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.