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Supervisor urges removal of parking spaces at Muni bus stops

A San Francisco supervisor is trying to ensure every Muni transit stop is accessible for all passengers, including for seniors and persons with disabilities.

At the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, Supervisor Dean Preston introduced a resolution urging the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to improve Muni transit stops where on-street parking is allowed.

Preston said:

“Allowing parking at bus stops and failing to provide unobstructed access to public transit, undermines San Francisco’s transit-first policy and poses particular hardship for seniors and people with disabilities.”

The resolution urges the SFMTA to develop and carry out a plan “to promote unobstructed pedestrian access for boarding public transit by eliminating parking in bus stops and making other necessary infrastructure improvements.”

Preston cited a study conducted by Marcel Moran, a University of California, Berkeley city planning PhD candidate, who visited and detailed amenities at every street-level Muni transit stop and detailed amenities — such as shelters and passenger seating — at each stop. Moran visited the nearly 3,000 transit stops and documented his findings from May to July 2020.

Moran’s study, “Are Shelters in Place?: Mapping the Distribution of Transit Amenities via a Bus-Stop Census of San Francisco,” published in the Journal of Public Transportation, showed 32 percent of bus stops lacked safe boarding zones due to legal on-street parking.

The parked vehicles force passengers to navigate around them and step into the street in order to board, the study said.

SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato said the agency adopted a Curb Management Strategy in February 2020 to guide the agency’s priorities for curb use in different neighborhoods.

The strategy addressed what are known as “flag stops,” where a bus or train picks up and drops off passengers next to parked vehicles. Flag stops are usually marked with yellow and black painted markings on utility poles, on the roadway or both.

The agency’s strategy report said flag stops create difficulties for seniors and persons with disabilities, forcing people in wheelchairs and other mobility devices to cross in front of parked vehicles to gain access to the bus wheelchair lift.

Passengers not using mobility devices are still required to navigate around or between parked vehicles without the benefit of extra curb space when stepping onto the bus, the report said.

The report recommended the SFMTA Board of Directors adopt a policy that avoids creating new flag stops and gradually replace those existing with actual bus zones. Community engagement will be needed prior to removing parking spaces.

Preston said SFMTA officials told him that they have not yet developed a comprehensive plan that addresses curbside access to Muni vehicles.

Pi Ra, San Francisco Senior Action and Disability transit justice director, issued a statement saying Muni bus stops should provide curbside access, adding:

“By allowing cars to park at bus stops, you are forcing people with mobility and vision impairments into the street.”

The resolution calls for the SFMTA to present a plan to supervisors within 90 days.

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