- PLANNING AND ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES
Bus rapid transit (BRT) is an affordable approach to creating true rapid transit along San Francisco’s major North-South travel route. The Van Ness Avenue BRT Feasibility Study, adopted in 2006 by the Transportation Authority and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency boards, found that BRT on Van Ness Avenue would likely provide significant transit benefits with manageable impacts. This page answers questions about Bus Rapid Transit, Van Ness Avenue, and how it was determined that BRT is a good fit for this corridor.
WHERE? Dedicated BRT lanes would extend along Van Ness Avenue from Lombard St. to Mission St.
WHICH ROUTES? Muni Routes 47 and 49. Golden Gate Transit Routes 10, 70, 80, 93, and 101. The routes would continue their normal operation outside the limits of the BRT lanes.
Frequently asked questions
To learn more about Van Ness Avenue BRT, click on the questions of interest to you:
- What is BRT?
- Why are we looking at BRT for Van Ness Avenue?
- What benefits will BRT on Van Ness provide?
- How did you determine which BRT alternative is best for Van Ness?
- Why will Van Ness have bus lanes in the center?
- Where has BRT worked?
- Would BRT service have a different fare?
- Would MTA purchase new vehicles for the Van Ness BRT project?
- What will be the construction impacts? When would they occur?
- How much is BRT going to cost?
- Can we really afford this?
- Which agency will be in charge of project delivery?
- How can I get involved?
What is BRT?
Bus rapid transit (BRT) is a quick and relatively inexpensive way to speed up buses and make service more reliable and comfortable. BRT systems typically include:
- DEDICATED BUS LANE separated from regular traffic to improve transit performance.
- All-door, low-floor boarding, and proof of payment to allow buses to pick up and drop off passengers more quickly.
- HIGH-QUALITY SHELTERS including protection from the elements and comfortable seating.
- PEDESTRIAN SAFETY ENHANCEMENTS including reduced crossing distances on streets where BRT stations exist and large platforms for waiting passengers.
- TRANSIT SIGNAL PRIORITY with traffic signals recognizing an approaching BRT vehicle and extending the green light when it is safe to do so.
- TRAFFIC SIGNAL OPTIMIZATION, a data-driven approach to timing all traffic lights in the corridor.
- Bus Rapid Transit on Wikipedia
Why are we looking at BRT for Van Ness Avenue?
Starting in the mid 90s, long range transportation plans prepared by the Transportation Authority and SFMTA recognized Van Ness Avenue as one of the city’s top transit corridors in need of rapid service. The Transportation Authority's Countywide Transportation Plan and Prop K Expenditure Plan, approved by San Francisco voters in 2003, called for a feasibility study for a Bus Rapid Transit project on the corridor. The Transportation Authority's 2004 Countywide Transportation Plan identified transportation needs over the next 30 years and found that the percentage of travelers using transit is declining, and will continue to decline if we don't take action to improve transit travel times and reliability. This plan identified a package of strategic transportation investments to address those needs that can be delivered with resources we expect to have available. The most cost-effective transit investment strategy for San Francisco is one which provides a citywide network of rapid bus service. The Van Ness-Mission corridor is one of the most highly used corridors by transit riders in the city and a critical component of regional transit services; BRT on Van Ness Avenue will fill a key gap in the City's network of rapid transit services.
- The evolution of Van Ness Avenue into one of San Francisco's major North-South corridors
- Read about the planning and environmental studies that have led to the currently proposed project.
What benefits will BRT on Van Ness provide?
Travel time for riders on Van Ness between Mission and Lombard will be cut by up to 32 percent—nearly a third. SFMTA (Muni) buses on routes 47 and 49 will be as much as 50% more reliable, with a decrease in delays of more than 40%. In addition, BRT will bring pedestrian safety and aesthetic improvements to Van Ness.
Where BRT might cause increased neighborhood traffic, we've explored ways to mitigate the impact through traffic calming, turn restrictions, and other means. In addition, San Francisco was awarded federal funds to implement SFgo on the Van Ness corridor. This real-time management of traffic signals and traffic information displays for drivers will be in place concurrent with BRT, allowing us to keep traffic flowing during construction, and once BRT is running on Van Ness.
- Read the Transportation Analysis chapter of the Final Environmental Document.
How did you determine which BRT alternative is best for Van Ness?
The Van Ness Avenue BRT Draft EIS/EIR analyzed three BRT alternative configurations and one design variation. Since the beginning of the project, we have collected public and agency stakeholder feedback on the process of alternatives selection and the criteria used to evaluate performance. The Environmental Documents describe each alternative's performance on a number of criteria, some of which are directly related to the project's purpose and need (see Chapter 1 of the EIS/EIR), while others are of interest to public and agency stakeholders. The criteria fall into eight categories:
- Transit Performance
- Passenger Experience
- Access and Pedestrian Safety
- Urban Design/Landscape
- System Performance
- Environmental and Social Effects
- Operations and Maintenance
- Construction and Capital Costs
After incorporating significant analysis and public feedback on the Draft EIS/EIR, the Transportation Authority and SFMTA Boards approved a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) for the Van Ness corridor in May and June of 2012. The LPA represents a hybrid approach to implementation that borrows from some of the most compelling features of the various design alternatives that were analyzed in the Draft EIS/EIR. Under the LPA, BRT lanes would flank the center median except at stations where the BRT vehicles would transition to the center of the roadway and be protected by right side boarding platforms. The LPA retains the high performance features of Build Alternatives 3 and 4 (e.g, faster, more reliable performance) while avoiding the need to acquire left-right door vehicles or rebuild the entire median. The LPA also eliminates all left turns from Van Ness Avenue between Mission and Lombard streets with the exception of a southbound (two lane) left turn at Broadway in order to gain the most transit time benefits. The LPA will bring meaningful travel time savings to this heavily travelled corridor as well as improve the overall travel experience.
- Read the Project Purpose and Need chapter of the Final Environmental Document
- Read the Project Alternatives chapter of the Final Environmental Document
- Read the Alternatives Analysis and LPA chapter of the Final Environmental Document.
Why will Van Ness have bus lanes in the center?
The biggest advantage of center-running transit lanes is the separation of buses from all other traffic. Currently, buses are delayed by other vehicles parking and making right turns. Buses also have trouble pulling into and out of bus stops when there is traffic or illegally parked cars. Right-side bus lanes reduce these conflicts, but separated, center transit lanes remove these conflicts entirely, preserving reliable bus service with short travel times even when other lanes are congested.
Where has BRT Worked?
BRT technology was pioneered in Latin America and has also been implemented in Australia, Canada, and Europe. It is currently being implemented in many United States cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Oakland, Las Vegas, and Boston, because it is cost effective and allows communities to experience benefits relatively quickly. To learn more about BRT in other cities visit The Bus Rapid Transit Policy Center, the American Public Transportation Association, the National BRT Institute, or the International Transportation and Development Policy web sites.
Would the BRT service have a different fare?
No; there are no plans to have a different fare for BRT. Muni currently charges the same fare for all transit services including bus and light rail.
Would MTA purchase new vehicles for the Van Ness BRT project?
Muni is moving to low-floor vehicles on all new buses, so passengers do not have to go up stairs to enter the bus. This will significantly speed up boarding and improve access for seniors and people with disabilities. The current buses are scheduled for replacement within the same timeframe as the project. More work will be undertaken as the study proceeds to identify resources and design bus specifications.
What will be the construction impacts? When would they occur?
Due to the planning and project development process, construction impacts would not occur until late 2015. BRT can be built a few blocks at a time while maintaining transit service and auto access during construction. Construction impacts will be significantly lower when compared with light-rail transit or subway construction.
How much is BRT going to cost?
For the configuration selected as the Locally Preferred Alternative, the cost is estimated at about $125 million. The final construction package may include features in addition to BRT, such as underground utility work and streetlight replacements.
Can we really afford this?
Yes; BRT is a cost effective way to deliver improved transit service. More than $100M in funding for the project has already been identified from planned sources such as the FTA’s Small Starts program ($75M), the Prop K local sales tax measure for transportation ($20M), and additional millions from Caltrans roadway maintenance funds and a developer contribution from the California Pacific Medical Center redevelopment project. The project anticipates a full funding plan in the near future.
Which agency will be in charge of project delivery?
The Van Ness Avenue Bus Rapid Transit Project is a partnership of several city, county, state, and federal agencies. The Transportation Authority led the project through the completion of environmental review, in partnership with the SFMTA, Caltrans, and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). This phase completed with the issuance of a Record of Decision (ROD) by FTA on December 20, 2013.
SFMTA currently leads the project design phase and will manage the construction. The Transportation Authority and the FTA continue to support the project as funding partners with oversight responsibilities. Caltrans is a funding partner and is the owner of record for the corridor, and has both oversight responsibility and permitting authority. The SFMTA is supported by staff from the San Francisco Department of Public Works, Public Utilities Commission, and Planning Department. See the SFMTA Project Page.
How can I get involved?
Public involvement is critical to the success of the Van Ness BRT project. The SFMTA maintains a mailing list, to which you may subscribe. SFMTA has convened a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to guide decisions related to the design, construction, and implementation of the BRT, and its meetings are open to the public. See the SFMTA project page for upcoming CAC, other public meetings, and hearings.