In an effort to speed up one of Muni’s busiest bus routes, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors Tuesday approved permanent transit-only lanes along a stretch of Mission Street.
The transit-only lanes between 11th and First streets were first established on a temporary basis but will now be permanent fixtures to benefit Muni passengers using the local 14-Mission and its rapid route, which carried 33,600 boardings per day in April, or 71 percent of the pre-pandemic ridership, according to a SFMTA staff report.
In June of last year, just three months into the Covid-19 pandemic, directors approved a series of transit lanes as part of the agency’s Temporary Emergency Transit Lanes program so that buses would not get stuck behind private vehicles as more residents in The City were expected to drive instead of taking public transit during the pandemic.
The transit emergency lanes are set to expire 120 days after city officials lift the local health emergency, but it’s not clear yet when that will happen despite lifting of most state and local Covid-19 restrictions.
The Mission Street transit lane is the first of the program to become permanent. Prior to the pandemic, the specific lanes were only available for limited hours.
Transit-only lane expansion has shown to improve bus travel time, transit officials said.
Steve Boland, a transportation planner with the transit agency, said while evaluating the temporary transit lanes on Mission Street, staff found travel times were lowered between 18 and 20 percent:
“Of course part of this is due to reduced traffic, but they’ve remained steady since last summer even as traffic volumes in the corridor have increased by about 20 percent.”
The temporary project removed curbside parking and loading zones on one side of Mission Street, which reduced instances of Muni vehicles straddling lanes and swiping vehicles, the staff report said.
The permanent infrastructure requires reduction of approximately 175 parking spaces. Boland said 130 spots were removed last fall for the temporary project.
Jen Hall, the owner of The Nail Hall, located near Mission and 10th streets, spoke during public comment about parking reduction would hurt her business with out-of-town customers.
The pandemic forced The Nail Hall to close for of 2020 and when it was allowed to reopen, Hall said she was surprised that metered parking was removed and the curb was painted red. She called the changes “just another unnecessary blow to our small business.”
Many Muni passengers, including members of the San Francisco Transit Riders group, called in to support the permanent shift. Zack Deutsch-Gross, the organization’s campaign and membership manager, said:
“Making these transit-only lanes permanent will bring relief, access and mobility to tens of thousands of riders as our city returns and recovers.”