Church and Duboce Project to Revamp Major Transit and Bike Corridor

Image courtesy of SFMTA

The thousands of daily travelers converging at the crowded Church and Duboce transit and bicycle junction can look forward to a host of streetscape improvements to make it safer and more inviting in the next couple of years.

The Duboce Muni portal, converted from a street-level railway decades ago, has remained one of the city’s hairiest junctures for all modes of transportation. The Church and Duboce Track Improvement Project will bring overdue rail replacement in April, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg for neighborhood-driven streetscape upgrades on the agenda.

The scope of the initial rail project was expanded to include curb extensions, plantings, lighting upgrades, artistic additions, and a block of green, car-free bikeway after neighborhood groups eagerly collaborated in the planning process with the SFMTA.

“We thought about the opportunities that exist here for something a whole lot more impacting than simply pulling up steel,” said Peter Cohen of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association (DTNA). “We looked at all the streetscape conditions and transportation users along the project area and thought about a whole basket of improvements that would fit into the neighborhood.”

Duboce and Church Streets. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The project will affect Duboce Avenue from Church to Noe Street and Church Street from Duboce to Market Street. The hub of the project lies where the Duboce Muni tunnel and bikeway meet Church, inersecting two Muni rail lines, a bus line, bicycle and private auto traffic at the gateway to the major Wiggle route. Add to the mix pedestrians accessing one of the busiest street level stops on the Muni’s most popular line, the N-Judah, and you’ve got a mess.

“It’s a very interesting place – it’s a nexus where four types of transportation systems come together and compete for space, which is a very difficult puzzle,” said Cohen. “At the same time, it’s also a residential environment.”

DTNA, The Wigg Party, and the Castro Community Benefit District jumped at the chance to add beautification and safety improvements along the Duboce corridor, said Ben Kaufman, chair of The Wigg Party’s Wiggle Transformation Working Group.

The project comes bearing gifts for all non-motorized users. Physical changes will be made to help delineate dedicated transit, pedestrian and bicycle space at the crowded Duboce and Church Muni stop. Access will be prohibited to automobiles on the westbound block of Duboce Avenue from Church to Fillmore, with the travel lane restricted to bikes only. That space will be painted green in order to encourage those accessing the Muni island to cross the bike lane carefully, said SFMTA spokeserson Paul Rose.

“A pedestrian-prioritized space is great, but I also think this is a commuter intersection for a lot of people – both bicycles and transit users,” said Kaufman. The Wigg Party pushed to prioritize bicycle movement through the space adjacent to the crowded Muni island, which was a point of contention with the other groups. The change was adopted after the design renderings were created.

Car access will be prohibited, the boarding island expanded and the new block-long bike lane painted green at this juncture. Photo: Aaron Bialick

N-Judah and J-Church passengers will enjoy new shelters, wider boarding islands and sidewalks as well as more greenery at the train stops. Many new curbs will be lined with an aesthetic “brick banding” seen on other curbs in the Duboce Triangle, said project architect Nathan Lozier. Transit-only lanes will be resurfaced with a “pebble” material and small speed bumps, and a traffic-calming “charcoal grey sparkle paving” will be used on car-accessible lanes. Guard rails will be added on some boarding islands.

Lozier, who lives nearby, offered pro bono landscape consulting on the project as part of Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey Landscape Architects’ participation in the “One Percent” program.

An expansion of the Duboce bikeway mural welcoming bike riders to the Wiggle as well as artistic sculpture seating and upgraded light fixtures will make the corridor more inviting for people walking, biking, and waiting for trains. Corner bulb-outs at the large Duboce and Steiner intersection will also increase pedestrian safety.

The awkwardly large intersection of Duboce and Steiner will get corner bulb-outs. Image courtesy of SFMTA

“Particularly on Duboce, we have pedestrian safety issues in terms of people waiting for the N and further down towards the park,” said District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener. He said he’s thrilled at the opportunity to combine long-needed infrastructure maintenance and streetscape improvements in a cost-effective way.

Rail replacement should bring a quieter and smoother ride for passengers through Duboce and Church. However, traffic delays for passing N-Judah and J-Church rail vehicles passing through the intersection is a challenge that needs to be addressed.

“Getting in and out of the portal there, for both the J and the N, is really difficult,” said Wiener. “There’s a four-way stop sign there, and particularly the cars that are going up and down Church, in my experience, are extremely disrespectful of the [Light Rail Vehicles’] ability to get out of the portal, and it ends up causing backups getting out of the portal.”

Drivers jump in front of the N-Judah entering the intersection, despite the operator's ringing a bell. Photo: Aaron Bialick

“I think we should take a look at the traffic controls at that intersection and see if there’s anything we can do to give Muni priority,” he added.

SFMTA Board Director Cheryl Brinkman recently asked staff to study best practices to figure out a solution for giving transit a priority at the intersection. “We can’t be the only city with this situation of streetcars going through non-signalized intersections. Somebody out there must’ve solved it,” she said.

SFMTA staffers said adding traffic signals would cause unnecessary delays to Muni lines, particularly for the 22-Fillmore running north on Church Street, Kaufman said.

One novel idea Brinkman suggested was a flashing light system alerting other road users to yield to oncoming Muni trains, similar to those seen on crosswalks.

Yet even if the challenge of crossing a hairball of rail tracks remains for bike riders, Brinkman defended the counterintuitive, beneficial effects on traffic behavior of a naked, non-signalized intersection.

“Even though it’s difficult for all users, I don’t know that we have that many crashes,” noted Brinkman. “I see what I feel like are a lot of near misses, but I think everyone’s awareness is so heightened, they all manage to avoid each other.”

Prohibiting car access through the intersection, however, is an “option to consider,” she said.

Rail replacement is set to begin in April, and the entire project is expected to be completed by the end of 2012.

The Noe Street N-Judah stop. Image courtesy of SFMTA
J-Church outbound stop at 14th and Market Streets. A diagonal crosswalk will be added. Image courtesy of SFMTA
J-Church inbound stop at Duboce. Image courtesy of SFMTA
Curbs like this one at the Duboce and Noe rail stop will be expanded to make crossings easier. Photo: Aaron Bialick
New curbs will see brick treatments similar to this one on the corner of Duboce and Sanchez. Photo: Aaron Bialick
  • andrew

    No traffic light with no signal priority = NO REDUCTION IN DELAYS. Fail.

  • It’s a good start, but the elephant-in-the-room is still the Duboce/Church/Muni Metro tunnel exit clusterfuck. Making all these changes without resolving that issue seems like a waste of time and money.

  • doogiehowser

    Oh, San Francisco, where the tiniest infrastructure improvements and slightest tilting of priorities away from cars is treated like a massive victory. But honestly this goes only about 20% of the way towards making one of the most transit- and pedestrian-filled areas of the city less annoying and dangerous.

    –Can someone, somewhere explain to me why there are two inbound stops around the corner from each other? This is such a Muni thing–something that totally screws passengers and we just sit back and take it. How does Muni suggest inbound passengers at Duboce and Church cope with this situation–standing in the middle of the intersection waiting to see which train comes first? Howabout some sort of radical solution, like creating a semi-enclosed “station” at the intersection, where both inbound Js and Ns pick up passengers on the east side of Church? Oh, I’m sorry, that would inconvenience the SUV drivers who rip down Church street at 50 miles an hour.

    –Also explain to me why there must be a traffic lane between the stop and the curb at the southbound J stop and 14th. The sidewalk is about 10 inches wide, and cars tear through there like they’re in a race. I’ve almost been killed there about 100 times. There’s NO REASON for that lane! Maybe 10 cars an hour actually turn right onto 14th there — precisely because the sheer numbers of pedestrians make it nearly impossible. But again, apparently something as obvious and simple as that is completely off the table in this town. Maybe by 2090.

    Argh.

  • andrew

    The problem with a station east of Church is that there’s not enough space before the tunnel begins for a two car platform. To redo that would be extremely expensive.

  • jd

    I’m glad to see the city realizing this area needs some serious attention. And I’m sure anything they do will be better than the current design. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try to get my criticism/comments in now before this goes through …..

    1) I don’t see any reason cars should be allowed to turn left on Duboce going north on Church. Just make that block only for MUNI, pedestrians, and bicycles.

    2) Can the city do something about the hell that is getting your bike wheel stuck in the MUNI rail?! Can’t they put some sort of rubber over this that compresses when the train goes over it but not a bicycle? Far too many cyclists get hurt on these damn tracks, especially at this intersection where you have them going all different directions.

    3) I totally agree with doogiehowser in that two stops right next to each other is poor design. The best solution is to make Church between Market and Duboce and Duboce between Church and Fillmore all car-free and turn the whole area into a big public transit plaza with a nice clean bike path through it. But I know that the car-free plaza is too radical for the US; we must make sure to make an huge offering (namely, the livability of our city and our and the environment’s health) in every project to the almighty Automobile Gods.

    4) Lots more (native) greenery is a good thing. And I mean *lots*. I’ve been noticing lately how unnecessarily over-concreted SF is, and it seems so easy to change ….

  • Aaron Bialick

    jd –

    Hope it was clear enough, but your first point is indeed happening. Left turns from Church are already prohibited, and right turns from southbound will be as well with this project. It will be a green bike lane between the island and sidewalk.

    Also, Ben Kaufman said SFMTA staff told him the flange filler that is used on tracks elsewhere for bike safety wouldn’t work for Muni due to the frequency and weight of the vehicles (they’re apparently too light, oddly).

    Also, pavement markings directing riders over the tracks at a safe angle apparently has too many liability issues. (I know, I know…)

    I echo the need for better stop placement. Having to run to transfer from the N to the outbound J is ridiculous.

  • Glad to see this area getting roadway/track/bike improvements!

    Wondering if this is an opportunity to experiment with trackway improvements making bicycling easier – I remember hearing about some type of rubber inserts, which makes crossing tracks for bikes much safer.

  • david vartanoff

    pretty drawings, insufficient thinking. I don’t see the ADA ramps??? If we can get rid of cars WB, why not EB on Duboce in the same block?

    A properly configured plan would have the train operator signal from Van Ness whether H or J so that the track switch would be correctly set and the LRV would get a green traffic signal on arrival at the surface, eliminating the delay waiting for auto traffic to clear.

    Are these platforms’ beight set up for a new generation of low floor/levelboarding cars? If not, a better plan would have high level platforms at both Duboce/Church and perhaps the Park stop. This takes the time stopped waiting to lower steps before crossing Church and moves it away from the junction.

    Looking at the WB stop on Duboce,the platform appears not long enough to fully berth a two car train.

  • I’m really glad there’s movement on this intersection, no matter how small the steps, because it’s scary as both a cyclist and pedestrian.
    Casting aside practical and short-term considerations, does anyone know if it’d even be possible to do underground work that sends the N straight into the westbound tunnel without ever surfacing on Duboce, and surfaces the J on Church St. at the south side of Market instead? I’m sure the costs would be ridiculous, but I’m wondering if there’s a reason this was never done back in the day.

  • EL

    doogiehowser wrote: “Also explain to me why there must be a traffic lane between the stop and the curb at the southbound J stop and 14th. The sidewalk is about 10 inches wide, and cars tear through there like they’re in a race. I’ve almost been killed there about 100 times. There’s NO REASON for that lane!”

    Because the southbound lane used by the J will be transit only. Says so in the 6th picture.

    doogiehowser wrote: “Can someone, somewhere explain to me why there are two inbound stops around the corner from each other? This is such a Muni thing–something that totally screws passengers and we just sit back and take it. How does Muni suggest inbound passengers at Duboce and Church cope with this situation–standing in the middle of the intersection waiting to see which train comes first? Howabout some sort of radical solution, like creating a semi-enclosed “station” at the intersection, where both inbound Js and Ns pick up passengers on the east side of Church?”

    As andrew pointed out, there isn’t enough room, before you start diving into the tunnel, to handle a 2-car platform and handicapped ramp. And perhaps the pedestrians switching islands (depending on which train shows up first) is an indicator of how hard it is to put in signals (that would be followed).

    I’ve often wondered why the J has to stop on Church, just south of Market, and then again just north of Market next to Safeway. Same with the #22.

  • Caleb

    As a resident of this neighborhood (Sanchez+Duboce), let me say that I can’t wait to see these welcome improvements! The renderings above look very nice and seem like a sensible first step towards improving this important junction point (hopefully) without spending a fortune.

    I wonder if there is something that MUNI could do, in conjunction with these upgrades, to reduce delays on N and J trains getting in and out of the tunnel? For starters, big yellow “Yield to Train” signs could be added on Church street, as trains trying to cross the intersection tend to be far too timid about getting out there and crossing. It’s a train, get out of the way.

    Second, while the tracks are being replaced, can they be realigned such that LRVs can pass each other in the curve? While it may not be a technical constraint, MUNI effectively treats this intersection as though only one train can move through it at a time. That’s a big bottleneck.

    Third, I understand that the reason trains have to stop like 5 times to get to and through this stop is related to triggering the track switching mechanism…but is there any way this switch could be locked in position at peak times or use another triggering mechanism? It should take no more than 30 seconds from the time that trains are released from computer control at the tunnel egress to the time they’re through the intersection.

    Fourth! Can we pretty please stop doing shift changes mid-line at the MUNI hut on Church+Duboce? Seriously, what transit outfit with any respect for their customers does mid-line shift changes while hundreds of people wait? Same goes for stopping the train at the MUNI hut there to have a chat with other MUNI employees.

    In summary, intersection redesign plans: looks beautiful. MUNI: hang up and drive!

  • Nick

    I kind of like the free-for-all feeling it currently has. It’s placemaking. You know you’re about to enter the chaos of downtown.

  • taomom

    This is a congested spot that is highly important to bicyclists, J Church riders, N-Judah riders, and pedestrians. Cars have a multitude of options besides this intersection. Therefore, reduce congestion by prohibiting car access through the intersection.

    Agree about the nonsensical places Muni drivers do shift changes.

  • Second, while the tracks are being replaced, can they be realigned such that LRVs can pass each other in the curve? While it may not be a technical constraint, MUNI effectively treats this intersection as though only one train can move through it at a time. That’s a big bottleneck.

    Thanks.

    That’s the one significant thing that could have been done.

    Anybody want to take bets on it not even having been considered?

    Without it, this is the typical SF wankfest of slapping inconceivably expensive greenwash (think of the bicycle greenways! Peak Oil! And, like, stuff!) lipstick on the festering pig of grotesque Muni inefficiency. (But don’t think about that, because, like, make downtown pay its share! Todos somos TWU-250A! The Central Subway will fix everything!)

  • Michael

    I can’t quite tell where the transit-only zones in these diagrams start and end. At present, I don’t know of any transit-only zones in this area, so I’m curious what changes are being made. Ideally, all the tan/yellow in those diagrams should be transit-only. The J in particular could use transit priority from Dolores Park to the tunnel.

    Also, those are two-car trains on Church in the diagram. Does the MTA plan to actually run two-car J-Church trains? That’d really be something. Or is this just forward-looking planning in case all the other J-Church platforms are eventually upgraded to accommodate two-car trains as well?

    Good research question posed by Cheryl: how do other cities deal with streetcars at unsignalized intersections with other transit vehicles in the mix? A naked intersection might be fine at Church/Duboce as long as transit priority is clearly indicated (which it’s not at all right now) and the J has its own dedicated lane.

    We might know more about this question if the MTA had done a Muni Metro TEP, which really should be informing this whole process, but alas, it will have to be ad hoc for now.

  • Ben

    @Sasha: We talked about this idea at the MTA meetings. In short, it is completely feasible and most definitely ideal for the N-Judah to go underground for those 4 blocks, it just takes $$$. Apparently, this was the issue when the N-Judah was initially built (I think in the 70’s?) and remains the issue today.

  • doogiehowser

    With a little digging and, you know, thought, an inbound only platform could be built right on the east side of Church.

    @EL re: the J southbound stop at 14th, all the more reason for that traffic lane *not* to be there. All traffic will be siphoned into a tiny lane right between a miniscule sidewalk and an overcrowded transit stop? Filled with drivers trying to beat the lights at a massive intersection? Sounds super.

    Making Church pedestrian/transit only between Duboce and Market would be a no brainer in any other city in the world.

  • jd

    Aaron Bialick wrote: “Hope it was clear enough, but your first point is indeed happening. Left turns from Church are already prohibited, and right turns from southbound will be as well with this project. It will be a green bike lane between the island and sidewalk.”

    Okay, yeah, I see it now. That’s a good thing. And then I realized why they can’t shut off eastbound Duboce between Fillmore & Church to traffic: there are a handful of driveways on the the south side of Duboce on this block (there are no driveways on the north side though). Argghghgh. I wonder if the city could pay the owners/tenants to give up their garage so that entire block could be made car-free! I actually think that, some day, we’ll see how great it is to have certain blocks that are car-free and how worth it this is, but I doubt we’re there yet.

    So okay, you have to allow some traffic eastbound on Duboce which turns right and goes southbound on Church. But it does seem like northbound Church between Market and Duboce can be shutdown entirely to traffic. There is an entrance to Safeway there, but the one on Market is sufficient.

    Further, on Church between Duboce & Hermann, there are drivers on both sides so you can’t shut if off to cars. However, you can turn this little block of Church coming from Hermann into a dead-end with bollards.

    If you do all this, the only cars going through the intersection of Church & Duboce will be those coming eastbound on Duboce and turning right onto Church. And if the speed limit is made 10 mph through here (and thru traffic coming eastbound down Duboce is directed to turn right on Sanchez), no cars will be using it except the handful of people who have driveways there.

  • david vartanoff

    @ Caleb, Actually mid run changes are common and traditional, but the Muni way is to make a 90 second necessity turn into several minutes.

  • Frank

    Are there are any private garages on that block?

    Because if there are, and cars are banned from that block, how will those residents get into and out of their garages?

    Does the City have to financially compensate property owners in such a situation?

  • Patrick S

    I agree with Doogie: Church between Market and Duboce should be transit only. Cars should route via Buchanan or Castro if they really must transit north. And frankly, I see zero reason why Church St is 2 lanes wide between Duboce and 20th. There isn’t much traffic on Church. It doesn’t need to be a 4 lane street for .75 miles. For god’s sakes. Same with 14th Street. Why 3 lanes? Drop 14th down to 2 lanes wide, add bikeway and wider sidewalks. WTF is a 3 lane street doing in this city? Extra room for fat cars? Anywhere else, transit planners wouldn’t have their heads up their (c)arses.

    Those who claim there “isn’t enough space” on the East side of Church to house a unified N+J loading station (getting rid of the two separate, stupid loading zones as current) are incorrect. There *is* room for a 2-car train on level ground between Church and the descent into the underground tunnel. The lack of a single loading ‘station’ on the East side is a lack of intelligence and mettle, not a lack of space or lack of funding. Having 2 inbound platforms within 50 feet of each other is just beyond comprehension…

  • Joel

    The West Portal-portal also experiences delays due to auto and pedestrian traffic at the unsignaled intersection. Often an MTA employee is directing traffic, but streetcars still get backed up – there’s got to be a better solution…

  • Aaron Bialick

    Frank –

    “Are there are any private garages on that block?”

    No.

    If there were, though, I would argue that we should not let permitted private driveways to limit optimal public use of our street space (as it does on nearly every street in the city).

  • jd

    Frank wrote: “Are there are any private garages on that block?”

    Yes, see my post above (#18).

  • Aaron Bialick

    jd and Frank –

    There are curb cuts on the south side, but not the north side where access is being prohibited.

  • Mark Dreger

    Does anyone have information of why two trains cannot pass through the intersection of Church & Duboce (and also at West Portal) at the same time? I understand that turning trains could hit each other if the tracks are placed too closely together, but why can’t two trains go straight at the same time? I second the preference for realigning the tracks as part of this rehab to give two trains the sufficient distance to turn together.

    This is merely another time-wasting policy of Muni operations – just like requiring trains to make full stops at ALL switches, passing through turns at 3mph, and keeping one block distance between cars.

    You really don’t see any of these policies on any other streetcar system in the world – trains don’t hesitate to turn or pass each other. While they may not seem like major delays, in the aggregate, they really add up. I heard recently that if we could improve Muni’s speed by just a mile per hour or two, we could see some substantial cost savings.

    I’d really like to see some talk about the efficiency of Muni operations over these esthetic remodels which don’t address any of Muni’s real problems.

  • anonymouse

    Here’s another idea: instead of having a super-narrow boarding island and sidewalk, have the car lane rise up to boarding island level with a bump (to slow traffic down) and a 10mph posted limit. Have bollards delimit the sidewalk and boarding island, with cars driving through the middle, but no curbs. For the trains, it probably makes the most sense for train movements to preempt everything else through the intersection, and have it default to an all-way stop otherwise. And while we’re at it, how about eliminating the delays from the Seltrac system entering the tunnel? No reason the the train shouldn’t be able to just keep moving down the ramp and into the tunnel, with no lengthy pauses (assuming there’s no congestion in the subway, at least).

  • Sean T Hedgpeth

    Great to see the discourse here, great job Aaron. I live on Duboce/Fillmore. I think the locals are most concerned with the noise- a minor earthquake is heard/felt every hour at least (full trains) from 5am to 2am. It has to do with the water table, and a switch design from the 1920s. The ‘points’ or the diverging blade of the switch has to be forced open via the train instead of switched via computer. I can hear exactly how many wheel sets go over the switch. Also I thought the Metro East Maintenance Facility was open- still the train switch is used at Church/Duboce to take the J tracks to Balboa Park. SFMTA, PLEASE send them via the T tracks at 2am!

    I counted on church st, there are 3 total garages btwn Duboce/Market, 2 private and one attached to Taqueria Castillito (probably used for storage). The 1970’s parking for Blockbuster should be demolished, finally blockbuster is going out of business there. That is also an opportunity to open the gated cross street to Belcher. That justifies shutting down Church to cars. Next, dig up the Safeway parking lot that belongs in suburbia.

  • Mad Park

    As a visitor from Seattle (first visit in 1959), I’ve always marveled at this intersection and gnashed my teeth that it seems to take forever for a train to get through it. Thanks to Aaron’s article and the comments for clearing up many of the mysteries about this junction for me.

  • Yay! So exciting! Thanks for the detailed update Aaron. I had heard about this a while back, but was worried it’d been indefinitely delayed. Glad to see it’s finally moving forward. As others have said, much more could/should be done, but this will still be a HUGE & much needed improvement.

  • EL

    Aaron wrote: “I echo the need for better stop placement. Having to run to transfer from the N to the outbound J is ridiculous.”

    Is this a transfer from inbound N to outbound J? If it’s outbound N to outbound J, couldn’t that already have been done anywhere between Van Ness and Embarcadero?

    Mark wrote: “Does anyone have information of why two trains cannot pass through the intersection of Church & Duboce (and also at West Portal) at the same time? I understand that turning trains could hit each other if the tracks are placed too closely together, but why can’t two trains go straight at the same time? I second the preference for realigning the tracks as part of this rehab to give two trains the sufficient distance to turn together.”

    I remember talking to an operator one time about this at Church/Duboce. He said the two straight N trains would hit each other. Looking at the pictures, the train isn’t actually “straight”, but rather curves to/from the portal. I don’t know about West Portal, since it looks straight over there.

  • Aaron Bialick

    EL –

    Yes, inbound N to outbound J – it’s the best way to get from the Sunset to parts of the Mission.

  • EL

    Aaron – That may be the best way, but… are you suggesting an outbound J-stop at Duboce and another at Market? Sounds contradictory to stop consolidation.

  • Aaron Bialick

    EL – No, I’d suggest moving the stop close to the Duboce intersection in front of Out of the Closet. I know it’d be expensive with the concrete work, so it’s more of a pipe dream.

  • EL

    I guess it would depend on how many people are transfering at Market, versus transfering at Duboce.

    That said, see my post #10 on the inbound J and #22 and let me know what you think.

  • Aaron Bialick

    I’m not sure I’m getting how what you were saying would conflict with outbound stop on Church parallel to the inbound one that’s there. Who transfers at Market – F-line riders?

  • david vartanoff

    The time wasted in crew change is a management lack of focus on rider convenience issue. There is nothing in the MOU preventing policy from requiring the relieving operator to walk over to the revenue platform. That is something that could be fixed immediately.

  • EL

    Inbound vs. outbound stops on Church? I’m asking what you think about the inbound J and #22 both having to stop at Market, and then again (1 block away at most?) next to Safeway. Seems like such a waste.

  • I’d guess it has something to do with the shops at Market/Church and then having one last stop before going under (or because Safeway is there and is a destination as well?).

  • Aaron Bialick

    I agree that the Market Street stops for the J and 22 are excessive. They should be centralized around Duboce and Church – mid-block on Church could even work as a compromise.

  • Any explanation of the statement in the article that the mural would be extended? I was project manager on that mural and I expect it’s a mistaken report. Strange.

  • david vartanoff

    excuse me, moving those stops does help riders. why should a transfer from an EB N to a NB 22 entail a longer walk? As to moving either the J or 22 away from Market, having the actual stops close to both the F and Metro stations is useful; again what do riders gain by having to walk a half block to transfer? Far more time is wasted waiting for auto interference, slow switching controls, and turn radius issues (only one LRV can make the turn at a time). Giving the H signal preemption at Market would be far more useful.

  • Ben

    @Joel: Peter from DTNA and I pushed for extending the murals from 2 MTA boxes to 3 (there are currently 3 MTA boxes at the corners of the Duboce/Church intersection). The MTA agreed to add the additional box to the project’s scope. Let me know if you have different information.

  • Bob Davis

    I’m not sure about the cars passing on curved sections of track (but as I recall, the original Muni cars like #1 were/are narrower than present day LRV’s). Pacific Electric had a similar situation when they started using larger cars from the Bay Area in the 1940’s–two trains wouldn’t clear on the tracks leading to the LA terminal. Whether there’s enough room to increase track spacing on the curves is something the engineers should consider before the whole junction is (literally) set in concrete. Regarding some of the speed restrictions and following distances at various locations on the Muni system: I’ve been observing Muni (mostly from a distance, but always with interest) for over 40 years. Many of these “special instructions” can be traced to collisions and derailments over the years. Most Muni operators are conscientious and safety minded, but it just takes a few who aren’t keeping their minds on the job at hand to cause a major tie-up. Regarding shift changes: It shouldn’t require a supervisor with a cattle prod to speed things up, but I have seen some operators take a rather casual attitude toward keeping the trains moving. They’ll stop to catch up on the latest gossip before taking control (some of this conversation may have a job-related purpose, for example a switch that doesn’t always “throw” correctly or an event that will bring extra traffic.)

  • Mark D.

    Bob –

    You’re absolutely right about Muni implementing some of these policies after collisions/derailments. I believe the following distance was increased to a block after two F-Market trains sandwiched that SUV a few years back. The full stops at switches must have come from derailments.

  • david vartanoff

    @Bob Davis and all. Because the WB N track does a dogleg to the north anyway, moving that dogleg to the East side of Church would allow a slightly wider radius curve on the WB N to SB J turn thus correctting the clearance issue. As the project includes full replacement of existing rails that SHOULD be feasible.

    @Patrick. The available space for a platform East of Church is only from the end of the traiuling switch points of the NB J to EB to the tunnel track. I don’t believe there is enough distance for a 2 car N. IF the tracks East of Church were re configured for a single “island” platform one could accommodate 2 car N’s but only a single J IINM permanently foreclosing two car trains on the J seems a poor idea much as I hate standing there trying to see which train is coming first.

  • EL

    Davud Vartanoff wrote: “excuse me, moving those stops does help riders. why should a transfer from an EB N to a NB 22 entail a longer walk? As to moving either the J or 22 away from Market, having the actual stops close to both the F and Metro stations is useful; again what do riders gain by having to walk a half block to transfer? Far more time is wasted waiting for auto interference, slow switching controls, and turn radius issues (only one LRV can make the turn at a time). Giving the H signal preemption at Market would be far more useful.”

    OK. Let’s look at the NB stops closely. The J, 22, and 37 share the same stop just south of Market – even though there are 2 lanes on Church. That’s right folks. It’s a setup that encourages Muni to block Muni, even though the 22 runs on a different overhead wire than the N and the 37 is diesel. Absolutely marvelous, right?

    Then, after crossing Market, the #22 switches over to the right lane to serve Safeway while the J stays in the left lane. Of course, they stop right next to each other so that if both the J and the #22 are there, then both lanes of Church are blocked. This of course perpetuates other delays. At a minimum, shouldn’t the NB #22 stop be moved to a single stop midway between Market and Duboce?

    And about those J to F transfers? How many of those are there? Let’s see… As a rider, I would want to get off the J that I already waited for and finally got on, stand out in the cold/rain on Market, and wait (again) for the F to arrive to head west at most 2 blocks or head east between Church and Van Ness. Otherwise, I could have just stayed on the J longer, and transferred to the F anywhere between Van Ness and Embarcadero.

  • Sprague

    EL:

    In my view, the stretch of Church between Market and Duboce is not a good area for stop consolidation. Both J and 22 riders wishing to travel outbound (on the F, K, L, M and N), as well as inbound Muni Metro riders wishing to transfer to either the J or the 22 are helped by these two separate stops (especially for those riders with mobility impairments). Since we’re talking about transferring between major Muni lines, I think that it’s allright to have a couple of stops within a block of each other.

    Your point about Muni blocking Muni makes sense. There doesn’t seem to be a need for that.

  • Ted K.

    @ Sasha + Ben – Re : Undergrounding N-Judah / J-Church in the Church + Duboce sector (C+DS)

    Cost is not the only reason it’s not going to happen. Having those sections of track on the surface provides a degree of network redundancy. Those tracks allow an N-Judah train to make its first run of the day from Balboa Park via C+DS to Ocean Beach as a straight shot. The reverse applies to the last run of the day. I’ve caught a bunch of outbound J-Church’s at Church + Market that had been inbound N-Judah’s seconds earlier.

    Granted, the east side yard near Army / Cesar Chavez could also supply cars to the N-Judah line. But if the MSS gets blocked then the SFMuni can fall back to a J+N configuration* and still provide some service to Church + Market.

    * J+N config.= J-Church (Balboa Park – C+DS) + N-Judah (C+DS – Ocean Beach)

    P.S. Yes, I know – SFMuni may not be rational enough to have the above configuration in their playbook. Maybe somebody with leverage will do an “Open Government” request for their system failures SOP. If there is such a document the change log might be the most interesting part. That section could give us an idea as to who sat on their hands and who got something done.

  • Bob Davis

    If poorly designed route switching controls for the J or N choice are a problem, it shouldn’t take a Caltech graduate to figure out a manual option that could be controlled by a “switchman”. I know the modern trend is to eliminate as many humans as possible in any given job environment, but Muni probably has some operators on “light duty” who could push a button or turn a knob to direct a train to the proper track. Muni shouldn’t need a streetcar enthusiast to point this out; one would think they have personnel who are assigned to be figuring out ways to improve service. Back in the days when all the electric streetcars came out of Geneva Car House (40 years ago), there was a pushbutton on a post where the cars came out into the Geneva and San Jose intersection. Pushing the button would set all the traffic signals to “red” and allow the cars to go into service without interference. Sometimes the car operator would get out and push the button; other times a colleague would do it. One morning I was standing there and an operator who knew me was coming out. I pointed to the button and he said, “Sure, go ahead”. So I literally “stopped traffic” and boarded the car. Maybe such a setup would work for Church & Duboce.

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