San Francisco’s Mission Street is undergoing significant transformation in the coming months, but there is skepticism among drivers and bus riders that the changes will be for the better.
As of last Friday, several bus stops along the corridor including those at 15th, 19th, 21st and 23rd streets had vanished. The city will now begin turning one of the lanes in each direction into a bus-only lane, with painting expected to be completed at the end of April. Beginning in March, left turns off of Mission Street will be prohibited, and northbound drivers will be required to turn right off of Mission at 26th, 24th, 22nd and 20th streets.
The response to these changes on social media was swift and angry: “Nooo,” “Horrible,” “This is terrible,” or simply, “Grrrr.”
Others had more specific complaints.
“They got it backwards. You start implementing transit first after you have a transit system,” wrote Daniel Bucko on Facebook.
“Who do we have to vote out of office to make this go away?” wondered Facebook user Gary Siegel.
After the changes were announced, Dave Smith, a Mission resident dedicated to reducing dangerous crashes on South Van Ness Avenue, wrote an incensed letter to the transit authority’s head Ed Reiskin. Now he wrote, even more drivers will be diverted to the notoriously high-injury corridor.
“You, due to your negligence have created an unsafe situation on South Van Ness Ave. and it will only get worse once you limit cars on Mission St.,” Smith wrote. “It makes zero sense to funnel traffic from Mission St., which is commercial, to South Van Ness, which is mainly residential in nature.”
Paul Rose, a spokesperson for the transit agency, said the aim was to reduce traffic congestion on Mission. Studies by the agency have shown that most who travel along Mission don’t need to go its full length, and that an increase in car traffic won’t create dangerous circumstances on South Van Ness, he said.
“By design, we expect cars to use [South] Van Ness as an alternative,” Rose said. “Based on current traffic studies, Van Ness is capable of servicing traffic diverted from Mission. It is something that we did look at and studied.”
Others are frustrated that they didn’t hear about the changes until they were finalized, saying the transit agency didn’t do enough outreach. Rose said the city had reached out on social media, in online posts, in-person surveys and neighborhood meetings. The feedback that transit workers collected helped shape the plan.
“Due to some of this outreach that we came up with the final design… We chose to add more parking rather than remove parking,” Rose said. “Most people said they would rather have the ability to park on Mission rather than drive all the way through.”
Among bus riders waiting at stops along Mission Street and parked drivers, however, reactions ranged from supportive to lukewarm.
Dan Scatena is a temporary wheelchair user and called the removal of bus stops in general “a pain in the ass.”
When he moved to the city, he said, he was amazed that the buses stopped at practically every block. But with other stop removals around town, there now seem to be too few stops.
“Are all the buses Rapid now or what?” he joked. “That’s what the R bus is for.”
“It’s not good that they’re taking out stops,” José Martín said as he hopped on the 49 at 24th Street.
Instead of making her trip shorter, Vivian Ramirez said, the stop removals have made it longer because she spends more time waiting.
Bus commuter Jill Terry appreciated the change. She takes the 49 to and from work every day and discovered on Tuesday that the stops had been reduced.
“Having it stop on almost every single block made the line take forever,” she said.
Alex Gomez, who uses the bus for everything, is on the fence. He was waiting at 19th and Mission on Tuesday, unaware that the bus wouldn’t stop there anymore. He said taking stops out might make them a little less accessible, but anticipated no more than a five minute walk to the next stop.
“It sounds like it would be better for the customers,” he said. “If it’s faster, then yes. But with the expectation of walking, it might not be.”
At 24th Street, Pedro Sandoval examined the posted sign outlining the new changes. He only ever uses a few of the Mission Street stops, none of which are being removed. However, he hopes the city’s plan to reduce double parking will speed up the buses.
“It’s good, sometimes the bus can’t move because they have a car in front,” he said.
Carlos Oropeza made his way from 23rd to 22nd Street after being redirected by an SFMTA worker at the now-defunct stop. He approved of taking out stops, but isn’t so sure that’s all it will take to move things along.
“They won’t be faster,” he said. “The Mission is a place with lots of traffic. If it was on another street it would be the right thing to do, but in the Mission? And everything depends on the time of day.”
As for drivers? A few parked motorists parked on Mission on Wednesday seemed unfazed by the changes.
“They’re trying to do it more like downtown,” said Carl Gilmore, a former San Francisco resident who had driven in from Vallejo. He had some concern that left turn restrictions would back up already congested traffic, but was happy to hear removed bus stops would result in more parking.
“It may be for the better, but it may also be for the worse,” Gilmore said.
“It’ll be better,” said Rosi Telles, parked on Mission Street near 20th, close to her business. She’d been told the buses would be faster as a result of the changes, which she likes. But still, she usually drives to transport her kids, and parking is a problem.
“It’s very difficult to find parking,” Telles said.
Most drivers in the neighborhood are acutely aware of that fact, including Vincent Jones, who pointed out a different concern with the bus stops:
“It’ll just be more crowded every other block then,” he said. “The left turns…it’s a big inconvenience, but it helps to ease traffic.”
But Jones, formerly a Bayview resident, commutes from the Central Valley.
“If I can deal with that traffic, I think I can cope with this San Francisco traffic,” he said.