More Criticism of Mission Street’s “Red Carpet”

Photo by Lola M. Chavez

A business owner lambasted the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority’s Board of Directors on Tuesday, saying traffic changes along Mission Street have cost her business and threatening closures. Neighborhood residents at the meeting called the changes a form of violence.  

The changes include transit-only lanes and many left turn turn restrictions, plus forced right turns at certain intersections.

Eden Stein, who owns Secession Art & Design on Mission Street near Fair Avenue,said it is taking her customers 90 minutes to park or to get up and down Mission Street.

“They’re not going to come back,” Stein told the board. “From 16th to Randall there has been a loss of business, and a lot of businesses can’t wait months for changes to happen. Businesses are going to close down. We need some action.”

Stein requested that the agency install left turn signals at 29th and Valencia streets so people do not make rash unprotected turns without looking for pedestrians that may be in the crosswalk.

Two commenters compared the changes to forms of violence.

“This is just one more act of violence that the people in the Mission feel, said resident Mary Eliza. “When their primary street, with the district name on it, is violated in this way without really taking into consideration the needs fo the community, you’re going to have a problem,”.

Activist Raeleen Valle-Brenes, speaking on behalf of the Cultural Action Network, said the group supports improving transit and safety but disagreed with the agency’s approach.

“SFMTA’s red carpet-bombing of the Mission was a surprise attack, and wholly unwelcome,” she told the board.

Valle-Brenes, herself a seven-year daily bus rider, said the board had decided to restrict left turns because they are more dangerous to pedestrians than right turns, and argued that the number of crosswalks crossed by drivers was increased dramatically by turn restrictions, because confused drivers would simply make loops and turns.

But transit advocates who support the changes to the street are trying to convince the public to let the dust settle before trying to reverse things.

“When Market Street went through this change, there was a lot of confusion and a lot of fumbling through it,” said Jon Shwark, a supporter of the transit changes who rides the 14 and 49 lines regularly. “You hear about people taking three turns … Those people won’t take three turns [forever], they’ll do it once or twice and then get smart.”

Ilyse Magy, a member of the San Francisco Transit Riders Union, said outside of the meeting that the union has been working with Supervisor David Campos and other stakeholders to try to find a solution that works for everyone.

“Obviously transit is a priority for us, but the last thing we want to do is harm small businesses. What’s the point of having good transit if you don’t have places people are going to?” Magy said.  

Brian Stokle, also a member of the Transit Riders, said the organization is open to some tweaks to the program, like reexamining forced right turns. But service, he said, had improved as a result of the changes.

“I’ve noticed the bus service is better,” he wrote. “The reduction in bus stops paired with bus only lanes have helped move people more quickly and efficiently.”

But so far, it’s unclear what a compromise might look like. Residents, transit riders, merchants and city officials have held several meetings to try to hash out what tweaks could be made to the program, barring a full rollback. So far, no compromises have been announced. An agency spokesperson said potential solutions were not yet available.

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7 Comments

  1. Thanks for covering this meeting at the SFMTA. There are a couple of items I would like to add to this report. A number of taxi drivers were concerned about the lack of left turns on Mission Street that they were told they would be allowed to make. It goes without saying that extending the time of the cab rides makes the ride more expensive for the rider, and that puts the taxi service in further jeopardy when they are already failing. Taxi representatives also expressed dismay at the new taxi fees and pointed out that there is no market for the new expensive medallions the SFMTA has decided to sell. No one in their right mind would finance a risky deal that shows no profit potential. Raising the medallion price killed that business, much as they SFMTA and their supporters are killing the businesses on Mission Street. Do you see a trend there?

    A couple of physical issues were raised by professional taxi/truck drivers. It seems that instead of repairing the road and patching the potholes, which would help bikers and buses more than anything else, the red paint was just laid down on the street on top of the badly decomposing road surface. We agree. Patch the roads first. When you have huge potholes in the street, drivers, including bikes, must swerve to avoid them. This creates potential problems for people who don’t see the reason for the swerve and can’t predict them.

    A former truck driver suggested the SFMTA should use the kind of material used on highways to patch the roads under the red lanes since they will be getting all of the heavy usage of the machines that do the most damage to the streets. You do not want buses running over potholes.

    At least one merchant around Randal commented on the leftover bulbouts when the bus stops are moved. This is an obvious tool to remove parking spaces that has not gone unnoticed. They put in those $!50k + bulbouts to remove parking spaces and then move them to take out more parking. They then take the parking meters that they are removing and attempt to install them in other neighborhoods. This is your freindly SFMTA that is so good at patting itself on the back while harassing the taxpayers and laughing all the way to the bank.

    There is a way to stop them but that involves convincing the Board of Supervisors to take control and protect your interests.

  2. Painting a lane red and bringing calming traffic methods to Mission Street allegedly equals violence? Try telling that to folks who’ve been physically harmed and suffered bodily injuries. Such extreme rhetoric is misguided.

    As a biker happy with the vehicular changes on Mission Street who is shopping more at stores along the boulevard, I say good job SFMTA!

  3. Dan

    Secession Art & Design is a neighborhood treasure. I don’t know the owner except from being in the store, but I shop there and I think it’s exactly the type of business we want to see in the Mission: locally owned small businesses supporting local artists and artisans. If this change is threatening Secession, it needs to be rethought. (from a non-car-driving transit passenger/pedestrian)

  4. Donna

    Where was this meeting advertised?

  5. Mark

    MPetrelis – Paint lanes red and redirect traffic, or just post guards outside of businesses and keep people from entering. Same result. If you owned a store in the Mission and now can’t pay your bills, you would call it violence, and a myriad of other terms. But since you used the term “traffic calming”, we can assume you are an employee of the SFMTA, correct?

    • “Traffic Calming” IS a term ONLY used by so called traffic experts, so yes. It has to be a CTA/MTA “EXPERT” TRYING TO DISRUBT TGE LIVES OF THE MASSES TO PUSH THEIR AGENDA. Simple.

  6. John Smith

    Thats right “The “Transit Only” red carpet BOMBING is already KILLING OFF local businesses and Jobs on Mission street. The Small Business Commission and 311 phones have been flooded by complaints over these JOB KILLING Transit Only Lanes. Four different neighborhood associations (with more on the way) have joined together to fight The SFMTA in their attempt to bulldoze the public to get what they want.

    “The proprietor of Secession Art & Design in Bernal Heights, as well as the vice president of the Mission-Bernal Merchants Association which represents 150 businesses in the area. “From noon to six we see Mission as a dead zone,” she said” “A representative from the Mission Economic Development Agency said one restaurant along Mission saw a “50 percent decrease” in income since the red lanes were installed”. – From the SF Examiner

    The big thinkers at SFMTA think, “shaving” a few minutes from your commute is worth BANKRUPTING businesses and jobs in neighborhood.

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