Whether you love or hate the Muni red lanes probably depends on how much you ride Muni, or whether you drive, Uber, or Lyft your way around town. But a dirty little secret emerged this week as the SFMTA considered adding red bus lanes to Geary Street — those lanes are not just for Muni, and tech shuttles, Chariot buses, and even casino buses can use the red lanes too.
A Monday report in the San Francisco Examiner revealed that some private vehicles are also allowed in the Muni red lanes, as long as they meet the state code for a “bus”. This red-carpet courtesy will also be extended to tech shuttles and other privately owned buses on the new Geary Street red lanes that SFMTA approved Tuesday, despite opposition from public transit advocates.
“We thought this would be for public transportation,” SFMTA Citizen Advisory Council member Sue Vaughan complained at Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s a corporate giveaway.”
Sup. Sandra Lee Fewer, who represents District 1 where the new Geary red lanes are being added, was also not pleased. “This should really be a space where Muni doesn’t have to jostle with casino buses, charter shuttles,” Fewer says in a statement to the Examiner.
But if the goal of the red lanes is to help Geary Street traffic run more smoothly, then letting private companies’ buses in the red lanes is likely to do that. SFMTA director of transportation Ed Reiskin says in a statement to SF Weekly that Geary Street “is one of the most heavily-used bus corridors west of the Mississippi.”
“I’d rather have people in commuter shuttles and Chariots than cars,” SFMTA board vice chairperson Malcolm Heinicke said Tuesday.
These new red bus lanes approved Tuesday will be tacked on to Geary and O’Farrell Streets between Stanyan and Market, as seen on this SFMTA map. These areas will also get pedestrian countdown signals at any corners that don’t have them, and several corners will get curb extensions or “bulb-outs.”