Bulky shuttles belong on car-centric corridors, not neighborhood streets
There's a lot of opportunity to combine these new bus stops with traffic calming at dangerous intersections such as Fell and Masonic or Oak and Octavia, all without mucking up Muni or diminishing the walkable human scale of nearby neighborhood commercial streets. And hey, since this is all a "pilot program," no pesky and expensive EIR is needed — right?
Thinking long-term, this scheme could be a template to jumpstart making this ridiculous private transit system into a regional public bus system modeled on AC transit or Golden Gate Transit, a service open to all. Our car-centric streets are ripe for express bus service and this would help relieve parallel lines like the N-Judah, while enabling the city to attain its aspiration of 30 percent mode share on transit.
And for Mayor Ed Lee and pro-tech-bus members of the Board of Supervisors, it helps with their "vision zero" rhetoric of increasing pedestrian safety because placing the buses on car-centric one-way couplets can help calm traffic.
With a little cajoling by the mayor, he could get his tech sponsors to underwrite streetscape and beautification at the bus stops along these kinds of streets.
After all, Mayor Lee needs to find the money, because last month he betrayed pedestrian and bicycle safety and Muni when he abandoned support for increasing the Vehicle License Fee locally this fall, all the while misleading the public about the important role of Sunday metering. Perhaps it's time for a tax or license fee on the ad hoc private transit system?
Speaking of vision zero, Sup. Eric Mar deserves hearty thanks for proposing to reduce speed limits citywide. This is one of the most effective ideas to come from the progressive wing of the Board of Supervisors in a long time and should be implemented yesterday. Higher speeds maim and kill, and the faster cars go the more voracious the appetite for both fuel and urban space.
With reduced speed, the motorist would still be able to drive, just more slowly, perhaps with less convenience than now. But over time the options of cycling, of walkable shopping, and improved public transit would synchronize more seamlessly as car space is ceded to separated cycletracks and transit lanes.
My suggestion is to make the city navigable by car at no greater than 15 miles per hour, a speed deemed not only to be comfortable on calmed pedestrian streets, but also to minimize injury and fatalities when there are collisions. Ultimately, our efforts to curb global warming, reduce injury and death from automobility, and make the city more livable obliges us to slow down, so looking at speeds is a step forward.
Street Fight is a monthly column by Jason Henderson, a geography professor at San Francisco State University and the author of Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco.