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Poll shows Mission red lanes are popular, but there's a catch

Critics still say, better dead than red

We learned last week that the controversial red lanes are staying on Mission Street. This is probably not a big surprise: The odds of the city simply reversing course, repainting the asphalt, and hoping everybody forgets about the whole thing really fast were never good.

Still, boiling resentment from the neighborhood continues to undermine perception of what SFMTA wants to characterize as a successful project. In the wake of an angry board of directors meeting last week, where neighbors poured scorn on the red streets, the agency released a round of public polling it says illustrates pronounced support for the corridor’s new look.

These "intercept interviews" happened over two days in June and one day in July. Some 1,400 people traversing Mission Street were game enough to tell the city how easy (or not) it is to get around.

On the surface, the response seems positive: 84 percent of those asked reached Mission Street either by walking or taking mass transit, meaning that parking problems incited by the new right-turn lanes were a non-issue for them. Only 13 percent drove.

Sixty-one percent said that they "perceived" an improvement in Muni speed and reliability on the Mission corridor since April, while only 18 percent said they had not noticed. Fifty-eight percent of Muni riders say they support the red rehab. Only 16 percent were against it.

Twelve percent said they were visiting the Mission less often than before. But 17 percent said they now visit more frequently. In neither case is there a uniform explanation for the changing habits, nor a concrete measurement of how much or how little either group is spending in the neighborhood.

Perhaps most importantly, SFMTA contends that transit accidents are down 85 percent, and 77 percent of those polled say they feel safer the last four months.

So it’s mostly high marks and smiley faces all around, right? Well, the survey does seem to have one prominent, built-in flaw: Survey questions administered on Mission Street were presumably not answered by people who allegedly no longer frequent Mission Street. (This being the phenomena that many angry local merchants and activists insist is happening ever since the advent of the red lane.)

An SFMTA spokesperson told Curbed SF he would have to consult with the survey authors about their confidence that these methods accurately capture the community’s attitude. We will update you when we hear from them.

The corridor of 11th Street down to Randall is also pretty long, whereas grassroots agitators tend to worry more about the business corridors around the BART stations. And those who show up to complain at public meetings often claim that their own door-to-door surveys of business owners reveal more grave negative effects than city reporting.

The reality may lie somewhere in between the two positions. But either way, the city numbers probably won’t please those most critical of the Mission’s new blushing routine.