Neighbors in Alamo Square say the number of tour buses coming through their historic district has increased dramatically over the past five years and something needs to change.
It’s hard to pin down an exact number of buses that travel through the square daily, but numerous residents estimate that it’s up to 100. But instead of banning them, neighbors want to reroute the buses, possibly to Divisadero Street. “We all recognize tourism is the No. 1 industry,” said Lisa Zahner, president of the Alamo Square Neighborhood Association. “We’re not a bunch of NIMBYs, but we want something that makes more sense for visitors to get more out of the neighborhood than photo-op. In a perfect world, they’d get off at Divisadero and go shopping.”
The complaints against tour buses coming through historic parts of San Francisco are not new, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency planner Jerry Robbins said. The only tool the agency has is to ban passenger buses with more than eight people from entering a neighborhood, which is in place in North Beach, the Marina and Russian Hill.
Alamo neighbors don’t want to ban buses all together, Zahner said. Instead, they want to work with the companies to find a better location that won’t clog streets, allow buses to idle outside of homes or park in Muni bus stops or other issues neighbors say have been becoming more prevalent in recent years..
Robbins said the SFMTA is analyzing the feasibility of rerouting tour buses to the Divisadero corridor. Any changes, though, could take time.
Janet Hetzel, director of operations with Tower Tours and a member of the newly formed Tour Bus Association, said many local companies are willing to work with the neighborhoods in order to keep access to historic places, but said out-of-town companies are some of the biggest offenders.
“We have little or no control over them,” Hetzel said. “We all want to drive through the area and have people take photos. The issue is reaching out and discussing the appropriate behavior when it comes to dropping off or idling.”
She said a drop-off zone could be created two blocks away on Divisadero. But, Hetzel added, it takes time to change routes.
Hetzel said it’s in the bus company’s best interest to work with the neighborhoods so they are not shut out of another location completely. “For us, we’re concerned over access to neighborhoods so we can showcase The City,” Hetzel said
Two pieces of legislation introduced by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu could help alleviate concerns by creating rules that address parking, loading and idling in neighborhoods, and the amplified sound coming from guided tours.