Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The 38 Geary and reality

Brock Keeling in Curbed:

Steeling myself for Transportation Week’s worst rush-hour challenge, I expected-slash-hoped for a hellish commute aboard the sluggish and odorous 38-Geary. After all, when I rode this line daily on the regular nearly a decade ago, it was a jam-packed ride, a crotch-to-butt nightmare come to life.

This ostensibly simple line, which runs ramrod straight east to west from downtown San Francisco to the Outer Richmond, has gained a reputation over the years as the city’s most brutal trip in the during busy hours.

On average, it handles 55,270 average daily boardings, making it one of the busiest bus corridors west of the Mississippi.

Not having taken the 38 during peak hours in eons—living in downtown San Francisco does have privileges; namely, a lack of lengthy commute—I braced myself on an unusually warm Tuesday evening to tame the Geary beast.

Hopping on a 38 Geary Rapid at Fremont and Market at around 5:15 p.m. (the route’s initial stop) the first thing that struck me was the lack of queue. Where was everyone? No matter. I jumped aboard, took off my backpack, and scurried around rat-like to find a seat. However, there was no little need to fret as there were seats aplenty.

Strange.

Over the next few stops, sweaty commuters boarded the bus. Some but not many. It was hardly the sardine-tin crush I witnessed in bygone commutes. Many riders were able to take a seat. Many riders were able to stand comfortably. As we traversed Geary up to Van Ness, the border between Geary Street and Geary Boulevard, there was still enough room for riders to keep their backpacks on. (A major no-no. I digress.)

What rush? What’s happening? Did the rapture finally happen? Or was I on one of those rare rush-hour rides that slides in under the nightmare-commute radar?

As the bus approached the Masonic, I jumped off the coach frustrated and confused. An anomalous ride, I assumed. I went back a few stops and climbed aboard a regular 38-Geary line where, once again, I was met with a downright roomy commuting experience, one that bordered on serene.

Now I was pissed. This line proved too comfortable for rush-hour. Where was the steaminess of an broken NYC subway? Where was the existential anguish that the 405 gives Angelenos on a daily basis?

“SFMTA has been working to improve Geary service with initiatives like new low-floor buses and more frequent Rapid service,” SFMTA’s Erica Kato explains. “Red lanes heading on both Geary and Powell work have resulted in an improved trip-time and better experience for our riders.”

But that’s not all. The 38 still has ways to go. “Additional improvements are needed to meet rising transportation demands---so while your ride has improved, we have more work to do,” says Kato.

While there are some rides on the 38 that still bungle things up, the new and improved 38 Geary line is a sign that, indeed, some things can change for the better with SFMTA.

Now, if they can only get people to stop wearing their backpacks on the bus. That would be a true transit miracle.

Rob's comment:
The point of Keeling's piece is not, as Kato assumes, about the red lanes and travel time but about crowding on the #38. But sluggish travel time on that line has also been exaggerated in the past (see this and this). I'm not convinced that either the red lanes or the Geary BRT project are justified.

On backpacks: all passengers should learn to take off their packs and hold them in one hand while they hold a strap or pole with the other. Surely people in The City That Knows How can learn this simple courtesy.


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1 Comments:

At 4:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the eyes of planned Bay Area the sfmta non profits and the state of California BRT and red lanes are justified. They are happening all over the state. Road diets and BRT in LA who would imagine road diets in LA? They don't care about small business or people on Geary street as it is considered a priority development area which calls for high density. Empty buildings are just better and more development in there eyes which they call for in and around "transit hubs" and if no transit hub exist they will create a new bus line on a dumb street.

Go read the bridge toll increase bill in its entirety. $300, million of that will go to the sfmta dumb projects. The rest of the money collected from the bridge tolls will be distributed across the state to public transportation agencies and HOV lanes they will charge to use. Not one penny will go towards fixing anything not one pot hole or cracked highway lane.

 

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