New Muni Routes Bend Laws of Physics, Leave Western SoMa In the Lurch
September 24, 2009, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Transit

Don’t get me wrong–the MTA’s Transit Efficiency Project (TEP, not to be confused with NEP) is long overdue. Anyone who’s had the pleasure of taking transit just about anywhere else in the world knows that dear old Muni is, at best, a charming throwback. Bus routes wander through neighborhoods (planned, apparently, to cover as many streets as possible rather than move quickly), main lines stop at every little block (sometimes twice!) and routes seem designed to go everywhere except where anyone might actually want to go. Sure, there are those of us who dream about a citywide subway system, with art-deco stops every few steps like we’re some sort of Paris or something. But let’s look at the facts: it’s going to take Muni 10 years and a gajillion dollars to build a ridiculous little 3-stop stub of a central subway line, assuming it even gets built. Focusing Muni’s meager resources on better-designed routes (and moving them along just a little more quickly) could have the greatest impact on the practical experience of taking Muni since a tunnel got built under Market Street.

However, the recommended changes (which you can see at the TEP web site) seem to reduce service to SoMa, and Western SoMa in particular, something that doesn’t make a lot of sense considering it’s potentially the most dynamic neighborhood in the city. New development has changed (and will continue to change) the area’s character more than any other, and making SoMa more “livable” was supposed to be a priority in San Francisco planning circles. But you wouldn’t know that from the Muni plans.

Current Muni Map:


Proposed Muni Map:


First of all, wherefore the 12? The good old 12 Folsom has never been the most crowded of lines, admittedly, but it seemed like a far-sighted idea: a straight shot up the Mission, across SoMa, around the Embarcadero, then back across North Beach. It didn’t wander, and was easy to remember, running all the way up Folsom and down most of Harrison. But on the revised map, the 12 has basically disappeared, turning into a typical wandering neighborhood line, carousing around Potrero Hill before diving into downtown’s crowded, slow-moving streets. It has apparently been replaced by the 27, shifted over from its current route up Bryant to run along Folsom, but with no equivalent service down Harrison. How, pray tell, do the buses get back? Does Muni have Star Trek transporter technology to magically beam buses to their starting point, and if so, why aren’t they using it to make the N run faster? Also, neighborhood fave the 47 has been shifted, bafflingly, from 11th over to 13th/Division St., which might, at times, make it move a little faster, but anyone who’s seen the traffic coming west on Division around rush hour knows adding a bus to that mix might be a bad idea. Plus, that street is a sea of Best Buy and OfficeMax parking lots, not exactly convenient for, well, anyone.

My own personal Muni pet peeve for Western SoMa isn’t addressed, either: there’s no straightforward service to the BART station at 16th and Mission, something that would make sense in a world where Muni and BART were playing for the same team (or anyone at Muni understood Western SoMa’s desperate need for quality burritos).

Granted, speeding up (and cleaning up) the 38 Geary (whose ridership figures rival those of some cities’ entire transit systems) should clearly take priority, and the last thing Western SoMa should do is add its voice to what is destined to be a chorus of neighborhood activists demanding to know why they should walk another block to catch the bus. But planning for the future in a neighborhood with great potential seems like it also might be a good idea, and even if we’re not the Tenderloin, there are still a lot of people who call it home.


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