2019: Ready for the Rapid Rider Network

Imagine a network of rapid transit lines that travel from end to end across San Francisco in 30 minutes or less by 2030, with enough frequency that transfering is a snap. With enough rapid lines, running along the right routes across the city, and that arrive with enough reliable frequency, transit could truly outcompete less sustainable ways of getting around.

This is the sort of public transit service San Francisco needs in order to increase ridership, unclog the streets, and serve all of San Francisco equitably. It’s the sort of public transit San Francisco needs to be the livable, sustainable city we need it to be into the future.

Muni’s Rapid Network

Currently, Muni’s stated definition of Rapid service involves 10-minute frequencies and skip-stop service overlaid on local routes. But 10-minute headways are rarely met on the light rail lines (many are surprised to learn they’re part of the Rapid Network), and the system doesn’t sufficiently connect the city.

There’s also poor identification of the Muni Rapid Network. Most people don’t even know it exists, despite Muni’s attempts to brand some shelters, signage, and maps.

So, how do we fix it? San Francisco Transit Riders kicked off 2019 with a group of about 30 riders, old friends as well as newcomers, to talk about a useful rapid network and how we, as riders, can make it happen. Because we will!

We talked about what routes should be included in a truly useful network; about what routes and bus stops should look like; and about the community organizing and political challenges we face to make it all happen.

Making a Route Rapid

  • Develop more north-south and east-west rapid routes, to form a more useful grid. The current Rapid map is too radial, with everything heading downtown. We could even split long, meandering routes in half to make clear rapid lines.
  • In addition to red lanes and bus bulbs, rapid lines should have Transit Signal Priority (TSP) so transit vehicles can roll through intersections rather than waiting for a light. This is apparently more difficult than we think it should be. (So, we’re planning a whole separate meeting to learn more about traffic signals — stay tuned!)
  • People suggested that the following lines could be made Rapid: 22, 24, 29, 43 (connect Presidio to West Portal?), 45 (Chariot was on to something), and 48.
  • Making our light rail actually rapid will be challenging, and to be honest, the best way is to put it underground. We’ll have to look more closely at what’s feasible.
  • Let’s work with the transit operators’ union to get more operational flexibility. We want operators to have livable wages and supportive management, but we also need to talk about service problems that result from union rules.

Bus Stop Standards

  • Our bus stops and shelters need a lot of improvement. Imagine lit signs you can identify from across the street, so you know what stops there and where it goes. Real time information should be visible from outside the shelter. The current shelters don’t keep out the rain as well as the old ones did. There should always be seats. Can we get a re-design?
  • Fare payment should be easier— shelter signage could help riders be ready before the bus comes. We’d also like more payment machines to reload Clipper and get single or multi-fare tickets.
  • Have better maps on shelters, including: system-wide, Rapid Network, local zoom (you are here), maps for the routes that stop there, maybe even information about nearby bus stops in case you need an alternate route.
  • Let’s have fun. Let’s do a competition of best and worst stops. Let’s have a student design competition to have some prominent stops be creative and interactive. How about district or neighborhood-based themes? Let’s take some pride in our public transit infrastructure!

The Politics of Rapid

  • It’s 2019 and this is San Francisco — let’s use data. Data on rapid service, usage, complaints, and bus stop issues can cut through some of the politics and point the way to commonsense improvements. (Stay tuned for some transit-focused hackathons!)
  • Changing street configurations for red lanes and bus bulbs is of course disruptive. Merchants get hit hard, and are often the most resistant to change. But many also get it. Let’s help merchants show their support for transit, and let’s educate merchants about how customers get to them. Let’s do earnest outreach and work with our small businesses to make the whole city succeed.
  • Not enough people around the city, especially riders, know about San Francisco Transit Riders. We need more outreach — we should be more visible on the streets, and at Sunday Streets. We need more members! That means more people to sign petitions, to write their supervisors, and to show up at City Hall. Numbers make an impact. (Hint: you can do your part by joining today! And sign up to volunteer!)

This is just the beginning of our Rapid Rider Network campaign. Join us for more great workshops and speakers, more street and community outreach, hackathons and events to build a San Francisco where public transit can truly be the easy choice to get around.

If you support this work, please make sure to support San Francisco Transit Riders! Join today to be part of the solution.