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Merchants, community organizations sue to block Geary BRT project

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Transit planners with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency say the Geary Bus Rapid Transit Project could allow riders to save up to 20 minutes per round trip. (Aleah Fajardo/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The Geary Bus Rapid Transit Project has been in the works for more than a decade, but a newly filed lawsuit wants local courts to “slow down” the project.

An environmental lawsuit against the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and San Francisco County Transportation Authority project was filed Friday in San Francisco Superior Court, taking aim at the controversial project that is intended to improve public transit from the northwest side of The City to downtown.

SEE RELATED: Transit officials approve key milestone for Geary bus project

The SFCTA declined to comment, and the SFMTA could not be reached for comment.

On Jan. 5, the transportation authority’s board voted to approve the final environmental review of the Geary BRT project, a key hurdle to kickstart the project, which would benefit 52,000 daily transit riders.

Geary BRT would transform Geary Boulevard to make the 38-Geary bus faster, and behave more like a train. Geary bus riders would potentially save “20 minutes per round-trip,” according to transit planners.

Merchants along Geary Boulevard, however, are worried construction along the corridor will impact their businesses, and have repeatedly tried to stall the project.

The suit was brought by San Franciscans for Sensible Transit, a nonprofit touted by Geary Boulevard merchant David Heller, a staunch opponent of Geary BRT.

“This action is brought to stop a grave error in judgment from taking form as a bus thruway [sic],” the claim states, “which destroys the quality of life and economic health of the Richmond District of San Francisco.”

The suit argues the final environmental review of Geary BRT contains “fatal substantive flaws,” including not analyzing the option to not build BRT at all, and that the report relies on “outdated data” and “unsubstantiated models.”

But Paige Miller, a former member of the now-disbanded citizens advisory committee for Geary BRT, contended the project has been thoroughly vetted.

“This project has gone through a decade of environmental review,” she said. “I think this lawsuit is a delay tactic by a small number of individuals in our community who haven’t liked it all along.”

The suit also notes that a soon-to-be termed out SFCTA commissioner, Eric Mar, was allowed to vote for the environmental review when a new commissioner, Sandra Fewer, was set to take his place.

Fewer now sits on the SFCTA board, and has publicly said she has concerns about the Geary BRT project, whereas Mar was a full-throated supporter of it.

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