Thursday, August 10, 2006

Geary Boulevard BRT

Hi All,

I attended the District 1 Town Hall Meeting at the Presidio Middle School (450 30th Ave) in San Francisco on Saturday, July 29 and heard a great presentation on the proposed Bus Rapid Transit designs for Geary Boulevard. There were several hundred people in attendance at this meeting, which was hosted by Gavin Newsom.

Julie Kirschbaum, Senior Transportation Planner, for the San Francisco County Transportation Authority gave a 15 minute talk on the proposals. I will try to get the text of her remarks from her office and post them here. Her phone number is 415-522-4830. Her email address is

There are three options being considered.

* Curbside BRT
* Center BRT with Side Platforms
* Center BRT with Center Platforms

The Center BRT with Side Platforms seemed to me the best. With this design buses can pass each other and stay away from auto traffic.

One concern I've had about BRT all along is the impact on parking. It turns out that with Center BRT, the number of parking spaces on Geary Blvd will increase by 10%. When you change the system to eliminate curb stops for buses, a lot of parking is freed up. I would think business owners and other "stakeholders" along Geary would be happy about that.

From what I could gather in conversations with several people after the meeting, business opposition was due to the fact that the street would be disrupted during construction. I have no experience with this sort of thing, but I know that all kinds of civic improvements are disruptive to traffic patterns, sewer repair for one.

Overflow traffic onto streets paralleling Geary was discussed. According to Ms. Kirschbaum, 40% of the traffic on Geary would just disappear - I can't explain that remark, but hope that she can give her presentation sometime in Oakland or Berkeley and she could elaborate on it. She also said that a 20% increase in ridership was anticipated.

There was a small increase in traffic on streets parallel to Geary. There was some technical terminology that she used to describe this that was unfamiliar to me (vehicles/minute?). I think that she said that travel time between the Outer Richmond and downtown would improve by 20%, according to the modelling that was done.

The mayor pointed out that crossing Geary Boulevard would become much easier with a Center BRT option. Apparently Geary is 100 feet wide in places, and by having a wide center curb available, crossing the street is much easier. I would say the same would apply to Telegraph. How wide is Telegraph in Oakland?

The designs presented showed no separate lanes for bicycles. I submitted a written question asking about it. The mayor brought it up, and asked the planning staff to look into it.

The mayor took questions from the audience. No one spoke in opposition to the project, and there seemed to be general support for it.

NBC news videotaped the entire proceeding. I asked the cameraman if it was available as a webcast, and he said he didn't think so. This BRT presentation should be available online. I am going to ask Julie Kirschbaum if she can get the footage from NBC.

I looked for a story about this in the Chronicle yesterday (Sunday) and could find nothing. Did anyone see anything about it in local media?

I have some fold-out color brochures which I will be happy to provide to anyone who'd like one. I should have gotten a whole box of them, but only got ten. There are several people who've looked at the brochures and changed their attitude to BRT - several seemed to assume that they would be running along the curb, and would eliminate parking. When they realized that the Center Lane BRT was an option, and that more parking would be available, they saw it differently.

I was very impressed and excited by the whole event. I'd say the people in that neighborhood were looking forward to a much more efficient way to get from their neighborhood into the downtown area. The mayor, by the way, specifically mentioned the plans to construct a high speed rail terminal in San Francisco, and that the plan is to run the BRT to the terminal.

If anyone can get a copy of the videotape of the meeting from NBC of the BRT presentation, go for it. It would do a lot to change people's attitude about BRT, in my opinion.



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