Muni May Convert 2-Clement to Electric Trolley Bus

clementOHW.jpgThe Clement Street stretch of the 2-Clement may be moved to California Street, if the line is converted to an electric trolley bus service. Image courtesy SFMTA.
After two MTA board meetings filled with passionate though civil debate over the alignment of the shortened 2-Clement, the MTA has finally settled on a terminus for the line. Instead of the two options that brought out well-organized opposition at previous meetings, 2-Clement buses will layover at an existing bus stop on the south side of Clement Street, just west of 14th Avenue - but only for six months. After that, the MTA will review the terminus location, and hopes to replace the line with an electric trolley bus that would run on California Street instead, taking advantage of existing overhead wires on Sutter, Presidio, and California Streets.

The final decision was made just in time to reap the cost savings from shortening the line that the MTA had already banked on in its current budget. The 2-Clement will be shortened from its current terminus near 33rd Avenue to Park Presidio, a move originally recommended in the Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP) due to low ridership on the final stretch of the line. Though the TEP is on hold for now, its recommendations helped inform service cuts the MTA made to close its $129 million budget gap in May, including shortening the 2-Clement.

Perhaps surprisingly, shortening the line didn't bring out opposition, but finding a new spot for it to layover between runs brought several dozen Richmond residents and members of Congregation Beth Shalom to MTA board meetings in protest. The two options the MTA originally considered for the terminus - the east side of 14th Avenue just north of Geary Blvd, and the west side of Funston Avenue just north of Geary Blvd - were blasted by residents concerned about the safety and noise impact of buses on their streets. The MTA originally favored those two options because neither are in front of buildings, and both would offer close connectivity with the 28-19th Avenue and 38-Geary lines. The Clement Street terminus doesn't offer as direct a connection, but staff ultimately concluded that riders wouldn't be overly inconvenienced.

"We estimate that the transfer market is likely to be relatively small, in part because there are so many rich transit choices nearby," said the MTA's Julie Kirschbaum.

temp2clement.jpgThe temporary terminus for the 2-Clement will be at an existing bus stop on Clement Street. Image courtesy SFMTA.
Residents on 15th Avenue have already spoken out against the new alignment, since it is routed through 15th Avenue for a block on its way to 14th Avenue and Clement, but they may only have to live with the buses for six months. During the next several months, the MTA will research moving the last stretch of the line from Clement to California Street with a terminus near 8th Avenue and Clement, and converting it from motor coaches to electric trolley service.

"Sutter Street has both motor coach and trolley coach service right now, so we're essentially operating four miles of motor coach service simply because we don't have electric wires for the last three-quarters of a mile," explained Kirschbaum at the board meeting Tuesday. "We think that there's an opportunity to pursue it, but we need additional time to work with both 2-Clement customers as well as merchants."

"We think it has environmental benefits as well as reliability benefits," said Kirschbaum. "We also think it will have cost savings."

If the 2-Clement is replaced with an electric trolley bus line and moved to California Street through the Inner Richmond, it would be the first time in over 100 years that Clement will essentially have no transit vehicles running on it, so it may be difficult to predict how riders and merchants will respond. Of course, if the current 2-Clement debate is any indication, the hardest part might be finding a terminus.