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Nov-11-2009

The pros and cons of the Geary Bus Rapid Transit Project


The Geary Bus Rapid Transit project, or Geary BRT for short, is the subject of debate among Richmond District residents. The project is designed to speed up buses and make service more reliable and comfortable along Geary Boulevard, as well as improve pedestrian conditions among the busy corridor with new medians, safer crossings, landscaping and countdown signals.

But the Geary BRT is dismissed by opponents as being too expensive, too disruptive to residents and businesses, and unrealistic in its goals. On the other hand, proponents believe that Geary Boulevard can become the “Great Street” it was always meant to be, and that bus riders will benefit from the service improvements and merchants from the increased ridership into the Richmond District.

To help clarify the two sides of the Geary BRT debate, I invited two Davids to weigh in on the primary issues around the project. They were provided with the same set of questions and asked to keep their answers to no more than 150 words.

Falling into the anti-BRT camp is David Heller, President of the Greater Geary Boulevard Merchants & Property Owners Association and founder of savegearyblvd.com.

For the pro side, I invited Dave Snyder, a regular sf.streetsblogs.org contributor and longtime activist for better transportation. You’ll see the Davids’ side-by-side answers below to some of the top questions that arise when Geary BRT is discussed. But don’t just take their word for it – head over to gearybrt.org to learn more about the project.

Many thanks to David Heller and Dave Snyder for participating in the Q&A.

Sarah B.

——————————————————————

Please give a short bio about yourself and explain your relationship to the Geary BRT project:
Dave Snyder: I’m a longtime student of local transportation policy, and activist for better transportation since 1991. After stints as the chief executive of local organizations, the SFBC and Livable City, I served as the transportation policy director for the San Francisco Planning & Urban Research Association where I learned about best practices in public transit and worked to promote improved transit in San Francisco. I learned that BRT systems are an important innovation in public transit that provide a fantastic return on the investment for limited dollars available to build new public transportation infrastructure. David Heller: As president of the Greater Geary Boulevard and Property Owners Association, I am responsible for actions that benefit or hurt local businesses, which are the life-blood of our community. I served on the first citizens advisory committee, which was comprised to investigate the potential for the Bus Rapid Transit system.

As a Richmond District resident, what are the two most important things I should know about the Geary BRT project?
Snyder: (1) That Geary BRT will be public transit unlike anything most of us have ever seen: new vehicles that feel like and operate like trains, stations instead of stops, and faster and more reliable than our current buses and LRVs, and (2) that impacts on car traffic will be minor, almost negligible. Heller: The BRT project was born in secrecy when the SFMTA snuck enabling legislation into a 10-page bill requesting an extension of sales tax revenues for transportation projects. There was one sentence, on page 6 of the legislation, which called for the BRT plan and made it a “voter mandate” to implement. At the meetings before the November vote on the legislation, the MTA’s advisory board made a decision to not tell anyone in the Richmond District about the legislation’s provisions and to avoid the Richmond District’s numerous community meetings for fear of exposure. As well, the highly-politicized MTA is skewing or misleading the public in its partisan effort to get the program going. For example, the number of cars leaving Geary for other Richmond District roads is expressed in terms of vehicles per minute, not vehicles per hour, which gives a better impression of what the actual impacts would be.

What effect will the Geary BRT project have on the businesses along the Geary corridor?
Snyder: All businesses will benefit a little, some a great deal. Geary BRT will attract more people to the corridor as people figure out that if you want to go downtown without your car, you can always walk to Geary and catch a fast and comfortable BRT vehicle in five minutes. This means more people on the Geary sidewalks able to pick up something at a store on their way home. For businesses that need to attract people from the whole city, faster access from Market Street and the Van Ness BRT will make the Richmond an easier destination to access. Construction is usually a hassle, but in this case the sidewalks are hardly being touched, so access to businesses will be unhindered. When the street is dug up, the impact will be much like repaving, which is going to happen anyway, and in fact be coordinated with the BRT construction. Heller: Businesses will suffer during construction and after. The loss of traffic lanes, left-hand turns and parking spaces will hurt an already battered business district. Traffic will be driven to ancillary streets as people avoid the driving-unfriendly environment of Geary. When the BRT line is converted from buses to light rail vehicles, businesses located between the “transit stations” will suffer. Only the high-traffic “transit station” locations would benefit, and those locations are usually taken by high-volume chain stores, such as Walgreens.

In lieu of the BRT project, what else could we be doing to achieve the same objectives of the BRT, which are described on the project website as “to improve travel times, reliability, and the user experience on one of San Francisco’s highest ridership bus routes”?
Snyder: The MTA is already planning to increase the frequency of the 38L and run it until 9:00 p.m. They are also going to adjust the light timing in the eastern portion of Geary. These changes are important practically because they provide better service at less cost to Muni, but they are also important politically because they will provide a sense of optimism among Muni riders. In my experience as a transportation activist, I have learned that people need hope, a sense that the government cares and is making changes to improve the lives of everyday people. Muni riders haven’t had this optimism in a long time, but they deserve it! Boy do they deserve it! If the MTA follows through on these modest improvements, it should make people more enthusiastic about the chances for really fantastic transit that BRT can bring. Heller: A whole bunch of the recommendations we made to improve transit on Geary is being incorporated into the BRT, including transit signal control and GPS monitoring technology. We recommended transforming one lane of traffic on Geary to a “transit-only” diamond lane during morning and evening commute hours but the plan was dismissed by the MTA, which is hell-bent on spending a quarter of a billion dollars on the project, whether it is needed or not.

If/When completed, do you think that the use of public transportation to and from the Richmond District will increase? Why or why not?
Snyder: I’ve come to learn you can’t force people to do something they don’t want to do. You can’t force them out of their cars, or onto bicycles or buses. Most people make a pretty simple calculation about time and money, and choose whatever option is easiest, and worth the money. For example, the 55,000 daily riders of Geary today don’t take the bus to stop global warming, they do it because it’s easy enough and cheap compared to parking or taxis. It’s pretty easy to understand that if you make transit faster, more frequent, more reliable, and more comfortable, more people will take it. Heller: The Geary BRT is slated to end at 33rd Avenue, not at the Great Highway as it currently is. For riders in the Outer Richmond, there will be a hardship just getting to the new Geary BRT line. Travel times will increase slightly for bus riders, but at what cost to the community – years of extensive construction, a dispersement of vehicles onto other Richmond roads, a loss of businesses, etc. It is a large price to pay for a few years of union construction and the shaving of a few minutes off the average downtown commute.


Of the proposed layouts for the BRT lanes, which do you recommend and why?
Snyder: Either of the two center options is better than the side option. The side option eliminates the qualities of BRT that make it seem like a train. The side option will require the bus to be delayed by or swerve around double-parked cars or even cars legally waiting to pull into a spot. This won’t happen with the center option. The side option also does not allow for express buses to pass the locals without swerving. Also, the center option also allows the restoration of parking spaces that are currently occupied by bus stops. In sum, the side option isn’t really BRT. Heller: Using the outside lanes, with exclusive transit use during busy commute times, is the cheapest, most efficient and cost-effective option. But, because the BRT line has to be “rail ready”, the center lane option is being aggressively pursued by the MTA. Of the two center lane options, one would require a whole new fleet of buses with loading doors on the left side of the bus. That option would also shut down when a bus broke down, making it a “straw” choice. There is only one option that the MTA wants, and all of the other choices being studied are for show only.

Finally, please use this space to add any final thoughts about the project.
Snyder: As a transportation professional, I’m excited to see the Geary and Van Ness BRT projects built because I think they will be models for more projects throughout the city. Some say that BART should have been extended under Geary as originally contemplated and they’re right, but this is almost as good and so very much cheaper. This technology doesn’t exist anywhere in the Bay Area, so people can’t appreciate how different it’s going to be than the regular bus. Even though it won’t be trains, it will be better than Muni’s existing surface light rail lines: just as comfortable but more frequent and faster. Where BRT does exist around the world, it’s very popular and beloved. Once we have it, San Franciscans will wonder why we didn’t do it sooner. It’s about time we joined the rest of the world and implemented this new idea to improve transit. Heller: The MTA’s Geary BRT plan should be scrapped. It does little for improving commute times or the quality of ride on the Geary #38 bus line and costs upwards of $250 million. The MTA claims the new bus line would increase ridership, but when pressed to explain who the additional riders would be, the MTA has no answers, other than saying people would leave their cars behind to ride the Geary #38 bus line. The population of the Richmond District is not expected to increase much in the next decade, so increased ridership is a red herring. Perhaps the MTA will fill the buses up with commuters from other Bay Area cities, further impacting the parking problems in the Richmond.

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11:09 pm | Posted under Business, Muni, Traffic | 92 comments
  1. troymccluresf said (11/12/09; 8:34 am):

    “When the BRT line is converted from buses to light rail vehicles, businesses located between the “transit stations” will suffer. Only the high-traffic “transit station” locations would benefit, and those locations are usually taken by high-volume chain stores, such as Walgreens.”

    Is you kidding? We’ve all seen that proper transit will let a neighborhood flourish- just look at Mission Bay. There was nothing there until the N extended to Caltrain. Now there’s a year-round nightlife that’s expanding every year. And look at West Portal. It’s otherwise a massive inconvenience to get there from east of the Peaks, but people head out there all the time because of the convenience of direct light rail. And last I checked, it’s hardly a wasteland beyond the immediate area of the station.

    Also, as a Richmond District native, I’d love to come back to Trad’r Sam or Giorgio’s or 540 Club or Pizza Orgasmica or Tommy’s or hell, even BevMo. But currently, it takes at least 70 minutes to get there on Muni via two buses (vs. a 60 minute walk from my place), and parking is absolute shit. So I don’t go. Put Geary & the Richmond on Muni Metro, though? I’d come back several times a month, easy.

    Transit has proven time and time again to benefit the businesses it serves, and it absolutely baffles me as to why anyone- much less a merchant association president- would try to keep it out.

    “It is a large price to pay for a few years of union construction and the shaving of a few minutes off the average downtown commute.”

    How about for allowing greater access to the Richmond for the rest of San Francisco? Thinking solely in terms of commuting downtown is woefully short-sighted. The Richmond could very well be poised to be SF’s Bext Big Thing. Hayes Valley has hit critical mass, Dogpatch & Potrero are stalling a bit, so why not the Richmond? Places like Park Life are bringing a new demographic to the Outer Lands, why not capitalize on that? Bringing back the B Geary could do just that, but if you continue to whine about a little construction (which isn’t hurting anyone on Valencia or Divisadero, by the way) then the Richmond will continue to be “way the hell out there,” and harder to get to than Berkeley. The rest of San Francisco has dollars, David Heller- let us come spend them in your neighborhood.

  2. Dave (a third one!) said (11/12/09; 8:54 am):

    Before moving to the Richmond, I attended a public hearing regarding proposed congestion pricing schemes to reduce traffic downtown. At that meeting, they mentioned that a large number of people commute to work downtown from the Richmond by car. The existing bus lines on Geary apparently aren’t cutting it. So looking at the larger picture, I suspect the BRT service improvements are as much about reducing congestion downtown during the workday as they are about improving the situation directly in the Richmond. Personally, I think it sounds like a great idea all around, especially “Alternative 4″ above.

    To any merchants concerned about loss of business, I have to ask – would you rather have people whizzing by your store every day locked up in their cars? Or would you rather have them walking by on their way home from their bus stop where they can peek in your windows and wander in?

  3. Streetsblog San Francisco » Today’s Headlines said (11/12/09; 8:58 am):

    […] Dave Snyder and Geary Merchants Prez David Heller Debate Geary BRT (Richmond District Blog) […]

  4. David a fourth one yet! said (11/12/09; 9:18 am):

    I LOVE transit. I think before you spend $300 million on this project or the $1 BILLION dollars on the Chinatown project try cheaper alternatives. More importantly, all the construction in the world busses etc will not help improve transit if the same sloppy TERRIBLE agency runs it- yah Muni I mean you! As for the bike folks there is no bike lane for you. Construction disruption estimated 5 years in combination with the Doyle drive project, seems like that’s beyond whining its out of business for many.

    I favor getting information out there and let people decide- its our $$ and our neighborhood!

  5. Administrator said (11/12/09; 10:19 am):

    @troymccluresf – Please do not use profanity in your comments or they will be deleted.

    Sarah B.

  6. troymccluresf said (11/12/09; 10:31 am):

    Noted, with my apologies.

  7. Jason said (11/12/09; 11:01 am):

    There are a lot of stores and restaurants in the Richmond that I love, but because Geary is such an unpleasant and slow transit corridor, and because I prefer not to drive and get frustrated attempting to park there, I rarely visit them. When BRT becomes a reality, I and others will spend more time in the neighborhood, spending money in the small businesses that Heller represents, and in those he doesn’t, too.
    It saddens me that the likes of Heller have had such sway over the Geary corridor discussion.

  8. NorCalRichRes said (11/12/09; 12:06 pm):

    “It’s pretty easy to understand that if you make transit faster, more frequent, more reliable, and more comfortable, more people will take it.”

    Well put, Dave S.

    I don’t buy Heller’s argument that “traffic will be driven to ancillary streets as people avoid the driving-unfriendly environment of Geary.” If alternative 4 or 5 are implemented, I think it will *improve* the driving environment. It scares me, having to compete with 38 buses for lane space and swerve around them when they leave half of their back ends out in the right lane at a bus stop. Removing them from car lanes would be an improvement to safety and traffic flow. Also, I doubt many cars traveling to/from downtown would move over to ancillary streets. Those streets have already been made driving-unfriendly by non-timed traffic lights and stop signs so that people driving more than a few blocks will feed back into Geary. If some left-hand turns could be preserved with this plan, then I think you basically eliminate that problem.

  9. Alicia said (11/12/09; 12:24 pm):

    This is a great post.

    I don’t understand how Heller can possibly think that BRT would be bad for businesses. The parking situation on Geary is so bad that people already think that it is a pain to come to the Richmond.

    There is no question that the 38 line needs improvement and I hope that the intirim fixes that will be taking place in December do inspire the optimism in Muni riders that Snyder predicts.

  10. Mike said (11/12/09; 1:07 pm):

    It is curious that the the opposition to making transportation improvements are usually the small businesses who would actually benefit. This happens over and over again. The classic example is that Fisherman’s Wharf Merchants Association fought against the F-line being implemented. They claimed it would hurt their businesses by making it more difficult to drive to the wharf. Now, of course, they think it is the greatest thing since sliced bread since it brings in so many customers to their businesses. And they want MORE service! Unfortunately their obstructions caused the F-line implementation to be scaled back. Now the city is spending more money then it should need to in order to extend it to Fort Mason due to the current design.

    And of course it should be noted that it isn’t the majority of businesses who are against Geary BRT. It is just a subset. Most people realize having better transportation means more customers, and that is a good thing for business. But Heller will continue to try to make BRT fail by promoting bad ideas like having the lanes by by the curb, which would mean that buses would continue to be slowed down by right turning cars. But once it is built he and others will have the epiphany, just as the Fishy Wharf Merchants did, that better transit is actually a good thing.

  11. Sue said (11/12/09; 1:39 pm):

    We are in desperate need for transportation relief out here in the Richmond District, as we are one of the parts of the city least well-served by rapid, convenient transportation. The 38L takes 30 to 35 minutes to get downtown, and connections to other parts of the city via the 18, 29, 28, 44, and 33 are slow. Geary BRT cannot come soon enough.

    I can sympathize with the concerns of small business owners to a certain extent, but lose it when they start playing the economy card in order to maintain the status quo — which is not realistic. The reality is that our entire economic system has been built on a foundation of fossil fuels, which are causing global climate change and which are being depleted. It’s absolutely necessary to collectively agree to go to the next stage in our transportation and begin to put the infrastructure in place that will allow people to move around more freely without their personal automobiles.

    There are going to be definite economic costs to this transition — parking spaces will be lost in some cases, construction may indeed disrupt business, customers may indeed have to start paying more for parking and for longer hours. But these costs are merely the costs of our profligate lifestyle catching up with us as climate change and resource depletion loom. And there’s no avoiding the fact that we’re going to have to pay –but we can choose to do so either in an orderly fashion that prepares for the future, or we can postpone preparing for the future and leave the next generation to deal with the chaos that will result if we don’t plan now.

  12. Elizabeth said (11/12/09; 1:43 pm):

    While I don’t agree with everything both sides have written, the concern about left-turns is valid and significant. Anyone who uses the T-Third, like me, knows how often cars turn left illegally in front of the train. Anyone remember that really bad accident earlier this year between the train and the tractor trailer?

  13. Chris said (11/12/09; 1:59 pm):

    I don’t really understand Heller’s fascination with the commute-time only alternatives. Has he ever ridden the 38? It’s busy all day, not just at commute times. I’d be open to other ideas to improve transit on Geary, but Heller doesn’t offer any.

  14. Boon vs. Boondoggle: Richmond SF Blog has a nice… said (11/12/09; 2:01 pm):

    […] Richmond SF Blog has a nice pro vs. con dialogue on the Geary BRT project. No. 1: “All businesses will benefit a little, some a great deal. Geary BRT will attract more people to the corridor as people figure out that if you want to go downtown without your car, you can always walk to Geary and catch a fast and comfortable BRT vehicle in five minutes.” No. 2: “Businesses will suffer during construction and after. The loss of traffic lanes, left-hand turns and parking spaces will hurt an already battered business district.” [Richmond SF, previously] […]

  15. Joe said (11/12/09; 2:20 pm):

    Never mind how much this is going to cost.. How much money has been spent specifically to appease one self appointed neighborhood NIMBY activist – David Heller?
    It is obscene that one person has so much control/influence over a project which benefits all of SF

  16. Peter Smith said (11/12/09; 2:51 pm):

    as any honest transit advocate would be, i am against BRT in all its forms, but especially so on a corridor like Geary that already has the demand for a streetcar/tram/light rail. why build something that does _not_ do the job only to tear it, and the neighborhood, down one more time a few years from now? that’s just insantiy — why is this topic even worthy of discussion?

    i do have a question for David Heller — if the MTA proposed a light rail line be installed instead of these big bus things, would that change you and your organizations’ opinions of providing real transit on Geary?

    there has also been talk of adding real bicycle infrastructure to Geary — probably buffered bike lanes. how do both parties feel about this? i consider pedestrian and bicycle improvements to be the minimal requirements of any teardown/rebuild of Geary — otherwise, why bother?

  17. pceasy said (11/12/09; 3:13 pm):

    I live in the Tenderloin and see 38s after 38s overcrowded going to or coming from the Richmond. I just do not understand why people put up with it. This project should have been in place years ago. Sorry for the business owners who say they will lose business due to construction and what not. Eventually Geary will have to be repaved regardless of any BRT project. Should we just let Geary Blvd fall to shambles so it will not disturb business owners?

    I love going to transit friendly neighborhoods to dine and shop. I do not go to the Richmond because I’d rather not stand on a crowded 38 bus for an hour while it stops at every intersection. Geary Businesses would benefit from better transit options.

    While I think most of us would rather have light rail service on Geary – MUNI management and our current leadership from the Mayor’s office to the Board of Supervisors are so inept that have a rapid bus system may be a better option. Think about how many times the MUNI Metro system stalls out for god knows what reason.

  18. Adam Hartzell said (11/12/09; 3:26 pm):

    As someone who has riden a BRT system, I think it is just the thing that could assist the transit needs in The Richmond. I too do not find Heller’s comments very convincing. His comments come off adversarial just for the sake of looking like one is fighting against city hall, when it’s really the car-dependant mindset that needs to be challenged. Local merchants have bought into the Chamber of Commerce memes to fight against their best interests for quite some time. Similar to the local merchants in Fisherman’s Wharf realizing (hopefully) that they were wrong to resist the F Market, local merchants along the Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul, South Korea resisted the tearing down of the freeway and excavation of the stream saying it would adversely affect their businesses when it had the opposite effect.

    So to offer an olive branch to Heller, if we do implement the BRT, my wife and I pledge to regularly frequent the restaurants (and if we have needs for what they sell, the other stores too) on each block while they are impacted by the construction. Plus, I won’t drive at all, let alone on the side streets. I will walk or bike and assist in the traffic-calming of those cars on those side streets through my mere presence as a pedestrian or cyclist.

  19. Adam Hartzell said (11/12/09; 4:00 pm):

    Also, Peter, I really have trouble with the claim that ‘any honest transit advocate’ would be against the BRT. I don’t think Snyder is lying, which is what your statement claims. He comes off sincere in his advocacy. Although not a situation applicable to San Francisco, BRTs are very successful in cities where populations tend to move significantly in a metro area. The BRT can follow the population movement, rather than ending up with an immovable rail line few use, such as the case of The Rapid in Cleveland. Or, in preparation for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Auckland would likely benefit more from BRT than light-rail because of the need to implement quickly. So ‘honest transit advocates’ can argue for BRTs.

    In the case of San Francisco’s situation concerning The Richmond District, an honest transit advocate can state that BRT poses traffic benefits, perhaps not as much as a light-rail, but one is not dishonest to pose the benefits. But in the case of cost and construction time, BRT can be implemented at a lower cost and shorter construction time, as well as allow for maintaining Limited runs along with regular runs, something the MUNI underground couldn’t do as well. Also, regular runs stop more, which benefit the elderly and disabled (of which there are many in The Richmond) who aren’t as capable to walk to the next Limited (or imagined light-rail) stop. And BRTs allow for easier accessibility for the disabled because it doesn’t require the delays of lowering and raising that present buses do or the never working elevators of the MUNI underground.

    If we had all the money and time in the world, I would love a light rail stop too, but it seems to be we are at a moment in time when BRT seems the more practical route. It’s worked wonders in a lot of cities.

    Sincerely,
    Honest Transit Advocate

  20. Chris said (11/12/09; 4:22 pm):

    “i do have a question for David Heller — if the MTA proposed a light rail line be installed instead of these big bus things, would that change you and your organizations’ opinions of providing real transit on Geary?”

    Peter – the answer to this is no. LRT has been proposed in the past, and Heller has been adamantly against that as well. It seems to be essentially “status quo” or nothing for him. He might be ok with a deep bore subway that never interferes with the surface at all and changes nothing regarding the streetscape or parking, but that’s not exactly realistic, considering the 11 digit cost.

  21. Sprague said (11/12/09; 4:59 pm):

    Thank you, Dave Snyder, and all of you who commented in support of this project. Faster and more efficient transit would certainly draw more visitors to Geary. I’d love to be able to access the Russian businesses near 15th Avenue more easily, but service now is generally cumbersome. Geary needs BRT improvements. The Richmond would benefit from this change.

  22. Mario said (11/12/09; 5:44 pm):

    I am appalled at the following statement by Heller:

    “The population of the Richmond District is not expected to increase much in the next decade, so increased ridership is a red herring. Perhaps the MTA will fill the buses up with commuters from other Bay Area cities, further impacting the parking problems in the Richmond.”

    Is he claiming that he is AGAINST visitors from other Bay Area cities shopping in the Richmond? And how does filling the bus with visitors impact parking problems? Does he mean that peninsula residents would drive to the Richmond and park on residential streets, then take the bus to downtown? That sounds bizarre given the availability of parking at BART stations, and just the fact that the Richmond is just hard to get to by car — it would make an awful commuter hub.

    The Richmond is an attractive destination for Russian and Asian stores and restaurants, but the travel time from east is just a pain right now. It really deserves BART service, but since SF doesn’t seem to have any real advocates for it in BART, something must be done and BRT is still better than 38.

  23. SFResident said (11/12/09; 5:55 pm):

    While a real subway or metro line down Geary would be the best bet, I’m all for anything that lets me get out to the Richmond more often. There are some amazing restaurants out there, Green Apple Books, the Balboa cinema, the list could go on forever. I’d love to spend more $$$ in the district, but getting there is such a pain in the ass. Parking is hell and MUNI service to that quadrant of the city is intolerable. I’m not sure if BRT is the best answer, but we’ve got to try something.

  24. sfbear said (11/12/09; 7:01 pm):

    Richmond is at least 20 minutes away from any freeway except 101. It’s already a pain to get somewhere. And now the only major street going east will be crippled. What am I supposed to take if I need to drive to East Bay? Fulton/Stanyan/Oak? Stanyan is already a bottleneck, and Fulton will be overwhelmed with all the extra cars moving from Geary.

    Why can’t we make Anza and Balboa one-way 3-lane streets? That will take care of the traffic, and Geary can become 1-lane street with а bike lane, benches, trees, outside seating for restaurants, etc.

    If we want Richmond to feel like an urban neighborhood, and not a freaking suburbia, we definitely need Geary to be more transit, bike and pedestrian-centered. But we also need to stop pretending that other streets are too residential to be real city streets. This is a city and not a suburbia. It’s not like there are kids playing in front yards on Balboa.

  25. CBrinkman said (11/12/09; 8:12 pm):

    I too look forward to a good transit option in the Richmond. I take the 38 when I simply must, it would be so nice to have a decent option to use to get out to the Richmond. There is so much out there to enjoy, and yet it’s so hard to get to. Go BRT.

  26. Peter Smith said (11/12/09; 9:56 pm):

    I don’t think Snyder is lying, which is what your statement claims.

    i wasn’t thinking ‘lying’ as much as i was thinking ‘dishonest’, but it’s basically the same thing. the problem with selling BRT is that it starts you at such a deficit that it’s basically impossible to tell the truth and have anyone approve of it. it’s like selling a perpetual motion machine — it just can’t be done honestly.

    for a quick example of how this dishonesty manifests itself, look at all Dave’s statements about ‘BRT vehicles’. they’re not ‘buses’, mind you, they’re ‘vehicles’ – an ambiguous phrase the BRT marketing literature says you must use if you wish to trick an apathetic public into supporting BRT. listen, it’s not a ‘BRT vehicle’, and it’s not a magic flying carpet, either — it’s a bus. we ride them all the time. you know how they feel. they’re uncomfortable, cramped, and too packed as soon as you put even a minimal amount of people on them. that’s what that sacred of all cows, the bus, has brought us. it’s not dignified transit, and it shouldn’t be tolerated, even if 2/3 of all US transit trips are now carried on buses. we used to tolerate slavery, too, and people said the US economy would crumble if we set the slaves free, and nothing of the sort happened. and now the car people cry that we’re taking away their way of life because they might actually have to start paying for the incredible damage they do to SF on a daily basis. and eventually we’re going to take on the bus people, usually white people, who are all too anxious to put black and brown people on buses instead of giving them the dignified transit they deserve.

    He comes off sincere in his advocacy.

    So did George Bush and Peter Galbraith.

    Although not a situation applicable to San Francisco

    if BRT is ‘not a situation applicable to San Francisco’, then why are you trying to apply BRT to San Francisco?

    Or, in preparation for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Auckland would likely benefit more from BRT than light-rail because of the need to implement quickly.

    this is a lifeless argument. we hear any number of specious arguments for BRT — most fantastical fantasies — this ‘hurry hurry hurry now now now’ argument is probably one of the most disturbing. how much, exactly, do you have to hate your children to saddle them with a throwaway system that you built in a year? how much do you have to hate your grandchildren? it’s more than i can comprehend — spending all that time and money on a throwaway system that will solve only a temporary problem of having a crush of visitors on the island. despicable, really. as a taxpayer, i’d be up in arms. as a transit rider, i just wouldn’t have it, period.

    So ‘honest transit advocates’ can argue for BRTs.

    i think i can honestly say that there do exist ‘honest transit advocates’ who can, indeed, argue for BRTs, but the arguments they make look nothing like what Dave Snyder has said above. our conversations have gone something like this:

    [BRT-lover] sup?
    [me–peter] sup? hey — what’s with all this BRT stuff? are you really down with that mess?

    [BRT-lover] it’ll be an improvement.
    [me–peter] over what?!

    [BRT-lover] this is sf, we have to take what we can get.
    [me–peter] what about long term planning?!

    [BRT-lover] i know the corridor needs rail, but MTA took it off the table. they never gave us the option.
    [me–peter] that’s bs!

    [BRT-lover] i know. welcome to sf!
    [me–peter] don’t do it. don’t support that. we deserve real transit.

    [BRT-lover] i know, but this is sf — u want real transit on Geary, you’re talking 50 years out.
    [me–peter] good. i’ll wait. this project is not for me anyways, it’s for the people of the future. we left them a big enough mess as is. i’m not gonna force them to ride buses, too.

    [BRT-lover] it’ll be an improvement for the current riders. what about that?
    [me–peter] that’s probably true, but is that what we’re spending all this time and money and political capital for? to give existing riders a very slightly less horrific trip?? we need to do better!

    [BRT-lover] well, this is sf.
    [me–peter] well, sf needs to change. don’t do it. take this BRT thing off the table. don’t get behind it.

    [BRT-lover] it should be interesting.
    [me–peter] yeah, it will. it’s not right.

    there’s no hocus-pocus and marketing speak — it is what it is. a very small improvement for existing riders, that’s it. the rest of the project is just landscaping, to hopefully make the pedestrian experience on geary slightly less horrific, too. and there is currently, as far as i’m aware, exactly zero improvements for bicycle travel. it’s insane. bike mode share has been jumping in spite of a city hellbent on stopping it — hello ticket on Valencia! thank you, mr. ‘Traffic Control Officer Just Doing Your Job’. bs. zero bike infrastructure for 3 years, and still people are mounting up — it’s a big middle finger to the city, saying Get On This. and you’re gonna tear apart Geary and not provide proper bicycle infrastructure? somebody needs to go to jail.

    In the case of San Francisco’s situation concerning The Richmond District, an honest transit advocate can state that BRT poses traffic benefits,

    taking lanes away from private automobiles is going to pose traffic benefits? please enlighten me. let me get some popcorn, first.

    perhaps not as much as a light-rail, but one is not dishonest to pose the benefits.

    even light rail does very little to nothing in the way of ‘traffic benefits’. the only way people start riding the rails if when they have to start paying the true cost for driving their cars, and we’re still a long way off from that. any ‘traffic benefits’ argument is a red herring unless it includes ‘soft traffic’ — human beings who walk and bike. if we increase the capacity of Geary by making it walkable and bikable, then yes, it may be possible that this project could be an improvement. but why mess it up with huge buses? just add the walk and bicycle infrastructure, do the landscaping, etc.

    why not scrap the entire project and do it right, this time with community input? widen the sidewalks so people can actually walk to where they want to? that will give restaurants a real incentive to get behind the project — every city needs outdoor seating. let’s make it happen. and provide real bicycle infrastructure — a cycletrack in both directions. SF loves to bike — you just have to allow us to do it. put parking outside the bike track to protect us and the diners from nasty traffic.

    who aren’t as capable to walk to the next Limited (or imagined light-rail) stop.

    you do know that BRT is ‘limited stop’, right? or, to put it in BRT-speak, each ‘station’ is going to be a pseudo-rail-station, except, it’ll be in the middle of a highway, and they will host buses/magic carpets, instead of trains.

    If we had all the money and time in the world, I would love a light rail stop too, but it seems to be we are at a moment in time when BRT seems the more practical route. It’s worked wonders in a lot of cities.

    it works wonders in a lot of cities…that only exist in your imagination. in no city that BRT has been implemented has it ever delivered on its promises. none. Curitiba, Bogota, Pittsburgh, Ottawa, you name it — all big FAILs. and some have started to build subway systems, because buses, no matter how long (can you say, 80-ft, bi-articulated monsters?) can handle the job of moving as many people as trains.

    the only reason Bogota’s system is able to run at all is numerous protection schemes to keep the private operators running at a steady profit. not to mention, Bogota has a fully-built out bicycle network — dedicated cycletracks, etc. And you know what else Bogota has? Dirt roads. That place actually _is_ poor. And BRT proponents are happy to convince the upper middle class to rich white folks who run SF that we’re too poor for real transit in this town. very classy, y’all.

    You know what else Bogota has? Car-free days. On alternate days, drivers must leave their cars at home and ride the junky BRT. That’s certainly one way to drive adoption of BRT. Are we planning the same in SF?

    Car ownership along BRT lines around the world continues to climb. You know why? Because the second someone is not transit dependent, they run out and buy the junkiest car they can get their hands on, and choose to sit in traffic for hours at a time — probably listening to the equivalent of Rush Limbaugh — anything is better than riding the cramped BRT, where you’re likely to get groped and pick-pocketed.

    As I said, with just a modicum of honesty from BRT proponents, this project goes away like bad case of the runs — with authority.

    Let’s give the people of San Francisco what they deserve — dignified places to walk and ride, and dignified mass transit.

  27. Bob said (11/12/09; 10:50 pm):

    Okay, so clearly an effective way to increase readership and engagement in your posts Sarah is to cover transit and urban planning issues and get picked up by the transit activists blogs and their readers. My sense from reading the above comments is that most are from people who live outside of the district. I generally applaud their activism and am a supporter of BRT, but I do not believe these necessarily represent the views of district residents.

    If I can add 2 cents from a current Richmond district resident and property owner. I live west of Park Presidio and I’ve witnessed a significant increase in the number of vacant storefronts over the last few years. Apparently, these businesses did not need BRT to go out of business. What they needed was people, out of their cars, walking the neighborhood and creating a community. I hope BRT can help bring that.

    Regarding the people who think bike lanes need to be on Geary…..are you nuts? Why would you want to ride your bike on such a major thoroughfare? I’m all for bike transit improvements, but stripe Anza and Clement and keep the bikes on those quieter streets. Bike lanes already exist on Cabrillo and Lake. That will help keep the cars on Geary and off the side streets and vice versa.

    Finally, as a property owner, who wouldn’t want to reduce travel times to downtown? Does anyone think this would hurt their property value? I’m sure the affordable housing activists would have something to say, but property owners should applaud BRT.

  28. Michele said (11/12/09; 11:13 pm):

    Richmond residents would like better transit service. There are ways to do it now such as adding more bus runs and removing double-parked cars and trucks the obstuct buses. The BRT issue is–do we need to spend millions on studies, construction and new equipment, when it will not guarantee of any real improvements?

    David Snyder incorrectly comments that BRT will provide more frequent and more reliable service. BRT will NOT affect frequency or reliability. Those are a function of how many bus runs MUNI schedules and whether the driver shows up, both beyond the scope of BRT. The 38L now is scheduled for every 7 minutes.

    As to shorter travel times, very little time will be shaved off. BRT and local buses are planned to share the physically separated new bus lane, but no one knows how BRT buses will pass stopped local buses. Traffic will still be an issue because turning vehicles either will cross in front of the bus lanes or merge into the bus lanes before turning.

    No solutions have been presented for the Geary underpass at Masonic or at Fillmore. Will BRT buses share the side lanes with the local buses, or will passengers go down into the underpass to catch BRT?

    There are numerous other unanswered questions with BRT. BRT is not likely to provide the benefits David Snyder expects; I am fearful it will create the problems David Heller highlights.

  29. Bogart said (11/12/09; 11:52 pm):

    What about the Doyle Drive replacement project? It’s going to push a lot more cars to Geary, the Presidio Trust is already trying to figure out how to keep that traffic off their lawn. Already I drive down Lake St or Anza instead of Geary because of all the PG&E work, and I could imagine what this project will do to traffic flows. A short term hell, I know, but some of us live in the short term.

    For the long term, ride a bicycle. There’s nowhere in the city you can’t get to in 45mins or less from the Richmond on a bike. For downtown go through the Presidio to the waterfront, otherwise GG park and the panhandle.

    Bob – I agree there’s no place for a bike lane on Geary, but to suggest striping Clement is just as idiotic. Have you ever tried driving, much less biking down that street? Maybe slower, but not quiet.

    Clement business has the most to gain from this project. It’ll become a destination resturant row like Valencia a decade back, while Geary will always remain as ugly and utilitarian as its name. And who knows, maybe Balboa will start living up to its potential.

  30. Bogart said (11/12/09; 11:59 pm):

    Adam – The local merchants will protest the project for the very real threat of going out of business, those that remain will support it whole-heartedly in retrospect.

  31. Myla said (11/13/09; 12:06 am):

    It is very upsetting to me that a coalition of businesses in mostly one neighborhood could possibly shut down and/or stall such a needed city service for residents and visitors. I challenge each business owner trying to thwart BRT to survey their employees on how they arrived to work, and how often they were late or missed work due to ‘bus trouble.’ Then extend that to customers/clients and even themselves. Last time I checked, Geary runs almost completely from one end of the city to the other, not just in the Richmond.

    Also, the anti-camp just shows the short-sightedness of these business owners. Currently, the buses on Geary still run on some blend of dirty diesel. The new buses would be cleaner and probably quieter (especially if they were in a center lane) not to mention, once complete, BRT would free up the tangled mess of a right curb lane that exists now. And your newest customers will be coming from the east, and they want to get to you faster. Also, last I checked SF (and CA) was still growing, especially along Third.

    And I say all this as a former inner Richmond resident who still goes there to frequent small, local businesses and a current homeowner with a Geary address in the Japantown area. I am looking forward to feeling a little bit better about opening my bedroom window without breathing Muni diesel exhaust in my bedroom, not feeling the rumble, and quieting the Muni announcement in my ear every 5 minutes every morning. I think most Geary residents would agree. The answer is not that I should’ve bought somewhere else, but that SF with pressure from citizens is making the city cleaner and greener.

    Comfort? The 38 is one of the most uncomfortable. Anything to get more buses more often more efficiently would help. I’m not a daily commuter, but I know the pain of having more than one bus in a row completely pass my stop because it’s already packed like sardines. That pain stops people from using the 38.

    I could say more, but I’ll save the rest of my words for the next public comment meeting.

  32. Akit said (11/13/09; 12:33 am):

    I live on Geary west of 33rd Avenue and the Geary corridor really needs BRT service. Right now, it takes too long to get to the other side of town on the limited bus. If there is BRT, I would go out and patronize the Geary Blvd. businesses more often because parking is really bad, to the point where I would give-up and drive into Japantown because at least they have ample parking in the lot.

    Also, I feel that we should not convert Geary into a light rail service. The first thing when you mention light rail is negative thoughts about Muni metro. But what’s better about BRT is that the buses can pass one another if it breaks down, versus the huge delay if a light rail car derails.

    As for a temporary solution, I do like the idea of the SFMTA offering more frequent and later service on the 38L, but I wish they also provided express bus service on Geary during the day (like the 9X), which is extremely fast and popular on the 38AX.

  33. Peter Smith said (11/13/09; 12:55 am):

    but I do not believe these necessarily represent the views of district residents.

    Richmond residents have a say, but they don’t get the only say. as goes Geary, so goes SF. there are a lot of people with a lot riding on this project. Geary is a crucial part of SF, and it plays a crucial role in our transportation system. every part of the system affects the others. we have to get it right.

    What they needed was people, out of their cars, walking the neighborhood and creating a community. I hope BRT can help bring that.

    i wouldn’t hold your breath. it’s never been witnessed before, in the history of BRT, that i know of. BRT creates a highway-within-a-highway — it could, as impossible as it sounds, make Geary even less desirable to be on outside of a car. it’s currently what we transit heads call a ‘traffic sewer’ — a sewer, filled with auto traffic. nobody wants to be on it. of course, not.

    if you want people to hang out and spend money and take care of Geary, then take care of pedestrians and cyclists, first. do what Jan Gehl says — be sweet to pedestrians and cyclists, and the rest will work itself out.

    for a glimpse of what this highway-within-a-highway-BRT effect is all about, check out the StreetFilm on Bogota’s BRT system, Transmilenio. of course, it’s a very pro-BRT video — decide for yourself if you want those 12 lanes of traffic on Geary. the Orange Line in LA is a pseudo-BRT thing that might come a little bit closer to what our planners have in store for Geary. at least they got a bike path out of it, as dirty and hidden as it may be.

    Regarding the people who think bike lanes need to be on Geary…..are you nuts?

    no.

    Why would you want to ride your bike on such a major thoroughfare?

    because walkers and bikers deserve to be able to travel on the most direct routes between Point A and Point B. we have places to go, people to see, things to do — just like you.

    besides, if not for the tireless work of bike advocates like Dave Snyder (yes, the Dave Snyder featured above), then exactly zero streets in San Francisco would be ridable today — major thoroughfares or not. at some point, drivers will stop saying, “how could you possibly want to ride on [street/avenue/road/parkway/bridge X]??”, and just say, “Yes, cyclists, I agree — bicycles are important to the livability of this city and as such, they deserve priority, right after pedestrians, in planning all of our major thoroughfares, especially our major thoroughfares.” it’s time to buy into the Livable Streets Transportation Hierarchy — let’s enshrine it in law. forget this ‘transit first’ nonsense — let’s make it ‘livable streets, first’.

    I’m all for bike transit improvements, but stripe Anza and Clement and keep the bikes on those quieter streets.

    bikers don’t deserve to be treated as second class citizens any more than anyone else. we deserve to travel in safety and comfort on every single street/road/bridge/highway in and around the city, period, and that includes the most major routes in the city — Geary, Van Ness, Mission, Cesar Chavez, Market, Third Street, Nineteenth Ave, The Embarcadero, on and on and on, every. single. one of them.

    Bike lanes already exist on Cabrillo and Lake.

    i have no idea where these are, but i know where Geary is, and that’s part of the reason i demand the right to ride on geary. any questions? i don’t mind if you drive on Cabrillo and Lake (too much) — just be sure to keep it below 20, k? thanks.

    That will help keep the cars on Geary and off the side streets and vice versa.

    i want cars out of the city completely, but until that time arrives, i want dignified places to walk and bike, first. that means we want safety, and we want comfort. we want to be able to walk and bike on the most direct routes from Point A to Point B. cars are more than capable of driving long distances — let them go around.

    as far as cars and side streets, it’s more of a scare tactic than anything else. any driver knows that trying to haul down sidestreets is a waste of time. at best, you run every stop sign and red light in sight, and you still end up slower than if you just waited on the main route. traffic engineers know that any lane/street/bridge/road/highway closure produces short-term effects and long-term effects.

    the short-term effects include more traffic in the immediate vicinity of the closure, as might be expected, and a slight rise in alternate routes — we’ve seen this with the Bay Bridge closure (and thanks to our criminally-negligent Caltrans folks, we’ll see it again in the very near future). in the long term, the extra traffic dissipates — people leave at different times of day (i.e. off-peak), they choose different routes, they choose different modes — and for the different modes, that means you actually have to provide real alternatives — a little stripe on a small sidestreet where cyclists will have to dodge in and out of car traffic is not a real alternative — we have places to go, people to see, things to do, just like drivers. and if we provide real transit, a comfortable train ride, for instance, it is very possible that folks who typically drive may decide to ride the train instead.

    but don’t take my word for it — listen to ‘Gridlock Sam’ Schwartz — possibly the world’s most famous traffic engineer. or watch the ‘Carmageddon’ that did not take place once NYC close down part of Broadway to auto traffic.

    right now, Geary is a Robert Moses-like highway cutting through the heart of San Francisco, dividing neighborhoods, killing pedestrians, endangering everyone not in a car who goes near it — it’s insanity. why do you want to put up with it? take a lesson from portland — we may not be able to get rid of it completely, but we can certainly tame it. just like we did with the Central Expressway. just like we did when we got rid of the Embarcadero Freeway.

    as far as car parking goes, well it’s not going to take care of itself — there’s a limited supply of it. you have two choices — either increase the supply, or limit the demand using price controls. lots of folks around the world are already doing it. SF has some trial runs already going. the SF Port is already doing it. Redwood City has completely transformed their downtown by doing it — have you seen Redwood City lately?

  34. Chris said (11/13/09; 10:15 am):

    Peter (#33) – have you ever been to Curitiba? You keep referring to Bogota, but Bogota’s system is terrible compared to Curitiba, and Bogota is a much less developed city than Curitiba. Curitiba’s demographics are much closer to first world, for example. Also, the BRT system in Lyon, France is quite nice, and what I hope Geary looks like some day. Comparing BRT on Geary to freeway-style systems like Ottawa, Bogota, and LA’s Orange line is not really fair, since those systems are trying to link huge distances. Try comparing it to more urban-friendly applications like Lyon or Curitiba, where the total distances are five miles or so, mostly going through entirely urban sections and not intending to be expresses to downtown.

  35. Anthony said (11/13/09; 10:28 am):

    having participated in the Geary BRT issue for years, i think it’s clear that the BRT project hasn’t been able to, for lack of a better word, harness the support of transit advocates in the district itself.

    Heller and his merchants group, for what they are worth, have been highly visible in opposition; the Planning Association of the Richmond also balks at anything but minor service tweaks on Geary. the disparate voices that actually want structural change and investment in the corridor have to be organized so that the catharsis of complaint at BRT meetings is counterbalanced by sensible, reasonable comments from people fed up with Geary’s current mediocrity.

    how to get there? does Dave Snyder actually know who the supporters are in the neighborhood? why not swap some emails and create something people can connect with — something like EDGAR, Enough Dumpy Geary Already Revolution. just a suggestion.

  36. Michele said (11/13/09; 11:03 am):

    Most of the commentators are in favor of something BRT can’t provide. BRT will not be like an above ground BART; it will be Muni, prettied up.

    Geary has maybe 60 intersections between 33rd Ave and Market St.; BRT will make 16-20 stops. Under these conditions, the trip from 25th to Union Sq will be at least 25 minutes, even with transit priority traffic signals. Often it will take longer.

    BRT Buses will get stuck behind broken buses because the BRT lanes are separated by barriers; BRT will wait for turning vehicles; it will stop for slow pedestrians crossing the street; it take time picking up wheel chair passengers; elderly passengers, exiting the front door, will delay people who are boarding. There is no money for service improvements–more runs or better maintenance. The chances of getting a seat will not be greater.

    Federal money exists only for new construction and equipment, so the city has not considered service improvements that would help now, such as more frequent service, or extended express service hours, or diamond lanes during rush hour.

  37. David a fourth one yet! said (11/13/09; 12:26 pm):

    I’m glad the comments seem to have swung away from the personal to the issues of the project. For me, its the rushing ahead and not listening part that I find frustrating, I have been at many of the city meetings, they have their idea, the glossy stuff is already printed, they play at listening, and in the end, do what they feel like doing. The posts here have intelligent ideas behind them. If the neighbors get together, I believe it is possible to come up with a workable solution that although everyone won’t be totally happy, it will work. What seems to be missing is the leadership from city hall to get everyone together. We can also all be more vocal in letting the transit agencies know their rush to cash the check is creating un-needed polarity and in that rush they are creating a massive project that will create hard feelings that will last well beyond the first vehicle (whatever that is) rolling. I remember too well the redevelopment of the Fillmore, we can do better!

  38. Jim said (11/13/09; 12:55 pm):

    One basic question was not answered by either side: How much faster will the busses down Geary be under BRT? I’ve heard that BRT will only shave 3 to 5 minutes off of a trip from Park Presidio to Union Square — is that worth $250 million?

  39. Anthony said (11/13/09; 12:58 pm):

    David No. 4,

    With all due respect, i call BS on your comment. “rushing” ahead? this process has taken, by my count, five years or more, and it probably will be five more before the first BRT vehicle rolls on the boulevard.

    you say you’ve been to the meetings, and that we can all be “more vocal.” i’ve been to many of the meetings myself, and these gatherings are anything but muted. in fact, they are devoted to ventings of bitterness and resentment, civic tantrums in the textbook NIMBY-style.

    the main question behind Geary BRT, in my view, always has been the following: is the Richmond district deserving of transit investment, or not?

    we know that buses along Geary are slow in general, that simply adding more buses into the mix will only make traffic slower, that riders generally shun lousy transit for cars, creating more congestion. we know that what slows down buses are double-parked vehicles, cars waiting for pedestrians to clear crosswalks and so on. in short, we know what the problems are, but the vocal opposition in short says that these are no rationale for investing in a structural transit improvement.

    finally, there you are raising the tragedy of the “redevelopment” of the Fillmore, when BRT removes not a single dwelling unit from the housing stock. let me put it this way: you can do better.

  40. Chris said (11/13/09; 1:26 pm):

    Jim, you’re talking about the average decrease in time, which you’re correct, will be small. However, the advantage of BRT is RELIABILITY, which is greatly lacking now. I don’t much care about how long it takes to get somewhere, if I KNOW, with a reasonable degree of certainty, how long it will take. The unpredictability of the 38 is ridiculous, and the reason that I typically walk to the 1 or 31 (I live around the corner from Heller’s shop at 22nd and Geary). Those lines don’t come as often, but using NextMuni, I can see when one is coming and walk to it then. The time spent on the route is always lower than the 38, and the range of times is much smaller. I’ve been on a 38 that gets from Van Ness to my place in 20 minutes, but I’ve also been on one that has taken more than an hour.

    BRT is not really about increasing top-end speed all that much. It’s about introducing reliable transit to the corridor.

  41. Barry said (11/13/09; 2:05 pm):

    This is such a no-brainer. By David Heller’s reasoning, nothing should ever get built anywhere if it causes a disruption to business. Please: While business may be a consideration, it cannot be the standard by which public-benefit projects are determined. I am not a resident of the Richmond and I don’t like going there in my car, which, in any case, I avoid using if I can. But I never go to the Richmond by conventional bus (except the Fulton #5 to get to GG Park): Too slow and unpleasant. I’ve seen BRT in action: Orders of magnitude better than conventional buses. And surrounding streets and neighborhoods are better, too. BRT on Geary (and eventually, I hope, light rail), will bring thousands of people into the Richmond who avoid it now. This will be good for business. The cost-benefit ratio, in my observation and experience, will be very positive. Let’s move forward with Geary BRT. (Incidentally, I live on Scott just off Divisadero; my street has been seriously affected by the current 18-month Divisadero upgrade project, i.e., there are many times more traffic on Scott. But I totally support the project; it’s a big improvement (median, pedestrian values, repavement, better lighting, etc.). If the cost is a year and a half of disruption, well, for heaven’s sake, big deal! The neighborhood suffers temporarily, but then blossoms and the city is better. An excellent tradeoff. Ditto Geary BRT.

  42. Muni Diaries » Blog Archive » Weekend Photos – This Fast Pass Gives Me a Toothache said (11/13/09; 2:44 pm):

    […] – The pros and cons of the Geary Bus Rapid Transit Project (via Richmond District Blog) […]

  43. Susie said (11/13/09; 3:02 pm):

    Michele, Anthony, and David 4…thanks for your comments. There are a number of reasons to oppose BRT as currently planned:

    1) BRT is an overpriced extravagance. MTA claims it will decrease transit time between the outer Richmond and downtown 4-5 minutes during peak hours, and even less during non-peak hours. But this is mere conjecture, because…

    2) The computer modeling of the BRT is fatally flawed. Reliability, for example, is mere conjecture. According to an SMTA consultant, there has been no computer modeling of “reliability.” For example, by their own admission, SFMTA has not yet figured out how a Limited 38 will pass a Local 38 without gumming up auto traffic in adjoining lanes. Additionally, computer models do not consider the possibility of a stalled bus, cars turning left, and the like. Think “garbage in, garbage out.”

    3) In addition, many people only ride the 38 for part of the route. Their transit time, therefore, will be decreased even less, if at all.

    4) By decreasing the number of lanes on Geary, not only will traffic slow there, but frustrated drivers are likely to divert to adjoining streets, such as Anza, Balboa, California. This may not matter to non-residents of the Richmond, but for those of us who live here it is a very big problem.

    5) The Planning Association for the Richmond, which represents many Richmond District residents, has sent a letter to SFMTA urging that this project needs additional study before a final commitment is made.

    6) Many of the proposed improvements could easily be implemented without building a center lane BRT. New equipment could be purchased, bus shelters could be improved, traffic lights could be better timed, streetscapes could be beautified, peak-time dedicated lanes could be created, and busses could run more frequently at a fraction of the cost and with little or no construction on Geary.

    7) According to Zabe Bent, SFMTA’s spokeswoman for BRT, it is not designed to accommodate increased ridership. It is merely intended to enable the current number of riders have a somewhat faster and more pleasant ride. Yet, at the same time, Ms. Bent has stated the BRT will result in more people taking public transportation between Geary and Downtown, thereby reducing car emissions and making the neighborhood more pedestrian and bike friendly. Clearly, SFMTA can’t have it both ways.

    8) Since the BRT was quietly inserted onto the ballot, this project has not been managed democratically or transparently. The BRT Citizens Advisory Committee, for example, is disproportionately represented by non-Richmond District residents/merchants. Most residents in the Richmond are not even aware of the extent of this project, since the only advertising about it are at bus shelters. What about all the people in the Richmond who drive? Do they know what’s planned? I think not.

    The BRT Citizen’s Advisory Committee meetings are held monthly, and are open to the public. Please attend (check the SFMTA website for the schedule) and tell MTA why you oppose this project.

  44. Peter Smith said (11/13/09; 4:02 pm):

    Jim, you’re talking about the average decrease in time, which you’re correct, will be small. However, the advantage of BRT is RELIABILITY, which is greatly lacking now.

    and that is just one of the many lies that is part of the fraud known as BRT. it’s not bus ‘rapid’ transit, it’s bus ‘reliability’ transit — and the ‘reliability’ part is dubious.

    as i said, BRT is a fraud from top to bottom.

    and what really has folks like me up in arms about it is the primary goal of BRT — it’s not to move people faster or more reliably or in slightly less discomfort, it’s to kill light rail. BRT is a poison pill for light rail — that is the primary objective for installing any BRT system — make sure a city or town does not build light rail, because rail is a car-killer — people who actually have a choice of how they get to work, people who can afford to drive if they wish, people who are not transit-dependent will actually opt to take the train sometimes instead of driving — that’s why the car and oil and tire companies can’t allow folks the possibility of decent transportation — it’ll pull people out of their cars.

    but any good PR strategy knows you can’t just stand in the way of progress — you have to offer an alternative vision. that alternative vision is buses. when GM and crew burned up the remaining streetcars, it was a message — we will never allow the return of rail. they ripped up the streetcar tracks, too. why? well, of course, to make sure rail service could never be restarted.

    GM knew that people would hate buses — dirty, smelly, noisy, uncomfortable — undignified in every way. so people rode the bus until they could save enough money to buy a car — that’s why you still see so many people around SF today driving old beaters — they’re broke, they can’t afford a decent car, but they have no alternatives. it’s impossible to bike anywhere, and the only ‘alternative’ is a creaky, dirty, cramped, jerky bus — if you’re into S&M, fine, ride the bus, but not everyone is into S&M — they just want to get from point a to point b in a reasonable amount of time, in reasonable comfort.

    so, want to know why Shell is backing all these ‘foundations’ and ‘experts’ to support BRT? it ain’t out of the goodness of their hearts — it’s to keep cars on the road.

    to those of you who have seen Who Killed The Electric Car?, this strategy of preventing alternatives to the gasoline-powered car will make perfect sense.

    sometimes, all you need to do to examine the true goals behind a project is look at who is funding it, and who is advocating for it. You want to know who supports BRT? The Cato Institute (free-marketeers), the Reason Foundation (free-marketeers, privatizeers), and none other than one George W. Bush. Does George W. Bush strike you as the type of person who is compassionate for people? Compassionate for poor people? For transit-dependent people? At some point you have to sit back and say to yourself, ‘Wait a minute — what’s really going on here?”

    there was a reason that General Motors conspired with Standard Oil and Firestone Tire and others to rid Geary and other streets and avenues and whole cities of streetcars — it was to remove any decent alternative to the automobile. see the documentary Taken For A Ride to find out more info on how and why GM and others killed the streetcars in cities all over the US.

    our strategy for getting back to a decent city that is not overrun with cars is to reverse that criminal operation by corporations, and to re-implement the will of the people. people all over the US fought tooth and nail to save the streetcars, but in the end, GM and crew were too much. our F-line streetcars are a testament to what used to be. this old map of SF shows how many streetcar lines we used to have in the city — with one running down Geary, of course.

    oddly enough, there are actually a couple of conservatives who support real transit. like, two. one of them just passed away. but they co-authored a book — see a quick video clip here. Lind is not crazy about buses, either, but Streetfilms hasn’t let us know why, yet.

    but Bogota’s system is terrible compared to Curitiba

    wow. ok. if you say so. i didn’t think it got worse, but i’ll take your word for it. i should point out that Curitiba’s BRT system was installed during a dictatorship — the population had no say in whether or not they would get a real transit system, or a bunch of buses.

    all that said, StreetFilms has done us the honor of showing us the Curitiba BRT system. their biggest mistake, according to locals and NYC transit advocates shown in the film, is that they didn’t integrate bicycles into the plan from the very beginning. you leave out bicycles, you get a failed system. that part makes sense to me. you leave out pedestrians or bicycles from any transit corridor, and you automatically FAIL. of course.

    you’ll also notice them talking about how 75% of Curitibans use a bus to get to work. in Phoenix, Arizona that number is 1%. want to know why? it’s called transit-dependence. if you put a bunch of skateboards and llamas on the streets of Curitiba, and took away the buses, then 75% of Curitibans would be getting to work on skateboards and llamas. and the same thing is true here in San Francisco. the point is that you shouldn’t punish people who are transit-dependent — they are already at the lowest class level in society — they are depending on the good people of SF to advocate for them — to not stick them on buses, but instead to provide them with dignified transportation options. give them great places to walk and ride their bikes, first. after that, give them dignified mass transit options.

    also note that Phoenix has since opened a new (their first and only) real transit line. it is, of course, a hit.

    also note that the ‘crush loads’ that Curitibans are willing to put up with are more than what Americans are willing to put up with. you can call this virtue or poverty — take your pick — but the truth is that American BRT systems will never carry as many folks as South American BRT systems.

    as i previously mentioned, car ownership in Curitiba is skyrocketing. as people are lifting themselves out of poverty, they’re opting for dignified transit — i.e. cars. if they had the option of train travel, either light rail or trams or streetcars or subway or whatever, we probably wouldn’t be seeing the same effect.

    even in San Francisco, private automobile use continues to rise. why? well, because driving is vastly underpriced, and while we’re catching up on that front, we still need to provide dignified transportation alternatives to people. right now, we’re simply not doing that. the bus is a horrific experience. i got a monthly pass just to try out the transit thing for a bit, but it’s so miserable i still have to walk and bike everywhere. i’m not transit-dependent, so i don’t force myself to ride. i get on the bus and slum it once in a while, just to see how my poor brothers and sisters are getting by, and i get so angry that we’re forcing people to live like this. it’s not fair — it’s not right — we need to do better. biking in San Francisco is not an option for anyone but the truly insane. i do feel confident that biking will be possible for some folks within about 20 years, but right now it’s not possible. we need to do better.

    i can’t wait to have those 1970s-style tube things sitting on the middle of Geary. sweet.

  45. Adam Hartzell said (11/13/09; 4:16 pm):

    Peter – Buses . . ” we ride them all the time. you know how they feel. they’re uncomfortable, cramped, and too packed as soon as you put even a minimal amount of people on them.”

    Me – And this is different from when the MUNI or BART are packed, how?

    Peter – “eventually we’re going to take on the bus people, usually white people, who are all too anxious to put black and brown people on buses instead of giving them the dignified transit they deserve.”

    Me – Strawman. Accusing racism where none exists.

    Peter – In response to arguing that Snyder is sincere – “So did George Bush and Peter Galbraith.”

    Me – So, after calling those who advocate for BRT liars and racists, what’s next, Nazis?

    Later, Peter later says those of us seeing BRT as the way to go at this time ‘hate our grandchildren’.

    Ok, from here on out, I’m only going to argue with the civilized.

    Where Peter has a point with why I brought up Cleveland and Auckland. That part of my response was poorly laid out. I should have just left that part out because it was unnecessary, and just providing more opportunity for Peter’s ridicule.

    And since Peter apparently loves him some ridicule, I can’t see how I can really argue with him.

    Peter, you aren’t going to win anybody over with your ridicule. You and I both want better transit in The Richmond for everyone. Don’t accuse those who advocate for what they HONESTLY consider the most feasible and most immediate of impact while also considering the available funds as being racists, grandchildren haters, or fascists. That’s not an argument. That doesn’t win anyone over to your side.

  46. Anthony said (11/13/09; 4:17 pm):

    Susie,

    thank you for your comment. with all due respect i call BS on it too.

    your litany of objections rehashes the same bellyaching made against Geary BRT over the past few years.

    apparently, bus rapid transit is an “extravagance” that not only is “fatally flawed” from conception, but it only will serve a few people, push auto traffic to side streets, is opposed by PAR and not supported by neighborhood residents, at least the ones you know. it’s also a rip-off that won’t attract riders anyway. what’s more, it got imposed on the community in a totally underhanded way, and some local drivers aren’t even aware of it yet. the injustice!

    for your next post, you may want to pursue these protestations further: Muni can’t do anything right, the operators’ union will never allow any changes, BRT won’t serve the whole Richmond and much, much more. wait, i almost forgot this one: all these urban designers and consultants and bureaucrats are making $$$ off this boondoggle. the nerve!

    i live in the Richmond and am very comfortable calling your bullet points complete bunk. i also resigned my membership in PAR because the organization sought minor tweaks in bus service instead of a structural improvement in transit. (what’s the point of a planning organization that’s against local planning and investment?) i plan on continuing to advocate for a better Geary, and i trust some of my neighbors will do the same.

  47. Adam Hartzell said (11/13/09; 4:19 pm):

    Bogart,

    Yes, I respect that business owners feel a threat from this, and in that sense makes it real. That is why I pledge to focus on those businesses during the construction. If we all pledged to do that (along with focusing on local business when we do make purchases), that threat will lessen.

    So I agree with you, Bogart, but I propose a community-action to assuage the sense of threat the business owners feel.

    Thank you for presenting you disagreement in a cordial way, though. Makes these arguments easier.

  48. Chris said (11/13/09; 5:08 pm):

    Peter – I’m serious, you NEED to visit Curitiba or Lyon, France, and use the systems there. BRT is not perfect, but you’re painting it with many flaws that it simply DOES NOT HAVE in relatively high income areas. Curitiba is one of the richest areas in South America – most of the population of the metro there could afford cars. Obviously basically all of the population of Lyon could afford cars, yet the BRT lines there have been very successful.

    The MOST important part of BRT in Curitiba, and BRT on Geary, is that it set aside ROW for transit. All of Geary has been co-opted by a minority of the population (those who focus entirely on cars). Until some ROW can be set aside, real rail-based improvements are unlikely to be made, because most people can’t really see what could be. $250 million is a VERY small price to pay for snagging to lanes for transit (and the majority of the population), and we even get some fancy buses, improved reliability, improved streetscape, and pedestrian improvements along with that. A heckuva deal compared to $1.6 billion for a never-ending fiscal hole in Chinatown (Central Subway).

  49. sfbear said (11/13/09; 5:32 pm):

    If it’s really only 4-5 minute improvement at a cost of $250 and making life of those who have to continue to drive miserable, then it’s not worth it. Not even close.

    The reliability argument is total BS. Why would BRT improve it at all?
    At least 20% of MUNI drivers don’t show up for work on any given Monday or Friday – that may have something to do with reliability.
    http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/47171432.html

  50. Chris said (11/13/09; 5:42 pm):

    Why would BRT improve reliability? Have you seen how many times buses are delayed from getting back into their lanes from cars? BRT provides transit-priority at stoplights. BRT provides a dedicated lane that CANNOT be blocked by other vehicles. BRT provides low-floor buses that allow faster loading and unloading. BRT provides ticket machines that allow people to buy a ticket and board through any door. BRT provides buses that have more, wider doors.

    True, any (or all) of these things could be done separately, but each one costs money. All at the same time cost $250 million. Would it be better to do just some for $100 million? Perhaps, but I haven’t seen any particular reason. Doing things all at once is almost always cheaper, rather than doing things piecemeal, so unless you feel that some of the improvements should NOT be made, I don’t see the rationale behind splitting things up. I’d be curious to know which things are bad, and why you think so.

  51. David 4th said (11/13/09; 6:06 pm):

    There seems to be a LARGE interest in this topic. I have started a Yahoo group- GearyBRT (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GearyBRT) for discussions.It is open to all- Join and post your views and information!

  52. David 4th said (11/13/09; 6:07 pm):

    Susie- Well said!

  53. sfbear said (11/13/09; 6:19 pm):

    Chris, all the improvements you mention add up only to 4-5 minutes in the best case scenario.

    IMHO things like all-door boarding and ticket machines should be implemented. But their cost will be a tiny fraction of $250 million. E.g. total ticket machine cost is $4,350,000 (http://www.sfcta.org/images/stories/Planning/GearyCorridorBusRapidTransit/Geary_App_I.pdf).

  54. Chris said (11/13/09; 6:53 pm):

    sfbear – you’re only mentioning the cost of the machines themselves, without the cost of identifying where to put them, having 4,742 meetings about where to put them and who is being inconvenienced, shafted, or neglected by not putting them exactly where each individual person wants to put them, holding 897 more meetings to determine who will install them, the demographic makeup of the companies installing them, why other companies are not being chosen to install them, why the “greenest” machines are not being chosen, etc, etc.

    Bureaucracy is what costs money, not the products themselves. Dealing with all of the bureaucracy in one swoop is what saves money. Going through that whole process multiple times is incredibly expensive and time-consuming.

  55. Peter Smith said (11/14/09; 2:52 am):

    Peter – Buses . . ” we ride them all the time. you know how they feel. they’re uncomfortable, cramped, and too packed as soon as you put even a minimal amount of people on them.”

    Me – And this is different from when the MUNI or BART are packed, how?

    each Muni train car and each BART car, since they are on rail, can be very comfortable. with buses, that is never a possibility. that is probably the key difference. this has very important implications if you ever hope to achieve any sort of mode shift away from cars to transit. if you do not build dignified transit alternatives, all you will do is anger constituents who will take it out on you at the polls, and they will stop all forward progress on transit — as they should. if someone tries to take away my only form of dignified transit, my car, I’m going to be up in arms, too — believe that.

    as far as capacity, it’s an important question. too much of this debate focuses on up-front cost instead of the lifetime cost of the system. operating costs, as you know, are tough to pay for even under the best of circumstances. and that’s where buses FAIL their next important test. since the carrying capacity of buses, even HUGE buses is so much lower than that of any kind of rail transport, the operating costs of buses are much higher than that of rail. if you carry fewer people, you need to make more runs. more runs equals more operators. more employees. more benefits. more salaries. more pensions. more strikers. more sick days. more dependencies. etc.

    but don’t take my word for it, take it from an expert, Todd Radulovich (link), someone like Dave Snyder, who has a history of supporting the livability of this city. I’ve bolded the first graph, as that’s the part that pertains directly to this question, but the rest is worth a read:

    Any transit capital project shouldn’t be evaluated only on initial capital cost. A rigorous analysis ought to balance capital cost, operating and maintenance lifecycle costs, future capacity needs (is it scalable?), rider benefit (speed, reliability, accessibility, comfort, etc.), and environmental benefit (local and global). A well-designed light rail project might have a higher capital cost than BRT, but could also provide lower operating costs (with multi-car trains, a single driver can carry more passengers than a single bus driver) and additional rider benefit (level boarding, fully accessible, smoother ride, etc.) It is of course possible to maximize capital cost and operating cost while minimizing rider benefit; we have a few examples around the Bay Area.

    Unfortunately, San Francisco has made a number of bad choices about its light rail network. The SFCTA study assumed that Geary light rail would be built in the same manner as 3rd Street, and operated in the same manner as the existing metro, which helped kill the light rail alternative, which the SFCTA had decided from the outset that they weren’t interested in.

    It would be great to see some very near term (1-2 years) bus improvements; it will build a constituency for whatever is next. Muni, as well as BART, often fall into a ‘Pyramid building’ complex, and tend to get fixated on the expensive megaproject, at the expense of low-cost incremental improvements. Why doesn’t MTA have a near-term project to get the Stockton/Columbus buses running better as well? Same reason. Sometimes megaprojects are what’s called for, but it ought not be at the exclusion of incremental improvement.

    It would also be great if MTA got a start on their Light Rail strategic plan, which was a promised follow-up to the TEP. If we can get Muni’s existing light rail running as it should, it would be easier to make the case for light rail on the streets where it fits.

    Any transit capital project shouldn’t be evaluated only on initial capital cost. A rigorous analysis ought to balance capital cost, operating and maintenance lifecycle costs, future capacity needs (is it scalable?), rider benefit (speed, reliability, accessibility, comfort, etc.), and environmental benefit (local and global). A well-designed light rail project might have a higher capital cost than BRT, but could also provide lower operating costs (with multi-car trains, a single driver can carry more passengers than a single bus driver) and additional rider benefit (level boarding, fully accessible, smoother ride, etc.) It is of course possible to maximize capital cost and operating cost while minimizing rider benefit; we have a few examples around the Bay Area.

    Unfortunately, San Francisco has made a number of bad choices about its light rail network. The SFCTA study assumed that Geary light rail would be built in the same manner as 3rd Street, and operated in the same manner as the existing metro, which helped kill the light rail alternative, which the SFCTA had decided from the outset that they weren’t interested in.

    It would be great to see some very near term (1-2 years) bus improvements; it will build a constituency for whatever is next. Muni, as well as BART, often fall into a ‘Pyramid building’ complex, and tend to get fixated on the expensive megaproject, at the expense of low-cost incremental improvements. Why doesn’t MTA have a near-term project to get the Stockton/Columbus buses running better as well? Same reason. Sometimes megaprojects are what’s called for, but it ought not be at the exclusion of incremental improvement.

    It would also be great if MTA got a start on their Light Rail strategic plan, which was a promised follow-up to the TEP. If we can get Muni’s existing light rail running as it should, it would be easier to make the case for light rail on the streets where it fits.

    i agree. what’s wrong with some incremental improvements? i’m not sure what has to happen to get our agencies to move on the most basic of measures before they tackle another megaproject, but that’s what should happen — let’s have some incremental improvements first.

    also, with respect to overcrowded parking and buses and trains and highways, decongestion pricing, or ‘performance pricing’ — whatever you want to call it — is coming, so get used to it. what this means for transit is that we’ll start charging people more who want to ride during peak hours. this way, the spikes in traffic are dulled, people get more comfortable rides, etc.

    Peter – “eventually we’re going to take on the bus people, usually white people, who are all too anxious to put black and brown people on buses instead of giving them the dignified transit they deserve.”

    Me – Strawman. Accusing racism where none exists.

    what i said stands on its own. you don’t have to burn crosses on folks’ front yards to be a racist, and you can support racist policies without being and out-and-out racist. just like many of us have and do break laws every day, it may still not make us ‘criminals’. this is not a straw man argument — it’s a charge that i’m making. deal with it or not, it’s up to you.

    Peter – In response to arguing that Snyder is sincere – “So did George Bush and Peter Galbraith.”

    Me – So, after calling those who advocate for BRT liars and racists, what’s next, Nazis?

    if it fits, i’ll go there. but the question stands — do you, or do you not, believe that George Bush and Peter Galbraith acted sincerely when they were imploring us to commit ‘the supreme international crime’?

    Later, Peter later says those of us seeing BRT as the way to go at this time ‘hate our grandchildren’.

    well, do you? really, i’m tired of talking about your hurt feelings. this is a serious issue. stop whining and put yourself in the position of someone who is transit-dependent. quit throwing those people under the bus. i thought ‘the me generation’ was over — how about worry about someone else for a change? our parents and our parents’ parents levied almost insurmountable taxes on those of us who are still trying to gain an economic foothold in this world. more young people today are poorer than their parents were 50 years ago. it’s not right, it’s not fair, it needs to change. don’t condemn future generations to substandard transit — they don’t deserve it.

    Where Peter has a point with why I brought up Cleveland and Auckland. That part of my response was poorly laid out. I should have just left that part out because it was unnecessary, and just providing more opportunity for Peter’s ridicule.

    this is not all about you, believe it or not.

    but speaking of Cleveland, they have a BRT, too. in fact, they have THE BRT — perhaps the only true BRT system in the US. it’s the McDonald’s of BRT systems — the true gold standard. all the bells and whistles. you name it. it’s the flagship of BRT systems here in the US. the demonstration system. they pulled out all the stops. it cost ‘roughly the same’ as a light rail line would have cost (link).

    and you know what they got?

    a bus.

    a creeky, crawling, crowded, uncomfortable bus.

    but don’t take my word for it — take it not from a transit advocate speaking from afar about how poor people deserve to ride buses, but from someone who has ridden this ‘train on wheels’ — an irate rider who correctly excoriates a newspaper columnist for telling all the bus riders how awesome these new big fancy train-bus-magic-carpet things were going to be (link). another rider says the rapid bus is not so rapid (link).

    what else did Cleveland get with all the BRT hype? they got to hire two full-time police officers to help make sure pedestrians didn’t get crushed crossing to and from the new highway-within-a-highway (link). they got some tainted concrete (allegedly) (link). they got a hefty dose of corruption accusations (link). and why not throw in a little bit of citizen-on-citizen crime, too (link)?

    my objective is not to win anyone over to my side — all i can do is provide information that has not yet been provided. it’s up to each person to decide whether they like buses or dignified transit.

    i do have some other goals. one is education. i had to go get all this info myself, after hundreds of hours of research. we have to share resources and information if we want to more effectively organize for better transit.

    i don’t have the goal of stopping this project — this project was a done deal years ago. as with most megaprojects, us citizens are only given a chance to ratify decisions after they’ve already been made. we may occasionally get a tweak a few things, but that’s about it. they’ll invite us down to look at some pretty pictures, they’ll listen intently as we talk about what’s important to us, and then they’ll go about their business, planning our futures. that’s just the way it works right now. it needs to change, but i’m not looking to start a revolution over one junky bus project.

    another of my goals is to make sure pedestrians and cyclists get treated with the priority they deserve. we saw the Curitiba folks talk about how important it was to integrate the pedestrian and bicycle experience into the plans from the very outset of the planning process. that didn’t happy with Geary, unfortunately, but we’re going to try to shoehorn into this project whatever decency we can. when it comes time to tear apart Van Ness and Potrero and other avenues, hopefully we’ll be better prepared.

    eventually we want to split the duties of the transit agencies so that they’re not the ones pushing for these megaprojects. those agencies are there to run the agencies, not push for megaprojects. having them be the de facto champion of these projects represents an inherent conflict of interest where they cannot properly represent either the citizenry or elected officials — they’re too beholden to their own goals.

    Peter – I’m serious, you NEED to visit Curitiba or Lyon, France, and use the systems there.

    can i just say that i would _love_ to visit bot of these places? even if i had to ride their buses! ;)

    Curitiba is one of the richest areas in South America – most of the population of the metro there could afford cars.

    Obviously basically all of the population of Lyon could afford cars, yet the BRT lines there have been very successful.

    this sounds….dubious. even if what you say is true, what is ‘successful’? does it mean the BRT buses are packed up like our Geary 38 buses? if that’s the case, then Muni is quite successful already, right? why mess with a good thing? the Curitiba page says there are almost a million cars in the city, and traffic is bad. what does any of this mean? who knows?

    what i know is this — poor and working class people deserve dignified transportation options. i believe rail-based travel can be dignified. bus travel, on the other hand, in my opinion, can never be dignified.

    move from there to the main argument for BRT — it’s up-front capital cost is lower than that of rail solutions (in most cases). if you are saying that San Francisco can aspire to having a great low-up-front investment BRT-based transportation system like Curitiba, a place with full-blown shantytowns, then that’s your prerogative to make that case, but I’m not going to make it — i know we can do better.

    The MOST important part of BRT in Curitiba, and BRT on Geary, is that it set aside ROW for transit.

    an important consideration, no doubt. if BRT proponents came out and said, “Look — we’re stealing space away from cars!” — that’s something I can get behind, generally speaking, but it’s not OK to just take space away from cars just for the sake of it — you gotta do something useful with it. widen the sidewalks. provide bicycle infrastructure. do something. but instead they talk about this ‘rail-ready’ nonsense — it’s a lie. there’s no such thing as ‘rail-ready’. SF wants to invent a concept that doesn’t exist just to appease gullible people. it’s a joke.

    and we even get some fancy buses, improved reliability, improved streetscape, and pedestrian improvements along with that.

    i hate the fact that we’re going to introduce more huge buses into SF. i want smaller, less-threatening vehicles on our streets, not bigger, more-threatening vehicles. that the streetscape could improve is nice, obviously — it’s just a shame we can’t provide real transit the first time around. do it right the first time, you know? as for ‘pedestrian improvements’, i’ll believe them when i see them. at this point i really am having a difficult time imagining how two middle-running bus lanes could possibly introduce ‘pedestrian improvements’, but we’ll see what happens. (note the Cleveland example above.)

  56. Chris said (11/14/09; 8:42 am):

    like Curitiba, a place with full-blown shantytowns

    Again, visit Curitiba. Curitiba is NOT Rio, it’s not Sao Paulo, it’s not Belo Horizonte, it’s not Buenos Aires, it’s not Bogota, it’s not Lima, it’s not Mexico City. It’s a very rich city by Latin American standards, with not a single shantytown served by BRT (at least not one that I ever saw – this compares to the literally millions and millions of people living in shantytowns in all of those other cities – which I’ve seen). The most important thing learned from Curitiba has nothing to do with BRT – it’s about land use planning. They built transit lines (some of which are now being converted to heavy rail subway) and completed molded land use planning around those lines. If we were willing to do that here, I’d be willing to hold out for light rail (or preferably heavy rail subway) on Geary, but the populace is completely unwilling to look that direction.

    at this point i really am having a difficult time imagining how two middle-running bus lanes could possibly introduce ‘pedestrian improvements’, but we’ll see what happens

    To my knowledge, all sidewalks on the route will be re-done with sidewalk trees, bulbouts for pedestrians, new lighting, etc. Those are the pedestrian improvements that I’m talking about. Just having ped bulbouts at every (or even most) intersections would be worth $100 million to me.

  57. Seikov said (11/14/09; 1:59 pm):

    I’m sorry that my English isn’t great, but I love supporting my neighborhood, so I want to post my comment!

    I love BRT idea, and I really think this needs to be done soon.
    I understand it will cause some problem such as some inconvenient for car drivers, and local business along Geary blvd.

    I have participated one of those BRT meeting in Richmond before, and it was interesting experience for me. Because many people who drive car were kind of against this BRT idea because they think they will have some inconvenience with their drive to work.
    Since I don’t drive, I’ve never thought about this problem.

    But I really hope they will understand this BRT might cause little inconvenient problem for car drivers and maybe 38 bus riders like me during construction. But this BRT will make much better transportation system when it’s done and cars can dominate 2 lanes without bothered by bus! How awesome is that??

    We really need to look at BRT system long-span. And when we think about it long-span, this BRT idea MUST be done as soon as possible.

    And as Adam Hartzell pointed, we need to commit support local business along Geary blvd. And that’s not difficult thing to do since we live this neighborhood!!!
    Yeah, let’s do it!!!!!

  58. Anthony said (11/14/09; 2:59 pm):

    just back from a nice walk on yet another nice day in the Central Richmond, and thought about this thread of comments, including my earlier posts.

    opponents of BRT cite the “very big problem” of traffic on side streets such as Anza, Balboa and California. i challenge anyone to put forward evidence that these east-west streets — which have a signal or stop sign every few blocks, and sometimes at every block — are at or above their capacity in our urban environment.

    the suggestion that transit improvements will “drive” traffic six deep at side-street stop signs isn’t credible. large swaths of Anza, Balboa and California are residential; given the traffic-control measures in place, they’re good ways to get nowhere fast. if drivers have nowhere to go and nowhere to park (most spots are taken as it is), it stands to reason that they’ll go elsewhere.

    so why make a spurious contention about side streets or numerous other nonissues? one explanation is that there will always be a Party of No, a constituency of classic NIMBYs that isn’t interested in anything other than being outraged. here is a great article from Planetizen on the subject:

    http://www.planetizen.com/node/34505

    i am with Seikov: in separating transit from the rest of traffic, BRT is a design-based solution to congestion. drivers (and i’m one of them) will have two lanes in each direction along Geary, and could even get some extra parking. imagine that.

  59. Seikov said (11/14/09; 6:00 pm):

    I read some comments above, saying we should be focusing on more pedestrians and bikers and not the bus(because it’s vehicle ) ,,,,,,I don’t agree with it. Means, I disagree.

    Because after we get off the bus, we are the pedestrians. And having better transit system such as BRT will encourage more people to ride bus and that means, more pedestrians!!!! And bikers don’t have to bike all the time, they can take bus when they are tired biking or when it’s raining. So I really think bus riders, pedestrians, and bikers are all connected.

    I understand that some people would want much better transportation system such as bring Bart to the Richmond district, that’s really nice but that would cost waaaaaaay more than BRT and that’s not realistic right now. And I don’t like all or nothing thinking. So right now, BRT is the way to go!!!!

    Bus is a not bad vehicle. Bus is the vehicle who (who?) sometimes connect people, encourage people to not to drive, and can definitely provides lively neighborhood if we can jump on/off easily.
    Yeah again,,,,,let’s do it!!!!!!

    Anthony—-Yeah—!!!

  60. Belgand said (11/14/09; 7:03 pm):

    Allow me to join others in saying that while the Richmond needs better transit, BRT is a short-sighted solution. We need a real, functional subway system in this city. Small, densely populated… we perfectly fit the profile of a city where subways work wonders. Instead we’re barely making do with a network of buses and light rail that get stuck in traffic and just make the situation worse. The few times we implement a subway system it’s either a regional rail system for moving people into the city (that doesn’t work very well when you don’t have a car waiting out in the suburbs on the other end) or the incredibly limited Market Street Subway or the incredibly limited Central Subway.

    If we built BRT we’re going to be stuck with it. Yes, a subway will be expensive, but it’s an investment in the future. Most cities that installed proper underground networks have been using them successfully for the past century or so for incredible efficiency. Is BRT really going to provide that level of service over that long of a period?

    When you have an expensive, long-term purchase you don’t go into it halfway. You save up, you make some sacrifices if necessary, and you pay what you need to in order to get the product that will last and provide the greatest benefit. Otherwise you end up purchasing something for half the price that does a third of the job. When you end up finally moving on you’ve lost a significant amount of money that was entirely unnecessary.

    Our current system is a failure with the light rail lines doing little more than serving as inflexible bus lines and both getting easily stuck in traffic, increasing congestion, and moving very slowly. A proper underground subway line is the answer we really need.

  61. Chris said (11/14/09; 8:09 pm):

    Belgand – any examples of American cities that have built subways of the type that you mention in the last half century? The only one sort of example is DC, which happens to get a tad more support in the form of federal funding. Atlanta and the Bay Area are the only places that have gotten anything like that, and they’re both very limited and more regional in nature (MARTA and BART).

    Our country simply does not value investment in intercity rail transit of the type that you’re proposing. You won’t find any country in the world where a tiny city in a large metropolitan area is expected to largely fund a $20 billion system (which is what a system like you’re proposing would cost) on their own, yet that’s what would happen here. Our strange fascination with city limits instead of the real world functioning of metro areas causes massive underinvestment in our cores and massive over-investment in the greenfield growth areas. Not likely to change any time soon.

  62. Chris said (11/14/09; 8:10 pm):

    ^Oops, meant to say “intracity,” not “intercity” in my second paragraph.

  63. Adam Hartzell said (11/14/09; 8:43 pm):

    Peter, what you refuse to understand is that many of us advocating for BRT do care about all the people you claim we don’t. And when you falsely accuse people of motivations opposite of what they are trying to do, you only obstruct the process even further.

    I find Belgand’s arguments much more convincing than yours. He’s as passionate as you but without the ad hominem, hyperbolic attacks. I want to listen to Belgand’s different opinion whereas I have nothing but disgust for your tactics. I know you will say that you don’t care if I’m disgusted with your tactics or not, but as the transit-dependent person you claim to speak for, uhm, well, you claim you care for me and my plight, that you have put yourself in my shoes, so wouldn’t you care if I found your rhetoric reprehensible?

    In the end, you have helped me. Your rhetorical tactics make me want to just give up on civic involvement if I have to continue to hear such ad hominem hyperbole. I thought it was only certain business owners and car dependent folk I’d have to negotiate with in this struggle, but you’ve shown me there will also be presumed allies who might be just as difficult. So thank you for opening my eyes to that. But, don’t worry, (not that you would), I’ll stay involved in the cause. I’d hate for people to think all us transit advocates are as Glen-Beck-ish as you.

  64. Seikov said (11/14/09; 9:19 pm):

    I really think all these internet -you-are-not-facing-each-other space can be really bad because people say harmful thing to others just because they are not talking in person. I really want to avoid accusing someone who disagree with. It’s just different opinion, and if you don’t like it, just let it go or try to understand where this person is coming from. Just please try not to attack others using your self-righteous tactics.

    To Peter Smith
    I read your comments and it made me sad because everytime, you need to prove that you are right and everybody else who disagree with you, you need to beat this person with your long long sentences(too long) and bunch of links and you sounds mean the whole way.

    I don’t know what kind of person you are and I really don’t care, but please stop doing what you are doing (which is quote every sentence you disagree and attack with your “see? I am right” sentence which I totally disagree but it’s okay, it’s just your opinion, I won’t quote/attack you for that), that really discourage other people to even participate.

    And as a minority, working-class person, you are not really representing us. We NEED muni, BRT system. Bart would be great if they can take us to downtown at least same cost as muni ( $2, which I still think it’s not cheap). I don’t take Bart because it’s expensive. So if we can improve 38Geary system, that’s what we really need right now.
    And bunch of my friends are taking bus and they are not “lowest class level in society”…..because they chose to do so. Some of them are anti-car, some of them just appreciate the muni system. I don’t know if you ever take muni, but there are many kind of people taking bus and they are NOT “lowest class level in society”. I don’t know how rich you are, but you are being rude to all the bus riders stereotyping what types of people use the bus.

    Anyways,,,,,,I’m sorry that people don’t agree with you, but I hope you are adult/mature enough to accept the different point of view. We can discuss things of course, but let’s do not attack others and let’s stop being mean to others so that we can develop more meaningful discussion as adult.

  65. Peter Smith said (11/14/09; 10:58 pm):

    Again, visit Curitiba. … It’s a very rich city by Latin American standards

    ok, let’s forget all the qualitative stuff and get down with some numbers, since that’s what really matters. the average per-capita income of a Curitiba resident? $10,426. In San Francisco? $34,556. And yet people still want to make the case that we San Franciscans can’t afford real transit. The argument doesn’t hold up. and San Francisco even has the nation’s highest average credit scores (link). listen, this place has money — don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

    i also say, don’t be fooled by the opinions of the few — most people want real transit. just like the nation as a whole overwhelmingly favors universal health care, a green economy/kyoto, subscription to the international criminal court, a limitation on nuclear proliferation, etc. etc. etc., you won’t see it printed in newspapers, and you’re not going to see it on the tv. don’t expect that our local elites are any different. just because most San Franciscans want real transit, don’t expect to see it printed on the front page of the Chronicle.

    The most important thing learned from Curitiba has nothing to do with BRT – it’s about land use planning.

    let’s talk about land use. whether we’re geniuses or we’re just lucky enough to be surrounded by water on three sides, San Francisco is fully 50% more dense than Curitiba. you know what that means? that means whatever we do is going to be a ‘success’, if by success we mean ‘have a whole heck of a lot of people riding it’. if Curitiba has 2 people standing on the corner waiting for a bus, San Francisco has 3. and curitiba’s buses have been jam-packed for decades, which is why they’re finally building a subway (link).

    for those of you who are concerned with being….prudent/frugal/whatever with your tax dollars, there’s a really easy way to stop wasting so much money on these megaprojects — stop participating in them. don’t give them the support that they need. instead, spend money wisely, on the most effective and tax money-efficient forms of transportation known to mankind — walking and biking. i won’t bore you with the myriad add-on positive city effects that you get when you support walkable and bikable neighborhoods — just google it — dollars invested in walk and bike infrastructure returns itself to the community more effectively than any other type of investment. check out what bikeportland.org has to say about the relative investment vs. return scenarios of different transportation modes (link).

    Support the Livable Streets Transportation Hierarchy:

    1. Pedestrians
    2. Bicycles
    3. Public Transit
    4. Commercial Vehicles
    5. Taxis
    6. High Occupancy Vehicles
    7. Single Occupancy Vehicles (SOVs, aka cars)

    It doesn’t mean you support only walking and biking, but it does mean that you support them first. They get priority over all other forms of transport — including public transit.

    To my knowledge, all sidewalks on the route will be re-done with sidewalk trees, …

    whatever happens with the pedestrian environment, we need to tear down those ridiculous concrete skywalks that prioritize cars over pedestrians. this is a city — our city — nobody should be allowed to imperil pedestrians and cyclists just because they want to joyride like they’re on the Autobahn. as Joseph Alioto said, “slow down, enjoy the city” — there’s no need to rush through it (link). if cars want to go under or over — fine, have at it, but it not going to be at the expense of pedestrians and cyclists, and the livability of San Francisco. pedestrians and cyclists deserve the most direct, level routes — cars can go around, up, over, under, wherever. if cars are posing a danger to pedestrians and cyclists, then they need to be tamed — they need to be brought under control — they need to be slowed down — we need to do some heavy traffic calming. it’s not rocket science, it’s just a matter of knowing your priorities — what’s important to you — fast cars, or a vibrant, fun, lively and friendly Geary Blvd.?

    In the end, you have helped me.

    glad to be of service. i don’t know who you are. if you’re the same person as before, i already told you — this is not about you. the world is larger than you. deal with it. i care about the substance of your arguments — that’s it.

    but you are being rude to all the bus riders stereotyping what types of people use the bus.

    i do take pride in trying to be right — it’s important if we’re to have meaningful discussions. we should all be serious about being accurate and being able to back up our arguments with, you know, evidence (link). around the country, the story is the same — only people who have no other choice ride the bus (link). don’t shoot the messenger.

    I find Belgand’s arguments much more convincing than yours.

    great — as far as i can tell he’s arguing in the same exact vein as me — i’m glad you agree with me. don’t throw away money, think about the future, think long term, this is our future, our children’s future, etc. i don’t necessarily agree that we must have a subway instead of light rail, but i’m open to discuss it. it’s a reasonable alternative. buses are not.

    check out the long now foundation — long-term thinking is important. politicians can only look to the next election cycle — we have be better than that (link).

    i promise you, i was not put on this earth to earn your approval. i was, however, put on this earth to do the right thing, as much as is possible. so hate me or my style all you like, but do the right thing — whether i want you to or not.

  66. Peter Smith said (11/15/09; 2:08 am):

    a final note — the Gold Line extension in LA opens today. it’s a BIG deal.people hate they bus, but they love rail (link) (video).

    “Crowds applaud the inaugural ride of the Gold Line extension”

    this stuff matters. listen to Belgand — do it right the first time.

  67. Chris said (11/15/09; 8:50 am):

    Peter – take a look at the weighted density of Curitiba, compared to SF. That’s what I was talking about – and what matters.

    Look, I want what you want. I want a subway on Geary, but unfortunately, you and I both know that we’re talking about 11 digits minimum. The entire reason that Curitiba originally built BRT was that no money was available from the federal government of Brazil, and it’s what they could get done with local dollars. If you honestly think that a city of only 800,000 can fund a subway system in 2009, well, great. I simply don’t see that happening, and see demanding that type of thing the exact same thing as demanding that nothing happen and the status quo remain – since that’s the likely outcome. I want something to happen, so I’ll support measures that we can fund by ourselves, and continue to lobby and work for more federal help on funding, so that maybe my great grandchildren can have a subway.

  68. Anthony said (11/15/09; 11:21 am):

    weighing in once again with a reality check: if a $250 million BRT project has displeased local merchants, NIMBY groups and cranky residents to such a degree, what makes people think a multibillion-dollar subway excavation would be any more acceptable? to quote a previous poster, which is more “extravagant”?

    in the BRT debate, there’s the WWDHD do question: what would David Heller do? would he go ballistic at the idea that there’ll be bulldozing and digging for two, three or four years in front of his business?

    there is one constituency that isn’t well served, at least in the near term, by scrapping BRT for a subway: Muni riders. we (i’m one of them) have waited years and years for improvements. if rail remains an option in future planning, so be it. but as our new president has said, we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  69. Peter Smith said (11/15/09; 1:26 pm):

    Look, I want what you want. I want a subway on Geary

    i don’t want a Subway on Geary — I want dignified transportation solutions. to me, that means extremely safe, comfortable, and pleasant places to walk and bike, first. you take care of those things, and i and merchants and muni riders and citizens and business owners and property owners and taxpayers all will be at least moderately happy with the results.

    if you want to make us pleasantly surprised by the redone Geary, then offer us dignified motorized transit in addition to the excellent walk and bike facilities — that means rail. my personal opinion is that humans should not have to travel underground, so i do not favor a subway. we’re not ants or armadillos — we’re humans — we like the sun — it has positive physical and mental effects on us and our psyches — we deserve the beneifts of above-ground travel. that leaves on option — light rail (or trams, streetcars, whatever you want to call them).

    in the BRT debate, there’s the WWDHD do question: what would David Heller do? would he go ballistic at the idea that there’ll be bulldozing and digging for two, three or four years in front of his business?

    for all of Mr. Heller’s charmingly ridiculous assertions, he does have a point — BRT promises to do one thing to him and his constituents — make their lives miserable for a few years — that’s it. and when it’s all over, he and his neighbors may or may not still be in business. who could resist an offer like that?

    that Mr. Heller and his supporters are not all that anxious to risk their livelihoods for the mere sport of it should not be a surprise to supporters of this BRT project — this is something that you are supposed to understand without it being explained to you. this is their livelihoods you’re talking about. When you’re advocating for the ripping up of Geary for a few years — you’d better have a damn good reason to do it, and the benefits had better be real.

    if you promise them real benefits with real transit, they’ll be on the phone with the Mayor’s office tomorrow, asking how soon we can get the digging started.

    you want local news stations to go crazy covering the new line? give folks dignified transit (link).

    you want the Chronicle to run a series of articles on all the wonderful places we can go eat on Geary Blvd.? then give us dignified transit (link).

    you want people to react positively on twitter like this? give them a reason to get excited (link):

    out4equality: Los Angeles – The Metro Rail Gold line into East Los Angeles officially opened today. King Taco at Maravilla station. Woohoo!

    TheDudeAbides: Nice morning ride. Goldline to HP with dim sum crew to CT then off to explore gold line east side LT and BH.

    sickcandy: Woo-hoo! #DTLA RT @downtown_la: The Gold Line Eastside Extension is PACKED on its first day! http://twitpic.com/po0j3

    Bonny: Yay! Gold Line is open! Now we won’t have to walk to Union Station. Gonna try it today for free. http://awe.sm/14SL0

    rharristweet: Off to the celebration of the East LA Extension of the Gold Line light rail. Expecting good food, music and multiethnic crowds.

    ilsinla: Gold Line Extension….oh yeah!

    downtown_la: The Gold Line Eastside Extension is PACKED on its first day!

    rrrobertooo: is gonna take the new East L.A. Gold Line train to King Taco today =oP

    svmacias: L.A. Metros’s Gold Line eastside extension opens today! – Free (sans mustache) Rides!: http://bit.ly/9eqeS (expand)

    justindicenzo: I cant wait till LA has trains all over RT @LAist ride the Gold Line! Free rides all day & parties at 4 stops; Eastside Extension is OPEN!

    atomicmuffin: @ Union Station. Eastern Gold Line extension opens–everyone rides it free today. Sensory overload here, pretty exciting.

    whiteravenphoto: Playin on L. A. Gold Line

    Th3J: Hey tweeples, I’ll be playing at 2nd street and alameda in little Tokyo as part of the opening of the new train! The gold line I think?

    mchangesq: Gold line extension opens today! Now I can do a culinary tour of Olvera St., Chinatown, and Little Tokyo w/o ever hopping into a car.

    cisaacmtz: http://twitpic.com/pnnfq – @ the soto and 1st station…Riding the gold line! Badass!!

    yestrask: About to head out and hit the gold line opening! YEAH

    spiffychrist: @ohaiyuriko @b33fy guys!!! teh gold line is gonna be awesome!!!

    ToDoInLA: RT @LATimesNystrom RT @LATimesfood Metro Gold Line extension opens Sunday: Foodie nirvana awaits in East LA, Little… http://bit.ly/46Dotd

    WTSLosAngeles: RT @SimonOh is super-excited about attending the grand opening of the Metro Gold Line’s extension to east L.A. tomorrow! AS

    slow_wayfarer: So f*****g excited about the gold line extension! tomorrow and beyond!

    you ever see anyone get excited about a bus line like that? no. a bus is something you _have_ to ride. a train is something you _want_ to ride. makes all the difference in the world.

    now, let’s compare all that excitement to what an american lawyer-cyclist from Tucson just experienced down in Bogota, home to the most famous BRT system in the world — the system by which all other BRT systems are judged — the Transmilenio (link) (i linked to a StreetFilm of the Transmilenio system, above):

    A contrast I noticed between two of my days in Bogota best describes my experience there. I spent a Saturday riding by myself through many of the bike paths that my guide Andres had not shown me on the day before.

    It was a pretty bad day. I have never seen traffic like what I saw that day, in any city. Nor have I breathed such polluted air. And this is coming from someone who is a frequent visitor to Mexico City! Bogota traffic was considerably worse than anything I have ever seen in Mexico, and the air was worse, too.

    The bike paths were nice, but they ran alongside busy streets that were full of cars, buses, and trucks belching out fumes. Many of these vehicles are Chinese-made and appear to have no emissions controls whatsoever.

    Also, many of the bike paths went along sidewalks that were so full of pedestrians doing some Saturday shopping that bicycling on them was not really feasible.

    At the end of that day I retired to my hotel with stinging eyes and lungs and the strong feeling that it is not bike advocates so much as car advocates who need to visit Bogota. It truly is a pre-apocalyptic technological dystopia there, all because of the damned cars. If someone had asked me on that day if I could live in Bogota, I would have said no . . . f . . . ing . . . way. I would do anything necessary not to live in that city.

    that’s what you get when you put huge, uncomfortable buses on your streets instead of offering people a dignified way to get around.

    read the rest of Erik’s account — it’s interesting.

    like i said, we’re too late to stop this BRT project — we’ll have big buses running up and down Geary whether we want them or not. the question is, will we learn our lesson and stop the next ill-considered project that planners want to foist on us?

  70. Ron "Dr. K" said (11/15/09; 6:26 pm):

    Mr. Snyder’s comments contained nothing of substance. It seemed he was only blowing his own horn and offering glowing generalities about BRT. David Heller on the other hand was offering valid and specific criticisms.

    As a 40 year resident of the Richmond, I remember the disappointment of watching the cooks of this City kill the plan for a BART Line under Geary. Let’s not make the same mistakes again and throw away half a Billion $ (what it will likely cost before they are done) on this ill conceived BRT temporary solution.

    The underhanded manner with which this project has been crammed down the throat of the Richmond, should be enough to alert everyone that this is a boondoggle and not worthy of our hard earned tax money.

    We should take the $ 1 Billion plus that will be squandered on the Chinatown fiasco, which is only a payoff of Willie Browns political debt, and redirect it to the first segment of a BART extension underground to the Richmond. This process could be systematically repeated until we have an underground service to the outer Richmond. So what if it takes 20 years to complete? With Muni’s track record it will probably take that long to complete the BRT, a temporary fix of nothing. At least with an underground solution, we end up with a real improvement for the long haul, not just some half-baked temporary mess.

  71. Chris said (11/15/09; 8:01 pm):

    Peter – try comparing apples to apples at least. Bogota is not even close to comparable to any city in the US, let alone one of the richest. Curitiba is a little closer, but how about comparing to Lyon, France? Ridership has blown away expectations. The corridor handles triple the volume that it did before BRT. This from a country (and city) that has had rail transit that blows away anything in the Bay Area for decades and decades, with very similar income levels to SF. Why are the French willing and excited to try something that is “undignified” for San Franciscans?

  72. Chris said (11/15/09; 8:04 pm):

    We should take the $ 1 Billion plus that will be squandered on the Chinatown fiasco, which is only a payoff of Willie Browns political debt, and redirect it to the first segment of a BART extension underground to the Richmond. This process could be systematically repeated until we have an underground service to the outer Richmond. So what if it takes 20 years to complete? With Muni’s track record it will probably take that long to complete the BRT, a temporary fix of nothing. At least with an underground solution, we end up with a real improvement for the long haul, not just some half-baked temporary mess.

    It’s going to cost $6.2 billion (right now, probably will be at least $2-3 billion more) to finish the SJ extension. Going along a freeway median to Livermore has a projected cost of between $2 and $3 billion. How long of a segment do you think BART gets in SF with a billion? A couple escalators? BART down Geary to 25th would cost at least $10 billion, probably double that or more. Arguing for the impossible is the same thing as arguing for the status quo. Perhaps that’s your goal, I don’t know.

  73. Jeff G said (11/15/09; 9:38 pm):

    From my own research and some conversations with transit experts, the ideal option, long-term, would be an underground train along Geary. Unfortunately, due to initial outlay cost that is not even being considered.

    The reasons why not are important political questions– I encourage anyone who would like to see a really great transit system here in SF to get more involved politically pushing for more transit funding– which often means deprioritizing highway expansions, easy parking and other car-oriented solutions, which are (still!!) the dominant transportation paradigm. And yes, some transit solutions have huge outlay costs, but save significantly in the long run.

    However frustrating it is, then, the options currently under consideration for the Richmond are:
    1) a BRT
    2) the status quo, which will mean increased car traffic.

    The first is definitely better than the second for the reasons well-explained above.

    Among the anti-BRT voices, Mr. Smith seems to hate buses in general and is convinced that huge numbers of people agree are like him and find buses generally uncomfortable. The relevant compartive data on transit use does not seem to support this, though I’d be interested to know if there have been studys thereabout. In any case, let’s keep the debate here respectful and dignified.

    Thanks,
    jeff g

  74. Seikov said (11/15/09; 9:42 pm):

    I guess I’m bit confused that why some people are arguing the two totally different level of things.
    “BRT” and “light rail or bring bart under the Richmond district” shouldn’t be the same level of discussion.

    We want BOTH. We want improvements.
    But, how realistic for this light rail thing and bart thing??
    Yeah, if we can have bart under the Richmond district or “cool” light rail, that’s awesome!!
    But that doesn’t mean we need to abandon improving muni system. We need muni, We need muni improvements.

    Is this BRT plan evil or bad or failure??? NO!!
    This BRT plan was like gift for us who rides muni every single day unlike some “rich” folks who only believe some statics and numbers from some article, and believe only poor people would ride bus when the reality is,,,,in San Francisco, every kind of people ride bus not only because that’s the only choice they have, but also they ride because they chose to do so, they ride because they are tired of driving/looking for parking/getting ticket, and some people,they just simply care about environment.

    They can’t take away this BRT plan just because this is not “perfect” enough as light rail/ bart to richmond plan.
    But bart won’t stop as often as 38 does and it’ll cost much more for the ride.
    We will have Bart, light rail in the future, but that idea shouldn’t be getting in the BRT’s way because it’s not the same thing,I think……cost wise, time wise.
    This BRT, we need this little improvement and we know it’s gonna be great because we ride 38Geary every. single. day. and we need it so bad.

  75. Peter Smith said (11/16/09; 6:02 am):

    Peter – try comparing apples to apples at least. Bogota is not even close to comparable to any city in the US, let alone one of the richest.

    thank you — please tell that to your BRT comrades. i thought my previous comments would have made that clear, but you BRT fans persisted. (see my comments about ‘shantytowns’, ‘median incomes’, etc.)

    i give you US examples of failed BRT systems and you cry foul. Give you THE worldwide leading example of failed BRT and you cry foul. give you middling examples of BRT systems and you cry foul. they’re all the same to me — they all fail. none offers dignified transit, and none have delivered on their promises.

    Why are the French willing and excited to try something that is “undignified” for San Franciscans?

    i suspect the French were as willing and excited to try BRT as they were to be invaded and occupied by the German army. but that’s neither here nor there, as San Francisco is well on its way to BRT-dom, too.

    i will admit that the Lyon buses are funny-looking (link). BRT proponents think we’re so stupid that if they just drape some wheel covers over the tires we’ll think it’s not a bus but a train.

    all the marketing materials i can find on the Lyon BRT lines — and that’s about all BRT proponents are good for in the way of documentation — marketing — are very typical — talking points about how ‘rail-like’ BRT/BHNS buses are.

    the very first time i read about BRT, i thought, “Huh??” without knowing a thing about transit, it just struck me as very very odd. it took me 2-3 days of research to figure out BRT was a fraud. it took me another 3-6 months to figure out that it was a religion — that it was based on faith — a believe that these few transit visionaries, the brave BRT proponents, were going to have their disciples justly rewarded, for the first time in the history of the world, with something for nothing.

    instead, i always knew that you get what you pay for.

    i know not to argue with true believers — evidence is not important to them.

    “a man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure”

    whether or not the great Margaret Thatcher, destroyer of civilizations, actually said this or not is besides the point. we all know that is the general sentiment about ‘the loser cruiser’ — the bus. i think people deserve dignified transit, which is why BRT is not acceptable.

    i’m not the first to call BRT a fraud (link), and i won’t be the last.

    when i went to an industry conference, Railvolution, a couple of years ago, one of the Cleveland BRT reps was there. she bragged about how she and her other managers finally managed to force BRT on the people of Cleveland after years of struggling to convince them that it was a worthwhile project. the people never gave up, and in the end they lost — they got stuck with BRT. but this lady was proud of having jammed it down the throats of Cleveland transit riders and taxpayers. it was a pretty incredible statement.

    The relevant comparative data on transit use does not seem to support this

    i’m happy to be wrong — i just need a little data — studies, anecdotes, whatever.

    and for those who claim SF is broke and can’t afford anything but a few more buses, i point you to the Central Subway. it’ll cost about $2 billion for 2 miles. all i want for the people of Geary is $1 billion for six miles.

    for a little fun, check out this special section in an Indian newspaper on their latest BRT debacle — i’ve translated a bit:

    “3 dreaded letters: BRT. The letters spell horror for squeezed-in motorists on [a road] in south Delhi” (link)

    it’s pretty clear that light rail on Geary is the most sensible compromise solution. the T-Third line is roughly the same size as Geary, and was done for less than a billion dollars. the addition of the T-Third line to the SF Transit network has made the city immeasurably more livable. more people are riding every day. revitalization is booming all along the line. seniors now have access to real transit. the poor communities of southern SF now have access to real transit. everybody deserves access to real transit, even the people who ride the 38.

  76. Chris said (11/16/09; 8:08 am):

    i give you US examples of failed BRT systems and you cry foul. Give you THE worldwide leading example of failed BRT and you cry foul. give you middling examples of BRT systems and you cry foul. they’re all the same to me — they all fail. none offers dignified transit, and none have delivered on their promises.

    You’re given BRT examples that work and you cry foul. I can give you LRT examples that have failed (some of the best failures are VERY close to you). The T, here in SF, has lower ridership than the bus that it replaced – and guess what – the 9x bus that was introduced at the same time as the T has had continually increasing ridership because it gets people where they want to go and works better than the T. Or…if we want to look at a complete failed system, you can travel down to San Jose and take a look at the worst LRT system in the world – VTA light rail. Ridership has never met expectations, the vehicles are painfully slow, and system cost (both initial buildout and operations) has always been higher than projected.

    I’m in favor of rail as much as the next guy, but there are failed systems all over the place, just as there are failed and successful BRT systems all over the place. As with anything, successful implementation depends on many things, not simply the mode of transit chosen.

    i know not to argue with true believers — evidence is not important to them.

    Is that why you dismiss any successful BRT system, as well as any failed LRT system? Success depends on the details, not the mode.

    and for those who claim SF is broke and can’t afford anything but a few more buses, i point you to the Central Subway. it’ll cost about $2 billion for 2 miles. all i want for the people of Geary is $1 billion for six miles

    Any data showing that a rail system of any use could be built on Geary for a billion would be nice. The T-Third ended up being close to that (and you’re right that the CS will likely hit two billion), so how can we expect Muni to handle a corridor like Geary for less than $5 billion for LRT? If you’re talking about some other agency doing it, or some drastic restructuring of Muni in order to lower costs, I’d be interested in how you’re going to accomplish this – politically.

  77. Chris said (11/16/09; 8:11 am):

    it’s pretty clear that light rail on Geary is the most sensible compromise solution. the T-Third line is roughly the same size as Geary, and was done for less than a billion dollars. the addition of the T-Third line to the SF Transit network has made the city immeasurably more livable. more people are riding every day. revitalization is booming all along the line. seniors now have access to real transit. the poor communities of southern SF now have access to real transit. everybody deserves access to real transit, even the people who ride the 38.

    Wow. Missed this paragraph before. You’re going to use the absolute disaster known as the T as an example of a successful LRT system? Wow.

  78. Anthony said (11/16/09; 8:56 am):

    Peter Smith,

    thank you for your comments, though i haven’t parsed through everything you’ve written here.

    i made the point that a BRT project built in stages along a road surface and a subway excavation are not comparable in cost, scale or neighborhood impact. i believe your point was that merchants opposing BRT are in such dire straits that they must resist any disruption whatsoever.

    i appreciate and am alarmed by this; Geary needs its businesses to thrive. at the same time, i would beseech to you and others that the Richmond *as a whole* needs better transit, along with other improvements along its main commercial corridor. When i say as a whole, i mean merchants and residents and riders and students and visitors.

    Whether we like it or not, we are all in this together. preservation for a few does not justify mediocrity for everyone, which is what we have on Geary today.

  79. david heller said (11/20/09; 10:01 am):

    Open Letter to Muni, and The SF County Transportation Authority

    There are a number of alternatives the City has failed to adequately consider in its preliminary planning for a proposed Geary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan – several of whose considerations would tear up Geary Boulevard, eliminating traffic lanes, snarling traffic and potentially hurting neighborhood merchants, the lifeblood of the community.

    Add “Low-Cost” Alternative to Environmental Impact Report

    The SF Transportation Authority should add an alternative to its EIR for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that considers a low-cost option for Muni bus service, such as dedicated bus-only lanes along Geary Boulevard for sidewalk passenger pick up and drop off.

    The lanes could be reserved for buses just during commute hours: 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. eastbound and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. westbound. This option would minimize the impact on merchants.

    Consider Other Available Options to Improve Bus Travel

    From the beginning, the Transportation Authority has focused on extraordinary measures to improve transit times, with little or no consideration being given to less invasive remedies already available. These remedies include giving buses the power to change traffic signals and using GPS technology to avoid the bunching of buses.

    Another option is to eliminate some stops along Geary. Certainly the last suggestion comes with its own set of issues, but the fact is that the buses are slowed considerably by having to stop at almost every block of the boulevard.

    Conduct an Economic Impact Study

    There are numerous merchants on Geary Boulevard and other nearby commercial corridors who remember the construction of BART along Market Street and the disruption and loss of business it brought. Muni’s construction of the Third Street light rail has also been challenging for local merchants and residents.
    It is for these reasons that we have been urging the City to include a study of the economic impact of both the construction and the implementation of the system. Merchants fear negative impacts due to years of construction or a change in shopping patterns along our successful commercial corridor.

    An economic impact analysis examining these issues is necessary for the Transportation Authority to anticipate the impact and lessen the damage caused by any potential project.

  80. Peter Smith said (11/20/09; 8:21 pm):

    Paris’s first modern tramway (light rail), the T3, or ‘Tramway des Maréchaux’, opened in December 2006. It’s a dignified, even classy, system — people love it. Check out this video (link) and see how similar that boulevard is to Geary — it’s uncanny. It was built for about $100 million per mile — less than what we’d expect Geary to cost for a similar system — twice what BRT will cost, but unlike BRT, it will do the job it promises to do, and it will actually add capacity to our system, and provide people with a dignified alternative to their cars.

    Here’s the English-language wiki page (link).

    And here’s a Streetsblog post from December 2007 that first tipped us off to this stellar piece of transit infrastructure (link).

    And whether you prefer Geary have buses or trains, make sure to get the pedestrian and bicycle experience right — it increases the capacity/liveliness/livability/dynamism/business vitality of a street, and it does all that in part because cyclists help to make everyone safer — not just other cyclists, not just pedestrians, but even car drivers — we have the data.

    Do what NYC wants to do with their BRT routes (link) — provide bicycle infrastructure — it’s the minimum that is required, so it’s the minimum that we should do.

    and this morning we had just the latest in a long line of grisly auto-against-pedestrian killings in San Francisco — this one while the 70-year old victim was in the crosswalk on Geary, at Ninth Avenue (link). the driver hit her, knocked her 20 feet through the air, then slowly rolled over her again. horrific scene. people waiting for the bus are watching the whole thing play out. blood everywhere:

    Kong was struck at about 8:15 a.m. by a white van that had been traveling south on Ninth Avenue and turned onto eastbound Geary Boulevard, according to police spokesman Officer Samson Chan. No one else was hurt.

    what, exactly, is it going to take before people get indignant? do car drivers really believe they have the right to terrorize the city at will? we need to tame the auto traffic on Geary Boulevard, and make Geary Boulevard a place that people care about — a place that people want to be. right now, nobody wants to be on Geary except for the reason that it has the bus routes, and it provides the most direct route from Point A to Point B — there’s no reason we have to accept that it should be a horrifically dirty and dangerous place.

    give people walkability and bikability, and give them dignified transit — then watch Geary Boulevard blossom. it’s a simple recipe — all it takes is a little bit decency. even if you hate your children and grandchildren, then do it for Ms. Kong, and all the other people who have been killed, and are yet to be killed, on Geary.

  81. Administrator said (11/20/09; 9:18 pm):

    Thank you to everyone for your comments and feedback on this post and the Geary BRT. I am glad that it has sparked discussion on this important issue.

    Just a reminder to keep your comments on topic and relevant to the Geary BRT project. Many thanks,

    Sarah B.

  82. Anthony said (11/23/09; 1:48 pm):

    open letter to David Heller

    Mr. Heller,

    there are a number of issues with Geary Boulevard that you fail to consider in the planning for a proposed BRT project. but these should be obvious by now; after all, you’ve participated in this debate from the beginning.

    from the start, you’ve trotted out the same presuppositions — that BRT without a doubt would snarl traffic, change shoppers’ habits, decimate businesses, wreck the Richmond as you know it. you’ve boned up on your transportation expertise, and have decided that diamond lanes and GPS devices would do the trick, simple as that.

    another criticism you’ve made over and over is that the SFMTA doesn’t listen or respond to the concerns of merchants and residents. City planners, bureaucrats and consultants are just going ahead and doing what they want anyway, spending and pocketing millions of dollars in the process.

    it’s high time to say the following: probably no other party in this dynamic discussion has been as rigid and selfish as you. aside from noting some tweaks, your letter is but a big beef that says there are no gimmes for merchants in the project. your next one could come out with it and ask, “What’s in this thing for me?”

    as i wrote in my comment above, merchants are essential to the boulevard, but investing in transit is a boon residents, visitors, students and even merchants *as a whole*. this blind spot, where you see only what you want or what you ought to get, may be your grandest failure in the entire Geary endeavor.

  83. Matt Fisher said (03/27/10; 12:13 pm):

    I agree. BRT on Geary and Van Ness and in Oakland are all needed NOW. Bus rapid transit can do everything rail does at a fraction of the cost. It is just as good as rail. And if/when ridership is high enough, BRT can be converted to rail. Ottawa’s Transitway has paved the way for bus rapid transit worldwide, including this project, which as I said is needed RIGHT NOW.

  84. Matt Fisher said (03/27/10; 12:14 pm):

    Unfortunately, rail is too expensive for Geary at this time. Therefore, BRT is the best we can do. I like rail, but it is too expensive.

  85. Matt Fisher said (03/27/10; 12:53 pm):

    Okay, I apologize. I never meant to say BRT is “just as good” as rail. Still, BRT on Geary is needed immediately. I am taking the “pro” side and saying NO to the “con” side. This is the dark side.

  86. “Parklet” to Come to the Richmond Without Controversy « Exploring Outside Lands said (04/13/10; 7:59 am):

    […] of was the controversial Geary Bus Rapid Transit Program. This program is a source of seemingly endless controversy in the Richmond and its primary opposition is led by […]

  87. Geoff said (11/18/10; 5:45 pm):

    A good example of light rail done correctly… Munich’s S-Bahn – easy to use, clean, punctual, etc. That’s the model San Francisco should be looking towards. Start with lines down Geary, Van Ness, and the extension of the rail down the Embarcadero to Fort Mason and then go from there. The BRT sounds Ok if we actually lay the tracks at the same time so moving to rail is pretty easy when the cost justifies it, but any solution that doesn’t lay the track while creating the new lanes is a waste of time IMO.

  88. Highlights from the Richmond District Mayoral Debate | Richmond District Blog of San Francisco (richmondsfblog.com) said (09/20/11; 9:56 am):

    […] transit on the Geary Corridor Candidates were asked to weigh in on the proposed Geary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, a subject of much debate among Richmond District residents. The project is designed to speed up buses and make service more […]

  89. Anne Trickey said (10/3/11; 4:00 pm):

    I actually have no problems riding the #38 and I live at 43rd AVE. The problem isn’t the 38, it’s transferring to other MUNI lines that are not as efficient. For example, I work at 3rd and Cesar Chavez. Transferring from the #38 to the T line can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes. This has nothing to do with the Geary line and everything to do with the T. If I only had to get downtown I could take the 38X and be there in under 40 minutes every day, but adding the T line to my journey increases my commute to between 1 and a half to 2 hours ONE WAY. No wonder many of us drive.

  90. Do-gooder neighbor was a con-man; arrested after 22 months on the run | Richmond District Blog of San Francisco (richmondsfblog.com) said (04/6/12; 5:03 am):

    […] was a fixture at merchant-related meetings in the neighborhood, known for vociferously opposing the Geary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project (Editorial: “Merchants out in the […]

  91. Public meeting on Geary Bus Rapid Transit Project, June 25 | Richmond District Blog of San Francisco (richmondsfblog.com) said (06/21/12; 10:36 am):

    […] and Dave Snyder of Streetsblog – to weigh in on the major issues surrounding the project. Read their answers here. And the BRT was one of the key questions up at the mayoral debate hosted in the neighborhood in […]

  92. Passionate about transit? Join the Geary Bus Rapid Transit Advisory Committee | Richmond SF Blog said (09/26/12; 9:26 am):

    […] The Geary Bus Rapid Transit project is designed to speed up buses and make service more reliable and comfortable along Geary Boulevard, as well as improve pedestrian conditions among the busy corridor with new medians, safer crossings, landscaping and countdown signals. BRT service could potentially begin in 2016/17. More on the pros & cons of Geary BRT […]

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