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Riders First: How Buses Are Moving San Francisco Forward

The unsung hero of San Francisco is the humble city bus, which moves more than 400,000 people through the city every day. This didn’t happen by accident –  the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) have taken a systematic, rider-centric approach to improving bus service across the city.

This policy and implementation effort, dubbed “Muni Forward,” has been bolstered by a $500 million dollar injection of funding approved by voters in 2014, which enabled new capital investments to improve transportation access in an already service-rich city.

Muni Forward comprises a suite of service improvements, including dedicated bus lanes (“red carpets”), the first implementation of all-door boarding in a major American transit system, stop consolidation, transit signal priority, and the branding of a Rapid Network of bus routes in high impact corridors.

Though some of the bus lane projects have been controversial in San Francisco, it’s important to acknowledge the smart policy-making and intent behind Muni Forward.  The city is attempting to optimize its transit resources by prioritizing transit on streets, making transit easy to use and conducting a rolling review of routes and stops.

Bus ridership has increased in recent years as population has continued to grow, which has been essential as congestion has worsened and cost of living continues to rise. Even as the Bay Area increases its investments in BART rail extensions andPhase 2 of the Transbay Transit Center, Muni Forward demonstrates the city’s recognition of the essential role that buses will continue to play to ensure that Bay Area residents can get where they need to go.

The SFMTA’s comprehensive approach to improving bus service across the city should be a model for other cities across the country.

Clarence Eckerson Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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