September 2012

Hill Residents Concerned About Proposed Changes to 22-Fillmore

Brian Rinker

Many Potrero Hill residents and business owners are skeptical of a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) proposal to reroute the 22-Fillmore bus line from the 18th Street commercial district to 16th Street, from which it would travel north on Third Street toward Mission Bay. “Bus service in general is inadequate in our area,” said Jim Wilkins, Hill resident and Eastern Neighborhoods United Front (ENUF) member. “The move of the 22 bus will further diminish that service.” The plan to reroute the 22-Fillmore is part of the Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP), a joint effort by the transportation agency and City Controller which aims to improve Muni services, making transit more reliable, faster and efficient.

According to SFMTA, the bus route change would increase transit efficiency, and help connect the growing Mission Bay — an area with increasing transportation needs — with the rest of the City. Under the plan, the 33-Stanyan bus line would replace the 22-Fillmore’s coverage of Connecticut and 18th streets. But average wait times for the 33 are five minutes longer than for the 22. How often the 33 will come under its revised route is unknown. “Replacing the 22 with the 33 would result in a significant cut in service to the Hill, a neighborhood with a growing population that is expected to boom in the coming years,” said Tony Kelly, Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association president.

On 16th Street from Church to Third streets the 22-Fillmore averages seven miles per hour, and carries 8,000 passengers a day. If SFMTA’s proposal is adopted, the agency expects to increase the speed to 8.7 miles an hour, which will shave off six minutes in each direction, a 28 percent reduction, according to Paul Rose, SFMTA spokesman. “That could potentially allow us to save on resources and use some of the buses on this line to be redistributed to another route that is experiencing crowding or unreliable service,” said Rose.

The City expects traffic congestion to worsen along 16th Street because of development in the adjacent neighborhoods. SFMTA has multiple proposals to improve bus speeds between Potrero Avenue and Interstate 280, including limiting bus stops to one every four blocks instead of every two, developing a bus-only lane, shifting the bicycle lane to 17th Street, eliminating parking, and restricting left turns at most intersections.

Keith Goldstein, Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association president, is most concerned with the proposed left turn restrictions, which he believes could adversely affect the local business community. Goldstein, who also serves on the Eastern Neighborhoods Citizens Advisory Committee, said that the committee is worried about the transportation plan’s possible effect on 16th Street business, and has sent a letter outlining their concerns to SFMTA. “It would hurt my business,” said Nasser Nasarah, owner of JB’s Place, referring to the rerouting of the 22. However, in the quarter century his restaurant has operated along the 22 route on 17th Street, he’s seen many changes to the neighborhood, and managed to ride out every bump along the way. 

Nasarah and the other concerned community members might not have to ride out these particular changes. “There are not yet any final plans on the 22 and, at this point, nothing has been approved,” said Rose. “We are beginning the conceptual engineering phase of the route and it will be at least a year before the environmental review is complete and the proposals are approved.” He added that planning for the 22 is especially complicated because of the overhead wires needed to be built around Caltrain electrification, which will require additional planning and engineering to enable trolley service to be connected with Caltrain efficiently. 

“MTA are still working on the plan,” said Goldstein. “I sympathize with their challenge; pressure from Muni riders who want a faster travel time and pressure from businesses who would be adversely affected, and Muni users who may bemoan the loss of bus stops.” 

Finalizing any plans may take some time. Revising the 22 line has been in the City’s pipeline for decades. In 1998, an environmental impact report for Mission Bay included similar proposals to reroute the 22, expressed concerns about overhead wires, and noted that the proposed plans were similar to those presented in a 1990 report. “Muni has been claiming recently that the 22 rerouting is some sort of transit improvement for the area as part of the Transit Effectiveness Project, when in fact a) it isn't an improvement, it's a reduction of service on the Hill, and b) it was in the works long, long before the TEP,” Kelly said. If the City ever reroutes the 22 Kelly hopes that it provides adequate replacement transportation. 

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