During a meeting yesterday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's board of directors voted 5-0 to ban large tour buses from the postcard vistas surrounding Alamo Square Park. Starting next month, the neighbors will longer have to endure the oppressive sound of tour guides on microphones announcing the stop for the famous Painted Ladies. Tourists, meanwhile, will now get some exercise with their hop-on, hop-off tour since they will be forced to walk up the hill in order to get their Full House photos.
The ban affects tour buses that seat more than nine passengers from a 5-block square area surrounding the park and the neighbors were overwhelmingly in favor of it. One of them even openly displays his or her contempt for tourist vehicles with a sign that reads, "Get off your big, fat tour bus and experience San Francisco." Another plan that would have allowed buses to drive slowly along Hayes street, holding up Muni buses while allowing tourists to snap photos from the open top, was rejected.
The Alamo Square neighbors were able to unload their tour bus problem on their unsuspecting neighbors down the hill, where tour bus stops have popped up on Divisadero and Fell Street. (The officially sanctioned stop now will be at Fell and Pierce.)
According to SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose, the agency backed the ban in order to improve Muni service along the 21-Hayes line. Noticeably absent from the ban, however, are the employee shuttles that make up about a third of non-Muni bus traffic in the neighborhood. (Both Facebook and Google have routes that run along Hayes Street.) As neighborhood blog The Corridor notes:
SFMTA observed tour bus activity on Hayes street back in June of this year reported that a bus (not including the 21 Hayes) passed every 7.5 minutes. According to their findings, roughly two thirds of these busses were large tour busses or vans. It should be noted that the new restrictions will not apply to employer (Read: Google) busses, although they accounted for 33% of bus traffic in the observed period.
The tour bus companies, on the other hand, seem to feel like they're starting to get evicted from San Francisco, now that various parts of the city have banned the tourist movers. As one tour guide pointed out at the meeting, the buses are also banned from Telegraph Hill, parts of North Beach, Fisherman's Wharf, Lands End or Twin Peaks.