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Geary transit lanes get permanent status

More temporary emergency transit lanes installed during the pandemic on San Francisco’s busiest corridors have made it to permanent status.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors Tuesday approved the permanent transit lanes on portions of Geary Boulevard between Stanyan Street and 33rd Avenue permanent.

The lanes were installed in October as part of the agency’s effort to maintain some of the travel time savings seen when private vehicle traffic diminished due to pandemic shutdowns.

Project manager Liz Brisson said the Temporary Emergency Transit Lanes program made it possible to speed up Muni travel with dedicated lanes covering about 75 percent of the Geary corridor.

She said:

“One of the objectives of this project is to provide a fast and reliable transit trip for the people that are using the bus line each day.”

Brisson said that travel time decreased by 13 percent compared to pre-pandemic data and that the Geary route is maintaining between 50 and 75 percent of the time savings due to the transit lanes.

In addition to the lanes, the corridor was also given five wooden bus bulbs and signals that give buses a couple seconds head start before general traffic.

As a vital connection between the Richmond District and the downtown area, the 38 and 38R are among the busiest in the Muni bus system. The SFMTA staff report said the route saw more than 56,000 daily boardings prior to the pandemic, the SFMTA staff report said.

A Geary Rapid Project, which will improve transit service along the corridor, has been in the works for more than a decade. The project’s first phase is underway and nearing completion this summer, the staff report said. The project includes dedicated side-running transit lanes east of Stanyan Street.

The second half of the project west of Stanyan Street through 34th Avenue, known as the Geary Boulevard Improvement Project, was put on pause due to the pandemic.

Original plans for the second phase included dedicated center-running transit lanes running from Arguello Boulevard to 28th Avenue. Brisson said that based on how well temporary transit lanes have performed and based on findings from the first phase, staff is now recommending a plan shift to the side-running design project portion west of Stanyan Street.

Additional outreach will be required prior to finalizing the new design so the community understands why staff recommends deviation from the original plan, Brisson said. She anticipates that the new design will be submitted to the SFMTA board for approval by early next year.

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