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Contrary to merchants, most take transit or walk to Geary Boulevard

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A recent survey by the SFMTA has found that most people walk or take public transit to Geary Boulevard east of Stanyan Street. (Aleah Fajardo/2016 Special to S.F. Examiner)

Most people visiting Geary Boulevard east of Stanyan Street arrive by transit or on foot, and those non-drivers visit businesses more often than drivers did.

Such are the findings of a recent “intercept survey” from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which saw a fleet of SFMTA staffers stopping people on the streets to ask them how they arrived on Geary Boulevard, between Stanyan and Market streets.

The survey was conducted as part of a study for the Geary Bus Rapid Transit project, which will see the 38-Geary and 38-R buses behave like trains, stopping at center medians and operating in “red carpet” transit-only lanes.

Those red carpet lanes are already in place east of Gough Street, but are planned to also run almost all the way to Ocean Beach.

Whether people arrive at local businesses by foot, bus or car is the heart of a raging debate over the SFMTA’s recent installation of red bus-only lanes as they spread citywide. Merchants widely believe their businesses are frequented by drivers, and oppose some major transit improvements fearing financial losses.

The survey was conducted on March 11, March 12, March 14 and March 15 (two weekend days and two weekdays), with more than 1,400 “valid” surveys, according to the SFMTA, in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

About 55 percent of those surveyed arrived at Geary Boulevard by transit, and 35 percent arrived by walking — a total of 90 percent. Only 6 percent arrived by car.
Of those surveyed who were “familiar” with red lanes, 68 percent believed the existing red lanes were “helping improve Geary bus service,” according to the SFMTA.
More than 54,000 riders take the 38 lines per day, making the route almost as heavily trafficked as all of Caltrain.

Transit-only lanes appeared in the Mission District and on Taraval Street recently as well, to controversy. Albert Chow, owner of Great Wall Hardware on Taraval, said his business has dropped since the L-Taraval received a transit-only lane.

“If it’s unattractive to drive, maybe customers will not go to their stores,” he said. “I’m down 20 percent. From last year, same time, I’m down 20 percent.” Out of more than 400 who offered written opinions to the SFMTA, many were also conflicted.

“Red line [sic] on Geary wouldn’t help much,” one person surveyed told the SFMTA, and another wrote, “Red lanes really help us speed the bus.”

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