SFCTA: Geary BRT Will Take Hundreds of Cars Off the Street Every Hour

Geary BRT is expected to reduce car traffic on the street in large numbers. This graph shows hourly car volumes projected in the westbound direction. Image: SFCTA

Once bus rapid transit is finally up and running, Geary Boulevard will carry thousands fewer cars every day in 2020, compared to a scenario where it doesn’t get built.

A rendering of the recommended plan for Geary BRT at 17th Avenue in the Richmond. Image: SFCTA

That’s according to a preliminary analysis [PDF] presented by the SF County Transportation Authority. The traffic counts vary, depending on which of several design alternatives are built, and some of the cars taken off Geary during rush hours would divert to parallel streets instead. Nonetheless, a Geary without bus rapid transit would have more cars than one with it.

Just how big is the difference? A traffic projection for the intersection of Geary and Divisadero Street shows about 2,200 westbound cars each hour — compared to about 1,000 fewer cars with the Geary BRT “3-Consolidated” option. However, the SFCTA doesn’t plan to build that option, as it would require the expensive undertaking of filling in the Fillmore underpass.

The SFCTA’s “preferred” option is the “hybrid” alternative, which only includes bus-only center lanes in the Richmond District. The other three quarters of the Geary corridor would get side-running bus lanes, many of which exist today.

Hourly car volumes projected in the eastbound direction. Image: SFCTA

Under the “hybrid” scenario, projected car traffic at Geary’s intersections with Arguello and Park Presidio Boulevards within the Richmond are only a bit higher than in the 3-C scenario — a few hundred more cars a day on Geary. At Geary and Divisadero, however, eastbound car volumes are almost as high as in the status quo, and westbound car volumes are somewhere in the middle.

As for the numbers of drivers expected to use parallel streets instead, the numbers range between 200 and 700 cars hourly during peak hours, depending on the intersection. The effect is most pronounced at Webster Street, just east of the Fillmore underpass, where Geary is only slated to get side-running bus lanes.

It’s also worth noting that driving speeds on Geary are expected to remain mostly unchanged, with drivers seeing the slowest speeds under the status quo, and the fewest delays under the more aggressive 3-C scenario. Each BRT scenario would, however, slow down eastbound drivers within the speed-plagued stretch between the Masonic tunnel and Laguna Street.

Image: SFCTA

The bigger implication of this study, of course, is that it reinforces the notion that, when streets are prioritized for higher-quality transit service, people will opt to use it. That effect has been seen in other cities. As Walter Hook, executive director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, said in a Streetfilm, BRT lines typically yield a 10-20 percent shift away from cars. When New York City implemented “Select Bus Service” improvements and a parking-protected bike lane on Second Avenue, car traffic on one segment dropped 11 to 23 percent.

Once San Francisco eventually, finally constructs BRT, we’ll have our own local example to point to.


Hampered by Tunnels, Center BRT Lanes on Geary Limited to the Richmond

Correction 12/17: The next community meeting on Geary BRT is tonight, Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m. at the Main Public Library. The latest iteration of the plan for bus rapid transit on Geary Boulevard includes center-running bus lanes only on the Richmond District segment between Arguello Boulevard and 27th Avenue — about a quarter of the street’s […]

Geary BRT Plan Watered Down to Appease Parking-Obsessed Merchants

Update: This plan may not be “watered down” after all. See our follow-up report here. Planners are touting a new proposed configuration for Geary Bus Rapid Transit that would forgo bus passing lanes in order to preserve car parking to appease merchants. Separated, center-median bus lanes would be retained, and project backers hope the changes […]

Options for Geary BRT Come Into Focus

Just after San Francisco approved a preferred design for its first Bus Rapid Transit route on Van Ness Avenue, the SF County Transportation Authority showcased the latest conceptual proposals for a companion BRT project on Geary Boulevard. Geary BRT, which has been fraught with delays over the years, is expected to bring relief to riders on Muni’s […]

BART Will Study Second Transbay Tube, West Side Extension

Updated 11:06 p.m. with comments from BART Board-elect Nick Josefowitz. BART says it will formally study the decades-old ideas of building a second Transbay tube and extending service to SF’s western neighborhoods. Ellen Smith, BART’s acting manager for strategic and policy planning, recently told a SF County Transportation Authority Board committee (comprised of SF supervisors) […]

Is the Geary Bus Rapid Transit Project in Jeopardy?

Photo: plug1 If the Geary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project doesn’t get some love from advocates and the general public, the project could be in trouble, according to several people closely following the process. "I look to the left, I look to the right, all I see is opposition and criticism," says Joel Ramos, a […]

SFCTA to Test Variable Road Pricing on Treasure Island

Treasure Island will serve as San Francisco’s proving grounds for road pricing that adjusts in response to traffic conditions, as the city looks to minimize Bay Bridge car congestion generated by residents expected to move to the development site. When the first housing units on the artificial mid-bay island, formerly owned by the Navy, are occupied in 2019, the SF County Transportation […]