Bus Rapid Transit on Van Ness Avenue

Article
Bus Rapid Transit on Van Ness Avenue

Annual savings potential:
Annual public cost:
Public cost per ton:
Implementing agency:

Horizon year:
600 tons
$3.4 million
$5,500
County Transportation Authority, Municipal Transportation Agency
2015

Assumptions
  • Implementation of BRT on Van Ness will result in a 25 percent increase in Muni trips in the Van Ness Corridor, of which 31 percent will be diverted from auto travel
  • Capital cost of implementation will be approximately $65 million. The program will not increase operating costs, and will result in $830,000 per year in new fare revenue from increased ridership
  • Our analysis excludes the emissions associated with construction, which can be significant in the case of large infrastructure projects

Analysis

As on Geary Boulevard, bus rapid transit service on Van Ness Avenue would provide faster, more reliable transit service in a major travel corridor without added operating expense.

While its impact on emissions is lower than the Geary BRT project, its capital cost is also lower, yielding a somewhat lower cost per ton of emissions abatement. Still, for both projects, the potential for emissions abatement alone does not justify the high capital cost of the project. However, the project will reduce the city's emissions. This benefit should be considered along with other potential benefits, such as improved transportation opportunities.

What we do now
Van Ness Avenue is a major north to south corridor for the eastern part of San Francisco. It also functions both as a major transit corridor, carrying more than 24,000 transit trips per day. Buses traveling in mixed traffic can be delayed, resulting in “bunching” and overcrowding of vehicles.

What we could do
BRT is a transit service option that has the potential to provide the speed and capacity of light rail with the lower cost and greater flexibility of a bus.

As on the Geary corridor, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority has developed a plan to implement Bus Rapid Transit on Van Ness Avenue.1 Converting the Van Ness Avenue transit service to a BRT system has the potential to improve speed and reliability, attracting significant new ridership. Some of these potential new riders would be those who now choose to drive private vehicles, and moving them to transit would reduce emissions. Several transit service alignments are still being evaluated for this corridor. Scoping for an environmental review has recently concluded, and the project team is preparing the review itself.

Cost
As on Geary Boulevard, BRT service on Van Ness Avenue would increase average vehicle travel speeds, allowing Muni to provide more transit service without increasing operating costs. However, significant capital expenditures would be required. The exact cost of the project is not known at this time. However, the SFCTA estimates during feasibility study suggest that capital costs could be approximately $65 million. If we assume that capital costs would be financed by the City at 5 percent interest over 30 years, and that the improvements themselves have a 30-year useful life, the annualized capital costs would be $4.2 million.

Increased ridership would also increase revenue. Including passes and discounted fairs, Muni collects an average of 50 cents whenever a passenger boards. Additional ridership could generate $830,000 per per year. The net revenue impact would be a cost of $3.4 million per year.

Carbon savings potential
The SFCTA’s feasibility study for the Van Ness BRT project estimates that it has the potential to increase ridership in the corridor by as much as 25 percent. A 25 percent increase over today’s daily ridership would yield an additional 5,500 Muni trips per work day. We estimate that 31 percent of these passengers would otherwise be drivers of private vehicles. An estimated 1,700 daily trips diverted from auto travel, at an average of 3.3 miles per trip, would yield a daily reduction of 5,700 VMT per day, or 1.7 million VMT per year beginning in 2015. The estimated annual emissions reduction would be 612 metric tons.

With an annualized cost of $3.3 million, the project would cost more than $5,500 per ton of emissions abatement. While its impact on emissions is lower than the Geary BRT project, its capital cost is also lower, yielding a somewhat lower cost per ton of emissions abatement. Still, for both projects, the potential for emissions abatement alone does not justify the high capital cost of the project.SPUR logo

Endnotes
1 SFCTA Van Ness Avenue BRT Feasibility Study, December 2006.