SFMTA bans Alamo Square tour buses

Alamo Square residents will finally get peace and quiet.

Tour buses will not be allowed to drive around the Alamo Square neighborhood starting next month, which means tourists will actually have to walk to see the famous Painted Ladies.

Residents have complained for years about the noise, pollution and traffic caused by the buses who bring tourists to see the famous Painted Ladies. The tour buses also block Muni buses and parking at bus stops, SFBay previously reported.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board voted 5-0 (Director Cristina Rubke sustained because of a conflict of interest) to restrict tour buses with nine or more seats on north of Fell, east of Divisadero, south of Golden Gate and west of Webster streets.

Employer buses are exempt from the restrictions.

The new restrictions also relocate a tour bus loading zone because residents have also complained about the noise, vibration and traffic of the tour buses parked there.

The loading zone will move from Fell and Divisadero streets to Fell and Pierce streets against a retaining wall where there will be less likely noise and vibration complaints, said Jerry Robbins, transportation planning manager.

A second option was presented to the SFMTA board favored by tour guides and companies. It would have included the same restrictions in the first option and moving the tour bus loading zone, but also would have allowed enclosed tour buses to access Hayes Street.

Francis Gorman of the San Francisco Tour Guild, a nonprofit organization of tour guides, said she believes that tour buses can drive by on Hayes Street without stopping:

“We completely agree that stopping is unsafe. We believe in the safety issues. We simply want give people on preformed groups who otherwise would not see Alamo Square because there’s no time.”

Lisa Zahner, president of the Alamo Square Neighborhood Association, which suggested the complete ban, said in the past five years there has been an “incredible explosion” of tour buses driving around the neighborhood and park.

“We’ve been subjected to loud speakers, roaring engines and squealing brakes. We had people take pictures while I sat nursing my daughter in my living room and one of our board members was clipped by a bus while he rode his bike.”

Zahner said the neighborhood welcomes tourists and people to the neighborhood, but suggests tourists take Muni since the area is surrounded by several bus lines. She said said SFMTA should provide more ways of purchasing a Clipper Card to make it easier for tourists.