Mayor London Breed and SFMTA Celebrate Major Transit Milestone and Safety Improvements on Geary Boulevard
Completion of the Geary Rapid Project revitalizes one of San Francisco’s busiest corridors
San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), and San Francisco Public Works today celebrated the completion of the Geary Rapid Project. This major civic improvement project has helped revitalize one of San Francisco’s busiest corridors between Market and Stanyan streets with more reliable bus service, safer streets, upgraded utilities, and new trees.
“This project is a great example of transforming one of our City’s busiest corridors into a more enjoyable place for residents and visitors to walk, bike, and take public transit. As our City continues to emerge from the pandemic, we need to do all that we can to ensure that our streets are safe and accessible for all San Franciscans,” said Mayor Breed. “But this is also about reconnecting two neighborhoods that were divided, and as someone who grew up in the Western Addition and represented Japantown as Supervisor, I’m excited for what this project means to my community.”
As San Francisco’s highest ridership route with more than 56,000 daily customers relying on the 38 Geary and 38R Geary Rapid pre-pandemic, the Geary Rapid Project is improving the efficiency of the bus route along a three-mile stretch of Geary Boulevard, while making the corridor safer for people walking.
“In the 1950s, so-called “urban renewal” scarred the residents of this area. Homes and stores were demolished to make way for the Geary Expressway, leaving a legacy that split neighborhoods apart and created highway-like conditions that emphasized private vehicles over pedestrian accessibility,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, SFMTA Director of Transportation. “While our work with the Geary Rapid Project won’t undo the terrible legacy of the Geary Expressway that split apart the Fillmore and Japantown, it’s an opportunity to begin to heal that rift and reconnect these communities.”
Dedicated red transit lanes, bus stop optimization, and signal re-timing were implemented at the beginning of the project in late 2018. These quick-build improvements alone resulted in 38R Geary Rapid travel time savings of up to 20%. Now that the project is complete, transit has been further improved with 12 new transit bulb-outs—sidewalk extensions at stops that reduce delays by allowing buses to remain in the travel lane. The Transit Signal Priority system, which helps buses get the green light at intersections, has also been upgraded, and transit lanes were colorized with red treatment to help increase vehicle compliance.
"We’re excited to help SFMTA deliver a safer and more reliable Geary," said Tilly Chang, Executive Director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. "The Transportation Authority is proud to have contributed over $13 million in half-cent sales tax funds benefiting the city’s top ridership line and improving this major corridor on the city’s Vision Zero high-injury network.”
Other changes include a host of safety improvements to address the Geary corridor’s designation as a high-injury corridor. To shorten crossing distances for people walking and slow down turning vehicles, 34 new pedestrian bulbs-outs—sidewalk extensions at intersection corners—were added along the corridor. Many of these were added in the Tenderloin, where there is a disproportionate number of severe and fatal collisions.
Additional safety improvements include new accessible pedestrian signals, curb ramps, countdown signals, and longer crosswalk timing allow people of all abilities to cross Geary Boulevard safely. The number of travel lanes also decreased from four to two general-purpose lanes and one bus-only lane in each direction. This, plus visual narrowing of the lanes, helps to slow speeding drivers who have historically treated the thoroughfare like a highway.
One safety improvement in particular is a welcome addition to residents of the Fillmore, Japantown and St. Francis Square communities: a new signalized crosswalk at Geary Boulevard and Buchanan Street. That and three other new crosswalks installed in the area as part of the project are serving to provide safer crossing opportunities for people walking and help reconnect neighborhoods that were divided by the Geary Expressway and “urban renewal” redevelopment projects of the mid-twentieth century. It’s also a symbolic reconnection: the pedestrian refuge at the new Buchanan Street crosswalk features decorative panels designed by local artists, representing the rich history of the surrounding communities.
“We’re excited to see improvements along Geary that make it safer and more user-friendly for pedestrians. The slowing down of traffic and bolder, more brightly marked crosswalks make Geary Boulevard less intimidating and easier to cross. The completed Geary Rapid Project will provide better bus service with designated red lanes and reduce pedestrian injuries.
It’s especially great to have a new Buchanan crosswalk going right to Japantown's Peace Plaza, creating a better connection between the Fillmore, St Francis Square Cooperative, and Japantown. This is especially great for families with children, who now find themselves going to Japantown more often.” - Conny Ford, St. Francis Square Cooperative resident and former board director
The pedestrian bridge at Geary Boulevard and Steiner Street, which was used infrequently and not ADA compliant, was permanently removed in 2020. In its place, improved surface-level crosswalks and median refuges were installed. The spaces where the bridge landings were removed were renovated for the adjacent San Francisco Recreation and Parks sites, including a new expanded patio and landscaping for the Hamilton Recreation Center. 31 new trees were also planted between Divisadero and Gough streets.
This three-year capital project was completed on time and on budget. To minimize the need to dig more than once, construction was coordinated with other City agencies. SFPUC replaced 1.5 miles of sewer and upgraded almost three miles of water pipelines along Geary Boulevard, some of which were over 100 years old. The Geary Rapid Project also included Public Works-sponsored roadway repaving to rejuvenate 1.5 miles of deteriorated streets between Van Ness and Masonic avenues.
The Geary Rapid Project is the first of two phases of improvements planned as part of the Geary Corridor Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project approved by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority and the SFMTA in 2017. Outreach and detailed design are currently underway on the second phase of Geary BRT, the Geary Boulevard Improvement Project, which would bring similar transit and safety improvements west of Stanyan Street to 34th Avenue.