A reader recently wrote us about private buses using Muni bus stops to pick up customers.
I ride the 48 bus most mornings from Noe Valley to Caltrain at 22nd St. Like a lot of other folks I work down on the Peninsula and live in the city. I’ve noticed the big private buses that ferry workers to and from their jobs frequently block the bus stops. I haven’t been able to get a good answer about whether those buses are actually allowed to do that. The stop on 24th @ Valencia is a particularly bad area for this. It seems at least two companies use this bus stop for their employees to wait for their buses.
Let me say I totally support the concept of the big companies running those buses. I realize it is generally good for all of us in terms of limiting the number of cars on the road, less impact on the air, etc. I’d ride one if I could. My problem is these buses are creating hassles and safety problems for us Muni riders. I know — “hassles” and “Muni” are like fraternal twins but the safety issues aren’t funny.
Today was a particularly bad incident. A black bus was blocking the bus stop and a gentleman using a wheelchair was waiting to board. First there’s a scramble of people into the street to get on the bus. Since the bus driver can’t see the man waiting another rider has to alert him about the man in the chair. The gentleman in the chair has to figure out how to get off the sidewalk and how to maneuver to a place where the driver can lower the lift. This doesn’t seem right, doesn’t seem fair or respectful and may well be a violation of the ADA.
I also wonder how Coach America gets to run a bus registered in Wyoming in San Francisco. When I moved here I got a ticket for not registering my vehicle within 20 days of being here. This bus is particularly annoying because it is apparently ordered to wait for stragglers so it blocks the stop for several minutes.
I notice other buses use the bus stops much as regular buses do — they stop, people get on, they leave — and there aren’t issues. The situation at 24th and Valencia is not good and needs to be changed. I want to make some noise about this. There has to be a different solution for the situation there. Most likely it will mean moving the private stops a block or two. I hope it doesn’t require someone getting hurt to get people’s attention.
So, what does the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Authority have to say about all this?
Spokeswoman Kristen Holland says the SFMTA supports the use of company shuttles because they help reduce single-occupancy car trips however she says they are not allowed to use Muni stops.
According to San Francisco’s traffic code, a vehicle such as a shuttle bus that is picking up or dropping off passengers is allowed to idle for no more than five minutes. Violation of the idling rule is $100.
“If a parking control officer sees the infraction, he or she can cite it,” Holland says. However, “enforcement isn’t an effective, long-term solution.”
The SFMTA is working with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA), which drafted a report to use as a starting point to improve transportation demand management efforts. Holland says they want to work with the companies that provide these shuttle services, those that employ them and the communities they serve to ensure that there is a workable solution.
When people contact SFMTA with issues like this, Holland says, they follow up with the shuttle providers to “either create a location-specific solution or remind them to reinforce with their drivers the need to not impede public transportation.”
As for the issue of a vehicle registered in another state, California Public Utilities Commission spokeswoman Susan Carothers says that the license plate alone doesn’t tell us whether the bus is making an intra- or interstate trip. Buses that make intrastate trips are required to have California plates; buses making interstate trips are not. If you know that a bus that is not registered in California is making intrastate trips, you can contact the U.S. Department of Transportation or your local CHP office to complain.