UPDATE (October 8, 2007): I wrote up a three-post series on Van Ness bus rapid transit, in response to this meeting. Please click here for the first of those posts.
Are you a regular rider on Muni’s 47-Van Ness, 49-Van Ness/Mission, and/or 19-Polk lines? Are you tired of overcrowded, glacially slow buses and are simply seeking a fast, frequent, and reliable alternative to go about your day’s activities?
Muni and the SFCTA agree with you, as they are in the process of studying how to implement Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit, a project which would feature true transit-only lanes for buses on Van Ness Avenue, between Lombard and Mission. Van Ness is a major north-south transit corridor, and improvement to service in this corridor is long overdue. Although one could argue quite reasonably that Van Ness deserves a higher capacity rail solution instead of just more buses, a robust, well-designed BRT design can provide many or most of the advantages of light rail but at a fraction of the cost, and constructed much more quickly. At the very least, BRT is an interim solution that would make Van Ness transit a more pleasant experience and increase ridership in this corridor. Van Ness BRT could be delivered and ready to start service by 2011. The project is estimated to cost around $95 million; most of this funding would come from the Small Starts program, but about $20 million would come from Proposition K funding.
Instead of stops essentially every block or two, as we have now, stops along the Van Ness BRT route would be more widely spaced and would resemble light rail stations. Possible station features include landscaping, seats and shelters, and ticket machines — payment would be POP, just as on Muni Metro, to facilitate quicker boarding times. Instead of fighting against traffic lights and automobiles, buses would travel uninterrupted in their own lanes. Signal priority would help to ensure that buses are given green lights, so that the only stops made are at stations.
Much about the project is as yet undetermined, though, right down to the design. Different options are on the table as to the lane setup (side lane stops vs. center lane) and platforms (one island platform vs. two side platforms). Each design has different advantages and disadvantages, and a final decision has not yet been made. This is where you come in: this week, the SFCTA is hosting two public scoping meetings, which are a great opportunity to learn more about the possible forms of this project and to offer opinions on them:
- Tuesday, October 2, 2007, 6:00-8:00 pm. 1500 Van Ness (at Pine), Holiday Inn Golden Gateway (Crystal Room).
- Thursday, October 4, 2007, 6:00-8:00 pm. 100 Van Ness (at Fell), 26th floor.
Even if you cannot make the meeting, I should have a writeup at some future date with more details on the design alternatives, but the meeting is a good way to communicate your own thoughts on the project. Also, here’s an open invitation: if anyone will be attending the meeting and wants to meet up afterwards to talk transit over a beer or bite to eat, just drop me a line. I’m planning on attending Thursday’s session.
Above image courtesy San Francisco County Transportation Authority.