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.