What is BRT?

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Editor’s note: We are pleased to have one of our outreach team members, Kate McCarthy, join us for a quick introduction to the exciting Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit project.

San Francisco’s first Bus Rapid Transit line is coming! In approximately one year, we’ll start construction on Van Ness Avenue to create a new bus service that will bring rapid service to two of Muni’s key bus routes, making them more efficient and reliable, and improve travel on one of SF’s busiest thoroughfares.

This widely used bus service provides an experience that is similar to riding a train but at a fraction of the cost. To create this experience, BRT systems typically feature dedicated transit-only lanes that separate transit from traffic, traffic signals that prioritize transit and improve pedestrian safety, enhanced boarding platforms that improve accessibility and low-floor buses that improve boarding.

BRT routes are found on every continent but Antarctica. BRT was born in Curitiba, Brazil, as a way to meet the transportation needs of their growing population. The success of the system first inspired a similar system in Bogota, Colombia, and is now improving commutes while reducing congestion and pollution in cities around the world from Guangzhou, China to Cleveland, Ohio.

Van Ness Avenue, one of San Francisco’s busiest streets, will be the city’s first BRT route, serving customers of Muni’s 47 Van Ness and 49 Van Ness-Mission routes, as well as the nine Golden Gate Transit routes currently serving Van Ness Avenue. The Van Ness BRT will provide rail-like service at nine stations along Van Ness Avenue from Mission Street to Lombard Street.

Transit travel times are expected to be reduced by more than 30 per­cent, improving Muni service for 60,000 projected customers daily, including those traveling beyond the Van Ness BRT corridor on the 47 and 49, to destinations like Caltrain, AT&T Park, City College, and Fisherman’s Wharf.

The Van Ness BRT project will also make it safer for pedestrians by limiting left turns responsible for 28 percent of pedestrian collisions (PDF), shortening the distance pedestrians need to cross Van Ness with pedestrian “bulbouts” and installing pedestrian countdown signals along the street.

The dedicated bus lanes coming to Van Ness as part of this project will make traffic less congested since buses won’t need to pull in and out of traffic. Optimized traffic signals will prioritize north-south traffic improving traffic flow, and limiting left turns from Van Ness will reduce the backups that cause traffic congestion.

Recently our Board of Directors approved the necessary parking and traffic changes to make way for the Van Ness BRT project. The project team is finalizing the designs for the two-mile project, including the streetscape, landscaping and lighting. Construction is expected to begin in late 2015, and Van Ness BRT service is expected to begin in 2018, making Van Ness Avenue safer and more efficient for everyone.

For more information about the Van Ness BRT project, go to sfmta.com/vannessbrt. Visit the project page to sign up for Van Ness BRT email updates.

Rendering of Van Ness Avenue with example bus rapid transit route in place.Rendering of the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit project.