Guest Editorial: Nightmare coming to Van Ness

by Chris Parkes on November 14, 2016

Halloween has passed, but the nightmare has just begun. This week, most left turns, 2 car lanes, many parking spaces, 50 year old trees, and perhaps your sanity, will be permanently lost from Van Ness… aka Highway 101!

Unlike a bad dream, however, the ill effects of the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project will not go away when construction ends. The BRT project will remove two car lanes from the middle of Van Ness and convert them into two bus only lanes.  This well intended transit project has been misapplied, however. There are few, if any, other existing BRT projects constructed in the middle of a condensed, congested section of highway with so many closely spaced major arterial cross intersections as we have on Van Ness.

After 3 years, construction will be complete, but the frustration will remain, as drivers, residents, and transit riders become aware that the changes are permanent.

The project sponsor will argue that the impacts are positive. Are they?

What are we getting? Even if you ride the bus all the way from Market to Lombard, your typical ride today is 15-19 minutes.  How much time will you save for this huge expense?  3 minutes?  2 minutes?  Less?

What else will we get? Traffic jams, increased fumes. Loss of half-century old trees.  You’ll have to board the bus from the narrow median.

The project sponsor has made a strong commitment to safety in its “Vision Zero” plan, adopted in 2014, to eliminate traffic fatalities. Recently released city statistics, however, indicate a record 38 traffic fatalities for the fiscal year ending in 2016. Compare this to 28 in 2015 and 34 in 2014.  This project is inconsistent with that effort.  Once this project is complete, the elderly and disabled will now need to board the bus from a narrow median in the middle of a congested highway.

The project sponsor will argue that that the loss of half century mature trees, many flowering, and upwards of 50’ tall, is ‘mitigated’, or what the city Board of Appeals calls ‘renewed’, by replacing them with twice the number of saplings. You have a few short days to enjoy them before they are cut down.

Many were unaware of this project until the city posted signs on trees last year, only to learn it was then too late to change. Even today, many are unaware, and will remain unaware until the work directly impacts them.

As this project unfolds or unravels, please call and leave a voicemail for your SF city supervisor TODAY, and often, to let them know what YOU think of it. If on the other hand you are ok with it, or do nothing, you will be pleased and comforted to know that there are many more similar projects that are already in the pipeline and that will soon become unalterable.

When the Van Ness project was first conceived, it was estimated to cost $60 – $65 million. Now the scope and cost estimate has blossomed to exceed $300 million, and ground has not even broken.  Costs will continue to rise as changes mount.

Play a role in your city’s future. Please call you supervisor today.  Ask them to save our limited transit funds for a modern subway system!!

Filed under: San Francisco News

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