Photo by Lola M. Chavez

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.

Installing the transit-only lanes. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

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.

Photo by Lola M. Chavez

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  1. Busses are getting stuck in the traffic snarls created by this ill conceived traffic plan. Explain how that will speed up mini? BTW, 84% of my patients arrive by Bart, auto, walk, or bike and only 16% by muni.

  2. Likely or maybe these things will sort themselves out with time, but the parallel side streets, San Carlos, Capp, Shotwell and South Van Ness are getting hammered during some hours. Also on some East – West Streets cars are backing up from circling the block, and more pedestrians are having troubles crossing intersections.

    Transit first is a good thing, but as with any large change, we should expect that the first prototype won’t be perfect.

    Thank you MissionLocal for keeping the issue out there, and providing a community place where people can comment on the good of the changes, and call out the rough edges of the changes.

  3. I’ve worked at the corner of 16th and Mission Street for 15 years and I’ve never seen the traffic as calm as it has been in the last several days. The buses roll by smoothly, it’s terrific.

    Previous to the change, I’d hear loud, sustained, intense honking as frustrated drivers reacted to drivers in front of them who were making (illegal) left turns at the intersection. This would happen twenty to thirty times a day. It’s been quiet and great since the stripes went in.

    I love it!

  4. I for one fully support the changes. Van Ness and Guerrero are adequate options and the fact that the majority of people are positively affected by faster mass transit clearly shows this to be a smart move.

    The Transit First policy isn’t just for other neighborhoods.

    1. Then stop commercial delivery vehicles from blocking lanes on South Van Ness — especially during rush hour!

  5. SFMTA is up to their old shenanigans again. The folks who are over at 1 Van Ness clearly do not know what they are doing and do not care about the traffic on the streets of the Mission. Numerous parking spaces have been eliminated around the neighborhood. Lanes have been removed from Potrero, Folsom, and Valencia forcing more traffic and drivers onto South Van Ness and Guerrero. South Van Ness has become a freeway for everyone going and leaving downtown. There’s an increase the noise level and pollution from all the cars to the detriment of all the people who live on the street. It would be nice if SFMTA actually did proper outreach to the neighborhood residents and businesses before making drastic changes that change the neighborhood.

  6. Speaking as a slow biker, I feel much much much safer riding now on Mission than ever. Let’s #KeepMissionRed and let Disaster Campos worry about opening the Tamale Lady’s cantina and renaming SFO for Harvey Milk. The red lanes on Mission Street are a good development. Get used to them!

    1. It might improve the people going up and down Mission but it is wreaking havoc for those trying to cross it and it is confusing and looks terrible! I can’t imagine trying to convert Mission Street to a high speed bus speedway will be good for anyone and certainly not for the merchants in the area!!! It is also very confusing!

      1. It’s not about making the buses go particularly fast, it’s about getting them up from the snail’s pace they often run at now. I take the 14R every day and it frequently takes 45 minutes to get between the mission and downtown. That’s only five minutes faster than it would be to walk…

      2. I think people who do not like change in general are doing a lot of whining about nothing. Yes, it may be confusing at first, but you can figure it out. No, crossing Mission St is not harder than before. Why would it be?

        As someone who rides buses on Mission all the time, I say #KeepMissionRed

          1. maybe all of them. No one I’ve talked to is in favor of MAKINGmissionred so let’s KEEPmissionblack

  7. I love it. Took the 49 yesterday and was really impressed with the speed and less stops. We should send the cars to South Van Ness since it’s HWY 101. Think of the children and elderly and stop being so selfish

    1. That’s fine but at least enforce the traffic laws on South Van Ness. Commercial vehicles are basically choking South Van Ness by constantly double parking!