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Seeing red: Mission Street red turn lane restrictions relaxed

This story was originally published at SFBay.ca on August 17.

After adding red transit-only lanes and implementing other changes to Mission Street, the SFMTA has relaxed some of those enforcements after receiving complaints from local residents and businesses. Photo Jessica Webb
After adding red transit-only lanes and implementing other changes to Mission Street, the SFMTA has relaxed some of those enforcements after receiving complaints from local residents and businesses. Photo Jessica Webb

sfbay-3dSan Francisco is relaxing some of its forced right turns on Mission Street as a compromise between merchants and residents.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s (SFMTA) Board of Directors on August 16 approved to remove two forced turns on Mission and 22nd streets and on Mission and 26th streets from the original plan of the 14-Mission Rapid Project.

Also now allowed is a left turn exemption for taxis on Mission and 21st Streets, and moving the Cortland street bus stop in the outbound direction to the nearside of the intersection.

The SFMTA board approved the $7.2 million project that included adding red transit-only lanes, six forced right turns on Mission Street between 14th and 30th streets and restricting left turns.

At issue with merchants are the six forced right turns, including one at Mission and Cesar Chavez streets. Merchants have said that sales are down and that customers are having a hard time finding parking spaces and just getting onto Mission Street.

Roberto Hernandez, who sits on the board of the Mission Merchants Association, said he and 13 others surveyed 357 businesses on Mission Street between Cesar Chavez and 14th streets.

His group found that 301 businesses had reported losses since the project began. Thirty-three employees from various stores were laid off because of the loss of revenue. During Tuesday’s meeting, Hernandez said 14 businesses have closed and another three are on the brink of closing soon.

Gabriel Medina, policy manager for the Mission Economic Development Agency, said the project came at a bad time with issues like mass evictions going on in the neighborhood:

“When we had three community meetings, the community overwhelmingly said ‘don’t do this project right now,’” Medina said, also calling the forced right turn a barrier. “We’re asking to remove the wall on Cesar Chavez. Basically instead of having a gateway to our most important culture business corridor, you have a wall.”

Medina also was not in favor of the removal of some Muni bus stops. Many of the clients from his organization, who are low-income, use Muni and now see their access limited.

“We’re talking about getting our stops back,” Medina said. “We’re talking, keep the Mission whole. Having us turn off every four blocks does not keep our neighborhood whole.”

Matt Brill, the SFMTA project manager, said he has heard the complaints from the merchants about customers not being able to access stores and parking spaces along Mission Street.

Brill said the transit agency started an advertising campaign to inform drivers of the nearby parking garages, one on 21st Street (Mission-Bartlett Garage) and on Hoff Street (16th & Hoff Garage).

The SFMTA is also working with The City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development to support marketing to highlight the neighborhood and transit options to get to the Mission District, Brill said.

Brill also addressed the reason why it was best to keep the forced right turn on Mission and Cesar Chavez streets.

“We did evaluate the potential for removing that restriction at that intersection,” Brill said. “However, given that northbound Mission is now a single lane, if we were to remove that [forced right turn], the congestion along Mission Street would be far worse than it was before, which means both drivers and Muni riders will have a less good experience as they did prior to implementing the project.”

SFMTA board Director Gwyneth Borden said that there was no intent to harm the Mission neighborhood except to speed up transit.

Borden, who lives on Mission and Richland streets, said she takes the 14R every day.

She restated that the data the SFMTA collected reflected that people of color and low-income Muni riders are taking trips to Mission Street.

“I think we have to remember that at the end of the process whatever we come to or whatever the answers are, we have to get to a place where people who do need to use public transit or depend on public transit, which we know for this line, are able to get to places more quickly.”

Story by: Jerold Chinn