Monday, December 29, 2008

Geary Blvd: a transit Rorschach test

What is it about Geary Blvd. that encourages people---especially bike people---to write silly things? Today's howler is from Peter Smith on his bikes-uber-alles blog: "Right now, buses can’t handle the load on Geary. They’re slow, unreliable, nobody wants to ride them, they’re just terrible all-around. Streetcars would probably be a good solution."

Several years ago, another bike guy named Smith---Matt Smith in the SF Weekly---denigrated the #38 Geary line: "the 38 Geary remains an underused extended sentence in transit jail."

In fact the #38 Muni is the busiest bus line in the Bay Area with more than 49,000 boardings a day.

What slows the #38 down are all the stop lights in the avenues between 25th Avenue and Masonic Avenue and, on the last part of its run, between Van Ness Avenue and Market Street. Streetcars or a BRT system, like the #38 now, would still have to deal with the stoplight, cross-street issue. 

A possible solution: installing a system that allows Muni buses to control traffic lights in their favor, which would surely be cheaper and less disruptive to small businesses and the neighborhoods than building a $200 million BRT or a new rail line.

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At 1:09 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

the primary problems on the last part of the run are

1) too many stops
2) traffic, especially double parked cars or cars parked in bus stops.

Combine those 2 and you have a big problem.

The city spent quite a bit of money to have a transit expert "figure this out", his recommendation to remove stops was not received well by anyone whose stop was on the chopping block.

One other amusing issue is that there is a bus only lane on Geary, near downtown, which is frequently used by cars who ignore the restriction. Anecdotally the google street view of that stretch of road shows 3 cars in the bus only lane.

At 2:08 PM, Anonymous Bike Rider said...

Yes. At last something about which I agree with you.

At 3:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geary is a near-total disaster. Any improvement to this street is likely to take lots of work and lots of time. I see older folks getting caught in the middle of Geary because they can't make it across the entire street during the pedestrian crossing cycle.

Geary is the traffic world, but it slices right though the urban world (kind of like 19th avenue, Van Ness, Fell, Oak, Divisadero, Guerrero, most of Soma, Lincoln and Fulton, King st, 3rd st, Ceasar Chavez, etc). This is why pedestrians are often killed by motor vehicles.


At 3:50 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The question is, What constitutes an "improvement" to Geary? Will the $200 million BRT be what the doctor ordered? I don't believe it. I'm 66 years old, and I never have trouble getting across Geary during the light cycle, but I do see older people who, for various reasons, can't move very fast and struggle to do so. Like the old guy who jaywalked with his walker and got run over recently, this raises a different question, which is, At what point do people become too old to be out on their own on the streets of the city? The old man killed on Geary ignored the pedestrian overpass nearby, which, though it requires pedestrians to walk up some stairs, makes it perfectly safe to cross Geary at that point. If someone is unable to even make that kind of physical effort to ensure his safety, he probably shouldn't be in that situation in the first place. As the caretaker of my 93-year-old mother, one thing I've observed about her is that her everyday judgment is much sketchier than it was even a few years ago. Trying to cross Geary with a walker where there is no crosswalk or pedestrian overpass is a good example of fatally flawed judgment common among seniors.

It seems unreasonable to assume that the city is obligated to make it safe for everyone under all possible circumstances.

At 10:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, it is not possible to make the city safe for everybody in all possible circumstances.

It is possible, however, to make the city safer for most people in most circumstances.

Enforcing speed limits, for example, would be a good place for us to start.*

*and if we are unable, for whatever reason, to uphold the traffic safety laws, we should redesign the physical environment to make things safer.

At 3:22 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Enforcing speed limits, for example, would be a good place for us to start."

How about enforcing traffic laws on cyclists? There are always howls of outrage when city cops give cyclists tickets for blowing through stop signs or are riding on sidewalks.

At 11:46 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Parking impacts of bus lanes less than feared

At 7:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two things which slow down the 38:

1) Badly timed lights.
2) Pulling in and out of traffic lanes to board at the side of the road.

Since the bus stops are at the corners, if there is a backup in traffic then busses can't get close enough to pull into the stop. Likewise, if there are cars using the bus stop as a turn lane and stuck waiting to turn the bus can't pull in. At a lot of stops, it takes just long enough to board people on the bus, that the light turns red and the bus is left sitting through the next cycle.

Putting busses in their own lanes will get them out of traffic (and open up all those bus stops for up to 150 parking spaces, but that's just a bonus compared to the 50,000 riders who get a faster bus)

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Instead of spending $200 million and digging up Geary for years, why not simply install a system to allow buses to change traffic lights in their favor?

At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Turning the center lanes into a dedicated busway is not the same as tearing up the streets to put down rail.

The center running lanes would be separated by a curb, and bigger concrete pads for the stops, making it more than just a resurfacing, but no more disruptive than rebuilding a sidewalk.

Because the entire thing doesn't have to be finished like a rail line, busses could start using each new block of busway as soon as it's finished.

Geary would not suffer the same kind of disruption as Third Street did because each block would only take a week or two (or more likely a month or two if it's run by Muni) and the merchants will even get more parking out of it right in front of their stores because the bus pockets on the sides will be converted to parking spaces once the busses are running in the middle lanes.


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