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.

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