MUNI Sits Down with Riders on Proposed Route Changes

Saturday's workshop reviewed popular stretches of the 30-Stockton and 8X-Bayshore Express bus routes.

By Sasha Lekach
|  Saturday, Apr 7, 2012  |  Updated 10:47 PM PDT
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About a dozen concerned Muni riders arrived at the second of 10 scheduled meetings this spring to discuss aspects of the agency's Transit Effectiveness Project, or TEP.

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Community members shared concerns and suggestions for two heavily-used San Francisco Municipal Rail bus routes at a workshop held at an elementary school in San Francisco's Chinatown neighborhood Saturday.

About a dozen concerned Muni riders arrived at the second of 10 scheduled meetings this spring to discuss aspects of the agency's Transit Effectiveness Project, or TEP.

TEP is the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's effort to speed up travel times and improve reliability through traffic engineering and bus stop changes, all based on community feedback.

Saturday's workshop reviewed popular stretches of the 30-Stockton and 8X-Bayshore Express bus routes at Gordon Lau Elementary School at 950 Clay St. at 10 a.m.

The two-hour meeting kicked off with San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, whose district includes the Chinatown area.

"I'm a huge fan of what (TEP) is about," the supervisor said.

Noting changes along the 30-Stockton bus route, which services District 3, his district, he said, "This will obviously speed up the time at boarding areas."

Chiu also mentioned the implementation of all-door boarding, scheduled to begin July 1 -- a $1 million project his office supported in an effort to hasten loading times.

SFMTA Operations Planning Manager Julie Kirschbaum, TEP's program manager, led the workshop, outlining the agency's plans to improve the bus system.

She overviewed four goals to improve riders' bus experiences including implementing all-door boarding; improving buses and signage; adding transit signal priority technology to keep green lights green to keep buses moving through intersections; and enforcing and creating transit-only lanes.

The transit signal technology, a strategy that piqued the interest of the audience, has a $20 million price tag but is in the works to be on Stockton Street buses in the next two years, according to Kirschbaum.

The program manager laid out the plans to implement the proposed changes to at least eight bus routes throughout the city.

She said the proposed changes, finalized after feedback sessions starting this spring and continuing through 2013, are expected to reach the board sometime in 2013 and -- once approved -- begin to take shape in 2014.

With a focus on community needs, SFMTA engineers led small groups through specific changes along portions of bus routes.

Chis Pangilinan, an associate Muni engineer, explained to about six attendees time-saving efforts along a 2.5-mile stretch from O'Farrell to North Point streets along the Stockton bus path.

Three others sat at a nearby table to hear about the changes in a Chinese language group while another three worked with engineer Tony Young on improvements to the 8X-Bayshore Express from San Bruno Ave and Silver Street to Geneva and Ocean avenues.

Increasing bus stop spacing from one to two blocks, moving stops to align with stop signs, widening streets and adding bus bulbs --  a sidewalk extension -- were all proposed to save what Pangilinan calculated as seven minutes of travel time on the Stockton route.

Stockton bus riders seemed accepting of the proposals and added their two cents block-by-block, detailing stops where the bus fills up, or where delivery trucks slow their commute and where parking needs to go to give way to wider streets.

"I rely on Muni," said Chinatown resident Jim Fong, himself an architect who often works with city planning. He noted the Chinatown-North Beach stretch of the bus ride is packed both on the bus and on the road, while other parts of the ride are empty.

Representing a younger demographic, 23-year-olds Lunar Mai and Christina Tang, both living in Chinatown, said they are constantly dealing with packed buses. They both have gotten involved with Chinatown Transportation Research and Improvement Project, or TRIP, a transportation advocacy group for the neighborhood, which brought them to today's meeting.

Mai said she felt her comments about Muni were being heard today, but she knows "it's going to take a while" for any of the changes to be made.

Muni faces $19.6 million and $33.6 million operating budget deficits for fiscal years 2013 and 2014, respectively, according to agency staff.

To complement SFMTA money set aside for the project from the agency's proposed budget, Kirschbaum said funding from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has been reserved along with grants from federal and state sources, which have an interest in these type of projects that anticipate improved service and increased ridership.

The community workshops began March 31 at Jefferson Elementary School and will be interspersed throughout April. A final general meeting has been called for May 5 at SFMTA headquarters at 1 South Van Ness Ave. at 10 a.m.

To see the full TEP meeting schedule visit sfmta.com/tep.

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