VAN NESS BRT OPENS
After years of planning, missed schedules and cost overruns, the Van Ness Avenue bus rapid transit line officially opened on April 1, providing improved transit service (via the No 49 bus) to the West side of Russian Hill.
The opening of Van Ness bus rapid transit line marks a significant improvement, bringing faster service, via exclusive bus lanes and signal overrides, to connect Russian Hill to the Civic Center and, via the Muni Metro subway connection at Van Ness and Market, to the Southwest part of the city. Its history, however, demonstrates how slow and difficult it is to in provide significant transit improvements in the city. It was years behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget.
The project was first conceived in 1989, as one of four rapid transit corridors slated for financing using the then-new ½ cent sales tax. The other three corridors were Geary, North Beach, and Bayshore. When the Central Subway is opened to Chinatown, hopefully later this year, we will have completed 2-1/2 of the four corridors. The half is the central subway, for which the extension to North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf (with a station at Washington Square) only now being pursued. Rapid transit on Geary may not be accomplished for decades.
Transit development is complex and expensive. However, San Francisco has not approached the development of a rapid transit system in anything close to a coordinated and comprehensive basis. This is starkly exhibited in the recent project to build a bus rapid transit line on outer Geary, notwithstanding that a rail line for that corridor is also being proposed.
As to Russian Hill, now that we have the Van Ness BRT in place, our attention should turn to the Central Subway extension to Washington Square (supported by RHN), which would provide much needed transit access residents on the East side of the hill.