Agency Votes to Support Geary Business Owners

By Paul Kozakiewicz
Publisher, Richmond Review

The SF Small Business Commission passed a resolution at its Jan. 29 meeting calling for an economic impact study to be conducted as part of the Geary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) planning process. The commission voted unanimously to call for the study after hearing testimony from dozens of Richmond District merchants who showed up to testify about the dangers of the transportation plan being proffered by the SF Transportation Authority (TA).

The TA, which is composed of members of the SF Board of Supervisors, is conducting a feasibility study to determine the best ways for implementing BRT, which was approved by city voters as part of Proposition K, a 1/2 cent sales tax increase that was put on the ballot in 2003.

The plan calls for making transit improvements, such as dedicating one lane of Geary Boulevard in each direction for buses only and having buses control traffic lights at intersections, to speed up the travel time of Geary buses in order to increase ridership on the busy line, which facilitates about 50,000 passenger trips on a weekday, 40,000 on Saturdays and 30,000 on Sundays.

According to Zabe Bent, the TA planner who was recently assigned to the Geary project, implementing Muni transit improvements will range from $45 million to $200 million, depending on the option chosen. She said construction would be taken in small chunks, like a "street repaving project," which would take six to eight weeks to complete.

The most contentious of the two BRT options, out of five being studied, call for putting the dedicated bus lanes in the center of Geary Boulevard, which was originally designed by planners to be the major boulevard between the Richmond and points downtown. The center lane options would cost the most (up to $200 million) and have the greatest negative impacts on the neighborhood, according to David Heller, president of the Greater Geary Boulevard Merchants and Property Owners Association.

Heller told the commissioners that he has tried to get the TA planners to facilitate an economic impact study, but his efforts have fallen on deaf ears.

Bent told commissioners that an economic impact study is usually not undertaken in a transportation study of this type and that the TA has no plans to include one for the Geary BRT project.

When one commissioner asked Bent why another east-west route in the Richmond was not considered for BRT, she replied, "Moving the problem is not the right way to go."

The merchants, and leaders of some neighborhood organizations, favor improving the existing #38 Geary bus line with traffic light controls, satellite global positioning technology to help prevent bus "bunching," and a dedicated traffic lane that would only be enforced for several hours during the morning or afternoon rush-hour commutes. That is one of the options being studied by the TA.

There were numerous concerns expressed at the Small Business Commission meeting.

Keith Wilson, a businessman who has an office on Geary, said it was ridiculous for the TA to consider spending upwards of $200 million to tear up Geary when less costly measures would significantly speed up bus service.

"The TA should be asking 'what is the best bang for the buck,' not 'how can we spend the most money,'" Wilson said.

Hiroshi Fukuda, a member of the Richmond Community Association, said public safety should be a prime consideration for the TA because Geary was originally designed by the city's planning department to funnel traffic downtown, thus lessening traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods and making it safer for pedestrians.

"We're doing the opposite," he said.

Richard Warner, president of the Jordan Park Improvement Association, warned that traffic patterns in the Richmond could be changed forever if Geary traffic lanes for vehicles are removed and dedicated for bus-only use. He said other streets in the neighborhood will suffer, including California Street, where traffic often slows due to heavy congestion near the California Pacific Medical Center.

According to the TA's estimates, traffic would increase on all Richmond District streets, including California Street,which will see an increase of 126 vehicles per hour during peak times.

Jim Maxwell, president of the SF Coalition of Neighborhoods, told the commissioners that the Geary BRT project is of citywide interest to various neighborhood organizations throughout the City and that they were keeping an eye on what was going on in the Richmond. He urged the commissioners to support an economic impact study for the merchants on Geary.

One commissioner, Raye Richardson, asked Bent if the merchants could be compensated for loss of revenue during construction. Bent replied that the TA views the BRT project as an economic benefit for the merchants and that the TA does not, as a matter of course, compensate merchants for transportation improvements.

Some merchants, including Jack Reill, proprietor of Big O Tires on Geary near Masonic Avenue, were concerned about plans for the Geary and Masonic and Geary and Fillmore intersections. He said he almost went out of business in the early '70s when the City redesigned the Geary and Masonic intersection.

Much of the expense in the BRT plan would come from redesigning the two intersections, which could leave the tunnels on Geary for buses only. In that scenario, vehicle traffic would have to travel around the tunnels, and intersect with traffic on Masonic Avenue and Fillmore Street, rather than using the tunnels below, as it currently does.

According to Bent, the TA is hoping to submit its planning study to the Geary Citizens Advisory Committee in late March and to start an Environmental Impact Review within a couple of months after that.

At the conclusion of the two-hour meeting, the seven-member Small Business Commission voted unanimously to pass Commissioner David Chiu's resolution "strongly urging" the Transportation Authority to conduct an economic impact study so potential negative affects to local business can be recognized and, if possible, mitigated. They also voted to stay involved in the process on behalf of Richmond District merchants and to send a letter to the members of the Board of Supervisors notifying them of the commission's concerns.

Geary's Pedestrian Bridges May Be Razed, Despite Opposition

Photo:  Google Maps

Pedestrian bridge across Geary at Steiner Street. Tue. November 3, 2015, 11:30am
by Nuala Sawyer 

Starting today, we'll be doing more coverage of the Fillmore and wider Western Addition areas. If you've got a story idea or local issue that needs a closer look, drop us a tip here; if you'd like to write for Hoodline, give us a shout here

Two pedestrian-only bridges that are used to cross Geary Boulevard may be demolished as part of the SFMTA's plan to expedite bus traffic along Geary. But while public transit speed along the corridor is important, many residents are concerned about the removal of these bridges in an area with a large number of children and seniors.

The Geary Corridor Bus Rapid Transit project is extensive, aiming to serve the 55,000 people who commute along Geary Boulevard every day at an estimated cost of $300 million. The project is currently in the environmental review phase and isn't expected to begin for another four to six years—but the plan is to work on it in stages, block by block. (See the full article here)

City To Demolish Pedestrian Bridges On Geary To Speed Up Bus Travel

BY JACK MORSE IN NEWS ON NOV 4, 2015 1:00 PM One of the pedestrian bridges that will be demolished under the current Bus Rapid Transit plan. Screenshot via Google Maps

Geary Blvd & Steiner St, San Francisco, CA 94115 Photo Courtest:  Google Maps

Geary Blvd & Steiner St, San Francisco, CA 94115 Photo Courtest: Google Maps

as part of a plan to streamline bus rapid transit along Geary Boulevard, the city of San Francisco is proposing to demolish two pedestrian bridges which they claim stand in the way. The proposed removal of the bridges, which would be a key element of the Geary Corridor Bus Rapid Transit project, has been met with strong opposition from those in the community that depend on the bridges as a safe means to navigate the busy intersections by foot.  (See the full article here


By Richard Cole
San Francisco Daily

Local Fear Dedicated Lane Project Will Doom Merchants
Opposition is growing to the planned elimination of traffic lanes along Geary Boulevard in favor of bus-only lanes, with locals fearing the project will doom area merchants.
 “Merchants operating on a very slim profit margin do not want to face a situation where they are closing their business because of how long the construction is going to take,” said Michael O’Conner, president of the city’s Small Business Commission.

 The commission has voted unanimously to urge the Municipal Transportation Åuthority to conduct an economic impact study before proceeding with the $200 million Bus Rapid Transit project on Geary.

 The project envisions closing one vehicle lane in each direction along Geary and making them dedicated bus lanes from Van Ness Avenue out as far as 40th Avenue.  Construction is slated to begin in 2011.

 Critics point out that a similar project in Los Angeles along Wilshire Boulevard has been stopped because it caused massive traffic jams.

 Up to 65,000 cars use Geary on an average day, said David Heller, head of the Greater Geary Boulevard Merchants and Property Owners Association.

 “You lose one lane, then you have delivery trucks,” Heller said.  “People are going to be so fed up with the traffic, it’s going to be so hard to park, they will go somewhere else.”

 The Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhoods has asked the transportation authority to maintain the 30-degree parking spaces on Geary between 14th Avenue and 30th Avenue, and not to move the m to adjacent streets.

 The coalition also asked for “specific mitigation measures which will effectively lower the impact of a loss of a lane of vehicular traffic in each direction and assure that public, police, fire department and other emergency service vehicles will have adequate room to maneuver on Geary.”

 The Geary plan is similar to but more ambitious than the Van Ness Avenue bus rapid transit plan, which aims to eliminate two lanes of traffic on Van Ness in favor of two central bus-only lanes.  Both plans were approved by San Francisco voters in 2003 when they approved a sales tax hike for public transportation.

 City transit officials say a bus rapid transit system is the only way to decrease traffic congestion on Geary, one of the busiest transit corridors from  downtown out to the Richmond District.

 The plan’s goals are a 15-30 percent reduction in travel time for public transportation users, and a 25-50 percent increase in reliability – both figures based on successful bus rapid transit projects in other cities, the agency states. 

Geary Bus Lane Study Demanded

By Richard Cole
San Francisco Daily

Transportation officials should immediately study the safety and the economic impact of the Geary Boulevard bus lane project, according to the powerful Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhoods 

The proposed $200 million Bus Rapid Transit system would create dedicated bus lanes either in the center or on the side of Geary from Van Ness Avenue as far as 40th Avenue. Construction could begin as early as 2011. 

"CSFN has concerns that the BRT plan will have a significant negative impact to vehicular and emergency traffic movement on Geary," according to a resolution the group approved Tuesday night. "This negative vehicular impact will force vehicular traffic to use neighborhood side streets, causing danger to the neighborhood children and families." 

Economic assessment wanted 

Geary area merchants and many residents fear the construction and elimination of vehicle lanes on Geary will choke the neighborhood. 

The coalition resolution complained that the current San Francisco Transportation Authority plan for the Geary project states it will not include an economic assessment "at this stage." That will be considered at a later time in the Environmental Impact Report, the plan says.

That upset coalition members, who called instead for an immediate look at what will happen to merchants and residents. 

The plan should "include in this stage, a socioeconomic impact assessment which will present recommendations as to measures which can effectively mitigate damages caused by the impacts of construction and street closures on Geary," the coalition said.

Call to keep existing parking 

The group also called on planners to preserve the 30-degree parking spaces between Masonic and 30th Avenues, and not to add 30-degree spaces on blocks adjacent to Geary. 

Existing left turns from Geary should also be preserved, said the coalition.

The coalition consists of two dozen San Francisco neighborhood groups ranging from Bayview-Hunters Point to North Beach to the Sunset.