Van Ness Avenue Bus Rapid Transit | Feasibility Study

The Van Ness BRT Feasibility Study, adopted by the Authority and MTA Boards in December 2006, found that BRT on Van Ness would have significant transit benefits and relatively little negative impact. The next stage of project development is now getting underway: an environmental analysis along with preliminary engineering of potential alternatives. The Environmental Analysis will identify a preferred BRT alternative and identify specific ways to mitigate any negative effects of BRT if it is constructed.

Download the Van Ness BRT Feasibility Study:

Fall Report Cover
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5 

Thank you for attending the public workshops! On October 17 and 19, 2006, we hosted public workshops to share the results of our evaluation of impacts and benefits of BRT on Van Ness, and get your input on issues to consider in the next phase of study.  For those of you who were unable to attend, take a look at our e-workshop, which includes all the materials presented on October 17 and 19:

The Study results and Report was presented to our Citizens Advisory Committee on December 6, 2006, and to the Authority Board on December 12, 2006. See the list of archived meeting agendas (last item on page).  The next step in developing BRT on Van Ness is an environmental impact analysis. Stay tuned for more information on the next steps!

Study Objectives

The Van Ness Avenue BRT Study developed and evaluated the feasibility of Bus Rapid Transit alternatives for Van Ness through a technical and community process in order to:

  • Understand transit needs based on travel time & reliability studies, safety studies, and community outreach;
  • Identify ways to prioritize transit and raise the overall level of transit performance using BRT treatments; and
  • Recommend next steps, including a funding and implementation strategy.

The Authority convened an interagency advisory technical panel, including Caltrans, to oversee and help conduct the study.

BRT Alternative Designs

The distinguishing features of four alternative BRT designs for Van Ness Avenue are shown below. All of the proposed designs include the following elements: a lane dedicated to transit; transit signal priority; sidewalk extension at corners (bulbs); landscaping, access and lighting improvements; and transit station platform amenities including ticket vending machines, real-time bus arrival information, and improved maps and signage. Alternative 1 is a No-Project scenario for comparison.

Alternative 1, No Project

Alternative 2, Curb Lane BRT

  • Converts side traffic lanes to bus only lanes
  • Allows cars in bus lane for parallel parking or to turn right
  • Extends sidewalk at transit station platforms (“bus bulbs”)
  • Maintains center median landscaping as is

Van Ness BRT Alternative 2: Curb-Lane BRT

Alternative 3, Center-Side BRT with two medians

  • Converts median and inside traffic lanes to dedicated center bus lanes
  • Separates bus lanes from mixed traffic with two landscaped medians
  • Positions transit station platforms on right-side of buses

Van Ness BRT Alternative 3: Center-Side BRT with two medians

Alternative 4, Center-Side BRT with one median

  • Converts inside traffic lanes to dedicated bus lanes on either side of a single center median
  • Positions transit station platforms on the right side of buses
  • Center median landscaping is modified at to accommodate platforms

Van Ness BRT Alternative 4: Center-Side BRT with one median

Alternative 5, Center-Center BRT

  • Converts inside traffic lanes to dedicated center bus lanes
  • Maintains center median as is
  • Positions transit station platforms in the single center median
  • Operates with left/right door bus vehicles

Van Ness Avenue Bus Rapid Transit, Center-Center Option

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Transit Performance Needs

Data collection and analysis conducted as part of this study identified the following key transit performance concerns on Van Ness:

  • Traveling in mixed traffic causes slow travel times and unreliability for buses. Transit reliability and travel time will improve if transit is separated from mixed traffic.
  • Reliability and speed problems occur all day. Transit treatments must be in place all-day to be effective.
  • Delays associated with passenger loading and unloading can be reduced, increasing reliability and reducing the time it takes to make a trip.
  • Pedestrian crossing conditions are onerous. A number of basic steps can be taken to increase pedestrian comfort. 
  • Much of the transit delay occurs on Van Ness between Mission and Geary.   Treatments should be prioritized in this lower segment. 

Improve Bus Performance Relative to Driving

  • Bus travel times are twice as long as auto travel times. Average bus travel times vary between 18 and 22 minutes, while auto travel times vary between 10 and 13 minutes.
  • Buses spend about half of their time completely stopped. 
  • Buses spend an average of 10 minutes of their travel time in delays, whereas autos only experience 5 minutes of delay on average.

Reduce the Impacts of Mixed Traffic on Buses 

  • Buses are increasingly off schedule, and increasingly bunched, as they travel further in mixed traffic.
  • Even net of dwell time, buses remain 9–35% slower than cars, reflecting right-lane mixed traffic impacts.

Increase Reliability and Decrease Travel Time

Travel time reliability is one of many factors influencing a person's decision to ride on public transportation, and is the most important factor in service quality.  It refers to how consistent travel times and wait times are within the corridor.

Travel by transit on Van Ness is often unreliable due to:

  • Unpredictable wait times for buses. Passengers are just as likely to wait 2 minutes as they are to wait 10 minutes. 10% of passengers wait for 12 minutes or longer.
  • Traffic delays.

Overall travel time is greatly affected by transit infrastructure, such as the type of vehicle and whether buses have signal priority, as well as transit policy, such as whether proof-of-payment is permitted, allowing passengers to board through rear doors.

Sources of travel time delays to transit on Van Ness include:

  • Excess time spent loading and unloading passengers
  • Traffic congestion 

Improve Comfort and Convenience for Pedestrians

Crossing Van Ness Avenue is a long and difficult endeavor on foot. BRT alternatives will be designed to improve comfort and convenience for pedestrians as well as transit passengers. Crossing Van Ness on foot can be made easier and more comfortable by installing:

  • Visibly striped crosswalks 
  • Pedestrian countdown signals
  • Median refuges
  • Corner bulb-outs to shorten the crossing distance

Provide Remarkable Urban and Landscape Design 

The study involves an urban and landscape design program to integrate new transit infrastructure with surrounding workplaces, homes, and businesses. The corridor includes a number of intersections where key transit routes intersect, and where high volumes of pedestrians cross.  BRT alternatives will feature quality design treatments and amenities and these transfer points.  Treatments such as pedestrian-scale lighting can make the street a more comfortable and beautiful place for San Franciscans and visitors to walk and catch the bus.

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Evaluation Results

The Study team evaluated the likely impacts and benefits of BRT on Van Ness. Broadly, BRT offers significant benefits for transit riders and pedestrians, with minimal impact to drivers. For more detail, see the boards below:

Kay Study Findings

Transit Operations and Performance

Transit Rider Experience

Traffic Circulation

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