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San Francisco to install temporary HOV lanes to curb increasing congestion

Temporary high-occupancy vehicle lanes are coming to two busy highway stretches in San Francisco as part of an effort to improve public transit reliability as traffic congestion again increases.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors voted 5-1 to install the temporary, part-time HOV lanes along Highway 1 from Crossover Drive at Lincoln Way through Park Presidio Boulevard to north of Lake Street. The HOV lanes will also be implemented along Highway 101 at Lombard Street and Richardson Avenue between Franklin and Lyon streets.

The lanes, situated on the right-hand side of traffic, will be active on weekdays between 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. and will be open for use by motorists with two or more passengers and public transit buses. The 28-19th Avenue Muni bus line makes transit stops along Park Presidio Boulevard.

Tuesday’s hearing on the proposal drew support from transit advocates and opposition from some residents who said public outreach had been insufficient. Some residents voiced concerns over access to driveways and questioned how delivery vehicles and loading zones would be impacted.

SFMTA transit planner Steve Boload reassured those who called in during public comment that motorists can still access the HOV lanes to turn right, curbside parking spaces and driveways. He said that parking and loading spaces will not be removed as a result of HOV lane installation.

The Presidio Shuttle, which is operated by the Presidio Trust, stands to benefit from the HOV lane program. The free shuttle runs downtown to take people to The Presidio and uses Lombard Street as part of its route, said Emily Beaulac, transportation operations specialist with the Presidio Trust.

Beaulac said that traffic-delayed shuttles inhibit passengers who are trying to make connections with other public transit systems.

SFMTA Temporary HOV lanes will be established along select corridors of State Route 1 and U.S. Highway 101 in San Francisco, Calif.

Director Steve Heminger cast the lone SFMTA board dissenting vote. He questioned the decision not require three or more passengers for HOV lanes, adding that the two-passenger system will have far less impact on congestion.

Heminger said:

“Why start with something that you know is essentially not going to do anything good at all.”

SFMTA Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin said the agency is taking a conservative approach with its Caltrans partner, which has jurisdiction over the state highway corridors, adding:

“We don’t want to push too far and fail. We want to start at a modest, although fairly radical and yet modest level, test it and adjust until we get it right.”

A SFMTA staff report said any changes to raise the minimum occupants in the HOV lanes will require Caltrans approval.

The HOV lanes are planned to be in place until 120 days after The City’s emergency local health order expires or is terminated. Pending final Caltrans approval, construction of the lanes will start in May, which will consist of paint markings and signage.

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