Geary Bus Riders Set to Get Some “Early” Upgrades Before BRT Lanes Arrive

A rendering of a bus bulb and transit lane at Geary and Fillmore. Minor upgrades like these are set to be installed years before Geary BRT is finished in 2019. Image: SFCTA

Muni’s 38-Geary riders may get some relief even before bus rapid transit lanes come to the line’s Richmond segment in 2019. The SFMTA and SF County Transportation Authority are developing plans to install “early” improvements over the next few years, like bus bulbs, extended transit-only lanes, and transit signal priority.

Those upgrades would be made east of Stanyan Street, on the segment of the Geary corridor that is not poised to get center-running BRT lanes, said SFCTA planner Chester Fung. Center BRT lanes, originally expected to open in 2012, were dropped from the agency’s “preferred alternative” plan this year because of engineering obstacles presented by the Masonic and Presidio tunnels. The larger BRT project is still going through a lengthy environmental review and design process.

But on the eastern segments outside of the Richmond, where buses will continue to run on curbside lanes just as they do today, planners are looking to make “phased” upgrades that don’t have to wait. These will consist of “things that are more easily done, and less involved from an infrastructure and engineering standpoint,” and therefore don’t have to wait for the larger project, said Fung.

The SFMTA has already added red paint to the existing transit-only lanes on inner Geary and O’Farrell streets this year. Transit-priority bus detection is being installed on traffic signals at 86 intersections along the corridor.

According to SFCTA presentation materials [PDF], the route could see these upgrades between next year and 2017:

  • Bus-only lanes extended by one to two miles, between Gough and Stanyan streets
  • Transit and pedestrian bulb-outs at up to 15 spots
  • Bus zone extensions to fit more buses at up to 15 busy stops
  • Up to five stops removed, and “up to two local-only stops created,” at Spruce and Laguna Streets
  • Up to 15 right-turn “pocket” lanes to keep queuing cars out of the way
  • Some stops moved from the near side of the intersection to the far side, to take advantage of transit signal priority
  • Countdown pedestrian signals installed at six intersections

Fung said SFMTA planners are still working on details, like locations, for many of those improvements, and they would represent less than half of the upgrades planned for the segment east of Stanyan. Altogether, the “early” improvements are expected to save riders four to six minutes in each direction — and would result in bus reliability improving by 20 percent as buses arrive closer to their scheduled arrival times. The total cost would be $15 to $20 million, which is expected to be included in the existing Geary BRT budget estimates.

Additionally, the SFCTA presentation pointed out, the SFMTA has also purchased 61 new articulated, low-floor Muni buses, which should speed up boardings on the lines they’re used.

Fung said that any changes to bus stops or car parking would have to be approved at the SFMTA’s public engineering hearings.

  • Chris

    I thought transit signal priority was supposed to have been installed on Geary a couple of years ago. I guess a couple of years ago in Muni speak means 2020 or so

  • The 38 is one of the most heavily used Muni routes in the city, yet somehow we went from planning a subway to planning a couple of small bus optimizations over the past four decades. How sad is that?

  • shotwellian

    Terrible that the Fillmore and Masonic tunnels are such obstacles — it’s like the dead hand of auto-centric 1950s and 60s planning is reaching out to prevent transit from being improved even now.

  • Andy Chow

    Because of the mistake of removing the streetcar line due to the false promise of a subway. If they hadn’t remove that, it would likely have received light rail treatment.

  • Bluehale

    Well at least BART is finally going to at least study a second Transbay tube plus a Geary line. Whether or not we’ll see it in our lifetime will depend on the political will in SF.

  • vcs

    Various Geary subway plans were voted down at the ballot over the years, or cancelled due to BART politics.

    But recently it comes down to the bizarre decision that Third Street is a more important corridor than Geary.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Signal priority was supposed to be deployed on the T-Third in 2007, and yet here we are.

  • Which ballot measures were those? When voters approved the 1/2% sales tax in 1988 it listed a “fixed guideway” upgrade to Geary. (The campaign suggested LRT, but “fixed guideway” can mean BRT.) Voters also approved the reauthorization of the 1988 measure 15 years later.

  • walt kovacs

    PLEASE DONT DESTROY THE RICHMOND DISTRICT WITH THIS BS PLAN

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    Oh no, let’s all whine and complain in all caps because bus service is going to be improved! Oh the humanity!

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