As the city rolls out changes — and a red carpet for buses — along Mission Street, negative feedback has flooded the office of Supervisor David Campos and may prompt the transit agency to put the brakes on some of its plans.
“Most people working by, living on, and driving down Mission Street will tell you that the new transit-only red carpet lanes are anything but glamorous,” Campos wrote on Facebook, where dozens of residents chimed in with their own frustrations about for the project. Other areas of social media, however, saw an outpouring of support for the new transit lanes – complete with a hashtag, #KeepMissionRed.
The plan was to speed up transit times for the thousands of bus riders who use the 14, 14R and 49 buses to travel the Mission Street corridor. In a study by the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency done prior to the adjustments, some 60 percent of people interviewed on Mission Street said they arrived at their destination by public transit.
Only 12 percent of people told the agency that they had arrived by car, while 23 percent walked, 4 percent took a rideshare or taxi, and 2 percent biked.
And Paul Rose, a spokesperson for the transit agency, said the changes have already had an effect despite being incomplete. Total transit time along the corridor is down two or three minutes, with savings of about five minutes in each direction expected at project completion by the end of April.
But drivers have been particularly active in voicing their displeasure with the change, and confusion has led to loud frustration and traffic snarls in those areas where right turns are now mandatory.
Business owners, too, are deeply concerned about the shift, with one hot dog vendor telling the Examiner that they may have to stop operating out of a parking spot on the corner of 19th and Mission streets because the spot has become a turn pocket for drivers making forced right turns off of Mission. Campos wrote that business owners had told him that the changes have made some business loading zones disappear.
Some also worried about the impact of redirecting traffic to side streets and parallel thoroughfares like Valencia Street and South Van Ness Avenue. Dave Smith, who monitors traffic accidents on the high-injury corridor that is South Van Ness, observed another crash last week.
“South Van Ness Ave is a train wreck made even worse by SFMTA and their Mission St redesign,” he wrote in an email.
The backlash has prompted Campos to reach out to the Transit Agency and set up a series of meetings to discuss what has angered those who use Mission Street the most. Businesses losing customers was the main concern raised at the meeting, said Sheila Chung Hagen, a legislative aide to Campos, in part because the changes may be rerouting drivers away from small businesses in the area. Displaced former residents who used to frequent or work at those businesses because they were nearby now have no choice but to do their shopping or reach their jobs by car, she said, which is complicated by the changes.
“Daytime weekday drivers who are dropping off their kids at daycare or pre-shool and run into a shop…those folks are now not sticking around or trying to figure out something else, because they’re getting stuck in horrible traffic and getting rerouted into small neighborhood streets,” said Chung Hagen. “Part of it, too, is that people were feeling like it’s once again that people are being planned on instead of being planned with.”
Rose said the transit agency did several extensive surveys of the area before rolling out the changes, and that some aspects of it – removing stops in favor of adding new parking spots, for example – had been tailored specifically to community feedback.
“I think these traffic and transit improvements are having an impact, and some of the results that we are seeing are good as far as improving transit. But as, it seems, they’re going into place, people are letting us know how they feel,” Rose said. “We’re certainly prepared to listen and keep monitoring the situation and make adjustments if we need to.”
The agency is, however, considering signal timing changes, flexible soft-hit barriers between lanes, and extending a red pocket at the intersection of Cesar Chavez and Mission and adjusting signage at that intersection to make it clearer to drivers where they are supposed to go.
Campos, the transit authority, and other neighborhood stakeholders have had two closed-door meetings and plan to host a larger community meeting soon where more concrete decisions about what to change will be discussed. A date has not been set for that meeting.