No. 40, October 2004
fights on to stymie 38-Geary cuts
dubious supervisors on transit authority will overturn plan
to slash bus stops
By Tom Carter
A campaign by Tenderloin activists to save five neighborhood
stops on the heavily traveled 38-Geary bus line failed
Sept. 7 when the Municipal Transportation Agency voted
4-1 to drop the stops and make $400,000 worth of other
changes to enhance bus reliability and traffic flow.
The cuts will save the route one
minute, two at most, each way, according to the city’s
Inner Geary Transportation Plan.
Activists, riled by a loss of service affecting families,
the elderly and disabled in a high transit-dependent
area, vowed to take up the cause again.
“The time savings isn’t enough to justify
the cuts, and we will try to stop this part of the plan
from being implemented on Oct. 19,” said Richard
Allman, a veteran community planner who led the opposition. “This
is mind-boggling, bad public policy. We are a transit-first
city. And it‘s not consistent with the tone set
by the mayor and the Board of Supervisors to not remove
services from seniors and the disabled.”
The Plans and Programs Committee of the county Transportation
Authority meets Oct. 19 in Room 263 of City Hall to weigh
the plan. If approved, it will be considered for adoption
on Oct. 26 by the Transportation Authority, whose membership
is comprised of the full Board of Supervisors.
District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly,
who months ago opposed eliminating the stops and urged
Muni to reconsider, said prospects now are gloomy.
He serves on Plans and Programs but by Sept. 30 hadn’t
started counting votes.
“I’ll give it a try, but I am not optimistic,” Daly
said. “It’s a tough issue. Basically, I’ll
ask them to vote down a big package. But no other district
is losing stops, so it’s a tough sell.”
Allman said the people most impacted live in the middle
of the Tenderloin.
use the 38 to go to work or to shop and carry back groceries,” he
said. “This is an issue about people having to
walk a fourth block when they are tired. Plain and simple,
it is a service takeaway.”
Activists mounted a strong protest over several months,
garnering nearly 400 signatures on an online petition
and 150 letters of support, according to Allman.
If the plan is adopted, the 38’s two inbound stops on O’Farrell
at Larkin and Leavenworth will “probably” be gone in November,
Muni special projects coordinator Joe Speaks told The Extra a week after the
vote. The outbound stops on Geary at Mason, Jones and Hyde won’t be clipped
until early 2005, when all the changes are to be completed. Muni studies showed
these stops to be the least used among the 19 on inner Geary.
The new stop pattern falls within the Muni proposed
plan guidelines of 800-1,000 feet between stops; with
the cuts, the new stops are 700-900 feet apart. Cutting
one stop in the Tenderloin adds 400 feet for passengers
to walk, more than the length of a football field and
its end zones.
The 38-Geary’s full route, according to Muni figures,
is the nation’s busiest with 54,000 passengers
daily. From the ocean to the Transbay Terminal at First
and Mission, it traverses the Outer and Inner Richmond,
Japantown, the Western Addition, the Tenderloin and downtown.
Speaks denied the cuts were an
economy move or even “a
cut in service,” but rather a “policy position” fashioned
by Muni and Parking and Traffic that “cleans up
flow issues.” Muni planners at the Tenderloin Futures
Collaborative in February estimated that making all the
changes called for in the plan would result in “a
40% increase in reliability.”
With no supermarket nearby, families,
the disabled and elderly take the 38 west to shop,
Allman said. Many elderly walk down and up street inclines
to Geary and O’Farrell
to catch the bus. And while the Lower Polk Neighborhood
and Hamilton Condominium associations opposed cutting
the stops, Speaks pointed out, the Senior Action Network,
a pedestrian advocacy group, supported the full plan.
But SAN didn’t vote to endorse until its regular
monthly meeting three days after the MTA hearing.
Ed Evans, a member of the network’s Pedestrian
and Transportation Committee, said he vigorously opposed
dropping the stops but was the only dissenting vote. “I
was especially concerned about the Geary-Mason stop because
a lot of seniors come from all over to go to the theaters,” Evans
told The Extra. “The Curran and ACT asked me to
oppose that one for them, too.”
Bruce Livingston, SAN executive director, was guarded
about the vote. The network won a regional Metropolitan
Transportation Commission award two years ago for its
work on behalf of pedestrians.
“We bought into (Muni’s plan),” Livingston
told The Extra. “It was a good (committee) discussion.
There are lots of improvements. But we did it because
Joe (Speaks) promised to revisit the issue (of the stops)
in six months. I sincerely hope that it’s an authentic
Seventeen people spoke in favor of keeping the stops
at the MTA hearing while 14 wanted them eliminated and
the plan adopted intact. The latter included representatives
of the Sierra Club, Teamsters whose truckers would get
more and longer yellow zones (at the expense of 40 parking
places), taxi drivers who could use the bus transit lane,
and organized bicyclists who would have more room to
Tenderloin residents, who also
protested at a June 4 DPT hearing, said the plan ignored
the views of TL bus passengers. Richard Marquez said
eliminating the stops would foster “transit racism and transit classism.” Another
resident complained the plan appeases Richmond riders.
Another said it tells “poor people that they don’t
count.” A Rescue Muni spokesman countered that
bus reliability will improve and the planned bus bulbs
and low-floor buses will make it easier for seniors to
“A stacked deck beat the Tenderloin,” said
resident activist John Nulty after the vote. “Everyone
got a piece of the pie but the neighborhood that the
plan is destroying.”
One aspect of the $400,000 plan
supplants one-hour time zones on O’Farrell between Larkin and Jones and
on Geary between Polk and Jones with 140 parking meters,
according to Muni’s count. The meters will increase
parking turnover, reduce double parking and bring in
$20,000 a year, Muni says. Clock meters on eight of the
blocks will start ticking at 7 a.m., two hours earlier
After an hour-plus of public testimony, the MTA board
discussed the stops.
“I think I have lived through this before,” said
Director Shirley Breyer Black, the MTA’s elder
member. “When a stop was eliminated where I live
at Fifth (Avenue) and Lake, everybody wondered how they
would get downtown. But they got used to it. I’m
no chicken and I can walk 2 1/2 blocks. I walk with a
cane now. I think we should give this (plan) a chance.”
On the vote to accept the plan,
Director Wil Din offered an amendment that would restore
the stops if after six months the time savings isn’t
realized, affirming what Speaks hinted to Senior Action
Network could happen. The amendment failed for a lack
of second. Then Din cast the only no vote on the plan.
Reaction to the vote rolled slowly
out to the neighborhood. Thuc Khuong, director of the
Vietnamese Community Center at 766 Geary, said cutting
stop in the Little Saigon business district, established
in January by the city, would have “a tremendous
impact” on residents.
“There are many elderly in that area and their
mode of transportation is public,” he said. “But
I can’t say what the effect would be on business.”
At the June 4 DPT hearing on the plan, Little Saigon
representative Kim Nguyen said most businesses there
opposed eliminating the stop.
Frank, owner of Soups restaurant at 784 O’Farrell
for two years, said he sympathized with the elderly and
disabled who want to keep the stop. He didn’t think
his business would be hurt, possibly improved. Metered
parking in the 700 block would replace time zones where
people now park all day, apparently without being ticketed.
“With meters, the cars will move on and there
will be spaces for people to pull in,” Frank said. “The
meters will clean up the parking situation.”
Up on Geary, Houria Hebbar, whose
family has had the Mediterranean-style Dunes Grill
for five months, was quite happy to lose the bus stop
and get 7 a.m. metered parking in return. “Sure, it’ll be good for
business,” she said, “and for our meat market
next door, too.”
farther up Geary at Mason, waitress Zeny Cruz said the
24-hour Pinecrest Diner, there since 1969, would suffer,
probably more at night. For 10 years she has seen the
38-Geary drop and pick up the after-2 a.m. bar crowd
that stops for a bite before calling it a night. The
Pinecrest is busy 2-4 a.m., she says, and so is the Jack-in-the-Box
across the street.
“After midnight, the 38 is all full,” Cruz says. “It’s
more crowded than the 14-Mission that runs 24 hours, too.”
Typical of neighbors affected by
the cuts but who did not travel to City Hall hearings
during the heat wave to complain was Gilda Todar, 77,
a retired city worker who uses the 38 daily. Standing
at the Larkin/O’Farrell
stop all dolled up in blue coat and hat one sunny Friday
morning, she said she was on her way to Powell and Market
to catch a connecting line to West Portal.
It’s OK for her now to walk an additional block,
she said. She’s spry enough to dodge sidewalk cracks
as she gingerly negotiates the sloping sidewalks down
from her 775 Post St. apartment toward Geary.
“I know enough people who can’t walk very
well and (the cuts) would sure make a difference to anyone
not in good shape,” Todar says. “I can do
it, but it’s not easy. I have weak ankles. I don’t
like it either, but walking is good exercise. It’s
best to be positive.”
She smiles, then adds pleasantly, “It
would be better to keep the stops.”
As Todar got on the 38-Geary, an elderly Asian man with
a cane came scurrying up. With a last-second, limping
sprint he barely hoisted himself on board as the bus
exhaled a mighty wheeze and pulled away.