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Poll: SF residents split on transit-only ‘red carpet’ lanes

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A Muni bus drives in the red bus and taxi only lane at 16th and Mission streets. (Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco remains divided on the “red carpet” transit-only lanes that are appearing throughout The City, according to a new poll conducted for the Chamber of Commerce.

About 55 percent of San Franciscans are in support of the red lanes while 30 percent are opposed, according to the Dignity Health CityBeat Poll conducted by David Binder Research.

The transit-only red lanes, found on Mission and Geary streets, among other locations, allow Muni buses and taxis to circumvent city traffic.

The poll results differ only slightly from last year, despite heated opposition from some Mission District, Taraval Street and Geary Boulevard neighbors, where transit-only lanes have either been installed or may be installed soon.

And those lanes may soon proliferate to 50 other San Francisco streets, according to documents previously obtained by the San Francisco Examiner.

Erick Arguello, president of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District council, said the poll would have different results if it were conducted in The Mission, where some merchants and residents say the red lanes harm business by discouraging drivers from coming to the area.

“From what I hear on the ground, it’s a very different story,” Arguello said, of the neighborhood. “There’s a lot of resentment in the Mission corridor.”

That resentment was part of what drew 300 marchers in support of the cultural district to rally at SFMTA offices at 1 South Van Ness and at City Hall on Jan. 25, among other concerns.

In a statement, SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato said the SFMTA is “excited” by the findings from the Chamber poll.

“It’s great news that others are noticing what we have already found out and put into practice: Our recent study showed that on three downtown streets, adding red paint to highlight transit-only lanes caused fewer drivers to violate them, reduced traffic collisions and made Muni service more reliable,” Kato said.

The poll, taken among 500 San Francisco voters in January, also found wide support for other transit projects, except those involving bicycles.

Seventy-eight percent of those polled supported the extension of the Central Subway, which is still under construction, from Chinatown to Fisherman’s Wharf, while 16 percent were opposed.
Seventy-seven percent supported constructing a tunnel to extend Caltrain and high speed rail from Mission Bay to the Transbay Transit Center and 14 percent were opposed.

Bike lanes proved more divisive, however, with 47 percent in support of removing traffic lanes in “various locations around the city” to install bike-only lanes and 46 percent opposed.

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