There’s no ideal solution to tech shuttle buses, but a few small improvements could make a world of difference. (Mike Koozmin/2014 S.F. Examiner)

Getting a handle on tech shuttle buses

For decades, many of us have tried to convince the Bay Area’s transportation agencies of the need to develop viable travel alternatives to driving. Whenever possible, people should travel collectively in carpools, buses and trains. Done right, this would ease traffic backups, reduce energy consumption, make travel safer and cause fewer parking problems. People traveling comfortably to work in buses are simply less troublesome than when driving cars in cities.

Privately operated shuttle buses got started because the public sector sat on its collective rear and did nothing as the traffic backups on Peninsula highways got worse and worse. Even today, San Francisco ignores the downtown extension of Caltrain, the one infrastructure project on the horizon that would both ease congestion and reduce the demand for shuttle buses.

Privately operated buses aren’t all that different from publicly operated buses … except that huge, long-distance cruisers are obviously incapable of successfully negotiating narrow neighborhood streets.

So where does that leave us? While there is no ideal solutions, here are three improvements that could be implemented right now:

1.) Shuttle buses could be prevented from interfering with or impeding Muni. No exceptions.

2.) Large buses could be required to stick to established shuttle bus routes. Routes could be laid out so as to avoid the need for extra-large vehicles to be making tight turns on narrow or crowded streets.

3.) Shuttle bus routes could be spread sufficiently to avoid overtaxing the bus-carrying capacity of individual streets.

A robust and consistent enforcement program underwritten by the shuttle bus operators could ensure that everyone followed the rules.

Gerald Cauthen represents SaveMuni, an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization created to help find ways of improving Muni and the other transit services leading into and serving San Francisco.

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