Private transit does not belong in dedicated bus lanes
By Sue Vaughan on Aug 20, 2018
Ever since 2003, when voters passed the Proposition K transportation sales tax, San Franciscans have been preparing for the creation of dedicated bus rapid transit lanes, called the Geary BRT, to improve travel times for the 38 bus. The plans have been contentious: while environmentalists have celebrated BRT’s potential to reduce carbon emissions, others have warned of parking losses and impacts to businesses, and seniors and the disabled have agonized over lost bus stops.
But never in all of these years of arguing has any member of the public imagined that the dedicated bus lanes themselves would only be “dedicated” in the broadest sense of the word. Now, according to San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) staff, transit-only lanes planned for Geary Boulevard between Gough and Stanyan will be open to any vehicle that meets the California Vehicle Code (CVC) definition of a bus – any vehicle that transports more than 10 people. That means casino buses, tour buses, Chariots, and tech shuttle buses and others would all be able to compete with Muni for lane space.
This is absolutely contrary to the public’s longstanding understanding of how Geary BRT (bus rapid transit) would work.
Yet in response to a July SFMTA Citizens Advisory Council question, staff has written, “Most of the new transit-only lanes within the Geary Rapid Project” could be used by vehicles that meet the California Vehicle Code (CVC) bus definition, so “commuter shuttles or private transit vehicles such as Chariot would be allowed to use the lanes.”