Commuter Shuttle Pilot Program Reduces Conflicts with Muni, Takes Cars off the Streets, According to Evaluation
Conflicts with Muni buses were reduced and the number of commuter shuttle stop locations were halved under the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s pilot program to regulate commuter shuttles, an agency analysis of the program found.
“Our commuter shuttle program gets thousands of San Francisco residents to work, reduces the number of cars on our congested streets, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions,” said District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener. “This evaluation shows that the program is working, and it will help us find ways to address impacts on Muni and on our neighborhood streets as we work to make the overall program more efficient.”
"Before this pilot program, shuttle buses were operating on our streets like it was the Wild West, stopping all over the city wherever they found space,” SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire said. “Our goal as an agency and as a city is to always improve the transportation network so it’s safe and works better for everyone. Before the pilot program, the status quo wasn’t working. Now, because of the pilot, we have data to make informed decisions.”
In August 2014, the SFMTA began an 18-month Commuter Shuttle Pilot Program to regulate and better understand the hundreds of commuter shuttles using the city’s streets. The voluntary program included charging private shuttles to stop in Muni bus zones and shuttle-only loading zones, concentrated enforcement, and extensive data collection on the frequency and location of shuttle loadings.
The program included an analysis of shuttle activity both before and during the pilot program. The findings in the evaluation report released today include:
- Shuttles in the permit program had about 17,000 daily boardings on average weekdays, or 8,500 people taking a daily roundtrip from or within San Francisco
- Nearly half (45 percent) of shuttle rider survey respondents do not own cars
- 45 percent of those who do not own cars cited shuttles as the “main reason” they did not own one
- If the shuttles were not an option, nearly half (47 percent) of survey respondents said they would drive alone to work. That would translate to almost 8,000 more one-way car trips a day. That’s more than 2 million one-way car trips a year on what are already congested streets
- Only 5 percent of shuttle riders said they would move closer to work
- Shuttles remove nearly 4.3 million vehicle miles traveled from the streets each month
- On a per-stop basis, instances of shuttles blocking Muni decreased by 35 percent during the pilot compared to before
- 60 percent of the Muni zones analyzed in the pilot had zero conflicts between Muni buses and commuter shuttles
- Less than 3 percent of shuttle stop-events resulted in blocked Muni buses
- The systemwide delay per Muni run (Muni makes over 1,200 runs every weekday) is about four seconds
- When shuttles have their own separate stops during commute hours, conflicts with Muni are nearly eliminated
- Total shuttle stop-events (to either pick up or drop off passengers) increased 29 percent under the pilot, from 2,302 daily stops to 2,978 daily stops
- SFMTA enforcement officers issued 1,200 citations to shuttle buses from August 2014 to May 2015 during the pilot, an average of 103 citations a month. Some went to shuttles in the program for parking violations, some to shuttles not in the program for using a zone without authorization
- The number of shuttle loading locations is 124 – about half the more than 240 locations shuttle operators had sought to use
With limited exceptions, shuttles are free to use San Francisco’s streets regardless of an SFMTA regulatory program. The alternative to the Pilot Program was not the disappearance of shuttles, but instead a return to the pre-pilot days, when shuttles stopped at more than twice as many locations as they do now. The agency’s regulatory efforts are an evolving process. The SFMTA will continue to take into account community concerns as the city considers options for an ongoing program that provides data necessary to improve the transportation network.