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Mission red lanes crushed in online popularity contest

Aggravating but successful SFMTA program finishes dead last in Streetsblog vote

Workers painting bus lanes red in San Francisco. SFMTA

Depending on who you asked in 2016, the red lanes on Mission Street were either an example of the city recklessly kicking a community while it’s already down, or an affordable and effective way to lend public transit a hand in one of the most congested corridors.

Opinions were mixed and explosive about the program all year long, but the final consensus was that the streets would continue to run red anyway.

Although SFMTA did employ a few alterations in response to the complaints of neighborhood merchants who said that the lane changes and forced turns made parking on the corridor impossible, the transit agency insisted that the benefits to bus safety and efficiency were worth it.

If anyone was counting on transit news site Streetsblog to clear up whether this was a smart program or a civic offense, you may have to wait until next year.

In a potentially provocative move (for those who care, that is), Streetsblog’s San Francisco editor nominated the Mission lanes as one of the most improved public corridors in the country.

An early rendering of the new lanes.

SFMTA says that, despite some complaints, the lane change has cut collisions by 85 percent and trimmed minutes off commute times.

But if you’re still sore of the affair, you might some fleeting sense of vindication in the results of the vote: Mission Street came in dead last in a field of six with blog readers, netting only a paltry 34 votes in all.

This does not, of course, necessarily mean that voters didn’t like what the city has done with Mission anyway.

And this is more of a popularity contest for transit wonks than a scientific survey, so it’s probably not wise to read too much into the outcome.

Even so, it’s hard not to see the vote as a microcosm of the entire year-long flap. Mission Street’s red carpet treatment always seems to deliver with the hard numbers, but getting it over with the general public remains elusive political quarry.

But there’s always next year.