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Mission locals grill MTA over red lanes, but the red remains

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Minor changes approved, but scarlet streets here to stay

The red lanes are staying on the Mission, and some residents are absolutely furious.

A summer’s worth of outreach, research, and reconsideration yielded a few small changes to the program, presented at a Tuesday meeting of the SFMTA board. (Yes, that was the same meeting with the angry church median parking debate; a really contentious week at SFMTA, all told.)

A couple of the reviled forced right turns (at 22nd and 26th) will probably go, and the agency promised further tweaks like additional bulb-outs.

But for the most part, transit planners and board members defended the rage-provoking project. Planner Matt Brill told the board that the city’s outreach revealed mostly positive feedback on the program and that the 14 Mission bus line (which carries 65,000 people a day, according to Brill) is moving faster and suffering a third as many accidents.

Then the meeting opened up to public comment, and neighbors let them have it.

While some commenters defended the program, noting the benefit to public transit, most of the feedback ranged from angry to downright offended. Phrases like "gentrification on steroids," "the Valencia-ization of Mission Street," and even "ethnic cleansing of the Mission" flew from the podium.

"Congratulations, you’ve done a great job killing businesses on Mission Street, just like you’ve done in the Castro," one woman said.

Groups like the Mission Economic Development Agency testified that businesses are closing and workers are being laid off ever since the red lanes went in last spring. Merchants allege that the forced turns have made it impossible to find parking, and that the lanes create a hostile "psychological barrier" (the term the MTA itself uses) that scare off customers.

The economic cost to the city is simply not worth gaining a few extra minutes on the 14 Mission’s schedule, say protestors.

MTA admits that there’s been some fallout from the new lane system, but its conclusions and data differ from community members. An MTA survey concluded that 22 percent of businesses on the Mission corridor saw a decline in sales since April. Activists insist that their own surveys yield a number more like 84 percent.

Despite the public grilling, the board mostly stood by their policy and pushed back a bit on the allegations of class warfare.

Working people and small business owners, too, rely on the major transit corridors through the neighborhood, board members pointed out, including Latino and immigrant communities. And while business is down in the Mission, so too is it in many neighborhoods, red lanes or no.