tales of the 49, part 2

The two main buses running down Van Ness have a certain je ne sais quoi. Actually, scratch that, I do know what it is: they can’t run properly (i.e., on time) because that street is a horrible place to attempt a move from Point A to Point B.

6:19 p.m.: Time I step on a 49-Van Ness, heading toward the Mission.

7:11 p.m.: Time I step off the same bus and start walking to Jeff’s house.

Summary: I was on the same bus for 52 minutes, mostly on Van Ness, as it crawled along at an infuriating snail’s pace, to go a total of 3.3 miles. To put it in perspective, the 2.2-mile, straight-line leg from North Point and Van Ness to Mission and Van Ness took 40 minutes; 511 Trip Planner says that same leg should take about 24 minutes.

Crappy service on Van Ness is one Muni meltdown that usually isn’t the agency’s fault. Yesterday was especially not its fault, thanks to a brush fire on Yerba Buena Island that snarled traffic on the Bay Bridge and on the Van Ness approach to the freeway. Still, I think we can all agree that it really sucks to be on a bus for an hour.

Since we can’t get in our Way-Back Machine and make better planning decisions about how to handle this street, we’ll all just have to make do. To that end, I’m a big believer in one of the ways we can make do on Van Ness: bus rapid transit.

If any street other than Geary needed BRT, Van Ness is it. More than a year ago, word was that VN is next in line, should the slow-moving Geary plan ever move forward. The San Francisco County Transportation Authority website now says service “could” start in 2011 on Van Ness, while service on Geary should start in 2012, pending a “refined project scope.” Sadly, “refining the scope” sounds suspiciously iffy, analogous to “we could decide to bag the project midway through.”

Paranoia aside, one thing that does concern me is budget. Though the $75-80-million construction for the Van Ness project is funded with federal and Prop. K funds, it still comes with its share of operational costs once it’s up and running. Keeping the transportation budget in line and having numerous public discussions about these much-needed improvements are the only way these lines will ever get off the ground.

– Tara

Tara Ramroop’s new arch-nemesis is Van Ness Avenue and all its related bullshit. Go BRT or go home!

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