Geary BRT and Safety Project Break Ground

But even at this ceremony celebrating Geary improvements, officials acknowledge it should have been a subway--and that the city continues to fall behind on Vision Zero

Mayor London Breed at today's ceremony. Photos Streetsblog/Rudick
Mayor London Breed at today's ceremony. Photos Streetsblog/Rudick

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Mayor London Breed said the city’s Geary Bus Rapid Transit Project should have been rail. “A subway on Geary was my dream, but we’re doing the next best thing,” she added at a groundbreaking event Wednesday afternoon in the gymnasium of the Buchanan YMCA.

That “next best thing” consists of a series of bus improvement projects for the Geary 38, which, with its 54,000 riders per day, is one of the busiest bus lines in the country. That means bus-only lanes along much of the length of Geary, although only portions of it will have the buses in the center of the street–the option preferred by transit advocates. Still, given the high ridership on the 38, even modest time savings add up. Supervisor Vallie Brown, whose district encompasses Japantown and the Fillmore, pointed out that the projected time savings is only a few minutes, but if added up collectively for all riders, it comes to 18,000 hours a week saved.

Art Torres, SFMTA Chair Malcolm Heinicke, Karen Kai, the Mayor, a
SFMTA Chair Malcolm Heinicke, Mayor Breed, Public Works director Mohammed Nuru and other officials at today’s staged groundbreaking ceremony

While the event was billed as a groundbreaking, in reality major civil construction on Geary started last month. And painted, side-running, bus-only lanes were added last year. As previously reported, the $35 million Geary Rapid project is an outgrowth of SFMTA’s long-planned–and long-delayed–Geary Bus Rapid Transit project. It’s now split (and re-branded) into two parts. The “Geary Rapid” will bring improvements from Market Street to Stanyan and is already under way. The second part, west of Stanyan, will come later. Today’s symbolic groundbreaking kicks off traffic signal upgrades, roadway repaving, new crosswalks and sidewalk extensions, or “bulbouts,” that help make bus service more reliable and the corridor safer for people walking. Major civil construction is expected to continue until the spring of 2021.

The Geary Rapid project will attempt to reconnect Bucannan and other streets ripped apart by sections of Geary that are effectively ground-level freeways.
The Geary Rapid project will attempt to reconnect Buchanan and other streets ripped apart by sections of Geary that are effectively ground-level freeways.

The improvements should be especially welcome to residents of the Fillmore and Japantown communities, where the groundbreaking was held. There will be a new signalized crosswalk at Buchanan. And later this year, the pedestrian bridge over Geary at Steiner will be replaced by surface level crosswalks with medians.

A rendering of the new surface level crosswalks that will help reconnect the neighborhoods. Image: SFMTA
A rendering of the new surface level crosswalks that will help reconnect the neighborhoods. Image: SFMTA

“This is a project that will help in many ways with pedestrian safety,” said Jodie Medeiros, executive director of Walk San Francisco.

She added that she was glad the mayor is using the event to push for safer streets throughout the city.

“People are driving too fast,” said the mayor at the event. “I want you all to slow down and we have to be better at making our city safe.” She also said she wants people held accountable when they violate the law. Also today, the mayor directed the SFPD to increase enforcement of behaviors most likely to result in a severe or fatal collision: “speeding, violating the pedestrian right-of-way in a crosswalk, running red lights, running stop signs, and failing to yield while turning… she wants the SFPD to increase the number of citations and to meet the so-called ‘focus-on-the-five’ goal of issuing at least 50 percent of citations to these top five traffic violations,” her office wrote in an official release.

She’s also ordering that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to “develop a policy that requires SFMTA staff to move forward with quick, near-term safety enhancements on high injury corridors, including paint, safety posts, and temporary sidewalk extensions.”

The orders come in the wake of four serious crashes over the past few daysleaving two people dead and at least two more seriously injured, according to a statement from SFMTA: “These crashes happened in four different neighborhoods–the Tenderloin, Pacific Heights, the Excelsior and Forest Hill. Ongoing police investigations mean that the details of these crashes will continue to emerge in the days ahead.”

“We have to get better at making our city safe,” added Breed at today’s event.

  • Jason Leman

    so still no enforcement by our wonderful mayor on jay walking in the city? Especially in downtown it would cut down on accidents

  • crazyvag

    How can a driver be so distracted that he doesn’t see a human in front of his vehicle? Not to justify jaywalking but I never go so fast as I can’t stop or don’t notice a child running into the lane.

  • LazyReader Or an underground bus tunnel. The bottom line is that rail transit is extremely expensive to build and maintain. The clickety clack of steel wheels and steel rail. Nothing says that the subways have to be rail. Why not start planning
    to replace the trains with driverless electric buses? Capital costs are
    far lower (railcars cost about ten times as much as buses, and three or
    more times as much after adjusting for capacities and lifespans),
    maintenance costs are far lower, and–if the buses are driverless, which
    should be technically easy to implement on former rapid transit
    routes–the operating costs will be a lot lower.

  • I ran into a nice older person restoring her license at DMV last week. She quizzed me on one of the questions she’d been studying for weeks: How far ahead of your direction of travel should you fix your eyes in search of obstructions?

    DMV’s answer is apparently 10-15 seconds’ worth of distance. Expecting drivers to have cat-like reflexes is simply not on the books.

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    How do deal with security on a driveless bus?

    Grocery stores are quickly realizing that people stop being honest when they’re interacting with just a machine rather than with a human employee. Those self-checkout kiosks have resulted in staggering numbers of people simply ringing up expensive bulk items as carrots, which costs those stores much more money in lost inventory than it saves on staff. Without any staff on Muni buses, they will become the perfect breading ground for crime.

    Having witnessed a stabbing, an assault, multiple robberies and medical emergencies on Muni buses over the years, the though of being trapped in a robotic bus where there is no driver to respond to someone screaming for help is quite terrifying.

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    Most collisions happen at intersections, not mid block. Enforcement of street safety is never as cost effective as engineering.

    If there is a problem with too many people tying to cross the street mid block, the solution is to add a crosswalk there, instead of making people walk a block out out of their way to get to where they need to go.

    Since they’ve added those extra midblock crosswalks on 6th street, I’ve seen far fewer people walking in the street. When people cross mid block, it’s usually because it’s the closest most convenient option for them. Most people will not walk a block out of their way just to cross at a crosswalk.

  • KJ

    Speed should reflect the conditions; in a dense area, 10 mph may make more sense than 25 mph, for instance.

  • chandru

    And in 10 seconds, you could stop even at 50mph

  • chandru

    I suggest you come to NY to see (jay)walking in all its glory. I taught my kid to cross when its safe, not just because the light is green. Accidents are not caused by (jay)walking but by stupid drivers who are not paying attention. Jaywalking should be taken off the books.

  • LazyReader

    Security Camera, police patrols………….
    Either way, That’s another reason transit ridership is in decline, unlike cars which offer privacy and overall. Crime, assaults, poor hygiene, public urination/defecation, drugs are ubiquitous on public transit vehicles.

  • crazyvag

    The question probably has additional specifics as to type of road you’re on, but either way, it’s a poorly worded question. I recall a question that asked, say you’re going through a business park. Do you travel 15mph, 20mph or 25mph? I remember guessing it wrong, but another example of a useless question that doesn’t do much for safety.

    But like we all know – or maybe don’t – driver’s tunnel vision increases with speed. The faster you go, the less you focus on the sidewalks and things around you. The true answer to the question is you drive slow enough so that you can stop for a child that runs into the street. And if cars are parked on the side blocking your view, maybe drive slower?

  • crazyvag

    And not a solution since it’s physically impossible to transport everyone a city in their own vehicle. Not to mention CO2
    emissions that contribute to global warming that need to be addressed. Your kids will pay the price if we don’t making some adjustments today.

  • peanutcrunch

    Paint and trees ain’t no major project! Once again, SF drops the ball on mass transit.

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    Security cameras and police patrols are useless when someone is screaming for help and the nearest police are a mile away. The most stressful and most important part of every transit operators job is dealing with constant life threatening emergencies that happen every day on some bus or train.

    Eliminating drivers means eliminating any timely response to an emergency, and criminals will exploit this.

    The poor hygiene of mass transit is simply because we stopped cleaning vehicles. Bart used to have full time cleaning crews turning around trains after every run. They stopped doing that in 2000 for budget cutting reasons, and the conditions quickly became so unsanitary they had to remove all the upholstery from Bart trains.

    Cleaning mass transit vehicles just takes labor to do, and bean-counting anti-labor forces decided its better to have dirty transit vehicles then to give people jobs to clean them. Eliminating labor is terrible. It hurts the economy and lowers everyone’s standard of living.

    Transit vehicles in other countries I’ve been to don’t seem to have this problem of unsanitary transit vehicles because unlike here, they actually pay people to clean them adequately.

  • LazyReader

    Concealed carry then.

  • Yeah, that “tunnel vision” is reflective of someone focusing her attention 10 seconds down a road while traveling at a certain velocity.

    If the 38 Geary traveled slowly enough to avoid all darting-out-from-parked-cars accidents, it wouldn’t go much faster than an e-scooter and no one would ride it.

    But I’d totally suggest getting rid of street parking on bus corridors.

  • So, what she’s saying is that even though she realizes that a subway on (sic) Geary is sorely needed, she’ll settle for “the next best thing.” Thanks, Mayor, for selling us short like your predecessors. Had she really given a crap (or rode the 38 or any transit for that matter) she would have stepped in to lobby for a subway. BRT is a joke. It will do little, if anything, to make the slow, long commute from the ocean to downtown any faster or more comfortable.

  • Jason Leman

    From what i have seen it isn’t the person crossing mid block it is the let me cross light or not and the driver will stop for me people. On busy multi lane streets (van ness doing this is almost a death wish) just asking for a balanced enforcement if it is a true vision zero or a money grab

  • Victoria

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  • p_chazz

    Transit vehicles in other countries are also driverless, and they seem to manage.

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    I think there’s a huge difference running driverless rail cars in a closed secure system and running driverless buses on open streets. Having witnessed numerous life-threatening emergencies on Muni busses, the idea of eliminating timely responses to those emergencies by eliminating the driver is horrifying.

    I don’t understand this backlash against giving people jobs. Why would anyone other than black mirror script writers ever want such an existence? What possible future would we have when a sizable chunk of people in our country are suddenly unable to make a living?

    Without any major economic reforms to include UBI, automation will cause more harm to our economy than good. I can’t imagine how our economy could remain solvent with the loss of tens of millions of jobs

  • p_chazz

    LazyReader was suggesting using driverless buses in bus tunnels so it would be a secure system not on an open street.

    The reasons for eliminating jobs is simple; money. Salary and benefits for public employees are a huge cost.

    I think the answer is to contract out services such as cleaning to vendors rather than hire staff.

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  • Ziggy Tomcich

    Eliminating jobs eliminates income, prevents people from earning a living, puts more people in poverty, and lowers GDP because fewer people having money means fewer spenders. I don’t believe our economy can remain solvent with the elimination of 15 million jobs. We’ve never experienced anything close to that ever. There will be entire cities and towns throughout our country that would loose most of their tax base with the loss of professional full-time drivers and those in the service industry that support them.

    Macro economics vs micro economics; while the elimination of jobs saves money on the financial report of a company or organization, , it costs the greater economy more then it saves. Unless automation somehow adds more jobs than it removes or unless we totally restructure how our economy works through UBI, any economic benefit from automation will end up costing more money then it saves, quite possibly collapsing our economy in the process.

    I don’t understand where this “jobs are bad because they’re expensive” argument comes from because the history of economics has shown otherwise.

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A look at a short segment of Geary that will get true "BRT" upgrades. Image: CTA

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The County Transportation Authority warming up for a long afternoon and evening of comments before the final approval of the EIR for Geary BRT. Photo: Streetsblog

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