SFMTA Board Approves McAllister Muni Upgrades, Traffic Circles

McAllister and Fillmore Streets, where bus bulb-outs and more visible crosswalks were recently added. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA Board of Directors today approved a package of upgrades on McAllister Street to improve pedestrian safety and speed up buses on the 5-Fulton line as part of Muni Forward. Among the changes, two stop signs will be replaced with transit-priority traffic signals, and two others will be replaced with traffic circles.

The project is expected to shave 20 percent off travel times along the route, which goes from the Outer Richmond to downtown, according to the SFMTA. That added speed will come on top of the boost given to the route two years ago, with the launch of 5-Fulton Rapid service and street upgrades like bus bulb-outs.

The changes approved today include traffic signals that give priority to buses where McAllister intersects with Scott Street and Broderick Street. The original proposal called for signals at five intersections but the plan changed after protests from neighbors. But at two of those intersections — Lyon Street and Steiner Street — McAllister will get traffic circles to calm motor vehicle speeds, the first such treatment on a bus route in SF.

An SFMTA report [PDF] noted that “a number of residents” at a July hearing “voice[d] their feedback that traffic circles do not, in their view, provide adequate pedestrian safety.”

“SFMTA staff believes that this is, in fact, not true,” the report said, citing examples in other cities. Sacramento, for instance, saw a 70 percent drop in crashes “at locations where they implemented a traffic circle.”

The plan for a traffic circle at McAllister and Steiner. Image: SFMTA [PDF]
The plan for a traffic circle at McAllister and Steiner. Image: SFMTA [PDF]
The stops at Laguna and Gough will be moved to the far side of the intersection, so that buses can clear traffic signals before loading passengers. A bus stop will also be removed at McAllister and Lyon, and a bus bulb-out will be added where McAllister intersects with Larkin Street and Market Street.

SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin said in a statement that the 5R upgrades launched in October 2013 resulted in “dramatic increases in both service and ridership for this route.”

Ridership grew by an impressive 10 percent along the entire corridor. When we zeroed in on certain streets, service between 6th Avenue and downtown jumped by 33 percent during the morning peak, 13 percent during the afternoon peak and 60 percent during midday operations. Muni collisions also dropped by 36 percent on Fulton between Central and Stanyan.

Not only will better service draw more riders, it will also save time for many people who already ride this route. “Looking at just one driver on a single route, eliminating one, two, or even six minutes for each lap adds up dramatically,” said Andy Bosselman of the SF Transit Riders Union in a statement. “That’s in a single day. These travel time improvements are even more dramatic when multiplied across all of the drivers and all of the routes with changes.”

Image: SFMTA [PDF]
Image: SFMTA [PDF]
  • Kyle

    Why does SFMTA keep making street upgrades to McAllister in the Tenderloin without the addition of a bicycle lane? One of the two westbound traffic lanes could easily be removed to add a protected bike lane. However, the Hastings street upgrades (wider sidewalks and corner bulb-outs) and the bus bulb-outs definitely complicate the addition of a bicycle lane. A bus bulb-out with a bike lane incorporated would also increase Muni travel times by preventing leapfrogging.

  • City Resident

    I agree that there’s definitely room for both better bicycle and better transit infrastructure along McAllister in the Tenderloin. By the way, I think you meant to say that a bus bulb-out with a bike lane incorporated into it would decrease Muni travel times…

    As to this project, I understand the concerns of the naysayers but I think it’s very much worth a try. Muni needs all the help it can get to speed up its service and it looks like this plan will noticeably help. Glad to see that the SFMTA seems to finally be taking Muni service seriously, with many improvements underway on a good number of lines.

  • ARRO

    I will be very curious to see the hard figures on this (5 travel times, safety aspects, how it affects traffic) after they implement this. I have a feeling that for all the effort and money spent on this and many other pet projects that are being implemented throughout the city, the net gain will not be significant and could have been much better utilized in other areas of our transit system or by at least creating consistent effective infrastructure rather then this piecemeal approach.

  • baklazhan

    I think that–all things considered–the money spent on this may not be all that much. Pedestrian bulbs and traffic circles are a couple tens of thousands at most. Striping doesn’t cost much. Traffic lights are significantly more expensive, from what I’ve read, at $100,000 or more.

    But the upsides are quite significant. If the traffic circles and such prove effective, that could save a lot of money in the long run, as an alternative to building and maintaining traffic lights. Likewise, savings in Muni operating costs add up quick.

    So I’m glad they’re trying new things. In the long run, I think these could prove to be very cost-effective, as well as being aesthetic and safety improvements.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    It is very chaotic transitioning from 7th and then heading through the Civic Center area. I only go through there occasionally – I feel for anyone who has to use this route regularly.

  • SFnative74

    Actually, each ped bulb is at least $100,000. Traffic signals are over $300,000.

  • Michael Morris

    I think once construction is done at McCallister and Van Ness a bike lane running from Laguna to Larkin is due.

  • mx

    I think the improvements could well be worthwhile, but it’s interesting to me that nobody ever bothers to do the followup reporting on these projects to see what was actually achieved. Muni is apparently claiming they can speed up the 5 by 20%, which would be a huge achievement that would free up some time for a lot of people. But once construction is completed, you won’t see any news stories reporting what the actual results were.

  • Darksoul SF

    Putting a Obstructive in middle of the street causing dangerous point.

  • jd_x

    Following your logic, how do you wrap your head around the idea that roads are full of *moving* obstructions, aka other cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists?

  • Aron

    Add some more pedestrian islands, get rid of the stupid stop signs, and you’d have a *real* roundabout.

  • gneiss

    That is exactly the point. However, it’s only dangerous to a speeding and distracted motorist who wishes not to damage their car. Please, pray tell me how is a roundabout is dangerous to a pedestrian walking across the street?

  • Darksoul SF

    Would rather go Straight or make slight turns?

  • OneSF

    SFMTA estimated that the “5 Fulton: East of 6th Ave Transit Priority Project ” would cost them $7.6 million, so it’s not exactly that cheap. Even the 19th ave. improvements for the 28 line, which are mainly transit bulbs/ pedestrian bulbs, are going to cost $23 million.

  • OneSF

    I don’t think these changes are really going to do much in terms of speeding service for the 5. They could’ve removed a bunch of stops from the Avenues for both the 5 and the 5R , which would save even more time than any of these changes will.

  • Darksoul SF

    a number of residents” at a July hearing “voice[d] their feedback that traffic circles do not, in their view, provide adequate pedestrian safety Ageeed

  • jd_x

    I can’t see how this is not better than the existing situation when it comes to pedestrian safety. At worst, it’s the same. At best, it forces motorists to slow down which makes the intersection safer for pedestrians.

  • gneiss

    You forgot the second part of that statement: “SFMTA staff believes that this is, in fact, not true,” the report said, citing examples in other cities. Sacramento, for instance, saw a 70 percent drop in crashes “at locations where they implemented a traffic circle.”

  • Darksoul SF

    Oh wait is MacAllister St that explain why people need it.

  • baklazhan

    It would be interesting to know what the breakdown is for that spending. Especially paperwork. I could imagine that as it becomes more common, the design and review costs could go down a lot, since they could reuse the previous work, but who knows.

  • sebra leaves

    This is the dumbest idea they have come up with yet. Traffic circles are
    a waste of road and slow down ALL motor vehicles including emergency
    ones and Muni buses. Here are some photos of Muni buses trying to get
    past traffic circle obstacles: https://metermadness.wordpress…

    Obviously, SFMTA does not care about the requirements of emergency
    vehicles or how fast they can operate on the city streets. They are
    slowing them down all over town. I watched a fire truck sit through four
    traffic lights on

    King Street while the traffic slowly crawled through the intersection at
    Third. No where for the cars to got to get out of the way.

    Stops, no stops, it doesn’t matter to a fire truck.

  • City Resident

    Every Muni rider on any line that has experienced speed (and service reliability) improvements directly benefits from this piecemeal approach. New transit priority signals on Mission St. and Geary Blvd., transit stop bulbouts on Carl, Divisadero, and McAllister, and bus stop elimination on Haight and Hayes streets (and so much more) have all helped to get Muni passengers to their destinations quicker. (Is this not significant for all of those riders?) All of these piecemeal steps add up, allowing Muni to provide more transit service for nearly the same price.

  • City Resident

    Automobile congestion is, by far, the greatest barrier to emergency vehicles. Better, faster, and more reliable Muni service directly enables less automobile congestion.

  • ARRO

    While true that enhanced service “may” help with some congestion (remember all the density being packed into this city?), that does not change the fact that with the street designs SFMTA is implementing, there is simply no where for vehicles to move to clear a path for first responders where as previously, additional width, shoulders, or space, were part of street designs which allowed for a path to be cleared. It is simply a pipe dream thinking that everyone will magically take Muni and that congestion also magically disappears.

  • ARRO

    Muni is most definitely not providing better transit for “nearly the same price”. Remember all of the bonds recently passed as well as the un-monitored raiding of the general fund? The immense amount of money being spent by this agency vs improvement ratio with this piecemeal approach could be far better for all parties involved and frankly is quite disappointing.

  • mx

    Well said. We’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars more on Muni (not counting the billions we’re spending on the Central Subway). I’m all for spending more on transit, but it would be nice to see some real bang for our buck with bigger projects like real BRT on Geary for instance.


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