New Muni changes may leave Lake Merced residents stranded

Far out in San Francisco’s western and southern neighborhoods lies the “Outerlands.”

As the crow flies, they’re not so distant from The City’s urban core. But a lack of direct connection to BART, Muni’s train lines and Muni’s main commuter buses, make the so-nicknamed Outerlands feel worlds away from the rest of San Francisco, residents say.

Amid this transportation drought the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency announced new transit increases on the west side as part of its Muni Forward plan.

For those living south of Lake Merced, however, the changes are a double-edged sword.

Residents say the re-routes will further distance them from downtown, stranding them at the southern tip of the lake.

Hundreds in the southern and westernmost corner of San Francisco will soon lose access to the 18-46th Avenue line, a crucial connector between Lake Merced and more robust transit options near Stonestown Mall.

Starting Sept. 26, the 18-46th Avenue will reroute to better serve Lowell High School and the dense neighborhoods near Sloat Boulevard.

Robert Lyles, an SFMTA spokesman, said the 18-46th Avenue has 4,000 daily riders, 400 of whom are along Lake Merced Boulevard, Skyline Boulevard and John Muir Drive — the residents protesting the route changes.

For the 3,600 benefitting, Lyles said, “We expect the trip for the riders of the 18 to get both faster and more reliable with the route change.”

And for the remaining 400, he said, while transit time “will take longer than it does today, the 57 route will now provide a connection to Daly City BART and Lakeshore Plaza while maintaining access to SF State, Stonestown and West Portal.”
In a world of limited resources, SFMTA makes choices of where to cut, and where to boost service.

But neighbors said the new 57 route could balloon their commute by as much as an hour. They created a petition calling for their neighbors to “Save #18 Bus for Lake Merced Hill.”

Taya Gorin lives at Lake Merced Hill, a cluster of about 200 residential units at the south side of the lake. Her hour-long commute may soon be far longer, she said.

“Now, we are not a big community,” she said, “but we still need something.”

Gorin and a group of neighbors gathered on Labor Day to take the Examiner on a tour of their transit options.

Their closest bus stop is a pole on a patch of dirt. It sits along Lake Merced Boulevard, but that side of the street doesn’t have a proper sidewalk.

Another resident, Victoria Isyanova, said she and her adult daughter have both waited at the dirt patch bus stop many times, only to see the 18 pass them by without stopping, filled to the brim with passengers.

Though the stop is not pretty and the bus is inconsistent, neighbors said, they at least had a direct route downtown via Muni. That will no longer be the case.

Instead of a zippy 18 ride to San Francisco State University and Stonestown Mall, near the M train, residents will take the 57-Parkmerced. The new 57 bus route will travel down Brotherhood Way and off to Daly City BART station.

The 57 then doubles back, up Font Boulevard along nearby townhomes, before turning right to connect to SFSU, and eventually 19th Avenue and the West Portal neighborhood.

Students living nearby will lose out too, like Miriam Valenzubla, a 20-year-old SFSU junior who just moved to an apartment at Lake Merced. Her commute would extend from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, she said. “It’s more difficult to take a bus all around Parkmerced just to get to school,” she said.

Lyles said SFMTA staff is aware of residents concerns. “Staff is looking into additional options for service coverage along Lake Merced Boulevard, specifically between Brotherhood Way and Font Boulevard,” he said.

Supervisor Norman Yee, whose district includes Lake Merced, said “My feeling is we don’t have adequate service” in the southern neighborhoods.

Yee is optimistic about the new route changes, but will press SFMTA to meet neighbor concerns.

But so far, residents said no solutions have been forthcoming.

(Courtesy SFMTA)
(Courtesy SFMTA)
Route changes to 18-46th Avenue and 57-Park Merced lines
•The 57 Parkmerced will run every 20 minutes instead of 30 minutes.
•The 18 46th Ave will run every 20 minutes instead of 25 minutes on weekends.

Lake Merced will connect to Daly City BART
•The 57 Parkmerced will pick up and drop off at Daly City BART.
•18-46th Avenue customers along Lake Merced will now be served by 57 Parkmerced.

57 Parkmerced customers on 19th Avenue from SF State to Stonetown, use the 28/28R 19th Avenue.

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