Sunday, April 15, 2007

Merchants Against BRT?

I kept seeing signs in the windows at a few stores along Geary Blvd saying "Don't let MUNI ruin our street". I was curious what the heck they were talking about, so I did some research, and found the website Turns out the website was put together by the Geary Blvd Merchants Association and apparently they have a committee that is trying to prevent Bus Rapit Transit and/or light rail from being installed along Geary Blvd. Their main argument seems to be that all the construction and traffic would be bad for business and would force them all to close.

I just can't understand why they would want to keep Geary the way it is, with poor pedestrain safety, and buses pulling in and out of traffic all the time. And, frankly, it's just not a very attractive Boulevard, there's so much that could be done to improve it. After reading the website, I found the arguments so ridiculous, that I felt inclined to write a letter to the President of the Geary Blvd Merchants Association, David Heller. I also forwarded a copy of the letter to Supervisor Jake McGoldrick. I sent the e-mail on February 4, 2007, and got a lovely reply from a staffer at Jake McGoldrick's office almost right away. I have yet to hear anything from Mr. Heller (maybe I convinced him!).

Here is what I wrote:

Dear Mr. Heller,

As a resident of the Richmond District and as someone employed downtown, I ride the 38 bus line every day. Using either the 38, 38L, 38BX, or 31, it takes me at least 40 minutes to get from my house on 17th Ave to my final destination at 2nd and Market.

This is unacceptable. We need a faster, more reliable transportation system (especially since we live in one of the most heavily traveled transportation corridors in the the western US), and we're not going to get that with small fixes. It will take some major construction. As with any major construction project, there are headaches caused by the traffic while streets are being torn up, or structures being built, but the claim you make that it's going to force businesses to close is ridiculous.

I do most my shopping in the Richmond district, and walk where I need to go in the neighborhood, so having Geary torn up is not going to stop me from going to the local stores. Maybe it'll even encourage more local residents to walk and shop more locally, rather than deal with the traffic going downtown during construction.

I grew up in Santa Cruz, and about 10 years ago, they completely tore up the main street through town, Mission St, to widen it, and make several needed improvements. Traffic during the construction, as you would imagine, was a nightmare. But it did not cause any businesses to close, the businesses along that street are actually thriving now.

You also mention all the parking that would be taken away. Well, have you considered that with a more functional transportation system in place, perhaps more people will feel comfortable taking public transit to shop in the Richmond, which will reduce the amount of cars in the area and the amount of parking spaces needed?

I don't know if you take the Geary bus every day. If you do, I would hope you realize how vitally major changes are needed. If you don't, I'd recommend you try riding the 38 bus line from the Richmond to downtown and back each day, for at least a week, during rush hour, and see if that changes your mind. Having a viable transit option to the Richmond will help this neighborhood thrive, and help the businesses thrive here as well.

Personally, if they decided not to build a major transit alternative here, such as BRT, I would move to a neighborhood with better public transit, one that's on a light rail line, preferably. So, then by not building BRT or whatever, the businesses here would actually be losing business, as I'd be shopping at the businesses in the neighborhood I move to. I'd much rather stay in the Richmond, but I can't do that indefinitely with such a lousy bus system.

I know change isn't easy, and it doesn't happen overnight, but sometimes it's necessary to help improve our lives.

I know if I owned a business in this neighborhood, I would be thrilled at the opportunity of having a fast, comfortable mode of transportation nearby for my employees and my customers.

In the end, the amount of time and frustration a new bus service/light rail would save the residents of the Richmond would be incredible. MUNI is not going to "ruin" Geary Blvd, as you claim. Of course it would suck during construction, it sucks when they re-pave roads, too, but if they didn't re-pave roads, then they'd be pretty difficult to drive on at all. And in the end, after the dust settles, we'd have a beautiful, accessible, safer district for everyone, including the businesses.

I'm sure you're stuck in your opinions, just like I'm stuck on mine, but I just wanted to let you know how I felt about the issue. I'm not affiliated with MUNI or any other advocacy group at this time, I'm just a regular guy who lives in the Richmond and wants a better, faster way to get to work and downtown.



So it just so happens that after I started regularly going across the park every day to catch the N Judah, they launched the full service T-Third Line. It was all going fine as I was heading to work on the N last Monday morning, until the train got into the subway, at which point it was stop and go all the way to the Embarcadero. The driver came on the intercom about half way through the subway to let us know that there was a back-up of trains, so it would probably take a while. This made me about a 1/2 hour late to work (and a bunch of other people, too). Isn't the point of the subway to AVOID traffic? They've had all this time to plan for the T-Third, and nobody thought about the effect it might have on the existing trains and infastructure? They totally blew it! I don't want to hear any more excuses or apologies from MUNI, I just want them to find a permanent solution to fix the problem. Let's hope they plan better for the future Central Subway, or any future rail lines, for that matter.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Through the Park, to the Train

So I have a new routine. Rather than take the 38 Geary or 31 Balboa (which are the two bus lines by my house) to and from work every day, I've started walking through Golden Gate Park over to the Sunset district and catching the N-Judah at 9th & Irving to/from downtown. Not only is it great exercise and a great way to see our beautiful park, it's also just so much more fun than taking the bus! It's quicker and has more frequent service. And even though it tends to gets much more crowded than the buses, I still prefer it.

Oh, if only they had a MUNI Metro line out to the Richmond, I would use it constantly! Back in the day, there used to be a couple trolly lines along Geary to the Richmond and Ocean Beach, one of which was called the B-Geary. If/when they put a train line out here again, it would probably be given the same name.