Arts Commission won’t block BRT over shelters

The San Francisco Arts Commission will not impede The City’s transportation agency from moving forward with the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit project and the Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc. transit shelters originally opposed by commissioners.

Commissioner Cass Calder Smith, who is the chair of the commission’s Civic Design Review Committee, which opposed the shelters being used for the project, said in a statement to SFBay Monday:

“Commissioners’ reservations about the Clear Channel canopy aside, the Arts Commission does not wish to take any action that would jeopardize funding for this critical project, and we certainly recognize the need for appropriate transit shelters.”

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency received a letter from the Federal Transit Administration last month that funding from a grant program for the project could be jeopardized because current plans for the bus rapid transit planned for Van Ness Avenue corridor did not include transit shelters with roofs or canopies to protect riders from the weather.

The Clear Channel shelters were originally part of the landscaping designs for the bus platforms, but were not included earlier this year because of opposition from the Arts Commission, which has the right to approve designs for all public structures in The City.

Smith said that commissioners opposed red seismic wave shelters based on its scale and form, which are not designed for the context of the Van Ness corridor, which also serves as U.S. Highway 101:

“Commissioners have asked for a more clearly articulated, long-term vision for Van Ness Avenue and would prefer a transit shelter design that incorporates an appropriately scaled and well-designed canopy.”

The transit agency anticipates to receive up to $75 million for the bus rapid transit project from the FTA’s Small Starts program to fund the project.

The project will boost speed and reliability by giving both the 47-Van Ness and 49-Mission/Van Ness their own dedicated center transit-only lanes on Van Ness Avenue, according to the SFMTA. The total cost of the project is $125 million.

Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin wrote a letter to the Arts Commission this month that it has to move the project forward with the Clear Channel transit shelters or else the project risks delays and increased costs from designing a different transit shelter.

Smath said the commission recognizes that the transit agency has jurisdiction over its properties and:

“Therefore it is not bound to follow direction from the Arts Commission where it might result in unreasonable delay or a disproportionate increase in cost. We honor this authority and look forward to working with the SFMTA to ensure the other design components of the project best serve the public and fit the scale and context of Van Ness Avenue.”

The SFMTA board will take up the parking the changes related to the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit project at its meeting on Tuesday at 1 p.m. in Room 400, City Hall.