(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Mission Street gets a new paint job

Temporary transit-only lanes are complete. Will faster, less crowded Muni service follow?

Transit-only lanes are in place on Mission Street between 11th and 3rd streets after just a few months of work, making them the first of the four Muni routes approved for temporary bus- and taxi-only lanes to be completed, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency recently announced.

The all-day, white paint-striped transit-only lanes are meant to speed up travel times and reduce overcrowding on the 14 Mission and 14R Mission Rapid routes by giving the buses their own traffic-free space to deliver service at higher frequencies.

These routes have been “a lifeline for essential trips during the pandemic” by serving transit-dependent residents and workers whose jobs can’t be done from home, the SFMTA said in an announcement last week.

According to SFMTA, almost 10 percent of trips on the two bus lines are at or exceeding capacity under new COVID-19 guidelines, which means drivers are having to bypass passengers hoping waiting at stops in order to comply with social distancing protocol.

Overcrowding makes essential workers late to their shifts, delays individuals traveling to medical facilities, pharmacies or the grocery store and disproportionately inconveniences those who can’t move around The City in their own car, taxi or ride-share vehicle or other alternate modes of transportation.

“Installing temporary emergency transit lanes will keep buses out of traffic so that essential workers and transit dependent San Franciscans do not bear the costs of traffic congestion” the SFMTA website says.

To address longstanding concerns over traffic safety along this corridor, the transit lanes were widened in comparison to regular traffic lanes on Mission Street.

“Previously, the lanes on Mission Street were too narrow to accommodate traffic and buses, which has contributed to unsafe street conditions and 225 collisions involving transit in the past five years,” the SFMTA website says.

Other transit-only lanes will soon be installed for the 19 Polk line on 7th and 8th streets in SoMa as well as for the 43 Masonic and 44 0’Shaughnessy lines along various locations in the Presidio, Masonic, Laguna Honda, Woodside and Bosworth streets.

This first group of transit lanes was approved by the SFMTA Board on June 30.

The 38 Geary and 38R Geary Rapid were also proposed by the transit agency, and were the subject of a public hearing on September 24. The City Traffic Engineer’s Office will consider it next for approval.

According to an SFMTA map, there are an additional three corridors that the agency would like to propose for approval by the SFMTA Board: Lincoln Way, Divisadero and California, Sacramento and Clay streets.

Residents are being invited to provide feedback on the efficacy of the lanes through an online survey.

SFMTA will also be tracking performance metrics such as travel time and ridership, it says, to help evaluate if the transit-only lanes are achieving their stated goals and whether any part of them should be made permanent.

These temporary transit-only lanes are just that: temporary. They’re implemented using easily reversible stenciling and painting techniques, and they must be removed within 120 days after the emergency order is lifted.

For them to be made more permanent, the agency would need to go through the regular public process required by state and local laws.

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