Commuters exit Muni Bus 29 at San Bruno Avenue and Dwight Street in San Francisco Tuesday September 13, 2016. (Dan Chambers/Special to S.F. Examiner)

SF approves sweeping improvements to San Bruno Avenue bus lines, parking, pedestrian safety

San Bruno Avenue in San Francisco’s south side is set for a major transit overhaul, including faster buses, more parking and improved pedestrian safety efforts after changes to the corridor were approved by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors on Tuesday.

The corridor along San Bruno Avenue from Arleta Street to Rickard Street ferries 50,000 daily Muni riders, including on the 9-San Bruno line. A majority of San Bruno Avenue’s bus riders are low-income and people of color, according to the SFMTA.

It’s also the “heart” of Portola’s commercial corridor, staff said, and the plan sprung from the community itself after they asked for numerous street changes.

Unlike other recent controversial changes to speed public transit — like the L-Taraval in the Sunset or the red carpet, bus-only lanes on Mission Street — the Portola changes were met with overwhelming support from the community in the SFMTA meeting.

Chris Waddling, head of the Portola Neighborhood Association, thanked SFMTA staff for helping when they were asked.

“We have a large elderly population in the neighborhood who walk their grandchildren to programs,” Waddling said. “They’re at risk at the moment, [and] we expect that to be addressed.”

Matthew Brill, an SFMTA planner, told the board the safety changes were also needed because San Bruno Avenue is a high-injury corridor, with 37 pedestrian injury collisions in seven years.

To make the corridor safer, the project will install new “daylighting” to make pedestrian zones more visible, flashing beacons, seven pedestrian “bulb outs” so walking across the street is faster, and bike lanes between Paul Avenue and Mansell Street.

Waddling said buses “bunching” together is a huge issue.

To speed buses, the corridor will net a new traffic signal, five transit “bulb outs” so buses don’t need to pull over for pickup, and morning tow-away zones to ease congestion approaching Alemany Street.

Muni travel time will ultimately be reduced by 15 percent, according to the SFMTA.

Public outreach began in 2015, including not only the traditional open house model but “pop up” demonstrations of new bus changes at bus stops, Brill said. Meetings were also held by staff directly speaking Cantonese, Brill said, which is unique — SFMTA usually provides translation of English speaking staff via headsets.

Attendance boomed dramatically because the meetings were in Cantonese, he said.

“It was pretty astounding to see that,” Brill told the board, “and rewarding.”

In what may be another unique move, the plan also calls for more parking.

“From a parking perspective we expect the supply of parking to actually increase on an hourly basis,” Brill told the board. “That’s through a lot of work from our team to better manage loading zones and meters.”

Board Director Joel Ramos told Brill he’d “like to have seen more, though this is a great step in the right direction.”

Brill said adding improvements like a bus-only lane were tough to implement on San Bruno Avenue because there are only two lanes of traffic in each direction.

“We have a little less room to be creative,” he said.

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