Having finally broken ground last year, which led to some false hopes with respect to the redevelopment of the former McDonald’s site at the corner of Van Ness and Golden Gate Avenues, the projected end of construction and opening date for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line down Van Ness Avenue has been pushed back to mid-2020.

According to San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency by way of the Examiner, “the project has been delayed due to an increase of wet weather since the project started as well as contractual challenges in getting a utility contractor on board.”

In addition, design changes for the $190 million project have impacted the previous timeline which called for an opening at the end of 2019 and could lead to litigation from the construction firms.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Invented

    Good. Cancel project.
    Now let’s upzone Van Ness & adjacent blocks
    Underground transit.

    • Posted by louiemondot

      Totally! But Geary underground should be considered first

      • Posted by Mark

        Will never, ever happen. Where is Wiener’s subway master plan? Enough said.

    • Posted by jimbo

      totally agree. building a geary subway to arguello and a divisadero subway should both be high priorities. stop this BRT nonsense and invest like a real city

      • Posted by Mark F.

        And the billions of dollars needed come from where?

        • Posted by jimbo

          we have the largest city budget by far of any city our size. we also have the highest taxes. we spend $300+M per year on the homeless without making a dent in the problem. these Van NEss and Geary BRT moneys could be saved and invested towards this. someohow other, less wealthy cities are able to do it

        • Posted by Mark

          We managed to find billions for the Central Subway to nowhere and hundreds of millions for a delayed BRT that will really do nothing to address our transit problems. BART keeps building massive park/ride stations in the middle of nowhere with money coming from someone’s pockets.

          Roads need to be fixed. Where’s the money coming from for that? BART needs seismic retrofitting. Money has to come from somewhere. If your questioning of funding is meant to prevent even the consideration of projects then don’t complain about traffic congestion and unreliable transit.

          • Posted by Martin

            BART did get money for seismic work. And Central Subway is hardly to nowhere, although I’d have preferred a stop in North Beach, but maybe they chopped it at Chinatown to ensure there’s enough political will to keep extending it.

          • Posted by Mark

            Central Subway has always been about appeasing Chinatown, and only Chinatown, after the Embarcadero Freeway was removed. There was never any real interest in extending it beyond Chinatown. Heck, the tunnels even extend a half mile to the heart of North Beach but there has never been a plan to include a station. The Union Square station is being built with no provision for an underground Geary rail line. All new subway station platforms were reduced in length to only handle 2-car train sets (although Muni plans to only run 1-car trains in the new subway).

          • Posted by Frisco

            Sorry, the Central Subway is not to nowhere, it’s to Chinatown. Should we ask why you consider Chinatown “nowhere”?

          • Posted by Mark

            It goes “somewhere” if you look at the political reasons why it only goes to Chinatown. That’s why it was built. It was never meant to bring riders to North Beach or points beyond and it never will. And, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s hardly even a subway considering Muni will only be running 1-car trains in the tunnel.

            For $2B a more efficient and cheaper means of shuttling riders to Chinatown, because that’s the final destination after all, could have been employed, but Pak was promised a subway station and that’s what Pak will get.

          • Posted by SFRealist

            The Central Subway will be a great help for the hordes of people who travel between Chinatown and Moscone Center.

          • Posted by Neigh - Bor

            It’s too bad no one compelled chinatown advocates to lobby for and build a subway between chinatown and other chinese communities in the richmond. It would have been a better service to those communities and the city generally.

        • Posted by SFRealist

          “And the billions of dollars needed come from where?”

          Well here is a start.

    • Posted by David S

      Correct response.

    • Posted by scott f

      Terrible response. If we can’t even pull off rapid bus, we’re not going to get a subway either and will be left with nothing. Funding issues, contractor issues, merchants freaking out about temporary disruption, lack of political will… these are all issues that will come back 5x with a subway.

      Van Ness should be the first corridor in line for a subway (maybe second if a deal is made to massively upzone along Geary), but thinking that attacking rapid bus is going to somehow make it come faster is fantasy land.

      • Posted by Mark

        It all depends on where a subway would go and connect with other major transit line. The most logical plan would be to extend the Central Subway past Chinatown through NB and to Aquatic Park and then under Van Ness to at least Market St., or better yet, under Division all the way to the new Arena.

        The issue is the inability of the city to get a rather simple and decades-delayed Band-Aid project up and running without major time and cost delays. Spending hundreds of millions of dollars and decades of delays and construction to yield something that won’t even scratch the surface of our transit problems is a boondoggle. If running a bus line in a dedicated ROW for 2 miles takes 20 years to happen imagine what it would take for a new subway line under Van Ness to happen. Not in anyone’s lifetime.

        • Posted by Orland

          Exactly why BRT on Van Ness and Geary makes so much sense and the hostility towards it constitutes sheer idiocy.

          • Posted by Mark

            Wrong. Idiocy is from people who think that BRT is going to do anything to solve our transportation problems. Expected time savings on Van Ness BRT from end to end is projected at 4-5 minutes. Big deal.

          • Posted by stevenj

            I have gotten off the evening southbound 47 or 49 numerous times and out walked it to Market. The cause generally is the clusterf**k of cars backed up from S Van Ness & Division that can slow auto traffic to a crawl as far back as Broadway. This reason alone warrants BRT.

          • Posted by Sierrajeff

            And how will red paint preclude the “clusterf**k” of cars from slowing down busses? Cross-traffic, protests, weather … magic red paint won’t preclude any of that.

          • Posted by Orland

            If you really think BRT isn’t a magnitude above transit mired in general street traffic, go to CDMX and try it.

  2. Posted by Davester

    Only in San Francisco would such a simplistic project take 7 years to complete – this City is a joke.

    • Posted by Sutro_Tower

      7 years? I think it’s closer to 12 or 14. I remember attending an outreach meeting when I was still a junior in HS.

      The fact that it has taken this long, with no real finish line in sight is beyond embarrassing.

    • Posted by Stop Driving

      I cringe when I hear people refer to this place as a ‘world class city.’

      • Posted by Jonathan

        Couldn’t agree more! LA finished the light rail line from Santa Monica to downtown LA in a few years…17 miles I believe

        • Posted by Mark

          Indeed. The project was split in two segments but pretty much was completed on time and on budget.

          • Posted by stevenj

            Wondering if the scope of the project included replacing century old water and sewer lines? Did the street get upgraded/landscaped as well?

          • Posted by Mark

            Is that your excuse for the delays and any cost overruns for BRT?

        • Posted by Mark

          And it takes about 45 minutes to travel this length…less time in most cases than taking the 38 from end to end.

          • Posted by Sierrajeff

            Inapt comparisons much? The 38 goes ~7 miles; the Expo line goes ~15 (from DTLA to Santa Monica).

          • Posted by Mark

            It’s a fair comparison.

          • Posted by Sierrajeff

            I think I mis-read your comment and we’re actually on the same side of the argument – that a light rail / subway light would be far more sensible, and faster, than magic red paint.

      • Posted by dB

        The local repetition of that phrase is such a transparent “doth protest too much”, it is embarrassing. I’ve never been to an actual world class city where folks were concerned with such a concept (obviously).

        This a great town, but it should quit pretending (whilst also wiping the BOS clean, and installing some sane moderates that care about said town).

        Oh, but then I think about the planning commission, MTA, et al. The mess is pretty intractable in the end, which is a perfect segue back to the actual topic at had: Van Ness BRT…

    • Posted by Neigh - Bor

      Its been in the works for more like 17 years. . . it is said. there should be a giant overhaul of city processes. SF government is designed to navel gaze and do nothing. Until about 10 years ago the BOS approved every single stop sign. . . so our elected officials would hold hearings and vote on stop signs. Given that detail you can only imagine the maze of bullcrap this project waded through to get to where it is.

  3. Posted by Richard

    Very little progress evident on the southern end since the arborists wrapped up a couple months ago. Not sure the weather excuse makes sense. Some other bottleneck appears to have sprung up. Anyone know the story?

  4. Posted by John Hamil

    The city really needs to get their heads in gear. This delay is really pathetic. I never really liked the idea of a bus line because it’s a cop-out of really dealing with the problem. The city needs to have an underground. At this point, if the bus line is going to delay another 3.5 years, makes no sense to put in an underground.

  5. Posted by Philip

    You’d think they were building the Panama Canal. Rain! Imagine! Guess they never thought of that. In any normal city, this wold take a year at most.
    Yet the sheep keep electing the same set of incompetent, smug, arrogant “progressives”.

    • Posted by SFRealist

      This is more due to incompetence in the executive branch than the legislative.

      • Posted by Neigh - Bor

        It has to do with redundant process in local government; Four agencies all trying to manage SF Streets (SFTMA, SFCTA, DPW and Planning Department); no clear leadership at BOS or City Hall on transportation issues; and SF’s darling issue politics – – – please don’t forget supervisor’s last minute effort to hault the project to save historic street lamps. Our politicians need to start standing up to one issue myopic advocates.

        • Posted by SFRealist

          Yes. And it should be the Executive Branch that sorts this out. (Granted the Supervisors could also provide meaningful fiscal oversight, byt really it’s the Mayor’s job. The buck stops there.)

    • Posted by Sierrajeff

      And what rain, in any event?! Yes it was a rainy winter, but they ripped out the medians on Van Ness months ago – I know b/c I go to the 24 Hour Fitness @ Post; there’s been fencing and paved-over former landscaped medians there for months, untouched — *after* this winter’s rains ended. And now you’re telling me that stalled construction zone is going to stay like that for *3* years?!

  6. Posted by Adam

    Wet weather? Are they serious? I know we had a wet winter but rain in winter is a Thing That Happens in San Francisco. If they didn’t anticipate rain I’m not sure these people are qualified to conduct public works in this town.

    • Posted by Mark

      Next they’ll be blaming the recent smoke/haze from the wildfires. No wait. Muni already claimed that excuse.

      This is completely pathetic and pretty much sums up SF as a whole. For you diehard fans who think SF is some kind of mecca, pull your heads out of the sand, look around, and then go to other cities that get things done right. You think this delay is bad? Wait until the Geary BRT starts construction…if it ever does. Just wait.

      After all is said and done, this stretch of BRT will do very little, if anything, to improve transit on this particular corridor or any of the connecting bus/rail lines.

      • Posted by NoeNeighbor

        Oh but it will slow down motorized vehicle traffic — so there is that “victory”.

        • Posted by Mark

          Right, because the one major N-S artery in this part of town needs slower traffic on fewer lanes. Like people will suddenly stop driving because of 2 miles of BRT.

          • Posted by Frisco

            Apparently you haven’t heard of Gough or Franklin streets. Van Ness is never the best N-S route.

          • Posted by Mark

            Yeah, I have heard of those streets and have spent my fair share of time in stop and go traffic on both. So much for your suggestion of using these streets as an alternative to Van Ness.

          • Posted by cfb

            uhh…Gough and Franklin are absolutely faster routes than Van Ness, but they’re not traffic-free, in case you were confused. Traffic kinda comes with the territory when it comes to major streets in the center of a big city.

            I agree about BRT though, it’s a total waste. We need subways yesterday, not a half-assed BRT line in 3 years.

          • Posted by jimbo

            gough and franklin not any faster than Van Ness in rush hour. ive done the commutes over and over and over again. they all suck. taking away a lane instead of going underground is just piss poor planning

        • Posted by Richard

          That’s the whole point of a war on cars, isn’t it?

          • Posted by Martin

            It’s not a war on cars, it’s trying to move more people in same amount of space. No one is gonna ride a bus that is stuck in same traffic as cars. Also, it’s not like cars are losing 1/3 of space since there will now be zero buses in the other two lanes. Cars in the right lane used to get backed up by buses all the time, so it’s not like that 3rd lane was utilized at 100%.

            True measure will be number of residents moved across the segment.

          • Posted by stevenj

            Auto drivers always consider transit improvements like this a “war on cars” but for those of us on busses on Van Ness it is cars waging a war on transit. And, everyone loses. The reason subways are built in large dense cities is because a tipping point is reached where no one moves at an efficient pace. Transit customers always outnumber those in cars (which in this city is a staggering number of single occupant vehicles). Separation is a logical solution. State and federal funds are now really hard to come by for transit dollars. BRT is much less expensive than digging subway lines on Van Ness or Geary (and that would not take local service busses off the street) however underground (or elevated) would be a much preferable and more permanent solution for transit customers.

      • Posted by jimbo

        its time to turn over transit to the private sector. would love for google to take over

        • Posted by Neighborhood Activist

          Now there’s a laugh. Google is good at software, but they’ve pretty much never executed a successful hardware project, and their only real foray into infrastructure, Google Fiber, has been behind schedule and delivered results that were far less than promised. Most of the cities that were supposed to get it have not and probably never will. So, um, no. Fortunately, they’re not in the transit infrastructure business.

          • Posted by jimbo

            i guarantee they could do a better job than SF city

          • Posted by Tim Bracken

            “Google is good at software, but they’ve pretty much never executed a successful hardware project, and their only real foray into infrastructure, Google Fiber, has been behind schedule.”

            If all goes according to plan, Google X’s Project Loon is about to prove you wrong: a network of solar-powered balloons in the stratosphere that can change position and provide cell service to remote or disaster-stricken regions like Puerto Rico.

  7. Posted by Bowen

    I believe most of the complexity of this project is not the BRT itself, but the combined efforts to replace utilities, sewer and water, all of which needed upgrades given their age. I’m sure somebody knows more details about the combined efforts of the overall project. As a rule of thumb, seems to make sense to rip up a road only once instead of twice or three times.

    • Posted by ccsf_student

      I can believe the attempt at only ripping up the road once, but expect it to be ripped up within 6 months of completion. Look at the work on 25th – they finished it and promptly ripped it up less than 2 months later. They did repave it well again, but still it was repaved twice in just the span of months. Even with the “complex” work, they should have employed a different plan.

    • Posted by Richard

      Thanks for that. The paving over the new median looks temporary to my untrained eyes. Hopefully they find someone to do the utility work soon so the platforms can be built out.

    • Posted by Mark

      It’s a lame excuse not having a utility contractor on board. We’re still waiting for Muni to get a new contractor for the rail replacement project in the TP tunnel. Let’s see how many years that project will be delayed.

    • Posted by Tomb2

      This is correct. I wish stories about this project made it clearer that it’s not just a bus lane build out but also involves enormous amounts of utility work that isn’t even SFMTA’s responsibility. There is so much anger directed at this project – I suspect most of it is of the “why can’t we just build a subway” variety – and very few people seem to understand what the project actually is.

  8. Posted by oh my

    Weather delays…hehehehe

  9. Posted by DCR

    What I love is that someone decided that during this work it would be a great time to also dig up Polk Street and occasionally divert traffic up to Van Ness where you can’t take a left to get back on Polk until either past Market or you have to go up to Gough and loop around. So in terms of reasonable alternate north/south routes east of the Presidio with lights through the city we’ve got Divis, and Gough/Franklin only?

  10. Posted by Martin

    LA did LRT faster because the right-of-way they were using didn’t have sewage or water pipes that needed to be replacement. Also consider that’s not just replacing one pipe. Every building on the block has its dedicated water and sewage (and probably purple pipe) connection that needs to be reconnected.

  11. Posted by jimbo

    i wish they would scrap the whole thing and invest in a true subway . this POS plan just makes the traffic worse for everyone and will lead to more accidents and ore congestion

  12. Posted by ghostwriter

    PATHETIC!

  13. Posted by Joe

    BS – what wet weather?

  14. Posted by PanhandlePro

    Have any of you calling for an underground subway actually seen a true BRT system in action? It’s pretty damn fast. They have a dedicated lane, timed lights, and very quick on/offloading. It doesn’t take five minutes to go up/down to your train from the street. It’s a massive improvement for not that much cost.

    Or you can be forced to dig up an entire street for many years, creating a whole underground world, for a tremendous sum of money.

    The ROI from BRT is much better than an underground subway. In an uncertain transportation future with self-driving cars looming, this is the right call.

    • Posted by Sierrajeff

      No, it’s *not* “pretty damn fast” – at least not as envisioned for Van Ness. The whole thing’s only projected to save 4 or 5 minutes *end-to-end*. And still fully subject to surface-level interruptions (car accidents, heavy driving days, weather, protests) – none of which would be an issue for a subway.

      • Posted by anon2.5

        Where is this 4-5 min. estimate coming from?

        Assuming it’s an average, that’s a pretty significant avg. savings actually. That would do a lot to increase the frequency of buses even assuming the same number of buses. Also, I assume the BRT would mitigate long tail delays during rush hour.

        • Posted by Martin

          I read the savings are up to 7 mins, so combine that with more savings on Mission with the red lanes, you’re talking about a 10 minute time savings end-to-end. That’s 1-2 less buses + drivers needed to run the same route 49 schedule.

          If we only didn’t have to replace the sewer, water and purple pipes each time and reconnect them back to each building.

      • Posted by Mark

        4-5 min estimates are from the SFMTA. I have seen real BRT in action and when done properly it’s phenomenal. Same goes for light rail. Not 5 different lines comprised of 1 and 2 car trains sets crowding a single tunnel with a minimal number of crossovers/sidings to handle broken down trains or other disruptions. Travel from West Portal to the Embarcadero should consistently take only 12-14 minutes. Not 20 minutes some days…or 40…or 60. 12-14.

        Tunnel boring has advanced tremendously since the 70s when Market St. was ripped up and most of the subway costs come from building stations rather than tunnels. Google the Central Subway for more on this.

        There is no right answer as the complexities impact decisions that are expensive regardless of the outcome. The problem with SF is that it never really had a real transit vision so what we get are piecemeal projects that aren’t integrated locally or regionally.

        • Posted by Mark

          I guess including relevant links is a no-no. Who knew.

      • Posted by PanhandlePro

        Even if it’s 4-5 minutes, how long does it take someone to take an escalator or two (or walk up stairs) to get to an underground subway. Another two minutes each way? Once you add that into the calculation, I think an underground subway becomes less compelling for Van Ness. For a very long stretch like Geary it makes sense with economies of scale.

  15. Posted by Someone stole my burrito™

    I mean…it’s just red paint. Get to it already.

    • Posted by Pablito

      First we have to have a committee to debate which shade of red. Then once we pick one – and find out it’s not available or made in a country or state we disapprove of – we reconvene the committee to talk about the color green. Then the BOS debates yellow for 3 months while the Peskinites put a proposition on the ballot for purple.
      Once the furor dies down DPW paints the street red – but like the T-line – the MTA never adjusts the traffic signals correctly to actually give the transit vehicles priority. 🙂

  16. Posted by Anon94123

    Most of the estimated reduced travel time for bus riders when this is completed is because of the reduction in designated stops (I believe nine in total) on Van Ness.

    • Posted by Martin

      Since you used term “most”, as long as 51%+ of savings are from stop removal, you’re correct. However, if 49% of savings are from signal-pre-emption, than we’re nearly doubling the savings.

  17. Posted by goodmaab50

    funny how people only realize the wasteful spending on short term and minor fixes, when the real issue is how to get the SFMTA to fund and design for larger links, loops and connections in the system.

    Its connecting the dots people, just look at the existing lines, where we dont have connections, and where the density is going.

    If you want to relieve the traffic and congestion, mass-transit solutions are required, maybe not subway but at least a process to address muni’s and barts short-falls and lacking envisionment of a citywide network…

    come on MUNI/BART pony up and put out a plan that will work for the next 1mil people living here

    • Posted by Martin

      Well, BART is getting new cars with 3 doors, that means that each train will dwell at the station less and we can hopefully run a few more trains an hour. Each trains holds about 2000 people, so there’s gain there.

      Muni is getting new trains that supposedly can be run in triple and quad formations, so we might get NNN and NNNN soon.

      Also, I don’t know if anyone noticed, but the intersection of Embarcadero & Folsom used to only allow a single muni train to clear for each 100 second light cycle. After some work, I observed 3 trains clearing the intersection before cross traffic from Folsom got a green light. Someone definitely did something good there.

      • Posted by Mark

        Surface streets won’t be able to handle NNN or NNNN. 2-car trains crawl from Church/Duboce to the avenues as it is. If there is need for 3 or 4 car configurations then that’s a really good sign that this line should be in a subway.

        • Posted by David S

          I’ve been wondering where undergrounding the N has been on any subway planner’s books.

        • Posted by Martin

          Streets can handle longer cars. Muni is putting extending islands into 36th and 37th avenues where the intersection will be be turned into a double T intersection for cars. Perhaps 4-car trains won’t go all the way to Ocean Beach, but 3-car trains can be done.

          • Posted by Mark

            One extended island barely addresses the operational limitations of 3 or 4 car train sets on surface lines running in mixed traffic. Have you ever noticed that a 1-car train zips along faster than a 2-car train? Add another car or two to the set and it slows down even more so. As I said, if there is a need for longer trains then look into a subway solution. I’d rather see $2.5-3B go towards undergrounding a lot of the N line than put towards putting the M line underground.

  18. Posted by goodmaab50

    Reminder CPMC Van-Mess was to have an undergrounded passageway to the MOB building cross the street vs. pushing wheelchairs, gurney’s across… and than we were to have improved BRT/Subway out on F-line to Presidio (public access to a public park) and connectivity between public and private hospitals (St.Lukes, SFGH, etc…)

    makes sense to extend it further, and loop it on cesar chavez back to potrero or t-third… and loop to candlestick… get some routes made and connections for future density in planning and build it…. to wait risks functionality of SF….

    • Posted by Martin

      I’m pretty sure CPMC VanNess does have an underground passageway. I clearly recall Van Ness being shutdown for a few weekends to dig one out.

      • Posted by Orland

        Not a few weeks but several weekends for just that purpose.

        • Posted by Orland

          Obviously misread your comment the first time.

  19. Posted by dB

    The City That Knew How.

  20. Posted by Mari

    Bus Rapid = Slow Bus. Simple as that!

  21. Posted by DrElefun

    The Damn Mess Avenue project will be completed at the same time as the Rose Pak Railway from Market Street. Unless we get more rain.

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