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1 California Temporary Emergency Transit Lanes: Evaluation results and next steps

Route(s) Affected

After temporary emergency transit lanes were installed, or transit lane hours expanded, along the 1 California corridor, the SFMTA conducted a survey and evaluated the lanes to determine how well they are working. This included looking at metrics such as bus travel time, safety and effects on vehicle traffic. 

Evaluation results are showing that transit lanes are improving travel times for 1 California buses, with minimal traffic impacts to the California Street corridor. In response to stakeholder feedback and evaluation findings, we are recommending to maintain the new transit lanes with some changes to locations and hours.

Here’s a snapshot of our findings, or you can read the detailed evaluation report. Learn more about next steps below.


Revised Project Proposals and Next Steps

The SFMTA is recommending to keep most new transit lanes in place, with four recommended changes to respond to stakeholder feedback and evaluation findings. These recommended changes are summarized below and will be presented to the SFMTA Board of Directors for approval at a future meeting anticipated in January 2022.

1. Rescind the afternoon transit lane hours on Clay Street between Powell and Stockton streets in Chinatown.

Reasons for the change:

  • A white passenger loading zone at Powell Street and the queue of vehicles turning right at Stockton leaves little room for a usable transit lane on this block. Observations indicated that over 70% of buses were not making use of the transit lane on this block
  • Chinatown merchants have expressed concern with the loss of afternoon parking availability

Next steps: 1 California travel times on this block remain extremely slow. A future 1 California Muni Forward project is planned to consider a broader set of tools to improve transit performance along this block and the entire 1 California corridor.

2. Rescind south side general traffic afternoon peak hour tow-away lanes on Sacramento Street between Stockton and Montgomery.

Reasons for the change:

  • This responds to stakeholder feedback about an existing condition prior to the 1 California Temporary Emergency Transit Lanes Project and the COVID pandemic. During afternoon peak hours, both sides of Sacramento Street do not allow parking on these blocks. On the north side of the street, this towaway lane is for transit; and on the south side, this towaway lane is for general-purpose traffic. In light of reduced traffic volumes due to the pandemic, stakeholders raised concerns about the undue impact of not being able to park on either side of the street, plus the potential for excess lane capacity to lead to speeding.

Next steps: While this excess lane capacity is not needed at this time, the SFMTA will monitor conditions and could consider reinstituting the towaway lane in the future if traffic levels become so severe that transit performance is impacted.

3. Add two new blocks of AM and PM peak transit lanes on Clay Street in Nob Hill: between Mason and Taylor and between Jones and Leavenworth.

Reason for the change:

  • These blocks were not included in the temporary emergency transit lane project because there are two trees that overhang into the curbside lane on these blocks that would prevent a bus from operating in this lane. Because evaluation results show promising travel time improvements on adjacent segments of Clay Street, especially during the morning peak period, and because continuous transit lanes are more legible and effective than discontinuous transit lanes, we are recommending adding these blocks as transit lanes.

Next steps: If these new transit lanes are approved by the SFMTA Board, the SFMTA would then need to follow an administrative public process to notice and consider removal of the two trees. After completing this process, SFMTA would arrange for the removal of the trees and would plant replacement trees to address the loss to the urban canopy. SFMTA will strive to add two trees for each tree that is removed.

4. Continued evaluation of transit lane performance on Clay Street in the afternoon peak period in Nob Hill.

Reason for the recommendation:

  • Transit performance benefits were much clearer on Clay Street through Nob Hill in the morning than in the afternoon. However, commute travel to the Financial District has not yet rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. We expect the full benefits of the project won’t be realized until a greater level of this travel is restored.

Next steps: We will conduct ongoing monitoring and could make additional changes to transit lane design after Financial District traffic has returned and we have a better picture of longer-term transit performance.


 Have questions? Email us at TellMuni@SFMTA.com.

Or, drop in anytime during our virtual office hours on Thursday, December 9 between 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. to ask project staff your questions.