Market Street, Muni / SFMTA, Rincon Hill / Transbay / South of Market, San Francisco

Cornered

Top: 3rd St. and Mission St., site of the new bus stop, courtesy of Google. Bottom: map courtesy of SFMTA, via SF Appeal.

Yesterday, the Appeal published a weekend Muni update mentioning a permanent bus stop relocation that will go into effect starting this weekend.  The update is ostensibly sourced from the SFMTA, although the agency’s official transit updates page lacks any mention of this particular item.  The bus stop at issue — served by the 8X, 30, and 45 routes bound for Chinatown — is the 3rd/Market stop, located on 3rd just south of Market, between Stevenson and Jessie.  Although the bus stop is heavily used — it’s about as busy as an average BART station — stop relocation and associated traffic changes were slipped into the consent calendar of an MTA meeting about one year ago, where it was given only cursory consideration by the MTA Board.

The MTA plans to make the following changes.  The bus stop will be moved south of its current location, to the north corner of 3rd and Mission streets; and the lanes of 3rd between Market and Mission will be restriped.  A new right-turn lane will be established on 3rd just south of Market, marking where motorists should turn eastbound onto Market.  The transit-only zone north of the relocated bus stop will be eliminated — so buses departing from the new 3rd/Mission stop would have to merge into the next lane over.  That lane will be widened, giving buses more room to maneuver when 3rd Street angles northward toward Kearny.

The rationale for this new layout is to minimize collisions between cars and buses on 3rd, just south of the intersection with Market Street.  The redesign also benefits motorists to the extent it improves the flow of traffic on 3rd, but there are impacts to transit riders.  There is of course the issue of removing a necessary, albeit unenforced, transit-only lane on this heavily trafficked thoroughfare.  But there is also the issue of shifting the bus stop south, which takes what is currently a very useful bus stop and makes it less useful.

Third/Market is a major transfer point, as many riders either disembark at this stop to transfer to one of the many Market Street lines, or they board here to transfer to a Chinatown line.  MTA data indicates the relative popularity of 3rd/Market and adjacent stops:

3rd/Howard: 876 daily riders board/disembark
3rd/Market: 6,973 daily riders board/disembark
Kearny/Geary: 3,078 daily riders board/disembark

The new 3rd/Mission stop would likely be busier than 3rd/Howard, and some riders will surely find the new 3rd/Mission stop to be more convenient.  All the same, the relocated stop lacks the same wealth of immediate transfer opportunities that are available at Market Street, and it seems strange on its face to move a stop that riders clearly find tremendously convenient, based on the data.

The Kearny/Geary stop is also very convenient to those transfer opportunities, and it basically functions as a second Market Street stop.  Riders boarding the Chinatown buses have naturally distributed themselves between the 3rd/Market and Kearny/Geary bus stops — and even with that redundancy, both stops can become quite crowded.  However, once the 3rd/Market stop is relocated, Kearny/Geary will be the only stop on the Chinatown line immediately convenient to Market Street.  The data shows that about 10,000 riders board or disembark at these stops each day.  That’s serious passenger volume for just one bus stop — and while it’s true that not every single 3rd/Market rider will elect to switch to the Kearny/Geary stop, many or most likely will.  Removing the two-stop redundancy could lead to further overcrowding and extended dwell at the Kearny/Geary stop, particularly at peak travel times.

If the issue really is primarily about safety and minimizing collisions between cars and buses at the intersection, then isn’t the better solution here not to create a wider mixed-flow lane, but to (1) maintain and actually enforce the transit-only lane, for a change, and (2) restrict right turns?  Perhaps the primary objective of the SFCTA’s Better Market Street plan is to remove at least some cars from inner Market, thereby improving the performance of surface transit.  Just how is that objective furthered by adding a dedicated right-turn lane on 3rd?  In fact, is it not an express goal of the Better Market Street plan to make this very route — 3rd Street to Kearny — a straight cross-through street, by prohibiting right turns from 3rd onto Market?  So why should we now invite motorists to make that very turn?

SFMTA, allow me to introduce you to the SFCTA.  You may want to get acquainted — or at least each acknowledge that the other exists.

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Discussion

17 thoughts on “Cornered

  1. The fact the SFCTA page in question cites the name of Chris Daly, in reverent tones others would use for Confucius or Buddha, tells me everything I need to know about that organization. Why are we wasting taxpayers’ money on yet another redundant bureaucracy?

    Transit passengers and car drivers are not mutually exclusive. I take that bus line home every day (getting off on Kearny/Geary), and I regularly drive down 3rd as well. I find highly objectionable the numerous demagogic attempts to make Market even more car-hostile than it is today.

    Posted by Fazal Majid | 13 August 2010, 5:04 am
  2. Thank you for the write-up. I was thinking the exact same thing. I never felt collisions were the problem, but the fact that (for the whole of 3rd street) the transit lane is a joke. It is especially a joke at the 3rd/Market intersection where right turning cars queue for several light cycles because of foot traffic. And to be honest, giving them a right turn lane isn’t going to solve the problem as the line of right turning cars will surely be longer then whatever space is given them. And let’s say it will be enough space, cars will be angling over so the rear half of their car might not even make it all the way into the lane.

    I just randomly saw this in the Appeal article and do not recall hearing anything about it. I think it is another underhanded MTA move to benefit drivers at the expense of transit. Status quo BS.

    Posted by mikesonn | 13 August 2010, 7:59 am
  3. I just wanted to note that since publishing, I’ve rephrased a few sentences for clarity (but no substantive additions).

    I just randomly saw this in the Appeal article and do not recall hearing anything about it.

    Yeah, if the MTA’s goal was to maximize the number of people who learned about this change in advance, this would have been a regular discussion item, rather than on the consent calendar. There was supposedly some outreach in the immediate area of the bus stop with positive feedback, but not a concerted effort to get a more comprehensive opinion from regular riders.

    Minor traffic changes are usually standard consent calendar material, but you can make a good case that the high passenger volumes at 3rd/Market demand more thoughtful analysis of the benefits and impacts.

    Posted by Eric | 13 August 2010, 10:27 am
  4. does moving the bus stop < 250 feet really make it THAT much less useful??

    Posted by t-sf | 13 August 2010, 10:43 am
  5. We’ll see how it turns out in practice. My two main points are this:

    (1) There is heavy demand for transfers at Market Street, and the new stop on the corner of Mission Street is not obvious to riders as a surrogate Market Street stop in the way that the current stop is. Meanwhile, the current stop is convenient to both Market and Mission streets; and

    (2) Adding the right-turn lane onto Market will put additional traffic on Market, which is contrary to long-term planning efforts and increases car/bus conflicts on Market Street, if not on 3rd.

    Posted by Eric | 13 August 2010, 10:57 am
  6. t-sf: You’re absolutely spot on.

    Eric: Have you considered the fact the stop at Stevenson is actually FARTHER from Market than the one on Kearny? Is it possible that more people use the Stevenson stop than the Kearny stop because you have a better chance of getting onto the bus? Heck, if you wanted to really be pro-transit, wouldn’t one of these two stops (literally less than one block apart from each other) be eliminated?

    Posted by EL | 13 August 2010, 11:13 am
  7. @EL

    Most of the people at the 3rd/Stevenson and Kearny/Geary stops are coming from Montgomery Station. The reason why most people walk to the Stevenson stop is because it is a shorter walk from the Market/New Montgomery exit than it is from Post/Montgomery to the Kearny stop. From turnstile to exit to bus stop, the walk seems shorter.

    When the Kearny stop was temporarily at Post/Kearny, I think that stop was being used more than Stevenson was. However, since a cop had to be posted to allow buses to cross three traffic lanes, it was cost prohibitive. I think everyone will just come to adapt to the changes like they did with the old temporary move.

    Posted by Jim | 13 August 2010, 11:33 am
  8. Eliminating this stop would be “pro-transit” if it maintained an honest and true bus-only lane. More amenities should also be built at the consolidated stop to handle a higher volume of passengers. Last I checked, these elements were not part of this plan.

    Please explain what is “pro-transit” about (1) eliminating existing transit-only street space, forcing buses to merge into mixed flow lanes and contend with very substantial traffic, and (2) encouraging motorists to turn onto transit-rich Market Street, where the City’s clearly stated goals are to remove private vehicles.

    Posted by Eric | 13 August 2010, 11:34 am
  9. The buses are already forced “to merge into mixed flow lanes and contend with very substantial traffic”. Where? At the bend on 3rd Street before reaching Market. It is true that the bus stop relocation and restriping doesn’t change the fact that buses have to merge. However, the merge no longer takes place at the pinch point AND the right-turners no longer block the bus.

    To clarify (since you never actually wrote it), you would support eliminating one of the two stops if the amenities were added, correct?

    I personally think that you’re confusing the issue of prohibiting of right-turns onto Market with the changes being done this weekend. I don’t believe that a right-turn lane encourages a motorist to turn. You’re suggesting that a motorist decides “Hey, there’s a right-turn lane… Let’s go turn right!” The right-turn lane only separates those who want to turn from those who want to go straight (like the bus?). In fact, closing the right-turn lane would probably make it easier to prohibit right-turns, if/when such prohibition takes place.

    Posted by EL | 13 August 2010, 12:02 pm
  10. Good to see this mistake get more attention. I had a brief back and forth with one MTA Bd member when it came up months back. He cited the accident issue which of course would be best addressed by giving the buses a queue jump light and lane. The “transit first” facilitation of autos is unacceptable. As to stop elimination, more people board at these two stops than use entire routes elsewhere. Bottom line 3rd Street needs a fully exclusive transit lane with serious enforcement.

    Posted by david vartanoff | 13 August 2010, 12:04 pm
  11. @EL:

    Re: eliminating one of the stops — I would support further study of it, if coupled with other appropriate changes, such as making Kearny/Geary a more civilized stop. That said, Market Street is a special situation in so many ways, and as long as the bus has to stop at a light anyway, there are benefits to having stops on both the north and south sides of Market. So my stance on that issue very much depends on the fine details of the proposal.

    No issues are being confused here. As a daily Muni rider, I am quite aware that current transit conditions in this section of the route are far from ideal, and that buses are already forced to contend with cars. As David Vartanoff pointed out, the way to address that is to extend transit-only coverage (and then actually enforce it), not retract it. As long as a change is being made at all, why not take the time to develop a truly superior solution?

    There is a lack of coordination between MTA and the TA. Had this been taken off the consent calendar and relisted as a proper discussion item at the MTA Board, there would have been opportunity to point out that this change runs contrary to ongoing planning efforts. Just because we’re not implementing all of Better Market Street immediately doesn’t mean that we should ignore that plan’s objectives. The whole point of creating a plan is so that it guides and rationalizes decision-making.

    The bottom line is that in this case, a solution exists that both (1) addresses MTA’s legitimate safety concerns, and (2) produces a truly transit-first result that is consistent with (and actually enhances) other planning efforts. But that’s not what’s happening.

    Posted by Eric | 13 August 2010, 12:51 pm
  12. I think the problem with eliminating right turns onto Market at 3rd is that Mission is already hostile to turns. If you’re stuck on Mission for whatever reason, sometimes the only way to get certain places is to make this right after circling blocks.

    I’m all for Muni improvements, but all this is doing is taking a transit lane that’s really not used as a transit lane and making it a right-turn lane which it already is. The right turns are already happening, and this makes it safer for everyone.

    I’m always impressed at the outrage over such tiny distances in SF. This is moving from one mini-block (i.e. 1/3 of a block) south of Market to another.

    Posted by JimBobJones | 13 August 2010, 12:58 pm
  13. The “outrage” (which it really isn’t anyway) is over the right hand (SFMTA) not talking to the left (SFCTA) and then neither talking to the public.

    Posted by mikesonn | 13 August 2010, 1:06 pm
  14. The traffic signal at Stevenson was the first shot fired in the attack on this bus line. I note that no lengthy public process was used before installing that one.

    Posted by Jeffrey W. Baker | 15 August 2010, 12:51 pm
  15. PS I still claim, and have the numbers to back it up, that just banning right turns from Third on to Market would deliver close to half the “benefit” of the Central Subway at two billion dollars less cost.

    Hmmm… decisions, decisions … And now one guess: what do you supposed is SFMTA’s, SFCTA’s, MTC’s and especially PBQD’s very tippity-toppest and sole priority for San Francisco transit for the next 30 years?

    Posted by Richard Mlynarik | 16 August 2010, 11:54 am
  16. I prefer the 3rd/Stevenson stop when the weather is crappy, I can huddle under the overhang in front of Office Depot/CPK. As previously mentioned, there are no shelters at all at Kearny/Geary.

    With the amount of ridership at those 2 stops, consolidating them (without all-door boarding/POP) would make Kearny/Geary a zoo.

    Posted by Tony | 17 August 2010, 8:40 pm

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