In 2014, the City and County of San Francisco adopted Vision Zero, a policy to create safer streets through more expansive traffic safety education and law enforcement, among other elements. Vision Zero prompted an overhaul of the 9-San Bruno bus line – including removing 19 stops, and relocating three – to make the route safer and more efficient. But some businesses are concerned that the changes will hurt their revenues.
One of three new bus stops will be located in front of Flowercraft Garden Center, at the corner of Bayshore Boulevard and Cortland Avenue. Jeff Lerner, Flowercraft vice president, has opposed the bus stop siting since it was first proposed by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) two years ago. “We have been part of an exhaustive effort trying to advocate to the City to leave the stop where it is,” said Lerner. “Because right now it is out of the way, there are no safety concerns, it doesn’t take away parking, it doesn’t take place on a very busy corner; a vendor delivery and receiving corner, and, well, they were not so moved. It has been a frustrating process.”
The bus stop is currently located on the northwest corner of Bayshore Boulevard and Cortland Avenue. Plans are to move it to the southwest corner of the intersection, and to extend the sidewalk to make a bus bulb, protruding from the street so buses don’t have to pull out and into a traffic lane.
“We have a huge issue with this proposed bus stop,” said Lerner. “The proposed bus stop location would create several immitigable operational problems for our garden center business that we believe would result in disruption to our business,” he wrote in a letter to SFMTA.
Among the problems, according to Lerner, would be increased traffic accident risks at an already unsafe intersection; utilizing Flowercraft’s front driveway, which is constantly in use, creating congestion; and using up to four of the eight parking spots in front of Flowercraft.
Lerner also believes that the move is unnecessary; the current stop performs well, with minimum disruption to his business. Lerner acknowledged that the change will cut time from the bus route, but insisted it wasn’t worth the adverse impacts on his enterprise.
SFMTA’s Paul Rose said that “often these stops are moved from just behind a stop light to just past one, which saves buses from being trapped behind a red light while passengers board. It will shave five minutes off a trip for each bus. The cumulative time savings are equal to adding an additional bus to the 9-San Bruno route. It’s actually safer to have the bus pull in and out of a zone after the intersection. That was really the impetus to moving it to the far side of the intersection.”
Relocating the stop is part of a plan to reduce the high number of traffic-related injuries in the area. The 9-San Bruno falls within the High-Injury Network, a web of San Francisco roads on which the highest number of roadway injuries occur. The High-Injury Network makes up 12 percent of City streets, where 70 percent of San Francisco’s severe and fatal traffic-related injuries happen. “Every year in SF, about 30 people lose their lives and over 200 more are seriously injured while traveling on City streets,” according to Vision Zero.
“This improvement is one element in a number of transit reliability and pedestrian safety projects along the 9/9R San Bruno corridor, and will benefit over 20,000 daily transit riders,” SFMTA stated in its proposed project plan.
According to SFMTA, the 9-San Bruno and 9L San Bruno Limited are among Muni’s busiest routes, carrying more than 10,000 customers on an average weekday, 6,500 riders on the 9 San Bruno, and 3,500 on the 9L San Bruno Limited. On Bayshore Boulevard about 450 customers board the 9 San Bruno; 200 customers embark on the 9L San Bruno Limited.
Flowercraft Garden Center opened in 1974, when Lerner’s family purchased a “defunct and blighted carwash at Bayshore Boulevard at Cortland Avenue and transformed it into a successful, full-service garden center,” said Lerner. It operates 363 days a year, and serves thousands of businesses, landscapers, and government agencies.
According to Rose, SFMTA has “been working with the merchants in the area to make sure they have everything they need, including options of coloring the curb, making it a green zone, providing more loading zones around the area. We listened to their concerns and we are trying to move forward in a way that they feel they can continue business, and that’s why we’ve offered to provide more commercial or loading zones around their business if they need it. We haven’t heard back from them on that. But we did move forward in moving the bus stop for safety and transit improvement. We are willing and want to work with merchants in the area that are affected by this project in any way.”
“We have altered the design so that there will be no parking loss for the intersection…four parking spaces will be removed north of the existing Flowercraft driveway; however, four additional parking spaces will be added to the NW corner of the intersection in front of Floorcraft,” stated Muni Forward project manager, Sean Kennedy, in a letter to SFMTA supervisors. “Based on communications with Flowercraft representatives, the location of these replacement parking spaces are within the walkshed of existing customers, and is a reasonable distance for their customers to access the store entrance. Additionally, the existing driveway is being incorporated into the transit bulb design. The revised design will start the transit bulb taper before the Flowercraft driveway on Bayshore Boulevard, so there will be no parking implications south of the driveway…In addition to the design changes, we will also reach out to Flowercraft to see if they are interested in adding Green Zones that support short-term parking south of the bus bulb on Bayshore. This would help support parking turnover for patrons of Flowercraft and help reduce the likelihood of long-term parking in front of the store…I believe we have been able to address the major concerns voiced by Flowercraft.”
Lerner said that while SFMTA amended its initial plan, he’s unsatisfied with its decision to move forward with the changes. “I’m very, very concerned with the interruption of our business once it’s under construction, but also after it’s constructed,” said Lerner. “Our customers’ ability to reach our business; and what if it gets too difficult for our customers to shop with us? It’s gonna hurt.”
San Francisco Public Works Department plans to begin construction early next year on the stop in front of Flowercraft. According to Rose, erection should be finished within weeks of the start date.