38 Geary Temporary Emergency Transit Lanes
UPDATE: Temporary emergency transit lanes were installed along segments of Geary Boulevard in winter 2020-21. Evaluation done in spring 2021 showed that the new transit lanes and other treatments have improved 38 Geary bus performance with minimal traffic impacts, and a majority of those who took our evaluation survey supported making the transit lanes permanent. See a snapshot of evaluation highlights or read the complete evaluation report.
As traffic congestion returns, the SFMTA is working to protect San Franciscans who continue to rely on Muni to get to work and essential appointments during this pandemic. If just a fraction of the people riding transit before the crisis begin driving alone, traffic congestion will be so severe that it could paralyze the city’s economic recovery. Without action, transit-dependent San Franciscans will bear the costs of traffic congestion, like an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 on slower, more crowded buses.
The 38 Geary and 38R Geary Rapid have been a lifeline for essential trips during the pandemic and have experienced crowding despite increased service. Along with other key locations across the city, chosen based on current ridership and travel time data, the SFMTA is installing temporary emergency transit lanes on segments of the 38 Geary and 38R Geary Rapid Muni routes to keep buses out of traffic and reduce crowding and travel times. By reducing delay from congestion, Muni can use its limited resources to provide more frequent service and pick up more passengers with the same number of buses.
Geary Boulevard Transit Priority Treatments
Temporary transit lanes have been approved along the following segments of Geary Boulevard:
- Eastbound from 33rd to 28th avenues, 27th to 24th avenues and 16th Avenue to Stanyan Street
- Westbound from Stanyan Street to 15th Avenue, 24th to 25th avenues and 27th to 32nd avenues
These temporary transit lanes will generally replace the curbside travel lane in segments of the corridor that currently have three travel lanes per direction. Transit lanes will be in effect 24-hours daily and striped with white paint, “Bus/Taxi Only” stenciling and signage.
Additional transit improvements on Geary Boulevard include:
- Temporary wooden sidewalk extensions (known as bus bulbs) at bus stops at 25th, 20th and 6th avenues that allow buses to stop without pulling in and out of traffic and provide more space for people waiting.
- Upgraded traffic signals at 25th, 20th and 15th avenues that give Muni a few seconds of a head start to enter the intersection before general traffic.
- 14th to 15th avenues westbound: a transit queue jump that provides a dedicated lane for buses at the approach to the intersection along with a Muni head start signal and right-turn pocket. This converts two metered parking spaces to loading zones and replaces four metered on-street parking spaces.
- 16th to 15th avenues eastbound: to make room for a temporary transit lane, convert five angled parking spaces to four parallel parking spaces.
September 24, 2020 Public Hearing Recap
Thank you to everyone who attended the online public hearing on September 24 or provided comments on the 38 Geary temporary emergency transit lanes. We heard strong support from a majority of participants and the following six key themes:
- Suggestion to include transit lanes between 15th and 25th avenues
- Request to implement earlier than November 2020
- Comments regarding impacts to parallel streets
- Comments that the proposal is important to address climate change
- Question regarding when it is legal to drive in a transit lane
- Questions about the need for the project
On October 9, 2020, the City Traffic Engineer completed a review of the results of the Geary Temporary Emergency Transit Lanes hearing and approved the project. The remaining items, to convert angled parking to parallel parking on eastbound Geary between 16th and 15th avenues, were approved by the SFMTA Board on November 3. These transit lanes will help protect public health, particularly for those who continue to rely on transit to make essential trips, by reducing crowding and travel times for riders along the entire route.
Note: The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected an appeal of the Temporary Emergency Transit Lanes (TETL) project’s compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act on September 29, 2020. As a result, Temporary Emergency Transit Lanes proposed as part of that project may resume approval and implementation actions.
Implementation and Sunset Date
Installation of the temporary emergency transit priority treatments began in November 2020 and was completed in February 2021. Transit lanes are striped only with white paint and “Bus/Taxi Only” stenciling and signage, making them easily reversable. No red color will be installed as part of these temporary installations. Emergency transit lanes will automatically be removed within 120 days after the emergency order is lifted, unless there is a public process to make a temporary emergency transit lane permanent. [UPDATE: This project was approved to become permanent by the SFMTA Board of Directors on July 20, 2021]
Outreach and Evaluation
The urgent nature of this emergency calls for putting temporary measures into place, directly on the street. This accelerated approach allows the city to respond quickly to protect public health and support economic recovery while we work with the community to evaluate and make adjustments to the temporary transit lanes in real time. Pending approval, areas of evaluation will include, but are not limited to:
- Health and safety benefits
- Economic health
- Neighborhood impacts and equity
- Transit performance
- Traffic safety
Community-based organizations, stakeholders and neighbors are involved in shaping the framework and process for evaluating and adjusting the emergency transit treatments in real time. Based on public feedback and ongoing, on-the-ground data monitoring of the temporary transit lanes, we can tweak—or even remove lanes—to meet the needs of the community and Muni customers. Both qualitative and quantitative data will be collected after implementation and will inform any changes needed to the transit lanes and whether permanent approval of the lanes should be pursued.
Relationship to Geary Boulevard Improvement Project
Approved in 2018, the Geary Boulevard Improvement Project is a longer-term effort to bring transit and safety improvements to the Geary corridor west of Stanyan Street. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SFMTA paused work on the Geary Boulevard Improvement Project to pursue temporary emergency transit lanes, which were installed on segments of Geary Boulevard in the curbside travel lane next to the parking lane. Evaluation of the side-running emergency transit lanes indicates that they have improved transit performance with minimal impacts to car traffic on Geary Boulevard or parallel streets. Additionally, a majority of survey respondents indicated they preferred to maintain the emergency transit lanes permanently.
Based on the positive evaluation results and in response to evolving conditions, the SFMTA is now considering pursuing side-running transit lanes instead of center-running transit lanes in the Geary Boulevard Improvement Project limits, pending outreach and approvals. The SFMTA plans to seek input on this change as a part of outreach activities anticipated in 2021-22.