The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is delivering transit reliability improvements through its Muni Forward program, transforming the Muni system and enhancing the customer experience.
With 80 miles of upgrades since 2014 that often bring travel time savings of 20 percent or more, Muni Forward is making a big difference in how San Francisco moves. These upgrades draw from a toolkit of more than 20 reliability and customer experience improvements, such as transit lanes that provided dedicated space for Muni vehicles to cut through traffic, transit bulbs that reduce delays at transit stops and traffic signals with transit priority that give the green light to transit vehicles as they approach the intersection, when possible.
The recently completed Van Ness Improvement Project thrust Muni Forward back into the spotlight with San Francisco’s first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor. While the Van Ness Improvement Project was a massive overhaul that required significantly more time and money to implement than the average Muni Forward project, SFMTA says it is seeing familiar benefits resulting from the transportation improvements.
In under two months, Muni riders on Van Ness are seeing travel time savings of up to 35 percent northbound (up to nine minutes per trip) and 22 percent southbound on weekdays. After the first week of this improved service, ridership on the 49 Van Ness-Mission increased by 13 percent.
SFMTA says it has seen similar outcomes on past Muni Forward projects that share many features implemented on the BRT corridor. In addition to improved travel times and reliability, ridership has increased by 10 percent or more on many of the lines where Muni Forward improvements have been implemented, such as the 5R Fulton Rapid, 9R San Bruno Rapid and 38R Geary Rapid. And though ridership has decreased during the pandemic, it has returned fastest on many of the lines where SFMTA made these improvements, such as the 22 Fillmore, which now has more riders than in 2019.
Thanks to Muni Forward, San Francisco now has more than 60 miles of dedicated transit lanes. Among these are the lanes that were installed as part of the Temporary Emergency Transit Lanes program. Made permanent in late 2021 and early 2022, these lanes have provided travel time savings of up to 31 percent for routes that carry 40 percent of current Muni customers, including the T Third, 1 California, 14 Mission, 14R Mission Rapid, 19 Polk, 27 Bryant, 28 19th Avenue, 38 Geary, 38R Geary Rapid, 43 Masonic and 44 O’Shaughnessy.
Another notable recent Muni Forward project is the Park Presidio Lombard Temporary High-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, which are the first urban arterial carpool lanes in the state. In partnership with Caltrans, this pilot project is already seeing travel time savings of up to 10 percent.
Looking ahead, Muni Forward is not slowing down. Planning is underway for improvements on the 29 Sunset, and SFMTA has started construction on improvements to the 22 Fillmore, 28 19th Avenue and L Taraval. SFMTA is also preparing for construction on improvements to the 14 Mission, 5 Fulton, 27 Bryant and 30 Stockton. Plans for transit delay hot spot improvements are also in the works, which will help improve Muni reliability at specific intersections where there have been the most transit delays for Muni.
Additionally, making improvements to Muni’s Metro service will be a major focus over the next few years. Upcoming Muni Forward projects will focus on surface-level improvements for the J Church, K Ingleside, M Ocean View, T Third and N Judah, which will complement the Muni Metro Modernization efforts that are already underway.