The 45-Stockton travels unimpeded on Third Street while buses on Mission Street lurch through traffic prior to the installation of “red carpet” Muni-only lanes. Photo: Sergio Ruiz.

Mission Street’s New “Red Carpet” Transit Only Lanes Are Under Threat

The paint has hardly dried. Yet the transit only lanes on Mission Street may go away soon. If prioritizing transit is not possible on Mission Street, one of Muni’s key corridors, then will we ever see Muni become a world-class system in our lifetimes?

A crowded bus traverses Union Square on a on red Muni-only lane. Should private cars and trucks, most of which carry only one person, have priority over all of these people? Photo: Sergio Ruiz.

#KeepMissionRed

What is happening?

The 14, 14R and 49, which traverse Mission, serve 67,000 riders daily. These transit riders use these buses to get to work, to school, to BART and to the businesses on Mission Street.

Transit is the dominant choice of transportation on Mission, even if it is clogged by single-occupancy vehicles, which slow down service and make it unreliable. For decades, riders have asked for transit to be rightfully prioritized and Muni finally listened.

Seattle.

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 minutes 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.

Passengers on a Mission Street bus. Photo: Sergio Ruiz.

What can you do?

It is crucial to turn up the volume of positive support for a Transit First Mission Street. If you support this project, please let your opinion be known:

1. Submit your feedback on tellmuni.com: 
Select lines 14, 14R or 49

2. Write an email expressing your support of this and like projects to the following:
david.campos@sfgov.org
MTABoard@sfmta.com
CC: ed.reiskin@sfmta.com, julie.kirschbaum@sfmta.com, camposstaff@sfgov.org, info@sftransitriders.org

3. Call Supervisor Campos’s office and leave a message:
(415) 554–5144

4. Take to Social Media! 
• Follow and tag @SFTRU on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
• Use the hashtag #KeepMissionRed
• Tag @DavidCamposSF
Come to our party next week

Suggested text for contacting your Supervisor and Mayor:

As a transit rider on Mission Street, I urge you to retain and expand the “red carpet” transit priority treatments on Mission Street. They are already making travel better for the 65,000 riders who, like me, use Mission Street to go to work, to school, to shop, and visit the neighborhood.
Workers install red transit-only lanes at O’Farrell and Hyde on August 1, 2014. Photo: Sergio Ruiz.

How did we get here?

The changes consist of transit-only lanes in both directions between Cesar Chavez and 30th St, a transit only lane in the Southbound direction North of Cesar Chavez, and required right turns for drivers at key intersections in the Northbound direction. Drivers were directed to use South Van Ness, just one block over. As drivers get used to these changes, they have continuously violated the transit only lanes and required right turn restrictions, so SFMTA has used enforcement and improved markings to keep traffic flowing.

Stolkholm.

North of Cesar Chavez, the lanes were too narrow to fit a Muni bus, yet allow for two travel lanes and one parking lane in each direction. Muni buses would straddle two lanes, and single-occupancy vehicle congestion would continuously slow down Muni buses and make your commute a nightmare. After comprehensive community feedback, Muni chose to create a wider transit-only red carpet lane in the Southbound direction, and to reduce traffic on the single remaining Northbound lane by diverting traffic to South Van Ness.

South of Cesar Chavez, the changes consist of a transit-only lane in each direction. The street is wider in this segment and the lanes were wide enough. Nonetheless, drivers continue to violate the transit-only lane, so SFMTA has increased enforcement and added barriers where necessary.

Drivers are still getting used to these big changes and altering their habits accordingly, which takes time. We need to allow for this time, not instantly recoil at a predictable adjustment period. We feel for complaints of excessive honking and congestion on the corridor, but understand them as temporary growing pains, not as an excuse to abandon the entire project.

A transit-only lane on Geary Boulevard. September 1, 2014. Photo: Sergio Ruiz.

What’s next?

Supervisor Campos’s office is talking right now with SFMTA about rolling back the project, mostly due to the high volume of complaints fielded toward his office. But we are also seeing a great deal of support for this project, unfortunately drowned out by the more irate reactions. Again, it is crucial to increase and turn up the volume of positive support for a Transit First Mission Street, so please make your voice heard.

We hope that Supervisor Campos’s office, the community, and transit riders like you can work with SFMTA to understand this project as crucial and necessary. Showing your support for these changes amidst an outpouring of feedback assures that we not only have a transit-enhanced Mission Street, but that we see similar projects around the city.

Join us, or at least party with us next week

Our organization was not able to proactively rally support for these changes when the project launched last month. As an all-volunteer organization, we just didn’t have the bandwidth. But we’re raising money to change that.