Five months ago, eastbound sections of the eastern end of Haight Street were made Muni-only. The change allowed Muni buses to bypass regular auto traffic, effectively clearing the path down to Market Street and saving riders of the 6 and 71 lines several minutes off their commutes downtown.
Originally, the lane was painted red with the words "BUS ONLY" stenciled in white at various points along the route. However, by the end of 2014, that wording had been changed to the more specific "MUNI ONLY." Lest there be any doubt, the new phrase confirmed it: only Muni buses are allowed to use this lane.
However, that hasn't stopped commuter shuttles and the occasional private automobile from venturing down the red express lane.
This morning, a reader sent in the following photo of a car that collided with a Muni bus near Haight and Laguna some time around 8:15am today:
Witnesses told our tipster that:
"[A] car cut into the red muni-only lane at the last second near Haight and Laguna, causing the bus to slam on its brakes. Several people were tossed around the crowded bus and fell into each other in a pile. Two or three people were taken away via ambulance and several others got treatment on the spot for minor injuries... Everyone was saying the same thing that the bus driver did everything she could at the last second but the car just cut right into the lane in front of it so there was no way to avoid it."
Cars aren't the only trespassers in the new red lane, as commuter shuttles have also become a frequent presence.
A few days ago, reader Brian T., who was fed up with the practice, sent in the following video. It not only shows a commuter bus in the lane near Haight and Octavia, but captures its license plate and SFMTA pilot program numbers.
Carli Paine of the SFMTA's Sustainable Streets Division checked the permit on the bus above for us, and told us it belonged to a company called Lux Leasing. Paine did not know which company's employees Lux might have been transporting at the time this video was taken, but said she would contact Lux about the violation.
Since August of 2014, the SFMTA has allowed certain commuter shuttles to use Muni stops as part of an 18-month pilot program. For a fee, commuter shuttles can use a network of 105 Muni stops and permit-only white zones around the city for passenger pick-up and drop-off. The program does not, however, include use of Muni-only transit lanes.
Paine told us that there are some "transit-only" lanes around the city that do allow use by commuter shuttles and taxis, such as certain sections of Market and Mission streets downtown, and Judah Street west of 20th Avenue. But the Haight Street lane is explicitly Muni-only.
When it's not being occupied by non-Muni vehicles, the new Haight Street transit lane clearly provides a big boost for Muni commuters. Reader Paul S. tipped us to a time-lapse video he took recently during the morning rush hour. The video clearly shows auto traffic backing up along the right lane of the block, while the red Muni-only lane remains largely unoccupied:
Paine says that anyone spotting illegal use of the Muni lanes by commuter shuttles can submit a complaint by clicking the green button on the Commuter Shuttle Pilot Program website.
Update: Paul S. has another video showing a much more crowded segment on Laguna and Buchanan. As he writes in the comment below: "Cars are getting into the red lane and then turning left (NB Laguna) and right (SB Laguna) around the front of the cars stopped at the stop sign. This happens far less on the segment of Haight between Laguna and Octavia (presumably because everyone at that point is trying to turn right)."