Mission Street could become a pilot corridor for a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) program aimed at speeding up Muni, agency representatives told area residents at a meeting earlier this month.
The transit agency is floating several proposals to speed up eight heavily used but notoriously slow lines, including the 14-Mission and the 22-Fillmore.
Julie Kirschbaum, a service planning manager with SFMTA, noted that, unlike other areas of the city where Muni use is heaviest during the morning and afternoon hours, the Mission, like downtown, is a destination throughout the day.
“The Mission is acting like a downtown; we think it needs to be treated like a downtown area,” Kirschbaum said.
At the meeting earlier this month at the Women’s Building, the agency laid out its proposals for the Mission. The plans include right-turn pockets where parking will be eliminated, the reconfiguration of Mission Street, and the elimination of some bus stops. The latter has so far been the most controversial.
Currently the 14-Mission has about 50 stops along its 69-minute, 7.5-mile route from the Ferry Building to Daly City. In some areas this translates to a stop every block or two. The Mission corridor from 16th to 24th streets accounts for 15 minutes.
To speed up the journey, the agency is proposing to eliminate bus stops at 15th, 17th, 21st, 23rd, Precita and 29th streets.
Seniors at the meeting said removing some stops would be a hardship for them.
“A block on Mission Street is a long block,” said one.
“As I keep getting older, the less able I am to stand and wait,” said another.
Kirschbaum said she understood the difficulty, and suggested they could take advantage of the SFMTA’s paratransit services.
Someone asked about the possibility of dedicating stops just to seniors and the disabled.
“It works on paper but in actual operation it creates problems, because operators have to make judgment calls,” Kirschbaum said. “It will lead to complaints.”
The Bay Citizen reported last year that an attempt to eliminate bus stops in the Tenderloin proved to be difficult. Residents argued that the changes would benefit wealthier commuters, and in the end Muni eliminated three stops rather than the proposed five.
Road Configuration Proposals
The SFMTA’s road reconfiguration proposals for Mission Street would eliminate a parking lane or transit lane in one direction. One of these alternatives might be implemented on a pilot basis this year, said Kirschbaum.
“It will be done with input from the community,” she said, adding that it is has not yet been decided which road reconfiguration option will be implemented.
Parking issues — changes in pricing or eliminating spaces — have been a touchy subject for merchants who fear that either could cost them customers. No merchants attended the meeting earlier this month, but the agency is in contact with the merchants association, Kirschbaum said.
Some of the proposals, such as removing some bus stops and allowing all-door boarding, will be implemented citywide, but others are specific to heavily used Muni lines. The proposals for Mission street could shave travel time by 8 to 10 minutes each way, according to the transit agency.
The 14-Mission, the third busiest line in the city, is particularly slow, with speeds topping out at six miles an hour — two miles an hour slower than Muni’s average.
On Mission Street, the 14 and the 49 lines are constantly delayed by double-parked cars and cars turning right, according to transit officials. The bus doesn’t even fit the bus lane on Mission between Duboce and Cesar Chavez, which is 9 feet wide; the bus, including the mirror, is 10.5 feet wide.
Mission Street between Duboce Avenue and Cesar Chavez Street currently has six lanes – two traffic lanes in each direction and a parking lane on each side.
There are three options on the table to reconfigure the road. One would establish tow-away zones during peak hours, another would remove parking on one side of the street to create a transit-only lane, and a third would remove a northbound traffic lane in favor of dedicating a lane to Muni.
Residents can weigh in online.
The proposal to establish tow-away zones during peak hours is already in effect in some parts of downtown.
The SFMTA has a unique opportunity to make the Mission a pilot area because the Department of Public Works is currently repaving the road, Kirschbaum said.
Creating Right-Turn Pockets and Establishing Left-Turn Restrictions
The SFMTA is proposing to create 26 right-turn pockets on Mission Street, many of which are on the Mission corridor.
Drivers would be restricted from turning left between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m at these Mission Street intersections: 14th, 15th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th and Cesar Chavez.
The 22-Fillmore would be subject to many of the same time-saving proposals, such as all-door boarding and the elimination of bus stops. Its route could also be subject to some road reconfiguration.
As the Mission Bay neighborhood grows, traffic congestion will likely worsen along 16th Street, according to the SFMTA. The agency is proposing eliminating parking during the morning and afternoon commutes in favor of giving Muni its own lane.
Another proposal calls for restricting left turns in most locations from Seventh Street to Dolores.