MUNI Riders Resist Complaints; Say New Mission Street “Red Carpet” Is Working

redbollards

Your Bernalwood editor rode a MUNI 14 bus down Mission Street yesterday for the first time in a long time. The bus was modern and new, and the ride was conspicuously swift. Thank you, Mission Street red carpet!

A few weeks ago, D9 Supervisor David Campos decided to stand with the cars, arguing that the new Mission Street red carpet and transit improvements must be rolled back:

I have heard from many of you — car commuters frustrated by traffic jams that stretch multiple blocks; pedestrians concerned about increased safety risks because of irate drivers; residents along the corridor dealing with nonstop yelling and honking horns; and small businesses unable to get goods into their stores because unloading zones have been taken away. That’s why I’m calling on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to make a radical shift in the program

While it’s certainly true that the new configuration on Mission Street has caused some disruption and side-street spillover, it’s not at all clear the program should radically revised right now.  A “Transit First” policy is city law, after all, and it takes time for old habits to change and new traffic patterns to become familiar. Best of all, there are already signs that the red carpets and mandatory turns are working as intended; MUNI riders say the changes have dramatically improved bus service along Mission Street:

Writing at the N Judah Chronicles, transit blogger Greg Dewar says the backlash typifies why it’s so devilishly hard to make MUNI the much-better transit system everyone says they want:

If you’ve ever wondered why it is hard to Get Things Done with Muni, the current brouhaha over improvements in the Mission to the 14 Mission, and to traffic in general is an example. Muni rolled out some significant improvements to the 14 Mission line, and already there’s “anger” from a few nuts online. The changes have had less than a few weeks to take hold, but apparently dealing with the changes is too difficult for some people to handle like adults – hence the temper tantrums online in places like the infamous “NextDoor.com” and in the media.

These folks have found politicians eager to score political points, enough so that the SFMTA may back down on plans it has been working on for almost TEN years (and about a zillion “community meetings” in the process).

The SF Transit Riders, a grassroots organization that represents public transit users, has launched a #KeepMissionRed campaign to support the red carpet lanes:

Starting in March, after a decade of numerous community discussions, planning and studies, Muni finally started installing transit priority treatments on Mission Street. Just a month in and despite flagrant violations by drivers, they are already benefiting riders by making their rides faster and more reliable.

However, there has been a major backlash against these changes, and some, in particular Supervisor David Campos, have called for rollback of this major progress. It is a betrayal of the 65,000 riders who are served by the 14, 14R and 49 buses, as well as a betrayal of the Transit First charter of this city.

Along with my high-speed ride down Mission Street yesterday, I’ve also noticed that the morning traffic backups at the Mission/Cesar Chavez intersection have subsided. The line of cars waiting to turn left from Cesar Chavez onto South Van Ness is longer than it used to be, but the new queue seems to move pretty quickly.

It’s reasonable to assume that some adjustments to the new red carpet configuration may be needed. But a “radical shift” to the program, as Supervisor Campos has suggested, would be irresponsible and unprogressive. The recent rollback of the single-lane configuration for the San Jose Avenue exit from I-280 provides an encouraging sign that transit officials will abandon new traffic schemes when time, data, and experience demonstrate that changes aren’t working as intended. Truth is, we don’t yet know what’s best for Mission Street.

Patience seems like the best policy here. The red carpet lanes on Mission Street need more time  to settle in. If we sincerely want to improve our public transit system, the SFMTA should be encouraged to try new things, and we should expect that real progress usually takes time to reveal itself.

PHOTO: Top, a worker installs flexible bollards to prevent traffic from crossing Mission Street at Cesar Chavez, April 7, 2015. Photo by Telstar Logistics

55 thoughts on “MUNI Riders Resist Complaints; Say New Mission Street “Red Carpet” Is Working

  1. You’ve got to be kidding me? More time? What for accidents or anger or worse? I bucked the new red lanes driving all the way down from 25th to 15th heading to VanNess and let me tell you….I gave ZERO $(%&* about not turning Right. I’m sure I won’t be the only one when the meter people are long gone. So it’s okay to move all cars to south vanness or Valencia, which was also reduced years ago, and other streets? Those residents have no say, only what the MTA/city wants? Maybe I should fight my property taxes, since they city is giving me the shaft? Show up at city hall and tell them my money isn’t paying for a carpet of RED screaming at me “F-YOU”! Not a red carpet, more like a sea of blood, yelling to “Beware”. Don’t get me started on the fact this city is busting at the seams, and then you go and piss off half the residents? People on mission street busses for the most part could take BART, except MTA won’t give BART any of their money as they used to do within SF for riders….Let’s talk about that and how riders got screwed! This system is so dirty…it bleeds red….

  2. Todd – Thanks for getting first-hand experience on the Red Carpet ride on Mission Street. As a carefree-carfree full-time user of Muni, I wholeheartedly concur. Hooray for the transportation engineers. For someone of the Caucasian persuasion, I can tell you definitively that it’s working class Latinos, Filipinos, Chinese and African-Americans of all ages who are benefitting most from the improvements. I imagine most of them don’t own an automobile and depend on the Mission 14 and 49 to get to work, drop their kids off at childcare or school, visit family and do their shopping. – Michael

    • Suddenly, caucasian’s care about the rest of the people when they’re commute benefits improve? Everyone has been getting to where they need for many, many years. You don’t even know what you’re saying is basically just the usual white man’s speak. Perhaps if there weren’t’ so many white people streaming into SF, the busses wouldn’t be delayed by all their pious Prius’ and self entitlement.

      • Thanks, Jackie, for calling me out on this one. I am duly humbled by your keen commentary. Regards, Michael

      • Love the red carpet lanes, rolling my eyes at all the howling. The thousands of people who ride Muni every day are residents too, even if they don’t exist or matter in the minds of some irate drivers.

      • YOU are talking about entitlement? After you just bragged that you drove down MIssion from 25th to 15th, ignoring all the rules that have been implemented after 10 years of planning and community involvement?

      • I agree, I was feeling was bucking the system that day…sadly most days I turn at CC and grumble to myself all the way down SVN. I’ve tried hard to make this work, going a different route, but it’s near impossible with the shear number of people. If I didn’t need to use my car, I’d be on BART. I don’t enjoy a frustrating commute, but I also don’t enjoy changes that aren’t working for everyone.

    • @Jackie – It’s really hard to understand why driving the length of Mission st is favorable than the alternatives. Even when I had a choice, I wouldn’t of chosen that route. Between the double-parked cars and buses wider than the painted lanes, I can’t imagine that driving down SVN is worse.

      Is it just the two turns that make the commute frustrating? Maybe you can try turning on Shotwell or Folsom instead?

  3. Finally! What took Muni so long to fix the horrendous Mission St route?! The red line has greatly improved the commute time to get where I live in Bernal Heights to the end of the line for the 14 & 49 Mission St buses. Any project that Supervisor Campos does not like, you know that it is working fine. Just need more buses on the line as many are still too crowded to be comfortable. Now for Muni to bring back the 26 Valencia.

  4. Thanks for writing this, Todd. Yes, there are some really angry people and I imagine that some tweaking will have to be done. I’ll make a couple of points: I can now use the 14R to get lots of places, taking my car off of Mission and adjacent streets. People miss the “old” Mission Street? You mean the one that was gridlocked for two or three hours morning and night? People in cars have choices about routes, people who take public transit don’t. I don’t know where the commenter gets the idea that most people who ride MUNI could take BART. Yes, I could. I could wait for the 23 or walk a mile, but when I can walk two blocks to Mission and take MUNI, why wouldn’t I do that? I’ve written to the MTA and I encourage others to do so as well.

    • I merely meant that the BART line runs adjacent to the Mission bus line. Many used to take BART to get downtown prior to them scrapping the intercity use for free (with muni fast pass). If the northbound lane had remained two lanes and given muni the right lane, I’d be perfectly ok with it, as they’ve done on the southbound side. However, forcing cars off Mission isn’t the answer. If the muni drivers could stay in one lane (many would hog the entire both lanes prior to this change), cars and muni could move in unison and more smoothly. This change serves one population and that is not fair. Like others that use a car, (don’t judge me, not everyone has two healthy legs that carry them around), now doing business that I’ve done on that street since I was a child can’t be done easily or effectively. All the side streets are packed with cars because they have to exit off and to loop around to their block use the side streets. It’s a mess and the only winners are muni riders. Again, no fair.

      • It’s only $13 more per month to add the in-SF BART option to a regular Muni fast pass. Plenty of people on this stretch of Mission use Muni to get to BART, including me.

  5. All…for the record the bus isn’t broken (well it may be), but the big issue is the city is WAY BEYOND crowded, the infrastructure cannot support the number of users. We have too many cars, bus riders, bicycles, pedestrians all using a compact space. This problem isn’t going away until the people do. I’ve lived here my entire life, this is a very new issue. If some of the other bay area cities increased housing to allow workers to live closer to their jobs, then perhaps we’d get some breathing room again and the bus and cars and all the rest could exists together. Oh and SF loses and 2nd time because we don’t get any money generated from taxes paid by those employed elsewhere. So SF is the real loser in this game.

    • 1. You’re suggesting that SF is a bedroom community for the rest of the Bay Area? That’s preposterous.

      2. You’re suggesting that people employed outside SF somehow don’t pay taxes in SF? Again, preposterous. Payroll taxes may go elsewhere, but anyone who lives in SF pays any number of other taxes, fees, parking tickets etc.

      • A bedroom community is one where you live because it’s cheaper than living near work. Living in San Francisco is cheaper than living almost nowhere else.

        Nobody chooses to live in SF because it’s cheaper to live here and commute to work. People choose to live in SF and commute because they like to live in SF.

      • If SF wasn’t a bedroom community then we wouldn’t see dozens of luxury buses taking people to their jobs in the south bay every day. If you spend most of your time down there then take a bus to spend to spend your nights here, well….

  6. For most sections it seems to be working but, without trying to sound hyperbolic, a few caveats;

    Right turn only at Cesar Chavez cuts off the main thoroughfare from Bernal and neighborhoods southward into the Mission. It also pushes 100% of the car traffic into the busiest crosswalk at the intersection. Plus, if the Sunday lowrider cruise dudes give up because they can’t roll down Mission anymore, we might as well just tear the road out and build a Starbucks there.

    The entire blocks where they removed parking for bus stops while simultaneously buses stopped using the bulb-outs that were just installed a few years ago; this puts pedestrians at risk. Parked cars act as a safety buffer to humans and buildings.

    And ferchrissake (tangent time), if you’re going to divert traffic onto residential streets, can we get our damn neighborhood speedbumps back (pavers took’em out a few years back)? 311 is a dead end and I’m about to make some myself.

    • Hopefully they will tweak the route from Northbound Mission to South Van Ness. A longer left turn signal is urgently needed from Cesar Chavez onto S. Van Ness — and it is easy to change. But I would argue that letting cars go as far as 26th, then smoothing the left from 26th to S.Van Ness would be even more effective since there’s already a lot of traffic on Cesar Chavez.

      But the bottlenecks are solvable problems. Expanding the capacity and commercial speed of the Mission lines is imperative, and the red carpet is the only affordable way to get that done, and done quickly. I wonder if studies have been done for converting the Mission lines into a BRT system?

      • I would agree with all those suggestions. Though I would prefer to be able to drive direct northbound on Mission, as I spend a great deal of time in the neighborhood.

      • Time will tell. Anecdotally, I can’t help but feel speeding the traffic along a thoroughfare kills street life. I’ve noticed the aforementioned blocks have felt more dead since the realignment, but again, a few weeks is not proof of anything. We’ll see how business do over time. Los Angelenos certainly think nothing of brunching and dining alongside four lanes of speeding traffic, but then, that’s the only time people spend on the sidewalks down there.

        Perhaps increasingly reliable buses will be a boon to Mission shops?

  7. I still can’t figure out why the Tech Buses aren’t being forced to use the Mission Street Red Carpet instead of Valencia. The double-deckers are grossly out of proportion on Valencia. From Cesar Chavez to Division use Mission for buses and taxis, Dolores/South Van Ness for cars and Valencia for bikes. Then the lights could be all timed properly for the different types of vehicles and the pedestrians will be more aware of what may run them over.

    • YES! Every day I see those buses block entire lanes of Cesar Chavez to offload or onload a couple people. If we are going to allow those buses to use bus stops they should, at a minimum, be required to use bus stops that have cut ins so they don’t block traffic.

  8. (1) The word is spelled “Muni”, not “MUNI” because it is not an acronym; it’s an abbreviation for Municipal Railway.

    (2) There wouldn’t have been a backlash if the MTA had properly positioned their community meetings as discussing REROUTING AUTO TRAFFIC as well as improving Muni travel times. In that way, BOTH sides would have been heard instead of just one, and some compromises could have been made which would have made everyone happier.

    (3) The more strange paving colors, restriction cones, and other non-standard toys that are used the MORE it confuses people, especially those who live out of town. If SF would use standards set by the National Highway Administration there would be less confusion and traffic problems. I wouldn’t be surprised if the DOT eventually tells SF to knock it off with the non-standard signage and lane restrictions.

  9. The biggest mistake of the 20th century was allowing cars into cities — these sorts of half-measures to counteract that are a step in the right direction, but far too small of one.

  10. I see all the comments on making “the commute” faster but what about the businesses on Mission Street. How does this affect them? Has anyone asked or considered them??

    • The businesses are going to suffer. The loading zone issue and loss of impulse shoppers will hurt business. No one cares.

    • My hairdresser, who has her shop on Mission between 29th and Valencia told me that her and the neighboring business have definitely seen a decline. They have written to Campos, but doesn’t expect much to happen. She said that easily half of her customers live outside of the neighborhood, and that the loss of parking also has had a negative impact.

  11. Greg Dewar’s snide, smug comment exemplifies why public discussion in San Francisco is so poisoned. People who disagree with him are children having fits, not adults with thoughts and opinions that differ from his. Sad and ineffective.

    Remember: “Transit first” doesn’t mean “Transit only.” Cars are, and should be, a part of the transportation mix in SF. Unfortunately, anti-car activists have disproportionate influence with transit planners. Instead of accepting reality and seeking balance that people can adapt to, the guiding principle is “get rid of cars, cars are evil, force people out of their cars.”

  12. A very sensible and well-considered entry today on the 14 Mission bus. I live on Precita, near Mission, so was initially very annoyed at the changes, which included eliminating the bus stop for the 14 and 49 at Mission and Precita. But as I get older I find myself riding the bus more and more often, and have decided to quit grumbling and embrace the changes. Our city is growing and we have to accommodate ourselves. 🙂

  13. I can’t help but wonder if the *only* real reason there has been a speed-up of the buses is the removal of those local stops each block (Precita, 22nd, etc).

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