Subway Station at SFSU? SFCTA Looks to Realign Muni’s M-Line on 19th Ave

With an influx of residents and students anticipated in the coming years, the city is looking at ways to improve rail service along the southern stretch of 19th Avenue by the Stonestown Mall and SF State University. A new study underway will consider putting Muni’s M-Ocean View on a trackway running above or below the highway to separate it from traffic crossings and route the line into Parkmerced.

Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/skew-t/173526130/##skew-t/Flickr##

Under approved redevelopment plans, Parkmerced’s population is expected to triple in the years ahead, and SFSU aspires to increase enrollment from 20,000 to 25,000 full-time students. To improve transit service in the neighborhood, the M-line will need to be re-aligned to the west side of 19th and separated from traffic crossings, said Liz Brisson, a planner at the SF County Transportation Authority, which is leading the year-long study.

“We know that those people who live there and go to school there are going to be making more trips, and we can think about whether we would want those trips to be by driving, by walking, biking, or transit,” said Brisson at a community outreach meeting at SFSU on Wednesday. “Knowing how congested 19th Avenue already is, we want to make sure those trips are accommodated sustainably.”

Bringing the M closer to Parkmerced residents would make it easier to access, though it would add some extra distance to the route and potentially increase travel times. But eliminating crossings with car traffic could make up for it by providing a sorely needed boost to the line’s speed and reliability. As the Bay Citizen reported last May, the line has the second-lowest on-time performance of Muni’s metro lines (leading only the L-Taraval). One major source of delay is at 19th and Eucalypus Drive, where drivers stopped at a light often illegally encroach on the intersection and block trains crossing in and out of the center-running tracks along 19th.

Under the preliminary concepts being studied [PDF], the M could run on a combination of underground, elevated, and street-level tracks, with the goal being to remove the trains from traffic crossings that cause delays at streets like 19th, Ocean Avenue, Eucalyptus, and Junipero Serra Boulevard. The SFCTA is also looking at consolidating and moving stops in the area, possibly in the form of elevated or underground subway stations with pedestrian bridges or tunnels. Brisson said the study will also explore ways to improve connections to the Daly City BART Station.

There are few pedestrian crossings on the southern stretch of 19th, and there’s a ton of work to be done to improve safety for people walking and biking on the six-lane state highway. It’s unclear whether safety improvements for 19th are on the table, but the SFCTA says the key goals of the study include “supporting strong and safe nonmotorized connectivity” and enhancing “the corridor’s sense of place.” Since state highways are controlled by Caltrans and its hidebound design requirements, pedestrian and bike improvements could be limited.

The station at 19th at Holloway Avenue, which serves SFSU, is the M line’s busiest street-level stop by far, with nearly 4,000 daily boardings, according to the SFCTA. Between 2005 and 2010, six pedestrians were injured at the intersection, including one woman who was severely injured, according to data from the Department of Public Health.

The intersection also sees bike traffic on Holloway, which serves as the bike route connecting the university to areas east. The most direct bicycling alternative to 19th from the north, meanwhile, is a confusing and sometimes dangerous route that runs through the Stonestown parking lot, dissuading many students from bike commuting.

The study is scheduled to be completed next winter, but there’s no timeline set for the project that would follow, nor has the cost been estimated. SFCTA staff said the study is being funded by grants from Caltrans, Stonestown, SFSU and other organizations.

The agency expects to hold a follow-up meeting later this year.

Below are some samples of the conceptual options. Check out the rest, including an overhead look at other potential alignments, in this PDF document.

Note: Streetsblog will be offline Monday for Presidents Day. See you back here Tuesday.

A sample re-route of the line into Parkmerced shown without any grade-separated street crossings.
Two possible underground station concepts.
An elevated track concept.
South of the 19th Ave. section of the M route, one option includes potentiallly re-routing it on an undeveloped slope along Brotherhood Way.
  • There’s essentially three slow points on the M:

    1. Entering and exiting West Portal station
    2. St. Francis Circle (particularly at rush hour)
    3. Tracks crossing 19th Ave Northbound

    All three of these need to be solved in order to get an improved throughput on the line.  A piecemeal solution isn’t likely to result in any meaningful difference.

  • Anonymous

    This is long overdue!  Every time I ride the M out that way, I wish that it would drop below grade after leaving St. Francis Circle and reemerge at Stonestown and terminate at the Daly City BART Station.

  • Paterson S

    There are a lot of locations in the west side of the city where elevated structures could save a lot of money and not have the most devastating visual effect in the world, since the streets are already huge arterials (19th Ave, Geary, Park Presidio). If we ever really want to get fast transit built in this part of the city, that may be a necessary compromise.

  • Paterson S

    …ideally we’re talking BART, not Muni at that point though, in terms of actually getting the reliability and speed benefits.

  • Anonymous

    The plans for the BART/MUNI tunnel originally called for the K and M cars to remain underground to St. Francis Circle, but that was dropped due to cost overruns.

  • Guest

    I feel like the M has improved with the St. Francis Circle improvement project (though not to say it is perfect.) But I really dont see the value in either an overhead or underground alignment from there to SFSU.  Definitely the intersection where the M crosses NB 19th ave needs to be improved, but in large part I think this can be done through technology.  No, it will not eliminate at grade crossings and potentials for accidents, but this is no more accident prone than the L crossing 19th at Taraval.  I think it would be a much better value to effectively stop traffic and have the 19th/Eucalyptus intersection controlled such that the light remains green until traffic clears off of the crossing trackway.  Add enhanced transit signal priority, and this could be implemented in the near term with a much lower capital cost.  

    At 19th/Halloway, again add transit signal priority, and remove the double left turn lane from NB 19th into stonestown.

    Then continue into the parkmerced development and proceed with the S2 option.  This would provide the best alignment while serving the largest number of riders.  

    In general I think subway and aerial structures are too capital intensive for the given benefit, and are somewhat inconsistent for a neighborhood setting.  In particular, I disagree with the location of the Stonestown station.  I would expect Stonestown to make improvements for transit riders, but it would still leave people at the perimeter of the parking lot and the far end of the mall.  (Additionally the track alignment is not ideal, especially as it is shown so close to the church.)  

    I think there are going to be significant issues with maintenance and operations of these subways, and would much rather see these funds spent on projects that will make a larger impact.  Everything from Geary BRT or 19th Ave upgrades to an extension of Central Subway toward North Beach.  What would help must would be prioritizing transit and creating a safer, walkable neighborhoods.  There are areas where sidewalks can easily be widened or bike lanes added, but currently all this space is devoted to cars and parking.

  • Abe

    Why not underground 19th Ave?

  • David Albizo

    Fund it by charging a toll on 19th Ave. and get this rail from Inner Richmond to a Bart station.

  • Aaron

    Think – Boston’s Big Dig, but with less of the graft and cost overruns – build a subterranean tunnel pushing the speeding traffic off 280 underground and send the automobile traffic below 19th, so that people who want to bypass the local stops and head straight to the GG Bridge can do so.  Turn 19th into a public transit corridor down the center deal, with wider sidewalks and bike and walking lanes and one narrow lane going down the either side of the public transit corridor for local traffic only.  This would solve a large number of problems  along 19th, not the least of which would be making the homes along that street more livable.  If there was funding for it, we could put the whole public transit line underground as well, and leave the whole of the 19th Street more like a classic pedestrian boulevard – again, with only 2 lanes of traffic lanes for automobiles – one going south the other going north.

  • Peter M

    These plans have some really poorly placed stations. Both northern plans put the Stonestown stop all the way by the north end of the mall (As Guest mentioned), even further away from the main entrance than the existing station. And the elevated plan has a ridiculously long ramp up to the station (That thing has got to be several blocks long). And one of the plans moves the SF State stop further north for no apparent reason. And if the Ocean/Eucalyptus stops are kept, they could just be consolidated to one stop between Ocean and Eucalyptus. Two car trains stopped there take up almost the whole block, anyway. And maybe they could move the tracks slightly closer together there to provide a little bit more space for people waiting there.

    It seems like to best solution would be to just move the tracks to the west side of 19th and keep the stations directly north of Winston and Holloway, and actually give the M signal priority when crossing 19th. Then it would even be possible for there to be some kind of walkway from the north end of the Stonestown platform to the entrance to Stonestown (But really, eventually the whole suburban design of the mall with huge amounts of parking surrounding it needs to change).

    And on the south side, it seems like it would be better to keep the stop at Arch instead of moving it a block or two, since it’s the only street there that crosses Brotherhood. And the idea to move the tracks next to Brotherhood is interesting, but puts the stops in more out of the way locations for most of the people in the area.

  • Peter M

     I think the main reason why there isn’t a subway out to the St. Francis Circle is that the merchants on West Portal were opposed to it because it would put all the passengers going by underground – the thinking being that it would be bad for business if everyone passing through couldn’t actually see the shops on West Portal.

    At least they realized the value of there being transit on the street, unlock the Geary merchants.

  • vcs

    While they are at it, the M should be extended down to the Daly City BART station. 

    Currently it passes about 5 blocks away, but it doesn’t appear to be a very ped-friendly walk.

  • Ted King

    Option N5a: Underground the M-Ocean View from south of St. Francis Circle to 19th + Junipero Serra. Stops will be between Ocean and Eucalyptus, south of Winston (*), SFSU (near current location), and possibly in Park Merced.

    Option N5b: Option N5a with a pedestrian underpass under 19th Avenue along the south side of Winston.

    * A southern location for the Stonestown Galleria stop is preferable because it maintains the clustering of the transit stops (two on Winston, four [2 Muni bus/Muni LRV/Samtrans bus] on 19th Ave.).

    P.S. I wonder what happened to option N3 ?

  • Mario Tanev

    Stop with these expensive treatments – use the money elsewhere. There are not that many intersections, the M just needs to be given ABSOLUTE TRANSIT PRIORITY at every intersection.

  • Guest

    4. The intersection of 19th Ave and Junipero Serra is another choke point, especially with the inbound stop before the light. The train will often miss an entire light cycle because of boardings there, and that cycle is long because of the number of phases. Btw, slide 9 on http://www.sfcta.org/sites/default/files/content/Planning/19thAvenue/investment_study/19th-CommunityMeeting1-Presentation.pdf has graphs of dwell times and train speeds for the stops in the study corridor (from St Francis Circle to Orizaba/Broad.)
    From personal experience I’d also add in a fifth point: trains departing from Balboa Park have erratic frequency at best; the inbound NextMuni predictions are almost completely unreliable for undeparted trains, most times of day.

  • jwb

    Apparently it costs a quarter million dollars to install such a signal at one intersection. God only knows how much graft and stupidity was required to arrive at this situation; I could probably hire 20 PhDs in electrical engineering and get the job done in half a day at a tenth the price. But there it is. Keep it in mind when trying to compare the bill.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    What’s the difference between a million and a billion again?

    Ladies and gentlemen: the problem with democracy, right there.”Keep it in mind when trying to compare the bill”, as they say.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    #&^$! HTML.  Try that again.

  • keenplanner

    Seems like SFMTA can’t figure out how to install transit-priority signals, or how to create transit-only lanes where buses get bogged down in traffic.  Heck, they can’t even install a pedestrian crossing button that actually does anything.  

  • Railspur

    The western alignment might be the cost effective option than the underground stations for SF State and Stonestown. This study should expand the scope to include an one mile rail spur to Daly City Bart Station. During rush hour like this morning, hundreds of students queue at the station for the SFSU shuttle and 28 Muni bus. It may be logical to upgrade existing high passenger demand with rail rather than an unwarranted Randolph/Broad reroute to Brotherhood Way.

    Also, a side note, Junipero Serra Blvd. south of Ocean needs a road diet. There are 6 lines of traffic but carries fewer vehicles than the 6 lines on 19th Ave.

  • It boggles my mind on how they can consider this to get the M Ocean View to Daly City BART, you’d need to have it cross both Brotherhood Way and the 280 to get it to the station, and then you have the narrow St. Charles Avenue that connects the station to San Francisco. If anything they’d probably have to convert the parking lot on the other side of the overpass into a MUNI station which would confuse riders and probably displace some residents in the area.

    If anything a bike improvement would also do the area some good like adding a ped/bike bridge where St. Charles and Brotherhood meet since I’m sure that hill on 19th Ave isn’t 8 – 80 friendly anyway, such an improvement on that route would make biking to SF State from Daly City via Beverly.

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