At long last, the Muni Rapid Lanes are complete on Van Ness! Although critics imply the time savings for riders is only a few minutes in comparison to the lane revisions and bus stop closures over years of delays, I’m here to point out the real advantages these twin rapid lanes present to the future. The bitter angst created during construction can now be cleared —as water over the Aquatic Park Pier, or —milk spilled on the floor of the Grubstake on Pine Street.
My dream was to retire as a transit operator for Muni by doing a twilight run from the Potrero Division. My legacy as a Bus Driver would be complete with the ultimate in streets’ repair as I pulled in for the last time with no delays on the busy 101 corridor. In 2016, with only a two-year time frame to complete the medians along Van Ness Blvd., the 49 Line would be a dream come true with less conflict from turning cars and weekend afternoon congestion. I could continue driving until 65 or 67, knowing my job was made less stressful had I headed towards the retirement ribbon. Driving an articulated trolleybus from Ocean Street and City College, all the way to Ghirardelli Square next to Fisherman’s Wharf and back, would no longer be an intense afternoon relief point running late at Market Street. The delays in making relief on time and preventing bunching with the 47 line would no longer be a cat and mouse game in trying to avoid the huge crowd intending at Market and Van Ness in the afternoons, or by the doughnut shop in the late night,
wondering when the next bus was coming through. No more having to call Operations Central Control (OCC) to ask for a switchback and turn-back on Post to Sutter, only to pick up those whom would be dropped at Geary and have to wait for the next bus to Chestnut or Union.
What recent criticism and argument omits is the delay heading from Sacramento to Market outbound in the afternoon along US 101. This trip would take up to 47 minutes to reach Market and Van Ness, the relief point for operators to change drivers and begin a shift. Special Event weekends throughout the summer months, with a crescendo in September and October, would make weekend afternoons a nightmare for any motorist trying to reach the freeway to go over the Bay Bridge, or head south on 101 to escape the city. Much less for those not using a death monster in the city—by taking emissions free transit still stuck sitting in a bus stopped in traffic—making it actually faster to walk from Sacramento Street all the way to Market in twenty some odd minutes. All that angst is now finally gone.
I too, when taking a cab to DogPatch to get a diesel bus for my second part, would complain in agreement with the cabbie about the lane restriction along Sixth Street, Polk Street, and the reduction of lanes South of Market by Environmental Engineers. We thought their plans were crafted from textbooks more aligned with suburban design, rather than dense inner city like Manhattan or downtown San Francisco. The continuous influx of tech companies and workers created delays rivaling Los Angeles and Washington DC. Ironically, it seemed to me, the attraction of homegrown cooperation and cohesion of like minds was being slowly sunk like the boats of yore during the gold rush.
Enter Covid-19 and a pandemic which changed the landscape of San Francisco and it’s traffic. Now the reduction of lanes and wider bike path waysides now seem to fit the greening of urban areas now made more livable with reduced office bound work. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.
I left work right before Covid hit. My exit interview, which must be conducted three months before the birthdate of retirement, was scheduled for February 13, 2020, just one month before everything shut down. I got the paperwork done just in time! Now, as a visitor to the city this past week, with mask off, and free to roam without one, I see the final icing on the cake I missed because I couldn’t wait to get back to ‘normal.’
The BRT Bus Rapid Transit Red Carpet awaits. I don’t know what color you need to wear on April Fool’s Day to not get pinched, but it may be red!