It's been about a year since the SFMTA created the eastbound Muni-only lanes along the lower end of Haight Street, part of the Market And Haight Street Transit and Pedestrian Improvement Project.
Before the project, eastbound traffic along Haight was slowing down the 6 and 71 (now known as the 7) Muni buses. The SFMTA hoped that a clearly marked "MUNI ONLY" lane would help buses breeze through this often congested part of the route. We wanted to know, has it worked thus far?
Before we get to that, let's recap the Muni-only lanes' first year.
In September 2014, the SFMTA installed a red eastbound "BUS ONLY" lane on Haight Street between Gough and Laguna. (The wording was soon changed to "MUNI ONLY" to help deter commuter shuttles and other buses from using the lane.)
In December of that same year, the SFMTA adjusted the stoplight at Market and Gough so that it stayed green a few seconds longer. The change allotted more time for eastbound buses to clear the intersection.
A couple of months after that, the eastbound left turn lane between Buchanan and Laguna became a transit-only lane. This allowed Muni buses to get around the long queue of cars waiting to turn right on Laguna. In order for this to work, the SFMTA had to begin restricting left hand turns on the same block.
How is the project working out? SFMTA Spokesperson Robert Lyles told us that the Muni-only lanes have decreased travel time on the 6 and 7 bus lines by an average of two minutes. Travel time on these lines went down another minute after they installed the transit-only lane between Buchanan and Laguna. Keep in mind, however, these are average decreases, so they vary depending on the time of day.
"Since these are average travel time savings over an entire day, when congestion is worse (like during the AM peak period) riders are receiving an even larger travel time benefit," said Lyles.
Lyles adds that the new lanes have helped improve the on-time arrival rate of the 6 and 7 bus lines. According to SFMTA's numbers, 67% of bus arrivals on the 6 line and 58% on the 7 line in September 2015 were considered "on-time," meaning between one minute early and four minutes late. That compares to a 56.4% average on-time rate systemwide. The 7R rapid line, however, lagged behind, at just 47%. (The City Charter mandates a minimum on-time arrival rate of 85%, for what it's worth.)
The SFMTA plans to update its figures on the success of the Haight Street transit lanes in the next couple of months. We'll keep you posted on how the project progresses.