Exxon backed my campaign, so there.” End of argument)

    I think the difference is not those things: it’s POLICY. That good ‘ol social engineering that got us here to begin with. You will see that in Amsterdam, they devote about equal road space to all modes. If they have 16 meters street width available, they’ll likely devote 4 to bikes, 4 to transit, 4 to cars, and 4 to walking. This is different from America, even SF, in which nearly all urban public space is devoted to cars with only very marginal quantities of reluctantly-provided space for other modes. From an Amsterdamer’s point of view, America “punishes” cyclists and transit users.

  • Mom on a bike

    The last time I went to DH Shopping Center, I had to park further away from Safeway than you live from the Market St Safeway. So good luck with that.

    Not to be an ageist jerk or anything. But leave it to a baby boomer to live in a transit and service-rich neighborhood and actually delude himself enough about how right he is that the city has no right to impede the passage of his automobile that he repeatedly complains on multiple blogs, completely oblivious to the ongoing plight of pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders around him. And to seriously think that he speaks for his neighbors all the while.

  • Asad Abdi

    This blog is really informative i really had fun reading it.

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