Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Geary BRT: "a raucous meeting"

From the Richmond Review:
http://www.sunsetbeacon.com/index.html

Geary bus plan draws vocal concerns at public meeting

by Thomas K. Pendergast

In a raucous meeting with heated verbal exchanges, city officials presented three different versions of a new transportation plan for Geary Boulevard and responded to troubled merchants worried about how it will affect their businesses.

Dubbed the Geary Corridor Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan, the estimated $250 million project would essentially split the main traffic artery of the Richmond District. It will reconfigure traffic lanes from Van Ness Avenue out to 33rd Avenue---two for cars and one exclusively for buses. Construction is expected to begin in 2012 and be completed by 2015.

After a feasibility study in 2007, city planners narrowed the plan down to three possibilities, which are currently being studied as part of an Environmental Impact Report. The first plan would make the dedicated bus lanes near the right-lane curbs in both directions, as they currently are, leaving the middle and left lanes for vehicles.

The second and third options would put the buses going eastbound and westbound in the center lanes. With the two center lane options, one would have a loading dock between the east and westbound traffic that all passengers would share, and the other would have buses running next to each other with separate loading platforms on the right side of the bus lanes.

"Buses on Geary are in motion less than half of their travel time on Geary," said Zabe Bent, the BRT's project manager. "This is pretty shocking to many of us. What we want to do is speed up the bus when it's actually moving on Geary and we think we can get to about a 25-percent improvement in the travel speed. We also want to reduce some of the other delays that we see so that's one of the reasons we're looking at a dedicated lane. We want to make sure that the buses are not impinging on the autos traveling but we also want to make sure that autos are allowing the buses to move forward."

She noted that while they expect a decrease in total travel time, "the improvement overall is not just about the end-to-end travel time. The improvement is about reliability...knowing with more certainty how frequently the bus is coming, that the bus is coming in a minute or two minutes, however long it is, knowing that you can count on the bus to be there."

But many local merchants along Geary are worried that construction in front of their shops would discourage shoppers already dealing with a bad economy. Bent told them the City would keep Geary open during construction and other cities had minimized this problem by doing the construction in segments instead of all at once.

"Geary will not be closed during construction," she said. "We are doing as much as we can to find innovative and creative ways for staging the construction. It's one of the things that we'll be evaluating through the process, but we're trying to make sure people still have access to businesses and shops and their homes during construction."

Antonio C. White, a marketing communications advisor with an office on Geary, expressed concern that the project would be a big problem for local merchants. "Merchants can't even deal with a month of slowdown, much less a year. A lot of these small merchants are living week to week and month to month and are barely getting by as it is. Every month we see businesses closing down on our street. It's a horrible situation, so how will you address that?"

"One of the things we're doing is looking at how the Small Business Commission and other city agencies currently help merchants through difficult periods, whether it's through loans and other sorts of things and expanding programs," Bent responded.

A suspicion expressed by several members of the audience is that the new transit system is a precursor to a rezoning effort that would allow for bigger buildings on Geary, pushing out the small businesses that now dominate the boulevard.

One man noted that federal money was expected to help fund the project with "urban renewal" conditions attached. He worried that construction will force small businesses out of business, thus clearing the land for bigger enterprises after lots have been rezoned to allow for a higher density of people and materials.

Bent denied that there was any such plan coming from the Geary Corridor BRT project. "This project does not need land use growth in order to justify the project," she said. "This project is about the current ridership on Geary, not about growth. The Planning Department does not project at this point any new growth in the Richmond as a result of this project. That is not what's currently being planned."

"But you can't guarantee it," a woman in the audience shot back.

The project also has aspects which it is hoped will make the corridor safer for pedestrians, like curb bulbs to shorten the distance for people crossing the street, median refuges for people who don't make it across the boulevard before traffic light changes, and more signal lights in some places, including more "count down" signals.

Another issue that was widely discussed was the preliminary study's conclusion that numerous vehicles would avoid Geary and travel on ancillary streets, like Fulton and California streets, to reach their destinations.

Bent said the EIR currently in progress would give more information about traffic impacts.

Bicycle lanes are not included in any of the scenarios for Geary, except for a short section between Masonic and Presidio avenues that will connect a network of bike lanes running on streets perpendicular to the corridor.

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14 Comments:

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

It's not like the entirety of Geary will be shut down during construction. Like most roadway projects, it will proceed a block or so at a time.

Divisadero is being repaved right now and no merchants have complained, yet propose something that will benefit public transit and the car lobby comes out in full, riling up local businessmen and convincing them that the bogeyman is around the corner.

Shameful. Have you ever ridden the 38?

 
At 10:06 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

As usual you miss the point. Construction is only one issue here. There's also the issue of forcing traffic onto streets in the contiguous neighborhood if you take away traffic lanes on Geary. And then there's the well-founded fear that the Geary BRT is Planning's latest attempt to implement its Transit Corridors development theory (see the Market/Octavia Plan and UC's massive housing development on lower Haight Street), that once the BRT is done, Planning will rezone property lining Geary to allow for highrise development like they did in the M/O area.

Since the city is getting ready to screw up traffic on behalf of the bike nuts, the people in the Richmond are rightly skeptical about any promises they make about traffic and development in that part of the city.

 
At 10:20 AM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

Well I guess they can continue to enjoy having one of the slowest buses in the city. I'm sure that's doing wonders for the merchants and residents out in the Richmond.

Geary originally had a streetcar line, which was scrapped and meant to be replaced with BART to Marin, which was in itself scrapped due to expense and Marin-dwellers' uneasiness with people being able to get to their county quickly (*cough*), and is now a congested road/freeway hybrid with dismal transit service.

I guess in your twisted view of things, doing nothing is the best choice of all. It's your "leave the neighborhoods alone" plan! Why did you support "Parking for Neighborhoods", then? That didn't sound to me like leaving the neighborhoods alone. Two thirds of San Franciscans agreed!

Once again, when some change is pro-car, you're for it. When it has the possibility of actually encouraging another form of transportation, including MUNI (which you supposedly ride), you turn into some fear-spouting demagogue. It's the bike people... it's the "transit corridors theory"... you're like a broken record.

Oh, and I've lived in the same part of the Western Addition as you for nearly 3 years and I have yet to see you on the streets here. For all your claims of being a pedestrian and transit-rider, you sure are an elusive one, Rob.

 
At 10:20 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Divisadero is being repaved? I live less than a block off Diviz, and I haven't noticed any repaving yet. I understand that the city is going to do it this summer as part of its plan to cutesify Diviz. They should forget about the cutesification and just do the paving, since Diviz needs it badly.

Yes, I ride the #38 frequently, but mostly between Masonic and/or Diviz and downtown. It's that part of the #38 line between 33rd and Masonic that's the problem. The EIR on the Geary BRT is being done now. It will be interesting to see how it deals with all the cross streets on that part of Geary and how it deals with the intersections at Geary and Fillmore and Masonic and Geary, where the street goes underneath those cross streets.

You can click on "Bus Rapid Transit BRT" below to see earlier posts on Geary.

 
At 10:20 AM, Blogger Lee S said...

Dang dawg, you hate everything don't you? San Francisco can NEVER win with you can they?? Is Geary 4 lanes right now? I don't think so, at least not most of it. How wouldn't having one dedicated bus lane, and two dedicated car lanes help both buses & cars move faster? Seems like a no brainer to me.

 
At 10:31 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I didn't write this article, moron. People in the avenues are rightly concerned about what the city wants to do to their neighborhood. The EIR on the Geary BRT isn't even done yet, but you already know that it's a good idea? Your touching faith in city government is unjustified.

 
At 10:40 AM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's noteworthy that the Geary BRT project is up for extensive study and discussion. Compare that to the Bicycle Plan!

 
At 3:32 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"I guess in your twisted view of things, doing nothing is the best choice of all."

No, doing something would be good, but, until the EIR on the Geary BRT is completed, we need to wait to see what can/should be done. I'm skeptical but waiting to see the EIR.

"Why did you support 'Parking for Neighborhoods', then? That didn't sound to me like leaving the neighborhoods alone. Two thirds of San Franciscans agreed!"

Prop. H went down mainly because of the demonization of Don Fisher, not on the merits of the proposition.

"Once again, when some change is pro-car, you're for it."

Yes, indeed. Cars---and buses, trucks, and motorcycles---are here to stay. Anything that makes traffic in SF unnecessarily worse I oppose, like the bicycle bullshit.

"When it has the possibility of actually encouraging another form of transportation, including MUNI (which you supposedly ride), you turn into some fear-spouting demagogue. It's the bike people... it's the 'transit corridors theory'... you're like a broken record."

And, typial of the bike nuts, you never seem to read anything but stuff you agree with and show little interest in anything but bikes. The M/O Plan is going to trash the heart of SF, but progs and the bike people are indifferent to the prospect. It's all about the great, planet-saving bicycle movement. The people in the Richmond district should be very wary of the Planning Dept. because they are aggressively pro-development and will trash the area with highrises if they can.

"Oh, and I've lived in the same part of the Western Addition as you for nearly 3 years and I have yet to see you on the streets here. For all your claims of being a pedestrian and transit-rider, you sure are an elusive one, Rob."

That's because whenever I see you I cross the street to avoid you.

 
At 9:36 PM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

Are you worried I'm going to hit you with my bike?

I brake for the elderly!

 
At 9:49 PM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

"And, typial[sic] of the bike nuts, you never seem to read anything but stuff you agree with and show little interest in anything but bikes."

So you know, I've been into public transit far longer than I've been riding a bike.

I picked up cycling when I was 23 because the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) had become so decrepit (train fires, bus breakdowns, complete inability to hold to a schedule) that I had no sane choice for getting around. Until that point I had been a public transit (and occasional taxi) rider. I've never had a driver's license.

The fact is, public transit in this country is a mess. Even MUNI, which I consider a stellar system compared to what we've got back home, has serious structural problems that require a lot of investment to solve. I'd ride it more if it did a better job of getting me where I need to go. As it stands right now, it's a practical choice: 15 minutes to work by bike, or 40 minutes via N Judah.

Granted, there's plenty to be optimistic about transit-wise in the bay area. TransLink supports BART now (and soon CalTrain). HSR may be a reality in a decade (assuming your NIMBY clones down on the peninsula don't stop it). Honestly, the only bike news in this town is stuff like Sunday Streets (which I've never heard you comment on... maybe because it's so wildly popular?), Critical Mass (once a month, and you know my opinion on it), and the Bike Plan/EIR.

So no, you've misjudged me. I'm supposed to be some crazy scrotal-inflating anarchist-flag-waving pinko bike fascist, and in reality I'm just a guy who doesn't drive and tries to make practical choices about transportation. We happen to disagree on public policy (and also the basic facts underlying it... I think you have some serious misconceptions about how people get around in San Francisco, and how that could change with a little bit of adjustment).

I do have a bit of a thing against cars, but maybe it's because I grew up in the suburbs and thought it was the most dismal possible existence. I don't think they're going anywhere... I just think it's time to push them off the top of the transportation pyramid. The private automobile is the most inefficient form of transportation, not only in terms of energy usage, but also in terms of space occupied and time consumed in transit. It's only fair to try to deprioritize private car travel and promote alternatives... I think the dominance of the car is patently unfair, especially since using it is a (dubious) privilege afforded only to those who can pay for it. Not everyone can drive, but we all have to suffer because of the degree to which private automobile travel is accommodated more than anything else on the road, which is supposed to (and used to) be a public space.

 
At 11:04 AM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Despite what some may think - the people of the richmond do not OWN the richmond. It is the city of San Francisco. The neighborhood has a burden to bare for the whole city - and does NOT get to sequester itself off into a little dirt road gated community because tin hat NIMBYS like David Heller want control.

 
At 3:55 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Who's talking about "ownership" of anything? These people are concerned and for goood reason, given the city's zealous pursuit of dense, highrise development uber alles in other parts of the city, like the Market/Octavia area. The Richmond as "gated community"? Pretty silly. Sounds like you already have all the answers. Maybe you could save the city some money on the EIR. Give them a call and fill them in on what's best for Geary and the Richmond.

 

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