First splash of transit-only ‘red carpet’ lanes hit Mission Street

The first red paint that will designate Muni-only lanes hit the ground on Mission Street early Monday morning, signaling the start of a dramatic overhaul of the corridor’s traffic.

When finished, these “red carpet” lanes, as they are known, will secure a clear road for the 14-Mission and 49-Van Ness/Mission buses, speeding the ride for 65,000 riders.

Though the transit-only lanes will save just five minutes of travel time per trip, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency estimates that each rider will save 43 hours of travel time each year.

The idea that the red lanes are “painted” is a bit of a misnomer – the lanes are actually created by adhering red thermoplastic to the cement, according to the SFMTA.

At 9 a.m. Monday, a dozen or so workers began spraying adhesive to the cement and laying down red thermoplastic tiles between Cesar Chavez and 30th streets. Once the red rectangles were straightened on the ground, they were superheated by low flames connected to tanks of gas.

“Pending weather, we anticipate this to be complete by early-April,” said Ben Jose, an SFMTA spokesman.

Though sections of the streets may become red as early as March, Jose said it won’t be against the law to drive in the red transit-only lanes until “the signs are posted.”

Transit-only lanes will be installed northbound between Cesar Chavez and 30th streets, and southbound between 14th and Cesar Chavez streets. Under the plan, 13 bus stops will be removed, and one new one created, to speed up Mission Street bus routes.

Some of those bus stops were removed Feb. 13, with more set to be removed by April.

The 10,000 cars that travel Mission Street each day will see new rules too. Left turn restrictions will be set on every intersection on Mission Street, between 14th and Cesar Chavez streets. And between March and April, the SFMTA will also force right turns to divert northbound traffic on 26th, 24th, 22nd, 20th and 16th streets.

In its blog, the SFMTA apologized for the inconvenience of construction.

“We know construction is never fun,” the agency wrote, “but in just a few short months tens of thousands of Mission Street transit riders will have a better Muni ride and thousands of daily Mission visitors will get a safer walk in the neighborhood.”

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez
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Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

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