SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Construction is now underway on the Geary Bus Rapid Transit line in San Francisco, an ambitious plan, at an estimated cost of $35 million, to make moving around the city easier.
Geary Boulevard in San Francisco is the latest major thoroughfare slated for Bus Rapid Transit; a plan that prioritizes transit lanes and in some areas takes busses from the curb lanes and has them travel in the center lanes instead.
The city turned over ceremonial shovels of soil on the project, saying BRT is the next best thing to a subway.
"Well, my dream project is to basically go underground on Geary Boulevard," said Mayor London Breed. "But, as you know, the funding is not necessarily there to do that. But, we're doing the next best thing."
The changes would take away a lane of traffic in either direction. But, city leaders say ultimately the changes will make Geary safer improving crosswalks along the boulevard, in addition to speeding up traffic on a bus line that carries some 54,000 passengers a day.
"The Geary Corridor is one of the highest, if not the highest, bus ridership corridor in the western United States," said Ed Reiskin from the SFMTA.
While city leaders are celebrating the project, more than a decade in the making, some Geary businesses are dreading it.
David Heller heads up the Geary Merchants Association. He says the construction; the loss of parking spaces will work together to squeeze local businesses past their breaking point.
"It's a death sentence. Honestly, it's a death sentence," said Heller. "Because, look what's going on on Van Ness right now, I mean they're going out of business. Look at what's happening downtown on Stockton with the subway to nowhere."
The mayor said the city has helped businesses in Chinatown and along Van Ness and will work with Geary businesses too.
"As a city, we have to do better to support our small businesses," said Mayor Breed. "So, we are looking at concrete solutions to support those businesses as they go through, unfortunately, which will be a challenging time in terms of construction in these particular areas."
Work on the Geary Bus Rapid Transit lanes is already underway. The project is expected to be completed by Spring 2021.