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San Francisco advances transit-only lane to curb traffic ahead of APEC summit

The 21 Hayes Muni bus drives down Hyde Street in San Francisco on Friday. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

San Francisco is trying to get ahead of the traffic that will be caused when world leaders descend on Downtown in November for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is advancing plans for a two-block transit-only lane on Hyde Street north of Market Street near City Hall and United Nations Plaza. The plan is drawn from the Hyde Street Quick-Build Project, which aims to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians while speeding up public transit on the eight blocks between Market Street and Geary Boulevard.

Nearly two dozen heads of state, including President Joe Biden, plus 1,000 CEOs and hundreds of foreign media representatives are expected to attend the summit Nov. 12-18, putting the eyes of the world on San Francisco. A number of local policymakers are worried the city isn’t prepared for the scrutiny that hosting the sustainability-themed summit and related events, including a CEO conference, will entail.

“Currently, travel speeds (on Hyde) are under 5 mph in peak periods from McAllister to Market, where the speed limit is 20 miles per hour,” SMFTA spokesperson Stephen Chun said, adding that the agency aims to finish the project before APEC. “We estimate that delays would decrease by about 20% based on preliminary data and our experience with transit lanes elsewhere in the city.”

APEC events are expected to be concentrated more than a mile away at Moscone Center. However, several receptions—including a catered event for the foreign press—are planned for at City Hall. The Asian Art Museum, which is on Larkin Street, just west of Hyde and south of McAllister, may also host events.

Hyde Street between Market and McAllister is currently three lanes, with parking on both sides. The westernmost lane would be converted to a transit-only lane and four parking spaces between Grove and Fulton streets would be eliminated.

During an SFMTA engineering hearing Friday, members of the public called in to express concerns and ask questions about the project.

Cars and pedestrians move down Hyde Street in San Francisco on Friday. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

Eric Rozell spoke on behalf of the Tenderloin Traffic Safety Task Force. He said any further parking removal would be detrimental to the U.N. Plaza farmers’ market, which is soon to be relocated across the street to Fulton Plaza. Vendors have already voiced concern about more limited load-out space and parking in the new location.

“We would also really like to see this transit project work [done] simultaneously with the entirety of the Hyde Street Quick-Build rather than being split up,” Rozell said.

Mark Gleason, representing the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 16 who work at the Orpheum Theatre at Hyde and Market, said the side door for the stage is very active and the increased traffic on the east side of Hyde Street would make it “nearly impossible” for stagehands to bring in props and other freight.

“I, and others supporting the stagehands, are asking for some other use for that lane other than traffic because it would be very difficult for people to perform their work at the Orpheum,” Gleason said.

Vincent Maguire, who manages the stage crew at the Orpheum and has worked there for 43 years, said the theater gets permits to use both sides of Hyde Street for loading and unloading 53-foot trailers. Moreover, on Sundays, the theater competes with the Heart of the City farmers’ market for loading space.

“Loading in shows like Lion King, which has over 16 trucks and will be here this holiday season, and not having a loading dock already kills us,” Maguire said. “If we can't get a show in and out of the door on time, producers will question the validity and costs of booking the theater—and they can save time and money by taking their shows to San Jose.”

SFMTA Project Manager Jessica Kuo said she spoke to representatives for the Orpheum and Heart of the City Farmers’ Market about their loading and parking needs, adding that the city is committed to finding solutions.

The buses that would use the lanes include the 19 Polk, 27 Bryant and 21 Hayes as well as three Golden Gate Transit lines.

There were 146 collisions in the eight-block project area between 2017 and 2022; 10 resulted in severe injuries and one was fatal, according to the transportation agency.

The transit-only lane proposal now goes to the SFMTA’s Board of Directors for final approval.

Alex Mullaney can be reached at

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