SFMTA Makes Temporary Transit Lanes Permanent in San Francisco

The SFMTA Board of Directors has voted to make the majority of Temporary Emergency Transit Lane (TETL) projects in San Francisco permanent.

The benefits of the agency’s successful temporary improvements to bus services throughout the pandemic will now be preserved for the longer term.

At the start of the pandemic, low traffic volumes resulted in a 15% average reduction in travel time across bus routes, allowing SFMTA to provide a more frequent and less crowded service. Once traffic returned, the Temporary Emergency Transit Lane programme was launched to continue this service, so that people making essential trips wouldn’t get stuck on slow and crowded buses.

The Temporary Emergency Transit Lane programme rapidly installed nearly 13 miles of transit lanes over 18 months. The project improved routes carrying two-thirds of the agency’s customers and served neighbourhoods identified by the Muni Service Equity Strategy.

The recent announcement has permanently approved temporary transit lanes for Muni’s 1 California, 19 Polk, 27 Bryant, 43 Masonic, and 44 O’Shaughnessy. As some corridors were already made permanent in 2021, a total of 10 miles of the temporary transit lanes are now permanent within San Fransisco.

SFMTA temporary transit lanes
Map of nearly 10 miles of permanently approved and 13 miles of installed transit lanes as part of the Temporary Emergency Transit Lanes programme

The 1 California transit lane was installed in summer 2021, and resulted in a 15% faster travel time for customers on this high-ridership line.

Furthermore, the transit lanes on 7th and 8th streets in SoMa are critical corridors for the 19 Polk, which serves as a key north-south connector in San Francisco. The 27 Bryant’s route was also modified last year to use the lanes for efficient travel through SoMa. Transit travel time along 7th and 8th streets decreased by 13% when the lanes were installed and remain up to 25% shorter than pre-COVID conditions, despite the increase in traffic volume.

The announcement also affects temporary emergency transit improvements at six key locations prone to traffic bottlenecks on the 43 Masonic and 44 O’Shaughnessy routes. These improvements included transit lanes and left turn restrictions to help buses pass through the bottlenecks.

The Park Presidio Lombard HOV lanes are now the only remaining project being implemented as part of the Temporary Emergency Transit Lane programme. Once complete, a thorough evaluation will evaluate whether these lanes can be made permanent. This possibility will be explored in partnership with Caltrans, as the lanes are on a state highway.

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