Sunday, January 27, 2008

Leave Geary alone 2

The Geary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a dumb idea, a solution to a non-existent problem, since traffic on the city's primary East-West traffic corridor is already moving quite well, thank you. But of course that won't stop the city's meddlesome "planners" and "progressives" from pushing the expensive ($200 million) and destructive (digging up Geary for years) project, which is now undergoing environmental review.

The latest dumb idea---proposed, naturally, by Supervisor Mirkarimi---for Geary Blvd: eliminate the underpass at Fillmore Street and return all that traffic to the surface of that intersection, supposedly to make crossing Geary more "pedestrian-friendly." The SF Examiner rightly dubbed this moronic proposal as the worst idea of the still-young year.

Supervisor Mirkarimi, with the help of his "progressive" colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, has already done a lot of damage to San Francisco by okaying the Rincon Hill highrises. And he/they are striving to do still more damage with the Market/Octavia Plan (more highrises at Market/Van Ness), and by negotiating the city's surrender to a predatory UC at the old extension site on lower Haight Street. And recall that Mirkarimi and the BOS tried to rush through a plan to redesign city streets with the ambitious, anti-car Bicycle Plan and were only stopped by successful litigation, to which I was proud to be a party.

Since Mirkarimi got the endorsement of the SF Bicycle Coalition in the last election and supports Critical Mass, making traffic worse in the city is clearly of little concern to him.

The Murk had this to say about the Fillmore Street underpass: "Geary Boulevard has been the invisible Berlin Wall that's separated Japantown from the Fillmore...Now it's time to correct that...You have to break the wall feeling down."

Coming from our meddlesome District 5 Supervisor, these are ominous words for that part of town. Of course the idea to snarl traffic at Geary and Fillmore is presented under the Better Neighborhoods Project: "Hi, I'm from city government, and I'm here to make your neighborhood better."

Once again I propose my Leave the Neighborhoods Alone program, which city neighborhoods desperately need to defend themselves against a meddlesome city government seemingly determined to "better" our city to death.

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At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gosh, those meddlesome progressive planners are at it again trying to improve things!

At 10:43 PM, Anonymous Neppon H. Dale said...

Rob - I agree that BRT might not be ideal, but it's not a solution to a "non-existent problem". The current 38 bus, even the express, is a screaming disgrace. It takes from 45 minutes to well over an hour to get from the 40+ avenues to downtown. That's a speed of roughly 7mph.

That is a mind-numbing, horrifying disgrace. There are many possible solutions. My personal fav is that people should pre-pay before boarding. That way people don't bottleneck at the front door - they can get on any door.

Also, there should be a way more enforced bus lane when the geary gets into the tenderloin.

Don't get me wrong man, I applaud most of your efforts, but Geary is Very very very bad in terms of bus performance and could desperately use improvements.

From a purely selfish perspective, I'd applaud BRT because I don't own a car. But perhaps there is a reasonable compromise if dedicated lanes would cause too much trouble.

Finally - any disruption of Geary should include some minor compensation to biz there that might get passed by during construction, but more importantly they should just get on with it. I swear to god I could fix geary in about two weeks for fifty grand and a few trucks of cement.

At 9:10 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

It's simply untrue that the #38 Geary is "very very very bad." The #38L in particular is a pleasure to ride for its speed and efficiency. I ride the #38 often, both to get downtown and to get back to Geary and Divisadero, where it's a short walk to the Alamo Square area where I live. Getting to and from the far avenues is of course a longer trip. If it takes 45 minutes to get downtown from the far avenues on the #38, it's only the Van Ness to Market Street phase of the line that's a bottleneck. The city should address that part of the line, instead of embarking on the Big Dig-like BRT boondoggle.

At 11:40 AM, Blogger Pantograph Trolleypole said...

This corridor needs a subway, not a surface BRT. This City suffers because unlike New York, Boston, or Philadelphia, improvements in rapid transit came too late. Avenues to downtown in 20 minutes would do wonders for this city.

At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Jen W said...

Coming from someone who spent quite a few years in NYC, it was very starnge coming to a large city with almost no subway system. What are the major reasons they can't put in a subway line along geary? Parking is hellish already, but for a garage off of 16th Ave in Inner Richmond, where the hell are you supposed to park if you can't bike or walk there? Doesn't the BRT take away almost all street parking?

At 12:45 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The city is not suffering at all on Geary Boulevard. Nor is it likely to embark on a Big Dig boondoggle like in Boston. Even the BRT boondoggle---at a mere $200 million---is completely unnecessary.

At 1:00 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...


The first---and most important reason---for not putting a subway under Geary is that it's completely unnecessary. The #38 line serves that corridor well as it is. The second reason: it would be prohibitively expensive.

Yes, parking is a huge issue here in Progressive Land, because the city's official anti-car policies---encouraged by the SF Bicycle Coalition---deliberately makes it as difficult and as expensive as possible to drive in the city, even though most people here have cars. One of the ways they do that is to make it difficult to add parking spaces to new housing projects and to make building new parking lots virtually impossible. Even paying to have a garage under your own property is officially discouraged. Welcome to a city governed by bike nuts.

Yes, of course the BRT project will eliminate badly-needed street parking---and it will dig up the Geary corridor for years for at best minor gains in traffic efficiency.

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Sautson said...

I've been living in the outer Richmond for a long time and although rush hour service is tolerable, the 38 basically sucks. The primary reasons are too many stops, too much car traffic in the bus lane, forcing the bus to "pull over" to pick people up which makes it hard to get back into traffic, and as someone mentioned above, there are not enough doors on the bus and no "pre-pay" system which would make boarding waaaaay faster. The tenderloin is also a bottleneck with lax enforment of double parkers.

A Subway would definitely be welcomed and very well used. As for BRT, from what I've seen in other cities, it rocks. Why it costs $200 Million is beyond me, but anything is better than the current system.

At 1:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My personal reason for the 38 being both a pleasure to ride:
My coworkers in Concord can get downtown faster than I can.
Thats 25 miles versus less than 7.
Rob, you live in a dream world.

At 5:02 PM, Anonymous those dudes said...

"It's simply untrue that the #38 Geary is "very very very bad." The #38L in particular is a pleasure to ride for its speed and efficiency."

Rob - this shows how out of touch with reality you are.

As others have pointed out, the average speeds along Geary are VERY slow - an average cyclist could easily outpace Muni along this corridor. Additionally, if you look at some of the TEP findings, you'll see that the 38 has a reliability of about 55%, and even the 38L is less than 60%. Both the 38 and 38L often exceed 85% capacity. How is this not very very bad? Once again, your myopic anti-change views are clouding the picture here - Geary needs better transit service, and BRT is one way to get there!

At 5:36 PM, Anonymous Niles said...

Rob, I've been a big fan of your site for a while but this is the first time I've spoken up. (And my first big disagreement).

The commenters above are right, the 38 (even the L) is terrible.

Would you support a subway if federal money could be brought in for it? It's likely that most of the money would come in that way. I'd cautiously support BRT too, if it can really be done in a way that makes it fast enough.

You should read about Curitiba brazil and even the new Orange Line in LA. Google 'em. It has nothing to do with "progressive" anything, those BRT systems are huge successes across the board (Curitiba more so, Orange line has yet to be proven)

At 9:49 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I disagree that the #38 line is "terrible." The city could implement rear boarding and do something about the Van Ness to Market part of the #38 line's run, which would surely help make that commute faster. Otherwise, the proposed cure---the $200 million BRT or a multi-billion dollar subway---is way out of proportion to the problem. Once the EIR on the Geary BRT is complete, we may have a better sense of the facts on the issue. What I find alarming is that something like the BRT is proposed, and so many of you jump on board long before the facts are known, just because it sounds superficially sensible and up-to-date, much like the completely erroneous "transit corridors" theory on which the city is basing much of its dumb housing decisions.

Most of all, I'm skeptical of any big project proposed by city government based on recent history---the Rincon Hill highrise fiasco, the Market/Octavia Plan, the UC land-grab on lower Haight Street, the Housing Element, the Bicycle Plan, etc. The reality is that city government doesn't really know what it's doing on all these grandiose "planning" mistakes, and the progressive majority on the BOS follows along sheep-like with no serious debate. Again, we need to wait for the EIR on the BRT idea to have a completely informed discussion, but your lack of skepticism about ambitious city proposals is worrisome. The burden of proof should be entirely on the city, not on skeptics like me.

I notice that none of you have anything to say about Mirkarimi's stupid idea of eliminating the underpass at Fillmore and Geary. If you think the commute on the #38is bad now...

At 4:18 PM, Anonymous Dave said...

While I agree that disposing of the Geary underpass at Fillmore is a waste of time, it's also a waste of time to concentrate on it in conjunction with the BRT proposals. Your overwhelming anti-change views will only work to perpetuate the problems the city is facing. The 38 and 38L are tolerable, at best, as put into facts and figures by the TEP studies. I've grown so fed up with the 38 and other Muni lines that I rely on day to day that I've changed my transportation habits and started to drive more often. If more people become lazy like me, that means more cars on the road, more congestion, more space necessary to accommodate the demand for cars, more expensive parking, and overall, more frustration.

You say we should wait for a completed EIR before we draw any conclusions. Well, that EIR will likely satisfy you greatly, considering the LOS standards to which the project will be held. With auto LOS at the forefront, the project will undoubtedly have impacts throughout the corridor since it will NEED to take away car space in order to fulfill its purpose. Upon discovering the findings of the review, you'll come back saying "I told you so," and continue to call the BOS morons for even considering the notion of removing car space.

The fact of the matter is that car space will need to be compromised in order for the necessary changes to the Geary corridor to be made. With system improvements, people like me will revert back to taking transit to get around, thereby reducing reliance on cars, reducing demand to have cars in the city, and reducing demand for parking along the corridor. The businesses against the BRT don't seem to realize that an improved system will mean that their business will be more easily accessible to more people.

My point here is that there are changes that have to be made because existing infrastructure is insufficient. If you are in denial that current systems are lacking, then that leads me to question how much you rely on these systems since it should be relatively obvious that improvements will only benefit San Francisco. I absolutely respect and agree with your view that the BRT price tag is a bit high, and there are simple alternatives (pre-pay, etc...) to consider before going ahead with a huge project, but a BRT system is nonetheless a worthwhile thought as it has been successfully implemented in comparable urban areas throughout the world.


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