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Minutes of March 18, 2010

Members Present

Les Clark, Elizabeth Dawson (Vice-Chair), Edward Evans, Paul Fichera, Melvin Galloway, Randall Glock (Chair), Marc Grossman, Jean Kempf, Miro Kielbus, David Longa, Jeanne Lynch, Bruce Morgan, Roger Rose (ILRC), Vernon Smith, Roland Wong, F. Ross Woodall (Mayor’s Disability Commission / Rose Resnick Lighthouse)

Accessible Services Staff Present

Jamie Osborne, Virginia Rathke, Annette Williams


Paul Bignardi (SFMTA Planning), Peter Gabancho (SFMTA Planning), Rachel Hiatt (San Francisco County Transit Authority), Grif Humphrey, David Jackson, Lisamaria Martinez (Rose Resnick Lighthouse), Merlin Nw, Linda Porelli (Rose Resnick Lighthouse), Wannee Ratanasanguan, Michael Schwartz (SFCTA), Ethel Silverstein

Call to Order

Meeting was called to order at 1:05 p.m.


Introductions were made in lieu of a roll call.

Reading and approval of agenda.

The agenda was approved.

Approval of the February 2010 Minutes

February minutes were accepted with corrections.

Comments from the Chair

MAAC Chair, Randall Glock apologized for missing that last month’s meeting and noted that while he had been in poor health, he appreciated the members’ questions and good wishes.

Wheelchair Securement Policy Review

Jamie Osborne reported to the committee on the most recent draft of the SFMTA wheelchair securement policy. Based on previous comments and suggestions from MAAC members, the policy was modified. When approved by the Director of Safety and Training, the policy would be mandatory for all operators. He reviewed the modifications and took questions from the group.

Members noted that on SamTrans, transit operators automatically secure wheelchair user’s chairs and wondered if wheelchair securements would be mandatory on SFMTA vehicles. Members also wondered why the policy was being reviewed at this time.

Operators must ask the wheelchair user if they would like to be secured; However, if the customer does not wish to be secured, and is able to independently lock their chair so that they do not create a safety hazard for other customers, they will not be refused service. Clarification and codification of the securement policy was requested by operators.

MAAC members voted to approve the policy as amended with minor modifications.

Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit Corridor

Rachel Hiatt, with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) spoke to the committee about her agency’s work on exploring high capacity and low cost alternatives to traditional bus or light rail transit services. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is high quality transit service that reduces travel time, increases reliability and improves passenger comfort beyond regular bus service. BRT combines the flexibility of buses and the quality of light rail at a fraction of the cost. Typical BRT improvements include travel lanes for exclusive transit use; wider sidewalks at bus stops; traffic signal priority for transit vehicles; full stations with passenger amenities; multi-door boardings at sidewalk-level platforms; pre-paid boarding areas; and real-time information systems.

The Van Ness Avenue Bus Rapid Transit Feasibility Study analyzed the feasibility of BRT treatments on Van Ness through technical analysis and community outreach. Ms. Hiatt indicated that SFMTA is currently in the process of determining a preferred BRT alignment. She introduced MAAC members to the alignments that are currently being considered:

Option 1: No Changes

Option 2: Side BRT Lanes

  • Converts rightmost traffic lanes to bus only lanes
  • Allows cars to cross bus lane to park or turn right
  • Widens sidewalk at transit stations (bus bulbs)
  • Center landscaped median remains as is

Option 3: Center BRT Lanes with right-side boarding / dual medians

  • Creates dedicated bus lanes separated from traffic by two parallel landscaped medians
  • Locates BRT stations on side platforms
  • Uses right-door buses

Option 4: Center BRT Lanes with left-side boarding / one median

  • Converts inside traffic lanes to dedicated bus lanes on either side of single center landscaped median
  • Maintains center landscaped median as is
  • Creates BRT stations on center median
  • Uses left / right door buses

SFMTA and SFCTA are in the process of evaluating the environmental impacts and performance impacts (on pedestrians, transit users and automobiles) for each option. Paul Bignardi and Peter Gabancho, of SFMTA Planning, are leading the agency’s efforts to determine a preferred alternative by Fall 2010.

Ms. Hiatt noted that all options would have the following Accessibility Features:

  • Accessible Pedestrian Signals
  • Curb ramp upgrades at all intersections
  • Additional corner bulb-outs for more sidewalk space and reduced crosswalk distances.
  • Upgraded roadway and sidewalk lighting (Pedestrian Focuses)
  • Level all-door boarding platforms (no steps required)
  • Platforms with strong wayfinding components
  • Push to Talk NextBus buttons
  • Railings, Seating and Accessible Ticket Vending Machines

She took questions from the committee regarding the various alternatives accessibility features.

Members expressed concerned about how the construction of the new California Pacific Medical Center at Van Ness Avenue between Geary and O’Farrell will effect the BRT corridor. The new center and the specific transit ridership and traffic demand that will create figures prominently in the design of the closest BRT platform and the system in general. The traffic circulation due to the new center will especially taken into consideration.

Members posed questions about the Van Ness BRT Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC). Ms. Hiatt indicated that the CAC has nine members who were appointed by the SFCTA board. The committee meets quarterly and the meetings take place on the 26th floor of 100 Van Ness Avenue and are open to the public. The next meeting is the last Tuesday in May (the 25th) at 5 p.m.

Members were interested in learning more about the vehicles that will be used to provide service. The vehicle for the Van Ness corridor has yet to be selected; however, the following characteristics are going to be pursued:

  • Low floor vehicles
  • 60 foot articulated coaches
  • Diesel hybrid and trolley coaches
  • Depending on the chosen alternative, vehicles may also have a set of doors on the left hand side

MAAC members and guest both reported that boarding the existing SFMTA fleet of low-floor buses by ramp is very difficult. Mr. Bignardi reported that while the buses will be low floor, they will have a different layout and boarding performance than the Orion IV low-floor, hybrid vehicles that the agency is currently using. The final vehicle will be selected in the next three months. SFMTA plans to purchase buses in 2012 - 2013, and the system will be up and running by 2014. Annette Williams added that MAAC would play a role in the vehicle selection and configuration process.

MAAC members wondered how other transit agencies experiences with BRT systems have shaped the San Francisco model. Members also asked whether a double deck bus would be appropriate for this sort of application. BRT planning staff are familiar with the characteristics of the BRT implementations in the US (Eugene - Oregon, Los Angeles Metro and Cleveland - Ohio). The proposed SFMTA BRT will likely be the most advanced in the country. After extensive testing and evaluation in 2008, it was determined that the double deck bus will not be appropriate for the Van Ness BRT.

Members were concerned that the location of the boarding platforms in the middle of the street may create access problems for people with visual disabilities. Appropriate wayfinding for the BRT corridor will be essential – As such SFMTA will be coming back to MAAC for guidance and support in developing a system that works and is safe for all users.

Historically, it has been difficult to work with Caltrans to allow transit-only lanes or other improvements on Van Ness (State Highway 101) how will this process be different? Caltrans has been on board with the Van Ness BRT from the beginning. Their approval is pending.

MAAC members wondered if the BRT corridor would be shared with taxis and other vehicles. Some of the alternatives may support this shared usage, but this concept has not been included in feasibility reports.

MAAC members supported either option with a center alignment, as it would provide more protection for crossing the street and would make for fewer distractions for automobile drivers who may turn into pedestrian crossing lanes. Also, the center lane system seems faster for transit users.

MAAC members suggested that wayfinding be similar to platforms on the T-Third. They reported that externally focused audible signals from vehicle doors were very important for low vision and blind transit users and emphasized that the needs of both groups be factored into planning decisions.

MAAC members were concerned how the agency would fund the operation of this new service. The new system will have identical operating costs to the service that is currently in place. It is estimated that with the reduced travel times that some of the alternatives allow for, SFMTA would be able to provide the same service along Van Ness Avenue with fewer operators and potentially save the agency money. Reduced travel times mean fewer operators are necessary to maintain service frequencies.

The public was concerned about the length and capacity of the boarding platforms. The minimum platform length will accommodate two 60 foot buses (at least 120 feet). Members hoped that any new vehicles that will be acquired for BRT service be appropriately tested with transit users (including MAAC).

SFMTA Metro Between Car Barrier (BCB) Update

Jamie Osborne updated the committee about the BCB installation on the Metro boarding platform at Embarcadero and Folsom and the MAAC demonstrations that were scheduled in February and March. He noted that BCBs were installed at this location only, and seemed to be effective when the Metro train operators would stop in the correct location.

MAAC members and guests reported that the operators should have a better system to show them where to stop as when the vehicle stops at an inappropriate location, the BCB will block the train doors. This was observed several times. MAAC members did not see a problem with the installation and thought that it could be very helpful with wayfinding and in showing a visually disabled or blind customer where they need to board.

MAAC members noted that BART uses a tactile marker to tell people with visual disabilities the location of the vehicle doors and wondered if this sort of system could be used on the Metro.

MAAC Housekeeping | Review of Bylaws

MAAC bylaws were distributed to all members for review. Jamie Osborne reviewed these rules for MAAC members and officers. He reported that members had previously expressed concerns over committee procedures and requested potential amendments.

Committee members reported their concerns:

  • New members should be better aware of membership bylaws
  • The role of MAAC has gone beyond looking at Muni services. The committee should officially change its name to reflect its increased scope.
  • Members requested greater dialogue with the Paratransit Coordinating Committee

Members requested that the item be moved to the next month’s agenda so that additional time will be given to fully discuss committee responsibilities.

MAAC Housekeeping | Discussion of Officer Nomination Committee

Jamie Osborne noted that the elections for MAAC officers was upcoming and that the Officer nomination committee should meet prior to the April meeting. Members reported that the nomination committee would meet briefly following the March meeting.

Member’s Comments and Questions

Vernon Smith: I get irate when people run up the escalator. This is dangerous and should be stopped.

Edward Evans: The stickers on the buses that say that lift users can board first are great, but the operators are not following this procedure. Operators should be better trained on this issue.

Edward Evans: The lift on the island at Market and 5th has been out for so long, when will it be back in service?

RESPONSE: SFMTA has been tracking the repairs on the Market and 5th lift since mid-January. We have been able to intermittently get the lift back into operation, but it is currently still out of service and apart. These are custom lifts that were developed for these San Francisco locations, so finding parts and vendors is our challenge. SFMTA is checking with several vendors and looking to find resolution with parts.

Jeanne Lynch: I’m confused about the information phone numbers 5-1-1 and 3-1-1. Who do I call for complaints about SFMTA service?

Please call the SF 3-1-1 Customer Service center with complaints. 5-1-1 is an automatic service that helps with information on transit services, such as real time arrivals.

Jeanne Lynch: I’d like to see an updated listing of complaints related to SFMTA accessible services.

Ross Woodall: I wanted to invite everyone to the Mayor’s Disability Council meeting tomorrow 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. we will be discussing disabled parking placards.

Les Clark: Have we labeled the islands on Market Street that are designated not accessible? Yes – Look for a red banner that indicates “No Wheelchair Access.”

Public Comment

Wannee Ratanasanguan: It is very difficult to determine where LRV cars will stop in the subway. I wish that there was a better way to identify where the train will stop and to prevent people from standing in front of the door when they do not wish to board.

David Jackson: I’ve noticed that people are often sitting on the stairs on subway. This is very inconvenient and hazardous for someone who is unable to see. What is the best way to prevent this behavior?


On March 22, the Discount ID office will be moving from the Presidio Division at Geary and Masonic to the 6th floor of One South Van Ness.

Items for the Next Agenda

Dave Longa: I would like to make sure that we communicate in advance with speakers about their presentations and set time limits, so that we have enough time to get through the agenda.

Jamie Osborne suggested that Tom Rickert of Access Exchange International be invited to present on his experiences with the accessibility of recently implemented Bus Rapid Transit projects around the world.

We will be putting together a joint SFPD and SFMTA Security presentation.


At 3:00 p.m. the meeting was adjourned. The next scheduled meeting will be April 15, 2010 at 1:00 p.m.

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