Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Dialogue on the Geary BRT

murphstahoe wrote:
The primary problems on the last [downtown] part of the [#38 Geary]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.

Anonymous wrote:
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.

Rob Anderson wrote:
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.

Anonymous wrote:
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.

murphstahoe wrote:
Parking impacts of bus lanes less than feared.

Anonymous wrote:

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 buses 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 buses 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).

Rob Anderson wrote:
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?

Anonymous wrote:
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, buses 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 buses are running in the middle lanes.

Rob Anderson wrote:
That makes the project sound almost reasonable.

Lots of information on the MTA's BRT site.

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At 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Geary BRT is an idea whose time is way overdue. LA converted the Wilshire line to a BRT arrangement about 15 years ago!

The transit signal priority signals are supposed to be installed regardless of the BRT project. Unfortuately, the major causes of delay on Geary are more related to the long boarding times. The single most effective way to speed up the Geary buses is to run low-floor buses.

There are three hidden "boondoggles" in the project which can take it from being being useful to being extremely expensive and potentially hazardous.

1. The left door bus proposal. There is a group pushing for left-door, center-platform designs. Doing this would slow down the vehicle procurement, create a whole fleet of special vehicles that will have to be stored somewhere new, and not be very useful if they have to be interlined on other routes. I think MTA regularly tries to kill the idea of buying left-door buses but the SFCTA won't let it die. The other drawback is that a standard center-lane design would allow for 2 islands for peds, while the center platform would only provide 1.

2. and 3. The Masonic and Fillmore tunnels. There are expensive proposals to modify these, and the benefits are just not there. To "fill" Fillmore will create a mess where people walking to and from the bus will have to compete with vehicles on the roadway. To turn the Masonic tunnel to be a "bus station" is just plain dangerous, because the station entrances will be in the middle of relocated traffic up on the surface and the station areas will need patrols or station agents to be safe.

Just like with Octavia Blvd, the City seems to prefer "pretty" over "practical" and the citizens are put in danger when these facilities open, especially if they are peds or bicyclists.

Stay tuned.

At 8:49 PM, Blogger missiondweller said...

BRT is a band-aid. The streets of SF are cluttered with cars, people and bicyclists. Geary needs a dedicated right-of-way underground. Yes a real subway. It would take many years and much money but any big city will show you this is the answer. We should start now. Geary's just going to get more crowded.

At 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geary needs a road diet above all else. It's a Hobbesian automobile hell at the moment.

At 4:13 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

A subway under Geary? It's not going to happen. If the subway from south of Market Street to Chinatown is going to cost $1 billion a mile, it's not feasible to dig a tunnel four or five miles long. Before we spend $200 million putting a bus-only lane on Geary, we should install the technology to allow Muni drivers control over traffic lights. That would go a long way toward easing the jam up that originates deep in the avenues, where damn near every intersection has either a stop sign or a stop light.

At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@missiondweller rail would take decades and leave Geary with nothing in the meantime.

BRT will speed up service right away, because unlike rail they can start using the lanes as soon as each section opens (I think I'd heard it was going to be 4 blocks at a time) where a rail line couldn't open until the entire line was completed.

BRT can later be converted to rail with little disruption to bus service since the busses could just move out of the lanes for blocks shut while they lay down rail.

The TA hates rail though (Muni seems to get all the rail projects) and wouldn't even look at the cost of making BRT "rail ready".


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