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San Francisco's new bus rapid transit lanes on Van Ness getting rave reviews

San Francisco's new bus rapid transit lanes on Van Ness getting rave reviews 02:42

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- It is a project that took many years and caused a lot of headaches, but it appears to be working. San Francisco's Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit Project was approved in 2013 and finally got rolling in May. Now, a lot of people are already calling it a success.

"The buses, although they have to stop for the lights, they don't get tied up in traffic," explained Hellen, riding the 49 Geary Tuesday. "So they're just going smoothly up and down Van Ness. It is much faster, and the ride is smoother."

Making her regular trip from Union Street to the Mission, the Muni regular says the new lanes have made a huge difference.

"I would say as much as 15 minutes, which is a lot," Hellen said. "I was not expecting that."

"We're getting about a 30% improvement in speed in one direction, about a 15% improvement in speed in the other direction," said SFMTA Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin. "We're getting a dramatic improvement in reliability."

SFMTA says just about everyone, including drivers in their new designated lanes, is finding the new arrangement to be an improvement. Muni's runtimes are even better than expected and more tinkering will likely improve times even further.

"And it matters, because if you are trying to take your kids to school in the morning, like before, with all the traffic," said Muni rider Juthaporn Chaloeicheep. "It was hit or miss."

As for the decade of construction, Muni says what was learned on Van Ness is already being used on other projects.

"So for us, one of the lessons is 'go quick,'" Tumlin said. "Use our quick-build techniques focusing on the surface. So I work on Geary, and on Taraval, and on 16th St., is achieving almost the same benefit, about 20% increase in speed, at about one-tenth the cost."

"Well, I live on Van Ness and the years they were working on it were kind of nightmarish," Hellen said of the construction. "But I have to say, yes, I do really like the most faster ride."

Better service is bringing more passengers. Muni says ridership along this corridor is up about 15% since they rolled out the red carpet.

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