Bus Rapid Transit construction delayed again

Bus Rapid Transit
Construction for the Bus Rapid Transit system, slated to open in 2016, has been delated due to improvements made in pedestrian safety, new landscaping and traffic signals. Photo by Juliana Sevre.

San Francisco public transit has hit yet another snag in the road. Originally planned for 2004 and again in 2006, a Bus Rapid Transit system would have brought a high speed bus that functions like a “subway above ground” to San Francisco commuters. Most recently slated to open in 2012, construction has now been moved to 2016.

The first two BRT routes will be on Geary Boulevard and Van Ness Avenue. The initial Van Ness 2-mile stretch would run from Lombard Street to Mission Street. The plan is for the service to have its own street lane that is physically separated from the others by curb or rail.

One reason for the delay is that pedestrian safety improvements are being made, like reduced crossing distances to BRT stations and large elevated platforms for waiting commuters. Also new landscaping, road resurfacing and new traffic signals are all being implemented, according to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. Another goal in the project’s environmental impact report is the decrease of noise, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

“In addition to just BRT, we have a bunch of different projects being coordinated,” said Michael Schwartz, Van Ness BRT planner for the SFCTA. “There are lots of policy issues to work out because this is the first full-featured BRT in a dense urban environment, but hopefully after we get through the initial hoops it will be a proof of concept. A lot of our study on Van Ness so far has been the traffic situation. The BRT is going to be similar to the ‘rail’ experience but above ground with their own dedicated lanes to bypass traffic.”

The project is being led by the SFCTA, with the Federal Transit Administration and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency backing them up.

“The overall goal is to make bus transit operation more efficient, faster and improve on time performance,” said Paul Rose, San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency spokesman. “It adds another layer of transportation to San Francisco and its commuters.”

San Francisco commuters and students are always looking for better public transportation in the city.

“An express or rapid bus line would help with commuting a lot,” said Ryan Teen, undeclared major at SF State. “If they do it, though, they need to do it right. I have seen the bus-only lanes all over the city. People just drive in them anyway so I think the most important thing is having a fully separated lane.”