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SFMTA approves red bus lanes for Geary

City’s busiest commute line may soon see red

A rendering of new red bus lanes on Geary Street downtown.
The future of Geary, as SFMTA now sees it.
Courtesy SFMTA

On Tuesday the SF Municipal Transportation Agency gave a green light to red lanes on Geary by casting an approving vote for the final Environmental Impact Report of the Geary Bus Rapid Transit plan.

The multi-million dollar project, a decade in the works, aims to transform—and hopefully expedite—bus service on one of the city’s busiest and most crowded Muni lines.

The staff report from Tuesday’s meeting notes that “the almost 54,000 people who rely on the 38 Geary [...] experience crowded buses and uneven wait times.”

SFMTA Project Manger Liz Brisson called the 38 “a victim of its own success.” While the BRT is still a work in progress, plans as of this week include:

  • “Dedicated bus lanes separated from regular (mixed-flow) traffic to reduce delays and improve reliability.”
  • “Relocating and removing certain bus stops.”
  • “High-quality stations, with more room for passengers to wait for buses.”
  • “Improved transit signal priority to provide additional green light time for buses approaching intersections.”

Note that “dedicated bus lanes” translates to the red carpet treatment that proved successful yet divisive on other San Francisco corridors, particularly Mission Street.

Right now red lanes can be found on Geary Street up to Polk. The red lanes would extend up to Geary Boulevard and beyond.

Of the options laid out in the Environmental Impact Report, the SFMTA Board members favored the “hybrid” design, which would mean “buses would operate in [curbside] bus-only lanes from Market Street to Palm Avenue” and then switch over to “bus-only lanes in the center of the Geary corridor from Palm Avenue to 28th Avenue,” then go back to the curb lanes the rest of the way.

Right now the proposal calls for a two-phase implementation, the first a $65 million kickoff that’s already funded, the second a much more ambitious $235 million metamorphosis that’s still searching for grants.

Although there are still more steps toward final approval, City Hall hopes to be painting Geary lanes red by the end of this year.