City Announces Opening of Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit System
Completion of Van Ness Improvement Project increases transit efficiency, addresses traffic congestion, and upgrades City infrastructure
San Francisco, CA — Today, Mayor London N. Breed and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) celebrated the completion of the Van Ness Improvement Project and the opening of the City’s first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. The project, which includes red center-running transit-only lanes, upgraded pedestrian crossing signals and utilities, and new landscaping along Van Ness Avenue, will significantly improve transit service and address traffic congestion along the corridor.
“Today marks a significant step forward in our effort to transform transit safety and efficiency along one of San Francisco’s busiest corridors,” said Mayor Breed. “Not only does this project make Van Ness Avenue a more enjoyable place for residents and visitors to walk, bike, and take public transit, it also helps get people out of their cars. In order to have a San Francisco that is livable and healthy for our residents, we must reduce emissions from transportation and make it easier for people to get around in more sustainable ways.”
“The first of its kind in San Francisco, the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit System will provide easier commutes through the heart of our city – reducing congestion, improving safety and helping combat the climate crisis,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “As a proud representative for San Francisco, it was my privilege to secure more than $116 million in federal support for this critical project – one third of its total funding. Let us also salute President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg for helping to deliver world-class transportation options for Bay Area families by including funds for this project in the American Rescue Plan. As we work to Build a Better America, Democrats will continue fighting to expand clean, reliable public transit in San Francisco and across the country.”
The planned transit improvements are expected to cut travel times for Muni and Golden Gate Transit by a third. In addition to other improvements, highlights of BRT on Van Ness Avenue include:
- Dedicated transit-only lanes physically separated from traffic for Muni, Golden Gate Transit, and emergency vehicle use.
- Enhanced traffic signals optimized for north-south travel with Transit Signal Priority, giving buses the green light as they approach an intersection.
- Low-floor vehicles and all-door boarding, making it quicker and easier for passengers to load and unload at each stop.
- Sidewalk extensions, median refuges, high visibility crosswalks, and audible countdown signals, enhancing pedestrian safety.
- Nine fully furnished northbound and southbound boarding platforms, which consist of seating and NextMuni prediction displays.
- Accessible Pedestrian Signals at crosswalks and the locations of boarding platforms.
Funded by Federal Transportation Authority (FTA) Formula Funds, Prop K funds, developer contributions, and other sources, the project also included extensive utility maintenance, civic improvements, and safety enhancements, which involved:
- Replacing more than 22,000 feet of 1800s-era underground water mains.
- Building an earthquake-resistant sewer system.
- Overhauling the emergency firefighting water supply system.
- Repairing Muni’s overhead contact system, which powers zero-emission buses.
- Installing an electrical duct bank to power traffic signals and Muni overhead wires.
- Updating streetlights and sidewalk lighting.
“We have long awaited today’s momentous grand opening and can’t thank the City and the Van Ness corridor enough for their patience and cooperation,” said Jeff Tumlin, SFMTA Director of Transportation. “With a significant planned improvement in travel time for Muni and Golden Gate Transit, San Francisco’s first bus rapid transit system will serve our pedestrians, riders, motorists and wheel riders providing them with quick and safe transit, long lasting underground infrastructure and a beautified Van Ness Avenue.”
“The Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit corridor runs through the heart of our city. These buses make it possible for San Franciscans get to work and school and provide direct access to so many of our wonderful small businesses,” said Senator Scott Wiener. “Now, riders will be able to get where they are going faster than ever before. This is a very exciting day for San Francisco.”
“Congratulations to SFMTA and its partners on delivering the greatly improved Van Ness Avenue, featuring San Francisco’s first center-running Bus Rapid Transit,” said District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who is Chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. “The Transportation Authority is proud to have helped lay the groundwork for this day by allocating almost $45 million to support every phase of this project. Thank you to all the building and construction trades workers and Muni operators who made this project happen, showing us that economic resilience and recovery, sustainable infrastructure, and good union jobs go hand in hand.”
History of Van Ness Improvement Project
In 2003, 75 percent of voters approved the sales tax to plan rapid transit service on Van Ness Avenue. In September 2013, the Board of Supervisors, acting as the San Francisco County Transportation Authority Commission, unanimously approved the Van Ness BRT Project, the core of the Van Ness Improvement Project. Construction of the project began in October 2016.
Today, the Van Ness Avenue corridor serves as a vital connector of neighborhoods and a regional link for travel between Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties. Van Ness Avenue is one of the busiest north-south corridors in the City, serving over 16,000 Muni customers daily on the 49 Mission/Van Ness and 90 San Bruno Owl bus routes as well as
Golden Gate Transit customers. It is part of the California State Highway System and US Route 101, a primary artery connecting Interstate Highways 280 and 80 with the Golden Gate Bridge.