Newsom: Less is more with bus stops

Some bus stops will need to be eliminated in order to make Muni more efficient, Mayor Gavin Newsom said.

“Less bus stops, less double parking and we’ll make a big impact,” Newsom told The Examiner on Wednesday. “There are too many bus stops.”

The City won’t start removing bus stops until next year, after the results of an 18-month, $2 million comprehensive study of how to improve Muni are released, said Newsom.

A preliminary report from that study revealed that San Francisco’s public transit system is the slowest compared with other metropolitan systems. Muni vehicles, on average, move at the rate of 8 miles per hour, compared with New York City at 14 miles per hour and Boston’s top speed of 18 miles per hour.

Muni’s sluggish pace is due to car traffic, double-parked cars, the number of stop signs, wheelchair use and the high number of transit stops, according to the study.

The transit agency has attempted to remove bus stops in the past, but has “received a lot of pushback,” Muni spokeswoman Maggie Lynch said.

In 2004, a plan to speed up the 38-Geary route was abandoned after hundreds of Tenderloin residents protested the elimination of neighborhood stops.

“It’s something we pride ourselves on, that you’re a block away or two blocks away from any bus stop in The City. But no city of our size has this many bus stops,” said Newsom. “We can’t run efficiently like that.”

In a 2005 report, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association said improving stop spacing was the “cheapest, fastest and easiest way” to improve transit speed and ridership.

“Studies show most people will walk a bit farther if their transit trip is faster — the Geary Limited proves the point every day,” the report noted. Newsom said Muni’s comprehensive study, called the “San Francisco Trasnit Effectiveness Project,” will detail which stops are most utilized and which are not.

“It’s going to be strategic and based on facts and evidence,” Newsom said, acknowledging that some people would still be put out by the removal of stops.

This week, the mayor received an outpouring of criticism for authorizing the removal of hundreds of trash cans throughout The City — in an effort to stop residents and businesses from using them for dumping purposes. When asked whether he was risking additional ire, Newsom laughed.

“You know, it’s something only a second-term mayor could get away with,” he said. “[Bus stops are] sacrosanct. You think, ‘Why would people complain about garbage cans?’ Now imagine a bus stop. You’d probably get recalled.”

beslinger@examiner.com


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