Squeezing onto a packed N-Judah train during rush hour is an all too common challenge for many riders of Muni’s busiest line. The SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), hoping to provide some relief, launched an express bus pilot program this week to supplement rail service. Dubbed the Nx Judah Express, it carries Outer Sunset commuters to the Financial District and back.
“The Nx Judah Express Bus Pilot aims to reduce crowding on the N-Judah for customers along the entire length of the route,” said SFMTA Transit Service Planning Manager Julie Kirschbaum. “It also provides an additional service choice for Outer Sunset customers traveling during commute hours.”
The dedicated fleet of buses is scheduled to run every ten minutes, but only during morning and evening peak hours. It stops only between 48th and 19th Avenues before streamlining riders to a final stop in the Financial District near Montgomery Station, traveling along some the city’s motor expressways [pdf].
Forty percent of N-Judah riders board west of 19th Avenue in the morning rush, said Kirschbaum. By the time trains reach later stops like Carl and Cole Streets, they are often already overfilled, leaving commuters stranded.
“We believe that providing the express service in the outer avenues will be the most successful because the long express portion of the route maximizes the travel time benefits of the bus relative to the train,” she said. “Further east, the subway portions of the N-Judah make the bus travel times less competitive with the rail.”
The Nx is scheduled to take passengers to their destination about as quickly as the N-Judah would. Car congestion seems to be a potential obstacle on routes like Lincoln Way and Park Presidio, but Kirschbaum said they’ve already been tested. “We will be evaluating travel time throughout the pilot and will shift to an alternate routing if needed,” she said.
The project was created by the Service Restoration Task Force, which seeks to find ways to effectively improve Muni service following cuts made in recent years. “It comes from an examination of the ridership and loads on our busiest rail line,” said Kirschbaum.
SFMTA staff will be evaluating the effectiveness of the pilot in the coming weeks.