SoMa gets two new transit-only lanes to speed up service on the 19-Polk

SoMa gets two new transit-only lanes to speed up service on the 19-Polk
Photo courtesy of SFMTA
By Jay Barmann - Published on October 05, 2020.

The SFMTA is installing temporary "emergency" transit lanes on Seventh and Eighth Streets in SoMa this week and next, in an effort to speed up service on the popular 19-Polk bus line.

By the end of next week, or around October 15, Seventh and Eighth Streets will be the latest in San Francisco to have bright-red transit-only lanes taking up one of what used to be the regular traffic lanes, with stencils that say "BUS/TAXI" on them. The newest lanes in SoMa began being painted today, on Seventh Street, and Eighth Street will begin being painted next week. The work is going on between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

These lanes already exist — and have sowed confusion — on Market, Mission, Church, and Van Ness, as well as other major corridors in the city. Studies have shown that these "red carpet" lanes reduce congestion and improve transit efficiency, while simultaneously slowing vehicular traffic and reducing risky driving.

As a result of the new temporary transit lane, there may be some temporary changes to bus stops and parking along Seventh and Eighth, the SFMTA says. Boarding islands for bus passengers were already installed on part of the 19-Polk route on Seventh Street as part of an earlier-approved safety project going back four years.

As KPIX reports, the installation of the temporary changes will be followed by a public comment period, and the SFMTA is seeking public input on this survey. Following public input, decisions will be made around making the transit lanes permanent.

"Following approval of a project corridor, SFMTA’s Temporary Emergency Transit Lanes will be evaluated once they are installed," the agency writes.  "Evaluation criteria provided by the community will be used, along with metrics that the SFMTA has established. This ensures we can tweak projects to meet the needs of the community and Muni customers."

Other temporary emergency transit lanes being evaluated are on the 43-Masonic and 44-O'Shaughnessy lines, on Mission Street in SoMa, and on Geary Boulevard. As Hoodline reported in July, the temporary lanes will automatically expire 120 days after the city lifts its emergency shelter-in-place order, unless otherwise extended by public input.

After transit-only lanes were established on Mission Street in the Mission in 2016, local merchants cried foul claiming that customers couldn't easily stop at their businesses anymore because parking was now harder to find. In particular, they cited clientele who were displaced Missionites who used to live in the neighborhood, and now drive back there to shop.