SFMTA may amend Mission ‘red carpet’ bus lane project

The Mission District was seeing red. Now it may see relief.

Following a contentious neighborhood meeting Monday night over controversial “red carpet” bus-only lanes that were installed on Mission Street between 14th and 30th streets earlier this year, San Francisco’s top transit official said changes may soon be made to the project.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said the changes could come to new turn restrictions on Mission Street, which were meant to stop the 14-Mission and 49-Van Ness lines from being impeded.

The red lanes are were added in part to speed up the 14-Mission and 49-Van Ness, two heavily trafficked commuter Muni lines that provide more than 65,000 daily boardings.

About 8,000 car trips make their way along Mission Street daily, by contrast.

“I think from all the feedback we’ve gotten, the forced right turns seem to be the biggest concern to folks,” Reiskin said. “The message we heard loud and clear after the formal meeting ended was we need to act quickly.”

To that end, he said, his staff will review comments made at the meeting and then “we’ll get something to our [Board of Directors] in a month or two at least.”

Both Reiskin and Supervisor David Campos attended the meeting of more than 200 people — including Mission District residents who favor driving, local merchants who said they lost business due to the turn restrictions, and those in favor of the red lanes — who gathered at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts to air their concerns over the new red lanes Monday.

Above, a photo of the meeting on “red carpet” transit-only lanes.

Debate over the red lanes often mentioned gentrification. Many against the lanes said they were lifelong residents and natives, and accused those in favor of transit of being out-of-towners with no stake in the future of The Mission.

“The transit people were here, and now they’re gone,” advocate Miguel Bustos told the crowd later in the night as the room thinned, and said “that’s typical.” He said Mission residents will be the ones to live with street changes, not those who might live in San Francisco temporarily.

According to a survey conducted by the SFMTA, 83 percent of people arriving at Mission Street rode transit or walked there. About half of survey respondents primarily spoke Spanish.

Mario Tanev, a member of advocacy group San Francisco Transit Riders, said he’s traversed the Mission corridor for about 10 years and that the red lanes have helped to speed up Muni service.

“There were times between 24th and 30th where it’d almost take 15 minutes,” he said. Now his travel time on the same section of street “is three minutes, max.”

One constituency conspicuously missing from the meeting, officials said, were low-income Muni riders who live in the neighborhood.

Few if any speakers identified themselves as people who live in the Mission but also take the 14 or 49, and would benefit from the red lanes.

Those local Muni riders are 80 percent low income, and 80 percent of them are minorities, according to the SFMTA.

Reiskin said the SFMTA will work on increasing its outreach efforts.

In the video above, San Francisco native Darrell Rogers criticizes a pro-bus lane speaker, at the meeting Monday night.

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