Groundbreaking on long-awaited plans to bring faster Muni service, traffic calming and enhanced pedestrian safety to 19th Avenue will begin in November, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency announced earlier this week.
One of The City’s most highly trafficked corridors — as well as one of its most dangerous — 19th Avenue is set to get wider sidewalks at key transit and pedestrian intersections and traffic signal modifications to give people traveling by foot more time to cross the wide, busy street.
The 28 19th Avenue Rapid Project was approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors in July 2015 as part of Muni Forward, a system-wide initiative dedicated to improving and enhancing the core bus routes that served roughly 70 percent of riders before the pandemic.
Key to its mission is the advancement of San Francisco’s Vision Zero commitment, a pledge to eliminate all traffic deaths and severe injuries before the rapidly approaching 2024 deadline.
The six-lane 19th Avenue is known to be dangerous for pedestrians and those traveling by alternative modes of transit. Cars travel sometimes at breakneck speeds as they enter or exit I-280, and they often don’t slow down as they travel through residential neighborhoods.
Roughly two miles in particular — the stretches between both Quintara Street and Taraval Street and Sloat Boulevard and Randolph Street — are part of San Francisco’s High Injury Network, where a disproportionate number of traffic fatalities or injuries take place.
Plans to protect pedestrians include the installation of 12 transit bulbs, which makes sidewalks wider at bus stops, and 19 pedestrian bulbs, which widen sidewalks at corners to improve visibility, alongside improved signage and traffic signaling alignment.
Before the pandemic, the regular and rapid routes of the 19th Avenue bus were some of Muni’s busiest, carrying an estimated 20,000 riders per day.
Though ridership has since decreased, the bus lines remain an important North-South route on the west side of The City to provide residents access to schools, jobs, green space, health care facilities and other essential destinations.
The corridor has long been plagued by inefficient or unreliable service, however. Such slowdowns are even more problematic now amidst COVID-19 concerns, as they equate to more crowded buses and more time spent in an enclosed space in close proximity to others.
Bus stops will be cut in order to improve transit reliability. As of October 17, seven bus stops had been removed between Irving Street and Ocean Avenue.
These stops were “closely spaced,” according to the SFMTA blog post, and their elimination will “help reduce the delays” for the line “while preserving bus stops within a block of each removal to minimize impacts to people with limited mobility.”
SFMTA deployed community ambassadors along 19th Avenue for the first six days after the change.
District Four Supervisor Gordon Mar wasn’t yet elected when this project was crafted and approved, but his office does have concerns about making sure constituents are informed of these changes. He will be holding a virtual town hall on Saturday November 7 to ensure neighbors are up to date.
According to the SFMTA, staff members have sent over 10,000 postcards to residents near the project’s area, posted multilingual signs at all intersections and briefed the respective supervisors, including Mar in preparation for these stop changes.
That recent outreach, the transit agency goes on to say, is in addition to 1,200 postcards, 1,000 project information flyers to Muni customers, a 150-person survey and contact with 24 local neighborhood groups, 11 local schools and 17 local businesses in 2015 ahead of approval.
These transit reliability and pedestrian safety improvements are part of an even larger multi-agency effort to replace aging infrastructure and improve safety, known as the 19th Avenue Combined City Project.
Led by San Francisco Public Works, construction is expected to last 27 months total, starting this November and ending in 2023.
It will be divided into four segments to reduce disturbances associated with the build.
The first segment, which begins next month, will target 19th Avenue between Lincoln Way and Noriega Street. It’s expected to last 10.5 months.
In addition to the transit and pedestrian changes on 19th Avenue, the full project entails underground water and sewer main replacements or rehabilitation, infrastructure upgrades and eventual repaving of the street between Lincoln Way and Holloway Avenue by Caltrans.