Group files lawsuit to block Geary Bus Rapid Transit project

Opponents of a plan to create separated bus-only lanes through much of the busy Geary corridor have filed a lawsuit seeking to block it from moving forward.

The lawsuit, filed Friday by a group calling itself San Franciscans for Sensible Transit, Inc., calls for the city to stop all action on the $300 million Geary Boulevard Bus Rapid Transit project, which was unanimously approved by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority Board on Jan. 5.

The lawsuit alleges that the public process leading to the approval of the project’s environmental impact report lacked meaningful debate and that board members failed to consider the issues raised in the report, according to a statement from the group, which includes Richmond District businesses and residents.

The Geary transit corridor is the busiest in the city with around 52,000 riders annually. It suffers from overcrowded buses, uneven wait and travel times and a high rate of pedestrian injuries, according to city officials.

The bus rapid transit project includes dedicated bus lanes from Market Street to 34th Avenue, changes to the spacing of bus stops, sidewalk extensions or “bulb outs” at 91 intersections to increase pedestrian visibility, accessible bus stops with boarding islands and traffic signal improvements, according to city transit officials.

It is intended to cut up to 20 minutes off round trip travel time for bus riders and increase transit reliability and pedestrian safety.

The primary opposition has come from merchants in the Richmond District, who fear a lengthy construction process and changes in parking spaces and traffic lanes could hurt business.

The citizen’s group said in a statement Monday:

“MUNI already has plans and funding for more buses, better traffic signal systems, and other improvements including better bus stops and basic paving…Sensible Transit wants those measures employed before committing to spend $300 million that may not be needed.”

A spokesman for the transportation authority Monday said the agency would not comment on the lawsuit.

Geary will be the second city street to get a bus rapid transit system. Construction began in the fall on a similar project on Van Ness Avenue. That project is slated to be completed in 2019.