A Bus Story
Here is a story from my very own neighborhood.
The 21 Hayes Travels from the Ferry Building through the Financial District and then up Hayes Street until the start of Golden Gate Park. Hayes Valley is a fashionable neighborhood filled with boutiques, restaurants, and is walking distance from the Asian Art Museum, Main City Library, Performance and Art venues like SF Jazz, The Opera/Ballet, the Symphony, and also City Hall.
The upper end of Hayes Street contains Alamo Square Park (home to the Painted Ladies), the up and coming Divisadero corridor, and a very mixed residential neighborhood in terms of socio-economics.
SFMTA wanted to get rid of two stops at the upper-end of Hayes Street. The linked to article mentions that the four blocks between Baker and Masonic each have an inbound and an outbound stop. I agree that this is kind of excessive but the neighborhood especially one local coffee shop fought tooth and nail to keep the stops around. They were successful.
Part of the save the 21-line petitions involved raising fears that removing stops could just be the first step towards justifying removal of the 21 line entirely. The campaign to save the 21 bus line mentioned previous canceled lines like the 26-Valencia. As far as I can tell, the SFMTA used a similar M.O. to get rid of previous lines. First the SFMTA removed stops and then they claimed that the line was under-used and/or inefficient and the entire line was removed.
I suspect that this tension is a large part of the reasons about why wonks and planners love buses but people potentially prefer light rail or subway. A bus stop or line is relatively easy to create and relatively easy to take away because it involves less permanent architecture. Light rail and train stations require more of an investment and while you can add express lines that don’t stop at all stations on a line, it is rather hard to justify taking an entire line away. The very immovability of train stops makes people more assured in their daily routes.
Whether popular assurances matters to wonks or planners remains to be seen.