Muni study breaks down priorities, could lead to major overhaul

The City’s first comprehensive transit study in more than a quarter-century is coming to a close, and soon commuters will get a first glimpse of a long-term plan that outlines distinct priorities for the oft-maligned and frequently off-schedule Muni.

Following the release of findings from the Transit Effectiveness Project, an 18-month, $2 million comprehensive study of how to improve Muni, officials expect to revamp the system starting as early as April 2009. One of the major components of the study’s proposed recommendations is a plan to prioritize transit needs for The City’s bus and rail system into four categories of service.

The City’s “rapid network” will receive the most attention, with speed being one of its top priorities, Municipal Transportation Agency head Nathaniel Ford told The Examiner. Muni vehicles move at an average of 8 mph, compared with New York City at 14 mph and Boston’s top speed of 18 mph. Muni routes included in the rapid network — which the agency would target for a 15 percent to 20 percent travel speed increase — are the 14-Mission, 38-Geary and 30-Stockton, according to Ford.

Within the rapid network, Muni would use transit-only lanes and bigger and better-placed bus stops to help the most popular lines in Muni’s system arrive every five to 10 minutes, Ford said, adding that removing bus stops would likely be done to improve Muni service.

Routes included in the second tier, called the “local network,” are the 21-Hayes, 29-Sunset and the 44-O’Shaugnessy lines with up to 12,000 boardings per day, compared with those in the rapid network, which can average around 50,000 boardings, according to Muni data.

Routes in this category would also receive improvements, including new “bus bulbs,” sidewalk outcroppings that often replace part of the parking lane, which allows a bus to pick up passengers without pulling over.

With system improvements will also come cutbacks, according to a January draft update on the TEP’s proposed service development framework, which notes that “poorly performing routes” or segments of routes would be modified or discontinued.

The third tier of Muni service under the proposed framework would be the “community connector” network. These routes would be redesigned to take the shortest journey to connect to the major transportation arteries, Ford said, noting that the 37-Corbett and the 52-Excelsior could become connectors.

“Some buses are meandering through the hills and not getting people through,” Ford said. “We’re going to have to look at different ways to offer service.”

The fourth level of service would be for “special markets” and would include shuttles as vans that go to the Presidio or local hospitals.

bbegin@examiner.com

Four-tiered approach

One proposal for overhauling Muni is to split bus and rail service into four categories

RAPID NETWORK

» Goals: 15 percent to 20 percent improvement in service speed, 5-10 minute waits

» Changes proposed: Transit-only lanes, signal priority, station improvements

» Examples: 38-Geary, 14-Mission, 30-Stockton, all light rail

LOCAL NETWORK

» Goals: 10 percent to 15 percent improvement in service speed, 10-15 minute waits

» Changes proposed: Bus bulbs, bypass lanes, enhanced pedestrian access

» Examples: 21-Hayes, 29-Sunset, 44-O’Shaugnessy

COMMUNITY CONNECTOR

» Goals: 5 percent to 10 percent improvement in service speed, 15-30 minute waits

» Changes: Some bus bulbs, reduced service, shuttle van service

» Examples: 37-Corbett, 52-Excelsior

SPECIAL MARKET

» Goals: Increase services around special events such as sporting events

» Changes: Shuttle buses, taxis and vans to ease congested areas

Source: San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

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