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Noe Valley Commuter Shuttle Next Steps

Dear Noe Valley Neighbors and Stakeholders,

Below is a detailed summary of the input the SFMTA heard at the April Noe Valley commuter shuttle open house and through other communications, as well as how the SFMTA is proposing to move forward. A public hearing on the proposed shuttle stop changes will be held on Friday, June 16, 2017 at 10am in City Hall Room 416.

Introduction

The SFMTA’s Commuter Shuttle Program regulates employer-provided buses in San Francisco, allowing them to load in a network of designated stops in exchange for paying a fee and complying with a set of permit terms and conditions. In April 2016, the SFMTA implemented a new rule restricting shuttles over 35 feet in length to state-designated arterial streets. In Noe Valley, this rule meant that most shuttles could only travel on Castro Street north of 24th Street and on 24th Street east of Castro Street.

Currently, the only stop large shuttles can use in the morning (freeway-bound) direction is the Muni stop at the southwest corner of 24th and Church Streets. The stop has become heavily used, with over 80 shuttles stopping there each morning, in addition to the Muni route 48, which stops there every ten minutes at peak times. The stop is only long enough to accommodate one vehicle at a time. Therefore, shuttles and Muni vehicles often stop in the travel lane when another vehicle is already using the stop.

In order to ensure Muni is able to access the stop and to minimize instances of shuttles double parking and blocking the travel lane, the SFMTA is proposing to move shuttles to a separate loading zone along the 24th Street corridor. This would need to be long enough for two shuttles to pull to the curb at a time, restricting parking in several spaces during morning peak hours.

In the evening, most shuttles stop at the Muni bus bulb at the northeast corner of 24th and Church Streets. While the SFMTA does not receive as many complaints about shuttle issues in the evening, shuttles stopping at this location do cause safety issues as they stop in the travel lane and vehicles often go into the opposing lane of traffic to get around. The SFMTA is seeking opportunities to address that issue while minimizing impacts on parking in the evening along this business corridor.

April 18, 2017 Community Open House – Summary of Feedback

In April the SFMTA held an open house at the Noe Valley Library to gather input from Noe Valley neighbors and stakeholders on where replacement stops should be located. Dozens of people came to the meeting to provide feedback on this issue and on other issues related to commuter shuttles in the neighborhood. The SFMTA collected comment cards and provided a map for people to mark with potential stop locations.

Comments touched on a diverse array of issues. Many commenters were in favor of moving the stop, while others expressed concerns. The most common concern was regarding the removal of parking to create a shuttle stop and the impact that could have on businesses and residents. Other issues that neighbors brought up included removing shuttles from 24th Street altogether, reducing the size of the vehicles, opening other streets to large shuttles to reduce the impact on 24th Street, and ensuring shuttles are fully occupied.

Commuter Shuttle Zone Alternatives

The most popular shuttle stop locations suggested by members of the public were the southeast corner of 24th and Church Streets and the block of the Noe Valley Town Square. In the evening direction the most popular option was the existing location, but members of the public also suggested the Muni zone at the northwest corner of 24th and Dolores Streets.

The SFMTA evaluated these options according to a set of criteria, including the position at the intersection (stops should not be at the “near-side” of an intersection whenever possible due to pedestrian safety concerns), potential impact on parking, presence of driveways, trees, and fronting land uses.

Based on this analysis, the SFMTA is proposing to establish a shuttle loading zone at the southeast corner of 24th and Church Streets. The zone would restrict parking in five spaces 6am to 10am, Monday through Friday. This location was chosen because it meets the SFMTA’s safety criteria, minimizes the number of parking spaces restricted, and avoids restricting parking in the center of the business corridor. The evening shuttle stop would be moved to the Muni zone at the northwest corner of 24th and Dolores Streets, which would be extended by two parking spaces during the evening peak hours.                                                               

Commuter Shuttle Scheduling

 Many members of the public present at the meeting were in favor of making adjustments to shuttle operators’ schedules in order to reduce the number of shuttle stop events that occur at the same time.  Multiple shuttles accessing the 24th and Church zone at the same time leads to congestion and back-ups at the zone and along the 24th Street corridor.

On a typical day between 5:45AM and 10:40AM, around 18 of the ~80 stop events at 24th and Church occur simultaneously. An additional 36 stop events occur within 1 minute of each other during that time period. Adjusting schedules should help resolve some of these conflicts; however, adjustments made to schedules at 24th and Church also have the potential to impact stop times and cause additional conflicts at zones earlier or farther along on operators’ routes. In other cases, there are simply too many simultaneous or consecutive stops at certain times to allow for adequate spacing (ideally at least 2 minutes) between all stop events.  

SFMTA staff will work with shuttle operators to make schedule adjustments in cases where adjustments are straightforward and unlikely to produce additional conflicts at zones used before or after 24th and Church. Scheduling adjustments are expected to relieve some congestion at the 24th and Church zone but cannot sufficiently address all conflicts on their own.

Next Steps

This proposal will go to the SFMTA’s Engineering Public Hearing on June 16, 2017 at 10am in City Hall Room 416. Prior to the hearing the SFMTA will post notices in the neighborhood, mail postcards to nearby addresses, and speak to area stakeholders. Members of the public can testify at the hearing or submit comments prior to the hearing. After that, the proposal will go to the SFMTA Board for final approval.

While this proposal is intended to address the safety and transit conflicts present at the existing shuttle stops at 24th and Church Streets, it does not mean that the SFMTA will stop engaging with the community on larger issues regarding shuttles in Noe Valley. Residents have brought up very important concerns regarding the size of vehicles, their occupancy, the street network that shuttles can travel on, and other issues. Staff will continue evaluating policies and exploring ways in which these concerns could be addressed moving forward.

Thank you,

Francesca Napolitan, Juliet Wilson, and Alex Jonlin

SFMTA Sustainable Streets Planning

Questions or comments? Contact Alex Jonlin at Alex.Jonlin@sfmta.com.