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Sunset District community shuttle could fill gaps in public transit, Mar says

San Francisco is taking its first step toward a proposal that might bring a community shuttle to the Sunset, providing District 4 residents with an alternative to driving in a neighborhood with sparse transit options.

Supervisor Gordon Mar made the official request earlier this month at the San Francisco County Transportation Authority meeting to have staff create a business plan for operating an on-demand microtransit pilot project within District 4, which includes the Outer Sunset and Parkside neighborhoods.

Citing the District 4 Mobility Study conducted by SFCTA staff and released last year, Mar said at the May 10 meeting that the study recommended further exploring a community shuttle for short distant rides to commercial corridors, neighborhood destinations and connections to major transit routes.

A key finding from the study was that only 4 percent of trips – one in every 25 – utilized transit to travel within the district. Carpooling was the No. 1 mode for traveling within the district at 37 percent, followed by walking at 29 percent, then driving at 26 percent.

Staff conducted public outreach for the study in 2020 through a virtual town hall to understand the transportation needs of District 4 residents. Another virtual town hall followed to solicit feedback on possible solutions to residents transportation needs. Two focus groups conducted in Chinese were also held along with a forum with merchants in the district.

Mar said:

With a business plan we can conduct outreach to inform this future potential service, identify potential service models and establish the operating requirements of a successful service.”

The City is in the process of working on similar microtransit community shuttles in the Bayview, Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island, the study said.

On Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island, the proposal includes starting a community shuttle as an on-demand service and then transitioning to a fixed route as demand increases due to redevelopment.

A presentation to the SFMTA Citizens Advisory Council this month showed an example of how the Bayview community shuttle would work, including possibly having residents use an app to request a ride, or by making a request through a call center. The Bayview shuttle would serve the neighborhood and possibly outside locations like connections to regional transit systems.

Mar told SFBay he also likes Sacramento’s SmaRT Ride, which offers a similar on-demand based service for specific neighborhoods. Mar added that an on-demand service would work better than a fixed route in his district:

“his would work really well, particularly in the Sunset District, which is low density, and I think it would work better than a fixed route community shuttle just because I just can’t imagine what the route would be to really allow people to get to destinations because we’re so spread out in the Sunset.”

Josh Kelly, who lives on 46th Avenue and Vicente Street, said he sometimes drives to the Ortega Branch Library with his daughter because it’s more convenient than public transit. He noted that he does bike when he is by himself, and would prefer to take public transit – if it were more reliable.

Kelly said he could possibly see himself taking the community shuttle when eating out with his wife, but said he would also like to see public transit improvements, including on the 18-46th Avenue Muni bus route.

The cost of developing the business plan for District 4 is $310,000. Staff presented the funding request to the SFCTA’s Citizens Advisory Committee Wednesday night. The proposal will go before the SFCTA board for approval at a future meeting.

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