Public meeting on Geary Bus Rapid Transit Project, June 25

Next Monday, the SF County Transportation Authority will hold an informational public meetings on the Geary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project at the Richmond District Recreation Center from 6:30pm until 8:30pm (251 18th Avenue).

The BRT project is designed to speed up buses by creating dedicated bus-only lanes on Geary from Gough Street to 25th Avenue, which could improve service and reliability, as well as improve pedestrian conditions among the busy corridor with new medians, safer crossings, landscaping and countdown signals. View the project fact sheet (PDF)

But the Geary BRT has been dismissed by opponents as being too expensive, too disruptive to residents and local businesses, and unrealistic in its goals.

Still, 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.

BRT is a long way from becoming a reality. Project timelines are long, with construction beginning in 2017 and wrapping up sometime in 2019-2020.

The project is currently developing an environmental study, and next week’s meetings will be a chance for residents to learn about project alternatives under evaluation, view design options being considered for key intersections, and provide feedback to the project team.

There are still 4 alternatives being considered for the project. The first is to leave Geary as is, meaning no new dedicated lanes for buses but improvements would be made to help flow of traffic and increase safety. The second alternative calls for “side-lanes”, or dedicated bus lanes that would hug the curbs on Geary with bulbs added to accommodate vehicle parking. The third and fourth alternatives create center lanes dedicated to the Geary buses, one plan with a dual median, the other with a single.

The BRT project is the source of much debate in the neighborhood. In 2009, we asked two David’s – David Heller of the Geary Boulevard Merchant’s Association and savegearyblvd.com, 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 September 2011.

Sarah B.

Proposed configurations for the dedicated bus lanes on Geary from Gough Street out to 25th Avenue


  1. While everyone agrees that the existing system should be improved,
    this does not necessarily require a BRT. Geary BRT Citizen Action
    Committee’s decision to proceed with the BRT EIR was based upon a
    fundamentally flawed study presented by the San Francisco County
    Transportation Authority. Also, the SFCTA’s options presented to the
    CAC failed to offer a practical simpler alternative.

    The SFCTA study was flawed because it merely documented a failed
    system and because it failed to meaningfully address the impacts to
    non-mass transit travelers; to the surrounding residential
    neighborhoods; and to the relevant commercial districts.

    Further, the SFCTA study is without adequate support in that the
    purported baseline upon which improvements will allegedly be made is
    patently unbelievable. In a discussion of April 27, 2009, Zabe Bent
    — clearly one of the best-informed persons as to the entirety of the
    BRT proposal and its attendant studies and transit-related and
    transit-effected ancillary issues — reported that a study was
    performed in 2005 which is referred to as “existing conditions,” and
    that from these existing conditions a 2015 “projected baseline” was
    created that took into consideration bus technology improvements,
    increased operator efficiency and reduced operator error, and the
    Transit Effectiveness Project’s line rebalancing, signal
    prioritization, and improved hours of specific line services. Ms.
    Bent reported that the projected baseline was WORSE than the existing
    conditions, despite all these manifest improvements — and even
    despite acknowledging that the TEP alone was expected to bring 15%
    improvement city-wide. For those of us who are long-experienced with
    Geary, it is frankly lacking in any credibility to assess the 2015
    projected baseline, with all these improvements, to be worse than
    actual 2005 performance: indeed, in 2005 the traffic lights were not
    even well-timed!

    The SFCTA provided three Geary BRT proposals to the CAC: only far too
    late into the process and only after considerable duress did the SFCTA
    even deign to provide a non-BRT alternative, which was woefully
    under-examined. This is demonstrative of an inherently broken
    process, because such an alternative would have objectively been
    provided for necessary study and evaluation since inception. Lastly,
    the study process was failed because each potential plan should have
    been developed based upon a cost, time for completion, disruption, and
    benefits analysis — and yet, such a basic premise was ignored.

    I daily commute Geary/O’Farrell’s entire length and regularly chart
    its performance. Based upon my considerable experience and the
    comments I have received from others, I propose the following simple,
    quick, and inexpensive solutions to be studied as part of the “No BRT”
    option with appropriate prompt study prior to EIR evaluation —
    further, any potential BRT EIR study must necessarily be based upon
    the results of the generated improvements:
    1. Appropriately timed lights the entire length of Geary/O’Farrell,
    at all times of the day and night and for all days of the week;
    2. More buses;
    3. Buses running accurate schedules (with GPS assist);
    4. Stream-lined bus-stop distance intervals and bus-stop location;
    5. By mere re-striping, establish 2 lanes from Market to Van Ness;
    6. By mere re-striping, establish a minimum of 3 lanes from Van Ness
    to 33rd Avenue;
    7. During morning and evening commute hours, by mere signage
    establish the outer-most lane to be solely for buses, motorcycles, and
    carpools of 4 or more;
    8. During morning and evening commute hours, by mere signage
    establish no left turns off Geary (ala Lombard);
    9. Vigorously enforce double-parking laws (I strongly approve the
    use of cameras on buses to enforce this law, and the law must also
    very pointedly apply to buses that fail to clear the lane when pulling
    10. Absolute signal control at the Masonic and Fillmore intersections
    with bus zones appropriately located to facilitate traffic flow.

    Although this is not a SFCTA issue per se, I also strongly encourage
    concerted investigation of constructing a commercial off-street
    parking facility west of Park Presidio, so as to make up for the loss
    of parking spaces due to re-striping diagonal parking spaces as
    parallel (required to allow for 3 lanes via re-striping). I suggest
    that the 16th Avenue Ross/Rite-Aid parking-above-the-store model
    should be promoted, and good locations for this model exist.

    I believe the changes advocated have the follow advantages over BRT:
    1. Immediate results – instead of taking years;
    2. Cost only several million dollars – instead of costing over $300,000,000;
    3. Allow vehicles to travel in all lanes – unlike BRT, which
    preclude vehicles from BRT lanes at all times;
    4. Allow left hand turns off Geary during off-peak hours – unlike
    BRT, which will prohibit them altogether;
    5. Facilitate the flow of traffic the length of Geary for all
    vehicles – instead of penalizing non-bus travelers;
    6. Keep traffic on Geary – instead of shunting traffic into
    residential neighborhoods, as will happen with BRT;
    7. Readily accomplishable – instead of being wholly disruptive
    during BRT’s lengthy construction.

    In particular, the significance of the omission of meaningful impact
    analysis is manifest to anyone who travels the Geary corridor, lives
    in the Richmond, or shops or conducts commerce in the Richmond. It is
    a profound example of the willfully ignorant attitude exhibited by the
    SFCTA. Indeed, the entirety of the SFCTA’s motivation regarding Geary
    BRT must be viewed with some reserve because its ‘raison d’etre’
    appears to be to spend Prop K sales tax monies by putting BRTs into
    reality — otherwise it cannot adequately justify its continued
    existence as distinct from pre-existing transit authorities.

    Simply stated, if one is unable to swat a fly with a broken
    flyswatter, don’t conclude that only a Howitzer (costing hundreds of
    millions of dollars) will work: first, fix the flyswatter. Only after
    inexpensive and nondisruptive remedies are applied can meaningful
    studies and plans be undertaken – if indeed they are still

    Thank you.

    Jason Jungreis

  2. I think the above is the most pompous blog comment I’ve every read.

    When you say you commute the length of Geary/O’Farrell every day, I guess you’re driving, right? Try commuting by bus for a while and see if you still think that only minor improvements are necessary.

    Quit whinging about the cost, especially when it benefits you directly as a resident of the Richmond. Any other first world city would have build a full subway under Geary already. Given that we can’t manage that, BRT is the least we should be doing. Long term, we should be looking at converting this BRT to LRT, with a subway from Gough St to the Transbay Terminal.

  3. BRT will be just as slow as the current system if

    1) the buses still stop every 3 blocks or fewer, and
    2) the passengers can only enter via the front door.

    Doesn’t matter how many lanes of traffic are available – if the bus stops every 3 blocks and loads via one door, passengers will feel it is not “rapid” at all.

    Giving all green lights to your bus might improve your travel time slightly, but it could just as well slow down buses going the other direction or on cross streets.

    One solution that would be clearly “rapid” would be an all-day express line with extremely limited stops (say, 25th, Park-Presid, Arg, Van Ness, Powell, TransBay). If a bus can keep pace with the car traffic for most of its route, that’s as fast as you can reasonably expect to move on city streets.

    I imagine SFMTA has tried this in the past and it probably didn’t have enough ridership, but perhaps with smartphones and NextBus now, people would be more able to use express buses and transfer to a local as needed.

    Other than that, I can’t see anything truly “rapid” running on a surface street network constrained by too many stops, traffic lights and dealing with cross-flow of cars, bikes and pedestrians. You’d have to go below or above the streets to escape those constraints.

  4. “More buses”? There are lots of buses. The problem is that they’re all stuck in traffic, inching their way across the city. Adding more buses would drive up costs dramatically, with minimal benefit. The solution is to get them moving quickly and reliably, so they can get to their destinations, turn around, and pick up more passengers.

    “Buses running accurate schedules (with GPS assist);”
    Right. Because the problem is obviously a lack of GPS.

    “During morning and evening commute hours, by mere signage
    establish the outer-most lane to be solely for buses, motorcycles, and
    carpools of 4 or more”

    Don’t forget the drivers turning right, drivers pretending to turn right but changing their minds and going forward, people parking, drivers waiting for someone to leave the spot they intend to take, delivery trucks, and drivers who are well aware that the carpool restrictions are impossible to enforce.

    But hey, once you make those other improvements for autos, it’ll be easier for people to ditch the bus and start driving, so we won’t need to improve the bus service after all!

  5. Take a look at the “bus only” lanes on Market and let me know how they are working out. Bus lanes need to be physically set apart in order to create an alternative to driving.

  6. When I take the bus, I rarely feel that I am stuck in traffic. Most of the time I am watching the traffic move by my window while the bus is stopping and waiting, stopping and waiting.

    A dedicated bus lane would be great for car traffic because it would no longer be impeded by buses constantly weaving in and out of the street. The bus still has to stop at every stop, traffic light, and pedestrian in a crosswalk, so it doesn’t matter if it has its own lane.

  7. All-day express 38s would likely improve things, it could run with about the same frequency as the 31. But one of the one of the biggest issues on Geary (regardless if you are on an express bus, or even in your car) is all of the double parking, especially in the Richmond (Clement can be almost as bad). Has anyone ever seen this enforced?

  8. @David – you’re quite correct that too many stops is a major problem with the 38. BRT is supposed to reduce the number of stops and create more widely-spaced ‘stations’ instead. However ‘rapid transit’ in SF tends to suffer from too many stops as during planning everyone on the corridor demands that the stop outside their front door is retained (see: the T-Third, Van Ness BRT), so expect to see that happen here as well.

    BRT will certainly have all-door boarding, in fact every Muni line will have all-door boarding from July 1st 2012. Traffic Signal Priority is another thing that BRT really should have but may not have because SF is special. There is signal priority installed on the Embarcadero for the N-Judah and T-Third, but it’s switched off because it would inconvenience car drivers too much (no shit.) That’s why a train full of people have to sit through another light cycle because one guy in a car wants to turn left at 4th & King.

  9. The benefit of BRT down the middle of Geary would be that the infrastructure could be built to easily convert to LRV vehicles in the future. The $300 million would be an investment into the Richmond’s future. We are so cut off from the rest of the city and BRT, LRT, and Subways would help us reconnect. We are too dependent on cars out here.

  10. Ugh, how about the bare, BARE essentials? Like repaving? You know, the stuff that taxes and vehicle reg are supposed to pay for?

    Why spend all this money when we don’t have it? If the 38 is such a problem, there’s the 1, the 31 and the 5. I never had a problem taking the 28 to school in the late 80’s, the 38 to Presidio in the early 90’s or the 31 to Gough in the 90’s (I miss the accordion 31’s). And I still have no problem taking the 31 to this day. That’s because I give myself plenty of time because the problem is MUNI, not the lane configuration on the street. Even with all those lanes in the loin, the 38 is still super slow.

    And as enticing as LRT sounds on paper…ever get stuck JUST inside the tunnel at Church because a train broke down? They don’t let you off – you are stuck. A bus can go around the broken down bus, while a train is s-t-u-c-k.

    Instead of punishing evil car drivers and all their reg fees, 24-hr/$8 hr meter fees and gas taxes that they pay into the system, go with the carrot over the stick for once. The carrot would be fixing MUNI first by increasing on time performance without fudging numbers. Play hardball. Threaten to amend the Charter to take back MUNI’s high pay UNLESS they pick it up and improve service.

    All I ask is to try to fix what we have before we pull a Justin Herman-type “renewal” and forever change the neighborhood.

    I can see it now: this BRT thing takes off and the only difference is new paint stripes over knee deep potholes.

    P.S. Protip: there are bike lanes on Lake and Cabrillo. Cabrillo plugs into the panhandle via 8th ave. They were put there for a reason…mainly NOT RIDING on 35 mph/gigantic hill FULTON ON A BIKE (especially on a SUNDAY when the park is closed!!!!!). Anza works too. Also please notice the signs on each block on Geary that say “no riding bikes or skateboards on the sidewalk.”

  11. There is no doubt in my mind that BRT with LRT is a critical step for the Richmond. Yes it is expensive. Yes it will be disruptive to Geary businesses while it is being built. However, in the long run it will greatly benefit the majority of the residents, homeowners, and businesses in the Richmond. Having just moved into this neighborhood from another part of the City my impression of Geary is that the adjacent businesses are struggling, the traffic is horrible, the buses can’t move efficiently, and the street lacks charm. Besides improvements in transit efficiency which will improve the quality of life for all residents, a rennovated Boulevard with light rail (or temporary dedicated bus lane) will attract more shoppers for the local businesses.

  12. The biggest advantage of BRT is removing two lanes from cars, dealing a blow to the anti-pedestrian folks living in the neighborhood who feel that every movement outside of their house should be by car. Looking at you, David Heller.

    PS – I own a car, but obviously see the need for transit and pedestrians to take priority over cars in a city.

  13. BRT with dedicated lanes, like the drawing with the buses in the middle!

  14. Muni can be fixed by changing 90% of diesel runs to limited stop (transfer points) only. Those wishing to get to stops between transfer points can take one of the locals, which would not be as full.

  15. why give muni dedicated lanes… they have dedicated bus stops that they don’t bother to pull into…. first use the tools you have, THEN ask for more! I agree with BigHeart…. try more carrot and less stick – provide a service that works & people will use it! I also think that all of the SFMTA board & execs, and all City Hall elected officials, should be using Muni on a daily basis… take them out of their cars & see what changes!

  16. “The biggest advantage of BRT is removing two lanes from cars, dealing a blow to the anti-pedestrian folks”
    Unfortunately this pathetic attitude is what really drives the so-called pro-public transit efforts in our city. All that matters is making the city undriveable, forcing the residents to take public transit.
    I’m very much pro-public transit, but don’t you want to make the city livable for everybody? Some of us have a luxury of being able to commute by a bus or bike, some do not.

    A solution that would be pro-public transit, pro-biking, pro-pedestrian and pro-driving would look like this:
    – Dedicated bus lane
    – Dedicated bike lane
    – A single car lane
    – Widened sidewalks so the restaurants can set up tables and more trees can be planted
    – Perpendicular parking on one side of the avenues, at least for one block North and South from Geary
    – One-way traffic on Clement and Anza: two lanes, no stop signs, traffic lights synchronized for 30 mph or even 25 mph

    IMHO everybody benefit from this approach.

    Regarding LRT: the main disadvantage is that it’s not nearly as flexible as a bus. Take a look at N-Judah. There is a reason why there is now a N-Judah Express BUS.
    Speaking of express buses, I would love to have the express schedule extended throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be one bus in 10 minutes, as it is during the rush hour. One 38AX and one 38BX every hour might be enough. I would definitely time my mid-day trips to downtown to be on Express instead of Limited, if it’s going to save me 15-20 minutes.

  17. Oh please: so the city is forcing the residents to take transit, which is also “a luxury”? Oh those poor souls, forced into luxury.

    One-way 30 mph on Clement would severely damage the inner Richmond commercial corridor, and that would be a tragedy.

    As for the N-Judah, there’s no question that Muni has been screwing up the management of the system for decades. There was an article not long ago about how the N is slower today than it was a century ago, which is pretty pathetic. The N-Judah express is just a symptom of this. Though I can see the temptation to give up and just have an occasional express bus, timing one’s life around a bus schedule sucks, and adding more lines does not help with the budget situation. The long-term effective solution is to make transit service that is fast, frequent, and reliable. It’s possible, and we need to stop accepting excuses and make sure it happens.

    That said, perpendicular or diagonal parking on the avenues is something that might bear looking into. At 40 feet, the avenues are wider than they need to be– there are plenty of fine 30-foot-wide streets, such as Hugo in the Sunset– so it might be worth considering if there’s a better way to use that space.

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