Geary BRT plan looks at tunnels, bikes

by Paul Kozakiewicz

The SF County Transportation Authority released some preliminary plans for the planned Geary Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) program for Geary Boulevard on Jan. 28.

The BRT would create dedicated traffic lanes for buses and incorporate other features, like signal priority and low-floor buses, in an effort to speed up the Muni #38 Geary bus. The local and express buses would use the same dedicated roadway.

The Authority, in a presentation to the Geary Citizens Advisory Committee, explained its concepts for two key intersections, those at Geary and Masonic Avenue and Geary and Fillmore Street.

At Masonic, one plan would use the existing tunnel for buses only, diverting vehicle traffic to the service roads that currently run above the tunnel. Another option would have the buses use the service roads, but to do that buses might have to merge with vehicle traffic to get from the center lanes to the outside lanes.

At Fillmore, the transportation authority wants to fill in the existing tunnel to bring all traffic to street level. In that scenario, there would be two lanes for vehicles traveling in both directions, two lanes dedicated for buses and, potentially, a bicycle lane.

Because the BRT project has to be "rail ready," there are no plans to fill in the tunnel at Masonic because the hill at that intersection is too tall for trains.

At both intersections, parking spaces might have to be removed or reconfigured.

Also discussed at the meeting was initial research for accommodating bicycles on Geary. To do so, would likely require removing parking spaces and limiting some left-hand turns.

"There would be significant tradeoffs," said Zabe Bent, the authority's principal transportation planner.

The authority is looking at the possibility of creating bicycle lanes on Anza Street between the western end of Geary and Masonic Avenue, and then using Geary as a bicycle corridor between Masonic and Fillmore.

According to Bent, there will be more research and outreach to Anza Street residents if the plan moves forward.

The Geary BRT project, which is estimated to cost $215 million, is expected to attract federal funding through the Small Starts program. Money to replace the 42 buses that are needed to operate the #38 Geary will come from Muni's normal operating budget.