Van Ness transit boost moving forward 

The effort to have swift-moving buses along Van Ness Avenue is speeding forward now that there’s a $15 million pledge to improve traffic-signal technology on the busy thoroughfare.

The funding will come from a federal grant program and benefit the Municipal Transportation Agency’s SFgo initiative, a series of traffic management projects aimed at reducing automobile congestion in San Francisco.

Along with Van Ness Avenue, the money will go toward more efficient traffic management for Franklin and Gough streets.

The group in charge of releasing the $15 million pot, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, recently announced its funding commitment to SFgo, and it will formally begin the process of dispensing the cash this year, once the federal government passes its new transportation package.

With the money, The City will be capable of rolling out its much-hyped Bus Rapid Transit service on Van Ness Avenue. Unlike normal buses, BRT vehicles travel on a dedicated lane and are able to zoom through intersections because of transit-prioritized signal timing. The service, which will run down the middle two lanes of Van Ness Avenue, is expected to carry 22,000 passengers daily.

The $15 million also will help pay for the installation of new traffic signals, circuit controllers and improved fiber-optic technology, which alerts the signals to approaching transit vehicles, according to Tilly Chang, deputy planning director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, a local planning agency that works with the MTA and is leading the development of BRT service on Van Ness Avenue.

Along with paving the way for BRT movements up and down Van Ness Avenue, the new traffic signals will be timed to prioritize transit vehicles intersecting with the avenue through cross streets, according to MTA spokesman Judson True.

Construction on Van Ness Avenue isn’t expected to start until 2012, since the street must be ripped up to install the fiber-optic signals. The installation of new cameras, traffic signals and other equipment on nearby arteries, including the oft-traveled Gough and Franklin streets, will begin sometime this year with the $15 million funding commitment, according to True. Van Ness Avenue BRT service is expected to be fully operational by 2014.

“This SFgo project will improve Muni travel times and reliability, and provide much-needed jobs,” True said.

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Will Reisman

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