Bus lanes cause grief among merchants on Geary Street in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In San Francisco-- so-called "red carpet" lanes are designated for taxis and public transit only to help those vehicles get through traffic. But these lanes are the reason a group of small business owners have taken on the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

It's a pretty good living, owning one of the few car washes in San Francisco. For Corey Urban and his brother, it's been a squeaky clean money machine siphoning business from Geary Boulevard without major hassles for almost three decades.

Now? Not so much.

"I have my life savings in this business. And 28 years of working here," said Corey, who is extremely upset with San Francisco's Municipal Transportation Commission.

Around the beginning of this year, that agency restriped the right lane for taxis and busses, only, with plans to paint it solid red.

Area merchants, including Joseph Lama at Royal Ground Coffee, say the restriping has hurt business by as much as 30 percent because drivers are afraid to cross the line.

"Since they put in this bus lane, nobody wants to park outside. Can you imagine when they put in the red lane?"

"This used to be a shared traffic lane," said Corey.

"People get scared from the red zone-- $200 ticket," added Joseph.

No doubt you have seen these red zones in the city, which has 14 miles of them plus the transit lanes, all designed to ease traffic flow. But, there is an issue.

After doing a public records search, Corey and his brother discovered that Geary Street, and possibly others, should not be painted permanently because the city did not follow federal reporting protocols.

"They put in their red lane, they removed bus stops, they reported two minutes faster times, but what they did not tell the public is that they removed bus stops in each direction to get to those faster transit times." Or to be blunt about it, "They cheated."

"They have extra money they just want to spend," opined Joseph.

The SFMTA acknowledges this mistake, but not how merchants typify it.

"How can that happen?" we asked spokesman Paul Rose. "Well it is something that happened and we apologize for that inconvenience."

They may pay for it too. The merchants are talking about legal action to recover their losses.
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