When it comes to moving and removing bus stops, it’s rarely a smooth ride for Muni 

click to enlarge Flowercraft, a garden center in the Bayview, believs a bus stop that may be moved close to its driveway will impact their foot traffic, car traffic, and make it difficult to load and unload goods. - GABRIELLE LURIE/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Gabrielle Lurie/Special to the S.F. Examiner
  • Flowercraft, a garden center in the Bayview, believs a bus stop that may be moved close to its driveway will impact their foot traffic, car traffic, and make it difficult to load and unload goods.

There's an old saying among Muni circles, told this time by John Haley, director of transit at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, that goes something like this:

"Every bus stop has a constituency."

As the SFMTA, which operates Muni, rolls out its Muni Forward plan to speed up bus and train service across San Francisco, 136 out of about 3,600 total bus stops will be removed or shifted. The agency sees the consolidation as vital to speeding up the consistently underperforming Muni, yet the decisions are rarely straightforward.

Following the recently halted proposed removal of one bus stop on Hayes Street last month, and the potential shifting of another along Bayshore Boulevard, the SFMTA faced hue and cry from businesses that feared the potential negative impacts.

Central Coffee Tea and Spices worried the removal of a bus stop would send its customers packing. Flowercraft Garden Center believes a bus stop that may be moved close to its driveway will create a parking problem for its green-thumbed customers, along with truck loading problems.

Whether the SFMTA takes a bus stop out, or moves one a block away, someone feels the effects.

"I'm a native San Franciscan who grew up in the Mission in the '60s," Lydia Patubo, the garden center's manager, told the SFMTA board of directors on Tuesday. The business opened in 1974, and Patubo said its customers are "grandmothers, their daughters and their daughters."

Shifting a 9-San Bruno bus stop to be in front of the Garden Center, she added, "would be suicide for our business."

The struggle emerges as Muni continues to try to increase on-time performance — a goal mandated by voters in 1999 to be at 85 percent. Muni has never met that goal, and last year fluctuated between 50 and 60 percent.

Muni is striving toward this goal now with a number of efforts, including moving and eliminating bus stops.

On the 9-San Bruno line, for instance, 19 stops are proposed for removal and three stops might be moved. 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.

This is the scenario for the bus stop by Flowercraft.

If the SFMTA goes through with the changes, it will shave five minutes off a trip for each bus, agency documents show. The cumulative time savings are equal to adding an additional bus to the 9-San Bruno route.

Haley, the transit director, told The San Francisco Examiner he's grateful for the feedback from the community because residents, riders and business owners often times see an impact that the SFMTA might miss.

As for the business that did not want to lose a bus stop on the 21-Hayes line, Central Coffee on Hayes Street owner Ali Ghorabi knew the stakes would be high. Even a small amount of construction on Hayes Street years ago turned so many customers away from his cafe that he almost had to close.

"We lost all our bicycle business" initially, Ghorabi said. "It almost never came back. So the bus stop is crucial. It really allows me to do business."

Supervisor London Breed successfully intervened on Ghorabi's behalf, and asked the SFMTA to leave the bus stop there on behalf of her constituents.

Flowercraft's owners and management are applying political pressure as well. They started a Change.org petition to prevent the bus stop from being moved across the street. The petition has more than 500 signatures.

Weighing the needs of riders and businesses is not easy, Cheryl Brinkman, the SFMTA board's vice-chairwoman, told The Examiner.

"It's definitely a balancing act," she said.

And with the SFMTA eyeing at least 100 more bus stops to move or eliminate, it's a balancing act that will continue.

About The Author

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Bio:
Born and raised in San Francisco, Fitzgerald Rodriguez was a staff writer at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and now writes the S.F. Examiner's political column On Guard. He is also a transportation beat reporter covering pedestrians, Muni, BART, bikes, and anything with wheels.
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