6th Avenue and California as always been a hub of activity, but things grew a little more chaotic early this summer when the SFMTA made changes to the intersection to create a new bus terminal.
The full length of the southern side of California between 6th & 7th Avenues has always been a bus stop, with room to accommodate up to 4 (large) parked buses at a time. And a stop on the east side of 6th Avenue near Cornwall has long served as a stop for the 1 California Express buses.
But earlier this summer, almost the full block of California on the south side, between 5th and 6th Avenues, was also taken over by a red zone bus stop. The 1 California bus stop was moved to this new location, and the 28R and 44 bus stops now use the block between 6th and 7th.
In addition to the loss of 5 parking spaces for the new 1 California stop, the unanticipated SFMTA terminal means more noise and more traffic issues for neighbors, businesses and drivers that pass through the area.
We observed the terminal area on a Friday afternoon for 90 minutes and saw what could be called an inefficient use of the sprawling bus area.
One bus sat in the front of the stop for nearly an hour with an “out of service” notice on it, but then suddenly changed its signage and roared back into service. All while the bus stop directly across the intersection sat empty except for the occasional 1 California coming by.
Other buses came and went with their butts jutting out into traffic or crosswalks. One bus idled at the intersection of 7th and California for several minutes, unable to park in the terminal because it was full. The bus blocked the pedestrian crosswalk and car traffic.
Conversely, while the bus stop between 6th and 7th is usually overflowing, the new one created just across the intersection for the 1 California is empty most of the time.
We reached out to the SFMTA with questions about about the new 6th & California terminal like why it was created, and was there any public notice or discussion about the changes? We did not hear back in time for the publication of this story.
The surprise terminal has sparked lots of comments on Nextdoor that range from frustration with the unexpected surge in activity, loss of parking, and complaints about the additional fumes from idling buses.
Residents have also expressed concerns that the new terminal may be contributing to the homeless problem in the area.
A homeless woman, nicknamed “the yellow caped lady” by the Nextdoor community due to a large, yellow poncho that she wears, has been living next to the SFMTA restroom on the bus island for nearly a year.
Nearby residents have struggled with how to deal with the woman who won’t leave or accept help. Recently, city officials came and removed some of her belongings but left her chair, bedding and other belongings with her.
During our observation of the terminal, we saw the woman mentioned above, as well as another homeless man sleeping across the street on the southwest corner of 7th Avenue and California. Two other homeless people were wandering around the bus terminal area aimlessly, one with a shopping cart.
The transitory nature of a terminal – people come and go, moving on through their day – can create an attractive environment for homeless persons to blend into the background, seemingly unnoticed. It’s the same in terminals in many other cities, even New York City’s Penn Station.
And police are unlikely to try and help the situation. Unless a homeless person is committing a crime, they are not going to pay much attention to someone that is camping on the street – even if it’s for months at a time.
“It’s not illegal to be homeless,” said a SFPD officer to a group of Pacific Heights And Nob Hill residents at a recent meeting about homelessness ecampments [Hoodline].
What have your experiences been with the new bus terminal at 6th and California? Leave a comment to let us know.