Friday, May 09, 2008

Geary BRT: Merchants out in the cold

Merchants out in the cold
by Keith Wilson
From the Richmond Review

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority has picked 11 citizens to serve on a citizens advisory committee for the Geary Boulevard bus rapid transit proposal that will be going through an environmental analysis.

As a citizen who applied to be on this committee, I have some concerns about the way the members of the board of supervisors went about this in their capacity sitting as members of the transportation authority board's plans and programs committee. Normally, the City has a hard time even filling 11 seats for a committee like this.

However, 75 people applied to be on the committee and 37 of them showed up at a hearing to speak for one minute apiece.

After a detailed analysis of all the applications, a few things became apparent to me. All of the 11 individuals selected show a predisposition to rubber stamp the preferred center lane BRT proposals that are favored by the transportation authority. They primarily represent the interests of transit riders and bicycle activists. The selections have completely ignored anyone who represents the interests of the numerous small business interests and automobile users (both local and motorists who use Geary Boulevard as one of the few major cross-town arteries).

By my analysis, 27 of the people who applied for the committee would have represented these other interests, but none of them were selected. Instead, the word appears to have been put out to flood the committee with applications from people who concur with Transportation Authority views to make it look as if they have been fair in the selection process. but they have not picked a balanced committee.

In September of 2007, the Planning Association for the Richmond (PAR), published an excellent position statement on the proposed Geary Corridor Bus Rapid Transit System (which can be seen at, which has been studiously avoided by the Transportation Authority.

It appears that the interests of small merchants, automobile users, and many Richmond District residents have been shut out of this process. Since the Transportation Authority refuses to listen to our concerns, a group of citizens will be forming its own Geary BRT citizens advisory committee. The name of the committee is REAL-C.A.C. This stands for Richmond Express Action League Citizens Advisory Committee,

I feel it is not right for the Transportation Authority to shut out such a large number of local interests, especially when they will be so heavily impacted by the Geary BRT proposal.

We are not against transportation and streetscape improvements. However, we feel that the current proposals are part of a politically correct plan that is being pushed forward as if it is pre-ordained, without any rational analysis of the impact that it is going to have on our neighborhood. We don't think the Transportation Authority is serious about an analysis of what would be the best and most efficient use of taxpayer's money while at the same time providing the best possible improvements to Muni service. We will be closely watching the Transportation Authority's activities and educating the community as this process proceeds.

Keith Wilson is the chairman of REAL-CAC and the owner of a small business in the Richmond District. He can be reached at

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At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merchants and car drivers fear change; form their own group with other residents who also fear change.

At 4:48 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

It's easy to pretend to be bold when someone else's interests are at stake. Is all change good change? The people in city government and their cheerleaders are ruining San Francisco. They fancy themselves as visionaries, but in reality they are pro-development philistines who are greasing the skids for what was once a great city.

At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Pobbs said...

I understand and mostly agree with your anti-development stance (except for Mission Bay which I think is fine), and i also understand the need for better review of systems that will cost hundreds of millions, but I've mentioned this before - the 38 Geary is a disgrace. Something desperately has to be done to fix muni and some kind of major fix on the Geary corridor is the key. I have spoken to many merchants on Geary, some of whom are understandably concerned about the disruption major construction would have on their businesses.

But the vocalists who are trying to , ahem, derail a bus or rail plan (at least those whom I've spoken to) have come across as overwhelmingly ignorant to a near comic pitch. They really don't understand. One of them referred to Geary as "Charming" in a recent interview. Of all the adjectives I could think of to describe Geary, that's definitely not one of them.

At 2:04 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I'm not "anti-development." But obviously there's good development and bad-stupid-ugly development. And then there's over-development, like in the Market/Octavia Plan. Without the M/O Plan---under the existing zoning laws---the city says there will be 2,255 new housing units in the project area by 2025. With the M/O Plan, there will be 6,000 new housing units and 10,000 new residents in the area. Why aren't 2,255 new housing units enough? What's galling is that the people in Planning actually think they are visionaries, that they know how to build new neighborhoods. There's no evidence for that delusional belief system.

I completely disagree about the 38 line. I often use that Muni line to get downtown, and rarely have any problems with it.

I agree that "charming" is not the first word that comes to mind in describing Geary Blvd. Still, based on what I know about other city planning projects, leaving it more or less alone is the safest option.

At 6:04 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"I completely disagree about the 38 line. I often use that Muni line to get downtown, and rarely have any problems with it."

This confirms you are just contrary for the sake of being contrary. As if there was ever a doubt.

At 8:00 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

That's my experience with the 38 line, and I'm sure a lot of others have the same experience, since I've never been on the 38 Geary alone.

At 11:10 AM, Anonymous murphstahoe said...

Rob, that's anecdotal evidence. If we are allowing anecdotes to substitute for data, then my assertion that there has been a massive increase in cycling mode share based on what I have seen on the streets should be an argument for increased cycling facilities.

Since you won't accept my anecdote, I won't accept yours. You want to state the 38 works well, get your sunshine act going and post the on-time performance of the 38. The DATA from MTA. Without that data, I reject your premise.

At 1:52 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

If my experience in the real world contradicts the "data" of the so-called experts, I go with my experience every time. My sense is that riding a bike in SF is mostly a political fad, not a serious means of transportation, let alone a phenomenon that compels the city to redesign city streets on the behalf of a small, politically motivated minority.

At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Is all change good change? The people in city government and their cheerleaders are ruining San Francisco."

Here, here. At it's height Geary had four streetcar lines fanning out to serve different parts of the Richmond, but that was dismantled to turn Geary into an expressway with half assed bus service.

It's good the City is trying to fix that mistake and that lunatic who runs the Geary Merchants doesn't get on the advisory committee again. He's even less in touch with reality than Rob, believing people never take transit.

At 10:04 AM, Anonymous Gretta Greety said...

I challenge you to find a single other person who is satisfied with the 38. It's probably the second most complained about line in the city after the J-Church

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The Geary #38 line is the most used bus line in the Bay Area, with more than 49,000 boardings every weekday ( Where are all the people complaining about it? If the 38 line buses were wired to control traffic lights and allowed rear boarding, it would make that line more efficient for its many passengers. Digging up Geary for years and spending $200 million in the process is what seems "lunatic" to me.

At 7:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If my experience in the real world contradicts the "data" of the so-called experts, I go with my experience every time."

I'm glad you so easily admit you're wrong and you just don't care.

At 9:17 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

If my experience contradicts that of the so-called experts, I of course think the experts are wrong, not me.

At 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A reasonable person would know their experience is biased by circumstances and defer to domain experts and the professionals in any given field.

What is your background in Rob? How much experience do you have in transportation planning?

At 8:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, no single one of us is going to have enough personal experience to make objective decisions about what Geary needs. We're all biased by our personal desires, which is why we have experts in that field to make educated and informed recommendation. What do you think makes your experience give you enough information that your personal opinion is better than what experts driven by data recommend?

A lot of your readers are going to say Geary needs to be more bike friendly (you're going to disagree, so do I, but because I think the bike route should be on a calmer parallel street like Page instead of Oak) and I think transit should be prioritized because it's the most efficient use of the corridor and since that's just opinion it is equally as valid as your experience.

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

My experience with the #38 line tells me that the city's plan to tear up Geary and spend $200 million for a BRT system is not justified. I've been riding the #38 since 1961. It's the busiest bus line in the Bay Area, and it's often crowded. But installing the technology to allow buses to control traffic lights and allowing boarding through back doors---which means Muni will have to hire more inspectors---would be a lot cheaper and make a lot more sense.

You mean like the "experts" in MTA and Planning that tried to rush the Bicycle Plan through the process with no environmental study? And the "experts" in Planning who are pushing the Market/Octavia Plan to rezone 7,000 parcels in the heart of the city to encourage overdevelopment and, by the way, four 40-story highrises in the Market/Van Ness area? The "experts" in Planning that are rolling over for UC on lower Haight Street? The "experts" in Planning whose traffic studies for both these projects don't account for the 45,000 cars a day on Octavia Blvd. that are already creating gridlock in the Hayes Valley neighborhood?

Cycling on Geary Blvd? Only a moron---or a political fanatic--- would ride a bike on Geary, and Page is more than a mile to the South of Geary. Post Street is a better bet if you're riding a bike downtown from that part of town.

At 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It looks like the commenter was referring to Page as a safer alternative to Oak, not an alternative to Geary.

You undermine your case that you know more than the experts with your so-called ad hominem attacks and loaded terms like overdevelopment and misleading statements.

The professional planners use data, studied the impacts of BRT in other cities (the MTA didn't come up with BRT, it's been very successful in other countries and you'll find that information in their reports) and don't make statements like Van Ness and Market is "dangerously under-developed" though with so many lots still vacant "under-developed" would be a legitimate statement.

You're no doubt aware those 40 story buildings are only allowed at the Market & Van Ness corner and not the entire survey area. The corner already has convenient access to transit (entrances to the subway at all four corners and tons of surface buses) and easier to drive through than to actually park at. There are not residences surrounding them to cast shadows on and no views to block that aren't already being blocked. A lack of parking in or surrounding the new towers and their proximity to Muni would attract non-drivers and the units would cost less by not having including the cost of parking.

At 9:17 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

What "experts" are you referring to? How much education does it require to become a "planner"? What does Planning's John Billovits know that the rest of us don't know? Nothing, actually. The traffic studies by the so-called experts in Planning for both the UC housing project and the M/O Plan didn't include the 45,000 cars a day on Octavia Blvd. Highrises and the BRT idea are just the current fads in planning circles, not necessarily sensible ideas for San Francisco. The corner of Market and Van Ness already has the hideous Fox plaza building nearby and the 100 Van Ness building as cautionary tales. These buildings are not only ugly but they create an exaggerated wind tunnel effect that will be aggravated with four more highrises in the area. According to the city's own figures, the M/O area already has 29,000 residents, and the M/O Plan will encourage 10,000 more with its 6,000 new housing units. Why is that good planning? Because of the false Transit Corridors theory? All these new residents are going to ride Muni and/or bikes? It's a reckless experiment in social engineering the consequences of which we'll be living with for generations.

At 5:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what's your degree in Rob?

Do you measure so-called "fads" on a geologic time scale? The high-rise, transit and bike "fads" have both gone on for well over a century, how long do you think the car fad will last?

At 7:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I completely disagree about the 38 line. I often use that Muni line to get downtown, and rarely have any problems with it."

Good example of how little personal experience Rob must have with the 38.

At 12:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why is that good planning? Because of the false Transit Corridors theory?"

Here's a secret Rob, people ride Muni, BART and the other transit system, millions of them.

At 9:36 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Here's a reality that's not a secret at all, Anon: Muni is already at maximum carrying capacity and BART is some distance away from the area that is being overdeveloped. That leaves bikes for the 11,000 new residents who will occupy the many market-rate new housing units in the M/O area.

At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the sound of "Dangerously under-developed" a lot better. Rob, if you're going to mislead and lie to people, you should come up with something more fun.

For example, there's already a wind tunnel going on at Van Ness and Market with the one and two story buildings so that's not much of a threat, but as most your readers and you don't know anything about structural engineering you could just say they'd fall over in an earthquake and kill people. If you're going to lie, do it with style.

At 3:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Muni is already at maximum carrying capacity and BART is some distance away..."

So there isn't a "false Transit Corridors theory" as you're earlier said, and Muni is heavily used despite their every effort to drive away riders with bad service.

Muni still carries over a half-million riders a day and the Van Ness & Market intersection where these highrises would be serviced by several of the most frequently served lines and just footsteps from all 5 rail lines at Van Ness Station.

Yet in your little world the people moving into these 6,000 new units will not be like the millions who take transit and would probably be thrilled to have that much service outside their door.


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