Commentary – Paul Kozakiewicz

Scrap defective BRT plan

by Paul Kozakiewicz

The SF Municipal Transit Agency (SFMTA) recently held two meetings on the Geary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, one in the Tenderloin and one in Japantown. It has scheduled two more public meetings, which it calls a “Geary Rapid Project Showcase,” for Aug. 2 in the Tenderloin and Aug. 4 in Japantown. The cowards running the show at the public agency don’t have the courage to talk about their plan in the Richmond District, which will bear the bulk of the transit agency’s lunacy. They don’t want to face the public to explain the Frankenstein “hybrid” model planners created and how it fails on so many fronts. We are truly the city that can’t do anything right.

Construction on the Geary-BRT is slated to begin later this year.

Even though the SFMTA just gave the project a new “rapid” designation, #38-Geary rapid buses will not be able to pass #38-Geary local buses between 26th Avenue and Palm Avenue. How ironic.

The SFMTA’s holy grail is speed. Everything it does is to try to speed up the buses or streetcars by a couple of minutes, as if that will solve the transit agency’s problems. It found a few ways to save a few minutes, including removing a number of transit stops, causing people of all ilks, including seniors and the handicapped, to go further distances to a stop or to seek other forms of transit, like Uber or Lyft. Most of any time savings the buses gain will be from the removal of stops.

The SFMTA’s Geary-BRT plan does not increase capacity on the #38-Geary by one person, leaving overcrowded buses packed and riders hanging on for dear life as buses lurch from stop to stop; and it does not provide for cleaner or safer buses.

The SFMTA treats the public with contempt.

If Muni, a part of the SFMTA, was a private enterprise, it would have been bankrupt years ago.

In a recent article in Curbed-SF, penned by Adam Brinklow, San Francisco is the most popular site in the country for trips taken with ride-hailing apps – 75 million trips in 2017 alone.

There is a transportation revolution going on in this City but the SFMTA still has its head in the sand, pretending everything is the same as it was in the ’70s.

The Environmental Impact Report for the Geary-BRT plan does not even acknowledge the existence of ride sharing.

The original Geary-BRT plan called for running exclusive bus lanes down the center of Geary Boulevard from the Outer Richmond to about Gough Street. The estimated cost was about $300 million. But, SFMTA planners started chopping up the plan when costs ballooned and structural problems emerged.

They decided to move buses from the curbside lanes of Geary to the center lanes at 28th Avenue, and then back to curbside lanes at Palm Avenue. Planners couldn’t figure out how to get cars and buses through the Masonic tunnel together without an expensive redo. Dedicated bus lanes in the curbside lanes will be painted red to restrict non-transit vehicles.

Another part of the plan that was jettisoned would have filled in Geary Boulevard where it drops under Fillmore Street. A pedestrian overpass in Japantown was also problematic.

So, the plan being promoted now looks nothing like the original plan, which was also supposed to be “light rail ready.” It certainly is not.

The project will result in years of construction, as Richmond District roads are torn up, hurting local merchants; the loss of parking spaces; the migration of vehicle traffic to ancillary roads, like Clement, California and Balboa streets; and the removal of most left-hand turns on Geary (some of which have already been closed), forcing vehicles making a left turn to turn right and go around the block to do so.

Aside from removing bus stops, other improvements to the #38-Geary bus line were already in progress, including the ability of buses to control traffic signals and the construction of boarding bulb-outs.

It is time to scrap this Frankenstein “hybrid” plan that was concocted for the Richmond and to start work on a real transportation plan, one that considers everyone’s needs and best interests, not just the narrow-minded aims of a wayward transportation agency.

Paul Kozakiewicz is editor of the Richmond Review.

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