New Bus-Only Lanes and Mandatory Turns Can Make Mission Street a Parking Lot


Let’s begin with a few stipulations: Public transit is good. Encouraging people to take public transit is good. Making public transit faster, safer, more convenient, and more reliable is good. Policies that discourage the use of private cars are … awkward at times, but they’re generally in the service of a worthy goal. In fact, that’s official policy, as enshrined in our city charter.

Now, with all that said, let’s also stipulate that so far, the new “red carpet” transit-only lanes along Bernal’s stretch of Mission Street are not generating much goodwill.

The photo shown above was taken by Neighbor Margie during the Friday morning commute, looking south at the intersection of Mission and Cesar Chavez. As you can see, the backups created by the new traffic configuration extended all the way from Cesar Chavez to Valencia Street. Cars were backed up. MUNI buses were backed up. No one was transiting rapidly.

The problem, apparently, was not so much the new MUNI-only red lanes, but the new, mandatory right turn from Mission Street northbound onto Cesar Chavez eastbound. Left turns are now banned too, which means that in theory, motorists can no longer drive down Mission Street continuously from Precita Avenue to 26th Street.


To head north, you must turn right on Cesar Chavez, then turn left on South Van Ness — and in the photo up top from Friday morning, you can see the SFPD motorcycle officers who were on hand that day to enforce the new rules. But before you can turn right onto Cesar Chavez, everyone first has to merge from two lanes down to one. With rather predictable results.

Neighbor Bill wrote to say:

These traffic planning groups are operating without a logical approach. They don’t exponentially increase the quantity or frequency of bus lines, or spend the money to create a comprehensive underground rail system with full access to all neighborhoods. They just gum up the streets to force the behavior they want – to make more residents take public transportation. This is behavior that simply can’t change without the requisite infrastructure in place.

Sorry to add to the chorus. It is nuts.

Hopefully, the backups we are seeing today are just early teething pains. Hopefully, before too long, the traffic patterns along Mission Street will realize the intended purpose of the new configuration: To make bus transit faster and more efficient than it was before.

This morning your Bernalwood editor visited the intersection of Mission and Cesar Chavez, to see how things were going. The traffic snarls were gone, but that was probably because lots and lots of passenger cars were ignoring (or blissfully unaware of) the new right-turn requirement.  This morning, motorists were zipping across Cesar Chavez via Mission Street, much as they always have:


As a result, there was no backup south of Cesar Chavez.

It’s hard to tell what all this portends for traffic patterns along Mission Street in the future. A system that works to the extent that it is ignored is no system at all, but the SFPD will no doubt conduct occasional enforcement operations along Mission Street to, uh, remind motorists about the new mandatory right-turns. Tickets will be issued, and some motorists will be sad, but over time traffic patterns may indeed change for the better.

On the other hand, if the new flow consistently generates big back-ups along Mission Street, the SFMTA might find their offices surrounded by mobs of angry Bernalese wielding pitchforks and torches:


PHOTOS: Top, Mission at Cesar Chavez, Friday morning, March 18, 2016 by Neighbor Margie. Traffic signs and intersection on March 21, 2016 by Telstar Logistics.

48 thoughts on “New Bus-Only Lanes and Mandatory Turns Can Make Mission Street a Parking Lot

  1. I think this is a case of change management. Change the rules, and it takes people some time to adjust. We will adjust.

  2. I’m sure we will learn how to predict where the forced turns are or where the bus lanes being & end, but after seeing the chaos this weekend I don’t think that things will improve very much even after the learning curve is complete. All it takes is one car trying to turn left (legally) to block all the cars behind him or her. That just compiles over & over until you have a parking lot. I have to admit, I skipped Mission all together and took the back roads, which is exactly what neighbors were concerned about. This seems like a very poorly thought out plan from Muni.

  3. I live on Coleridge. Already we see the “adjustment”. People are speeding through our neighborhood to avoid mission. Many are so frustrated, they drive up fair and make an illegal left onto one-way Coleridge. I’m hoping that SFMTA assesses the impact post implantation, but it’s been weeks now and I’ve never seen anyone monitoring the new traffic flow. Honrstly, it seems like traffic calming has been thrown out the window to gain 5 minutes of transit bus time down Mission.

    • I live on Coleridge as well, and there have been two collisions at least in front of our house since the new rules on Mission. Pushing traffic to streets even less well equipped to handle it is not the answer.

  4. I got caught in this traffic last week the “first day” they made the change. I will never use that route again. Lesson learned. Better get used to these efforts to get cars off the road unless you want SF to become Manhattan.

  5. Mission Street between about 16th and Randall was always a nightmare to drive or bike on anyway. Hopefully after a period of adjustment, these changes will result in faster transport and at least be no worse of a nightmare than it used to be.

    Market Street is a lot nicer after the enforced turns etc, which everybody was so worried about, and equally confused by at first…

    • Agreed – I’ve been avoiding driving on Mission St. as much as possible in recent years anyways, due it being a pothole-studded mess. We’ll need some way to fund a few extra buses every day along the route to truly make Muni a more compelling option, though.

    • I’m all for bike usage, but with bike lanes a block over on Valencia, why ride on Mission? Serious question.

      • Well, I only ever ride on the portion of Mission between Cesar Chavez and Silver, usually to get to Valencia, and usually headed North. That’s bad enough, but riding anywhere else on mission is indeed insane.

      • Fair enough. I guess if you’re not headed down the San Jose cut, riding a bike south of Cesar Chavez is pretty dire.

    • Its not nice on market. If you need to travel just one block, you have to waste 30 minutes driving time. I have to turn right, then travel all the way down mission, get to first street, make a left, go back to market, make a left, wait for lights, wait for traffic, wait for the muni, then I have to travel all the way back to my starting point. After all this circling of downtown, I still can not be on the block I need to be on. shacking my D head. nevermind that I poluted from my vehicle for a half hour of downtown traffic.

  6. SFMTA and SFPD were out later this morning to enforce the right turn at Cesar Chavez. Huge backup.

    We needed to make a stop at the Walgreens on Cesar Chavez at Mission today. Instead of turning right off Precita onto Mission, left on Cesar Chavez, and into the parking lot, we had to go around on Valencia to 26th, then Mission and finally to Cesar Chavez where we’d been five minutes earlier.

    I don’t love the red carpet, but I think the trade offs are probably reasonably balanced. Eliminating the left at Cesar Chavez, though, seems ill-considered.

    • I had to go to the same Walgreens this evening, and drove because it was raining. Instead of being able to take Mission, I drove across the neighborhood to Stoneman and Folsom, and from Folsom took Cesar Chavez back to Mission. You have to approach westbound to get into the garage. Removing through traffic on Mission means more traffic on neighborhood streets.

  7. Feedback on this project should be sent to
    I’ve already asked if they are planning to hold a community meeting so we can voice concerns now that the project has been implemented. I encourage people to email then your thoughts.

    • Thanks for this contact info.
      MUNI did a great thing, adding the 14R and increasing its frequency. The 14R could have been the carrot to encourage behavior changes along the Mission corridor. But, we get this red lane project. In order to get where I am going, it requires driving through Bernal side streets. Getting out of Bernal, going west, now requires.
      Perhaps we could have a moat on Mission south of Caesar Chavez? A draw bridge could be lowered maybe once an hour to accommodate Bernalites who want to travel west.
      Maybe one or two loose ends with my plan…

  8. The other side effect of the forced right onto Chavez from Mission that I’m seeing first hand is many more cars driving up over Coso, Prospect, Coleridge, And Virginia. No big surprise when Mission is in failure mode.
    Logistically it’s a poorly planned idea because there are no major through streets in Bernal to act as viable alternative routes. Thus SFMTA is causing a substantial increase of vehicular traffic and danger to pedestrians on the narrow streets of Bernal Heights.
    As a side note, it’s pretty disingenuous of SFMTA to take this action since the plans they put out, if I recall correctly, made no mention of forcing a right turn on to Chavez from Mission.

  9. While we will all surely adjust, SFMTA needs to make some adjustments too. A good start: Extend the ridiculoulsy short left turn signal (now .05 seconds long) by a about ten-fold so that more than 2 cars forced off of northbound Mission onto Chavez can continue on northward without a snarl. If they don’t, I predict the only times the “mandatory” right turn will be observed is when there’s a traffic cop nearby.

  10. As someone who actually takes the bus down Mission street on a regular basis, I can say that the part between CC and 30th is sooooo much faster – I love it.

    IMO, the backup in the photo could be solved by making pedestrians crossing CC have to wait for cars turning right, or the other way around. Cars are not turning because peds are probably crossing the street.

    • Somehow I don’t think that giving pedestrians less time to cross a 4 lane road is the answer.

      • Didn’t say that. I just said there should be a separate signal for turning cars and people crossing the street.

  11. Meanwhile, the City encourages more traffic by agreeing to have Uber/Lyft add more cars (most of whom come from outside the City) to the already packed streets of S.F. How is that transit friendly.

    Just saying…

  12. Another aspect of the failure at Cesar Chavez is that the bus lane switches between Precita and Cesar Chavez from the lane adjacent to parked cars to the inside lane.

    Instead the current approach, they could continue the bus lane in the same lane, eliminate a couple of parking spaces near the intersection to create a right-turn lane, and let the inside lane become a left-turn-only lane.

    (I’ll post a picture of what I mean on the FB post. Maybe Todd can add it here…)

  13. Oh, now I understand why so many are queueing up to turn left from CS to S Van Ness. Unfortunate, as only 2 or 3 cars can make the turn on that short green arrow. Locals will soon learn to avoid Miss altogether. Tourists and transients will not understand what’s going on.

  14. It does seem like the buses are moving a lot faster. Yay! It seems like I read on this site that we need lots more market rate housing to help with the housing crisis, yet now I’m reading that we are worried about it not being a car-friendly city. If we add all that housing, traffic will get a lot worse, bus lanes or no. I say more bus lanes and more subsidized housing.

  15. The mandatory right turn at CC is a bone-headed idea. We South Bernal folks are already getting screwed, our schlep from Crescent St through La Lengua is now a disaster, but OK, if it saves 5 minutes for the 14/49, whatever. I’m avoiding it by taking Coleridge or Prospect, so apologies to residents who used to enjoy living on a sleepy street with minimal traffic – you are now a thoroughfare. Please don’t double-park at the top of the Prospect hill, I almost had a head-on collision the other day trying to go around some dummy who left their car there (your hazards lights don’t make it any better, I can’t see around your car, it’s a big freaking hill, numbskull) But I digress, to get to Walgreen’s parking on CC, I now have to turn right off Precita onto Mission, then mandatory right onto CC, then left on S. Van Ness (and wait 3 light cycles because the arrow only lets 2 cars at a time) then left onto 26th, left onto Mission and then FINALLY right onto CC….yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I guess I need to find a new pharmacy….

    • Agreed- we used to take Mission from our place on Crescent but now it’s side streets, Andover to Cortland to Prospect, to get to where we need to go. I am concerned for the restaurants on Mission. That section of Mission was already a dangerous strip for traffic and parking that made us double think heading there for dinner. Now…it’s worse. Easier and less stressful to drive an extra few minutes to Noe Valley to eat.

    • Why not take San Jose/Guerrero up to 26th and go around the block? I drive up SJ/Guerrero from Randall all the time and it is never very busy.

  16. Another hot mess area is between 29th and Virginia, in front of the Safeway. They made some traffic flow changes to their parking lot (that nobody pays attention to) and, concurrent to that, there is the new red carpet. If headed downtown, the “in” of the parking lot is now mid-block, so you wait in the only traffic lane to turn left and get into the lot. The lighted intersection (good luck people on the sidewalk!) is now only an out, i do believe, but people still use it as both. It means that many times there is no lane to travel in, aside fro the red carpet lane. That said, it’s no more of a hot mess than usual, but it gets dangerous when nobody knows their ins from their outs.

  17. We are seeing similar issues on Mission between 22nd and 17th. There’s a lot of confusion with motorists who want to take a right turn or go straight. There are crude arrows on the ground, but no signs stating that the road is now mandatory turn only. So drivers are in the bus lanes trying to turn left, or attempting to turn left from the car lane (which apparently is right hand only, but as I mentioned that isn’t posted anywhere except for the crude arrows on the ground).
    Then there’s also spots like 22nd and Mission, where I catch the bus. When buses stop here, the whole lane is blocked. Nobody can go through until the bus has left.
    So far the changes seem to be slowing down traffic (at least heading towards the city). My morning rides seem to be maybe 10 minutes longer and involve much more honking than usual. I’m not sure if this will settle down once clearer signs are place for drivers to see.
    Also noticing the bus drivers are still struggling with dealing with bicycles on Mission Street. Maybe worse than before. It seems they used to change lanes to pass bikes, but now they just honk and tailgate riders as if they don’t belong on Mission Street at all.

  18. If you look carefully at the first photo with both cars and buses lined up, the buses are lined up because a private car is blocking at an angle blocking the bus lane! I am overall happy with the changes and think the kinks will be ironed out in time.

  19. I am more positive than negative with regard to these changes — I support experimenting to make bus service faster and better. That said, I am anecdotal evidence for the proposition that these changes and the changes to Chavez force traffic into the neighboring streets, because I used to use Chavez and Mission heavily — and now never use either.

  20. It seems that the planners want folks to stop using mission street as a multi-block thoroughfare. Fair enough — from Chavez north S. Van Ness is a viable and functional
    (And nice and wide) alternative. From Silver to Cesar Chavez (and particularly from Crescent north) there are no viable alternatives that don’t wend their way down narrow residential streets.

    I guess from Cortland I could turn left, then cross to San Jose/Dolores, but that Randall/Mission corner is already a bottleneck. Right to 30th then across? Maybe with a left turn signal?

    I’ve been known to take Bayshore to Potrero but honestly miss the Potrero turn and end up heading E on Cesar Chavez more often than not — poor signage? Operator error?

    It seems that there was no real consideration for getting Bernalites out of Bernal, perhaps in preparation for the great flood when we will be an island?

    • There’s a small alley before 30th – I use that to turn down to get to Guerrero because it’s often easier than waiting for cross traffic before turning onto 30th from Mission

    • That is the whole idiocy of the plan. Mission street is El Camino Real, the great throughfare of California and San Francisco. Maybe next they’ll try to get cars of US-101 too

  21. STOPPED SHOPPING — As soon as I encountered the mess I decided I wasn’t going to go to Walgreen’s or to the Revolution Cafe that night. Too much hassle getting around. In the future I’ll probably shop in Daly City and do my cafe-hopping elsewhere. I’m a car driver and a cyclist and a Muni rider, but much of the time I need to drive due to my schedule.

  22. A big thanks to Bernalwood for calling attention to this mess, which has been a hot topic of debate on NextDoor for the last few weeks. I do hope that folks are forwarding their comments to the SFMTA, as that’s the audience that ultimately needs to hear from us.

  23. I have a mobility issue and drive daily to and from on Mission from SJ & Geneva to Vanness Ave. This change is insane. It filters all cars off Mission, I can no longer drive directly and stop and do shopping on my way nor can I easily transition to an alternative route. There’s backup everywhere now there’s only one viable lane. I’m glad the already badly managed MTA/MUNI has their own lane, but couldn’t they have just given them one of the two lanes there (like southbound) and stopped the left turns as they’ve done anyway? I’m not happy with this change, if feels poorly planned and executed. Plus those red lanes are an eyesore and just scream “f-you”. I’m a native, homeowner, tax payer and support of SF. I’m just saying there has to be another way. Even though I complained about muni riding middle of the lanes previously….I would gladly deal with that as the only issue. ugh

  24. Pingback: MUNI Riders Resist Complaints; Say New Mission Street “Red Carpet” Is Working | Bernalwood

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