Eyes on the Street: Third Street’s Abused Muni-Only Lane Gets Red Paint

Third Street approaching Bryant. Photo: Jessica Kuo

Update 6:09 p.m.: SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said “this is a low cost measure to remind and prevent auto drivers from using transit only lanes,” and that the agency will implement the treatments on these street segments this week:

a. 3rd Street between Townsend and Jessie streets
b. Geary/O’Farrell streets between Market and Gough streets – (Note: segments between Grant and Powell will not be painted due to ongoing Central Subway construction)
c. Market Street inbound between  5th and 12th streets and outbound between 8th Street and Van Ness Avenue.

The transit-only lane on Third Street, which tends to have an awful lot of cars in it, got some red paint this week to emphasize what the stenciled paint already says: “Bus Only.” The paint was added to a stretch approaching Bryant Street, where drivers are allowed to cross the bus lane to make a right turn, but not sit in it and block the 30, 45, and 8X lines.

The dashed treatment appears to denote a “merge zone,” similar to the green paint treatments added to bike lanes where drivers can cross, signaling to watch for people on bikes. It’s the first time the SFMTA has added such a treatment to a transit lane. Solid red paint has been used to highlight rail-only lanes on Church Street and the southern stretch of Third where the T-line runs.

We’ll see how far this goes to getting drivers to respect the transit lane. Certainly, it won’t happen without serious enforcement. The blockages are a real problem for Muni riders headed from SoMa to the Financial District and North Beach. Last July, Streetsblog reader Mike Sonn tweeted that he was waiting for his bus near this location when the bus passed him because drivers were blocking the path to the stop.

Photo: freedenizen/Reddit
Drivers were still found blocking the lane. Photo: Jessica Kuo
  • adamspacemann

    I work right by here. Was talking to a coworker today, and we were wondering what this was. We didn’t know and I don’t think drivers know either. Maybe they’ll install some sort of signage?

  • KWillets

    Market and Van Ness could certainly use this.

  • disqus_e4qPyvtwW2

    It says BUS ONLY in big letters in the lane itself. All these drivers know what it is – they just know that it’s not enforced. Just like the bus only lanes on Market Street.

  • Greg

    Westbound on Market, No. 1 is bus/taxi only and No. 2 lane is now bike lane – which lane do cars drive in?

  • Jon

    Both, illegally, because SFPD does not enforce either.

  • david vartanoff

    Preferably, none!

  • tungwaiyip

    It does have awful lots of cars. It also have quite a few bicycles on it, myself included. I’ll see how the enforcement goes. There are probably going to be none.

  • jonobate

    It looks like they are going to do this on Market as well. See slide 41 onwards of this presentation: http://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/agendaitems/3-14-14%20Item%2013%20FY15%20and%20FY16%20Budget.pdf

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Does this work or do oblivious drivers just wonder what it means? They didn’t have red stripes on the road when Grampa Prius was taking drivers’ ed. back in ’61.

    Today I observed someone driving the entire block of Folsom from 7th to 6th, smack in the middle of the huge, obvious, green stripe bike lane. I think drivers just don’t get it.

  • JB

    Of note is that there is also a new signalized pedestrian crossing on 3rd about halfway between Harrison and Bryant, I don’t know the name of the alley.

  • Jim

    Mind you that the first picture is less than 4, albeit long, blocks from the Hall of Justice. SFPD enforcement of bus lanes will never happen. Even if enforcement did happen, SFPD would likely pull the driver over in the bus lane. DPT and bus-mounted cameras can’t ticket moving vehicles, can only ticket stopped vehicles.

    I wonder how MTA is moving along in having the State Assembly change the laws to allow bus-mounted cameras to issue tickets to moving vehicles.

  • JB

    The bus and taxi only lane is only from Van Ness to Embarcadero. There are some areas with mandatory right turn but as far as I’m aware, there’s no part that prohibits private cars, yet.

  • Upright Biker

    Oh, I think they get it, alright. They just don’t care.

    The Folsom bike lane seems to have become a veritable runway for cars turning right at 4th during rush hour.

    It will take some muscle from SFPD to make these things effective so that the self-entitled suddenly “get it” when they get the $250 ticket.

  • omaryak

    This helps, but paint is not enough! You need a grade-separated curb with spokes to prevent cars from crossing where they’re not supposed to.

  • omaryak

    I’ve driven through that area a number of times and I was oblivious. Now that there is striped paint I instinctively moved over because I normally see that used in bike lanes (it was night and I couldn’t see the color).

  • omaryak

    Drivers license exams don’t really emphasize road markings enough, and enforcement actions are rare—when was the last time you got a ticket for crossing a solid line?

  • ≈ I wonder whether this approach will ever work. Results seem middling to my eyes at Church and Market, but I’ve read that surveys show some improvement. Third Street has more wide-open lines of sight, which motorists interpret as an invitation to go faster, and the question remains whether some red paint will be heeded or even much noticed at higher speeds.

    Recall that the N-Judah in the Sunset used to have “red paint” in the form of a bricky surface that was supposed to deter cars on Judah, another wide-open street. This didn’t really work (and indeed seemed to attract the off-road SUV crowd who never left the city).

  • Ross P

    I work on 3rd, and I see the clusterfuck that is traffic there everyday.

    No one respects the bus lane, and people don’t even seem to know what the rules are regarding it (judging from people i’ve talked to in my office). They need to physically separate it, at least partially. No amount of paint is gonna make a difference.

    I mean, every single day on this street cars back up and block entire intersections, repeatedly, on every light change, making things even worse. And no one gets cited for it. This street is basically a daily disaster.

  • zig

    Cars still need to make right turns

  • zig

    In fairness to drivers it is difficult in congestion to get in and out of it

  • zig

    For the same reason it is difficult as a driver to avoid these lanes in congestion sometimes I am very skeptical of BRT on Geary east of Van Ness.

  • sebra leaves

    This is a ticket trap. Drivers have no idea what any of the paint means, especially out-of-town visitors. Bring it on SFMTA. Bring the traffic to a standstill and then ask for more money. See how popular your bond issues are next time.

  • omaryak

    The “bike lane” has sharrows. Both cars and bikes belong in that lane.

  • omaryak

    Which they could do safely with signal upgrades

  • hp2ena

    That would be Perry. The signal prioritizes Golden Gate Transit vehicles pulling out of the daytime storage lot.

  • Steve9100

    Since buses have a much wider wheel base than cars, I’ve long wondered why rumble strips aren’t used to deter cars from using bus only lanes. The strips needn’t be the width of the full lane, but only slightly narrower than the bus wheelbase and placed in the center of the lane. That way, the bus’s tires would not roll over the strips (the bus would straddle the strips) while cars wouldn’t be able to avoid running at least the left or right tires (if not both) over the strips. The strips could be omitted as the lane approached an intersection so that cars could still enter the lane to turn right and so that a bus could pull to the curb without hitting the strip. This might be an inexpensive and effective way to keep cars out. Does anyone know if this has ever been tried?

  • Greg

    The great voters of SF have never seen a bond measure they don’t like. They have no idea that you have to pay back bonds or that there is a limit to the amount of money you can wring out of businesses and property owners here.

  • coolbabybookworm

    Out of town visitors don’t vote on local bond measures.

  • jd_x

    “Bring the traffic to a standstill”

    Right, because all those roads without red paint downtown aren’t already at a standstill …

  • Dustin

    New York City has done some limited evaluation of adding red color to transit-only lanes and found positive results related to reduced illegal driving and double parking within the lanes. However, their sample sizes were relatively small, and the Federal Highway Administration wants more data before they consider making such treatments a new standard. SFMTA is collecting before/after data and will be reporting to the FHWA our findings.

  • twinpeaks_sf

    Going against the thousands of people who ride some of the busiest Muni lines in the City.

    You have lost all credibility (as if you had any to begin with).

  • Who cares if they know what the red paint means? Either they’re ignoring the “BUS ONLY” signs all over the road & on posts or they aren’t. Maybe the red paint will confuse them so they’ll look around to try to figure out what all that white paint and black&white signs have said for years.

  • @Steve9100 – I mentioned in a comment a week ago, that the N-Judah used to run on a brick surface in the Sunset. This was very much like a rumble strip to drive on, except of course for the train. But cars drove on it anyway, and stopped to make left turns, and blocked the train with impunity.

  • markvturner

    The Bus Only signs are covered by cars during rush hour traffic. I got hit by this ticket trap while visiting SF about a month ago cause I couldn’t see any of the damn signs painted on the road cause there were cars everywhere blocking them.

    But of course the money grabbing SF cops will ticket you, even if you’re new to the area and have no idea that bus lanes were even a thing.

    This is indeed a ticket trap and the SF cops are nothing but crooks!

  • The Bus Only lane has been there for a long time before any red paint and white lettering went on the ground. The red paint merely tries to make it more obvious below as it is above.

    Sorry you feel cheated for following everyone else around…sometimes a highway patrol officer will only get the car or two at the end of the pack.


SFMTA to Paint the Transit Lanes Red on Mid-Market This Weekend

The SFMTA announced that red paint will be added this weekend to the transit- and taxi-only lanes on mid-Market Street, between Fifth and 12th Streets. The treatment, already rolled out recently on bus lanes on Third Street and the Geary-O’Farrell Street couplet, is intended to make it more obvious that private auto drivers shouldn’t be […]

New Colored Transit Lanes Coming to Church Street Next Month

New red-colored transit lanes are slated to be implemented on a section of Church Street in September in a SF Municipal Transportation Agency pilot project to speed up the J-Church and 22-Fillmore lines. Following the T-Third line, it would be the second time San Francisco has used colored paint on transit-only lanes to help clarify that […]