SoMa has much to gain in MUNI’s transit overhaul plan

Some dramatic changes are in store for MUNI if and when the Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP) ever sees the light of day. With the announcement that preparation of an Environmental Impact Report is about  to begin, that possibility becomes more real. The TEP has not been without controversy since the initial recommendations were released in 2008. MUNI had not taken a comprehensive look at the effectiveness of existing routes since the late 1970s. Beginning in 2006, the city collected comprehensive data on when and where transit is used in San Francisco and where the expected growth will be. 

The initial proposals for South of Market seemed out of sync with the ongoing community planning process. When the TEP’s SoMa workshop was inadvertently scheduled at the same time that the regular meeting of the Western SoMa Task Force’s Transportation Focus Group was being held, we moved the focus group meeting to the site of the SFMTA event. It was a good education for everybody.

SoMa stands to gain some major service improvements. As plans for a two-way Folsom Street gain momentum, the TEP’s recommendations would add two bus lines to the new commercial corridor. The 27 Folsom line would travel from downtown along 5th Street onto Folsom Street and then into the Mission all the way down to Cesar Chavez Boulevard. The new 11 Downtown Connector bus would run from 11th and Market Streets along Folsom Street to 2nd Street and then into the Financial District. The 47 Van Ness would provide a more direct connection from Market and Van Ness to Caltrain and service along the 4th Street corridor would also be given a higher priority.

The eastern edge of SoMa remains stubbornly underserved. The area between the Embarcadero and 2nd Street lacks any real connection to the rest of South of Market. Transit officials seem to have resigned themselves to the fact that the upscale new developments of Rincon Hill and the ballpark area will remain automobile-dependent for the foreseeable future.

Once implemented, the TEP predicts an increase in daily ridership of at least 70,000, moving San Francisco closer to its vision of a “transit-first” city in which the need for private automobiles is diminished.

“I think this is a signature moment of public transportation in this city,” said Nathaniel Ford, the former executive director of the Municipal Transportation Agency, which runs MUNI. “As a MUNI rider, you should see improvements in the reliability, on-time performance and convenience of the system.”

Some of the TEP’s recommendations, including elimination of the 26 Valencia bus route, have already been implemented, and all-door boarding is scheduled to be tried out in January. Muni officials say the route adjustments, which triggered the EIR, will be rolled out over the next five years.

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