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FHWA Greenlights More Red Lanes for Buses in San Francisco

The Federal Highway Administration approved 50 applications of red transit-only lanes to be painted throughout San Francisco. Already used on four streets in a pilot program, the lanes have proven effective but are opposed by some business owners.
July 6, 2017, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Bike and Bus Lane

The bus-only, red-colored transit lanes first appeared in 2013 as part of a demonstration project after gaining permission from state and federal authorities a year earlier. Very early on, they were shown to improve transit service, but they also provoked  controversial among some business owners, homeowners and drivers who claimed they made auto travel more difficult and reduced access by motorists to stores adjacent to the transit lanes as some turns are prohibited.

On June 2,  after reviewing the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's Red Transit Lanes Final Evaluation Report of three such lanes, the Federal Highway Administration approved the agency's application for 50 additional streets, including "existing transit lanes and those proposed as part of projects like the Van Ness Improvement Project, the Geary Rapid Project and others in the Muni Forward Rapid Network," writes Aaron Bialick for SFMTA.

"Overall collisions on three red-colored streets — Geary, Third and O’Farrell streets — dropped by 16 percent and injury collisions dropped by 24 percent at a time when they did not change significantly citywide," reports Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, who covers transportation for the San Francisco Examiner. 

“The data we’ve already seen shows this is a proven treatment that works. It works to improve reliability, and to reduce collisions, and that is a huge win,” said Rachel Hyden, executive director of the San Francisco Transit Riders advocacy group.

However, the lanes are still experiments, but "that soon may change," wrote Doug Hecox, a spokesperson for the administration, to the Examiner in an email.

If the lanes prove successful, red lanes will be approved by the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, although they also are being used in the District of Columbia.

When installed, the SFMTA will report back to the highway administration on the number of vehicles driving in transit-only lanes, parking violations in the lanes, the behavior of private vehicles turning and blocking buses, collisions and transit travel time to measure their success.

For more findings on SFMTA's red lane evaluation report and a second analysis, see Bialick's April 7 blog, "Red Transit-Only Lanes Work: Two New Studies Show Their Benefits."

Red transit-only lanes on Market Street. 
Credit: SFMTA

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Published on Monday, July 3, 2017 in San Francisco Examiner
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