N-Judah Transit Bulb Proposal To Go Before SFMTA Board Next Week

This new rendering shows 9-foot sidewalks instead of the previous 5-foot ones. Image: SF Planning Department, City Design Group
This new rendering shows 9-foot instead of 5-foot sidewalk extensions. Image: SF Planning Department, City Design Group

A proposal [pdf] to significantly improve sidewalk conditions for N-Judah riders in Cole Valley is headed to the SFMTA Board for approval with some modifications. As we wrote in November, the current sidewalks on Carl Street at Cole and Stanyan can’t accommodate the thousands of passengers who use the stops daily, so riders waiting for trains often stand in the street, and are forced to weave through parked cars to board.

The proposal has been revised and would extend the sidewalks by 9 feet on all three proposed transit bulbs on Carl Street (see the photo below the break), which “allows seamless boarding of trains.”  On the southwest side of Carl and Cole, the inbound bulb would stretch for 113 feet instead of the original 165 feet. The entire length of a two-car train is about 150 feet.

The SFMTA said it reduced the length of the longer inbound bulb to alleviate concerns about the loss of parking, which will translate into giving back one parking space. As it stands now, four parking spaces on that section would be removed, and the proposal itself would allow for the removal of a total of eight spaces on Carl. Some neighbors remain concerned about removing those spaces and continue to oppose the plan.

Overall, though, the SFMTA said there is a lot of support for the proposal, and in an email to Streetsblog, outlined some of the many benefits:

Installing these transit bulbs will improve conditions for the nearly 6,000 daily passengers that use these transit stops by eliminating the need for passengers to weave between tightly-parked cars as they get on and off of N Judah trains.  They will also improve pedestrian visibility at the intersections, provide the train operators a clear view of boarding and alighting customers, and reduce train dwell times by encouraging passengers to board through all doors.  Furthermore, they will eliminate conflicts between trains and parked cars, particularly at the outbound stop on the northeast corner of the Carl/Cole intersection, where the N Judah tracks curve and illegally parked cars have caused numerous delays and several side-swipe collisions.

The proposal will go before the SFMTA Board for approval next Tuesday, January 18th, at 1 p.m. in Room 400 at City Hall. If you support the proposal, you’re encouraged to write the board at mtaboard@sfmta.com and tell them so.

The proposal has been modified to include 9-foot sidewalks in both directions. Image: SFMTA
Revised proposal. Image: SFMTA
  • Morton


    I almost never see a cyclcist on Carl anyway, presumably because the streetcar tracks are hazardous. Don’t Frederick or Parnassus work better in any case?


    I think there is much more danger to N streetcar users at places like Church and Duboce, or 9th and Irving, where moving traffic passes to the right of passengers disembarking.

    I’ve nearly been creamed while alighting in both those locations, while Carl and Cole is safe and easy in comparison. I’d rather the attention were focused on the live danger of moving cars – not the minor inconvenience of parked cars.

  • Peter –

    I agree that Danish bus bulbs do prioritize bike speeds a little more than I’d prefer. To me, the goal is to provide safe access for all users, so in designing these bulbs in SF such as at Carl, I would do it in such a way that provides a way through for bikes while conveying that they must yield to pedestrians. That’s not how Danish cycle tracks feel. But at the same time, the cycle track should be designated well enough to discourage waiting passengers from lingering in them.

    Al –

    The biggest battle for a cycle track on a street like Carl would be for the space where some people currently park their cars, not with transit users.

  • By the way, whether it is the bike people or the transit people who are more deserving of this piece of street space, the car people are also campaigning to keep it for themselves: http://www.flickr.com/photos/walkingsf/5362063045/

  • Sprague

    Peter Smith:

    Running the risk of haranguing the subject, I respectfully disagree with your point of view that the proposed bulbout(s) “effectively prevents cycling eastbound on Carl”. As a cyclist, I never had a problem with bulbouts. Nor did I feel punished by them. They merely require a bit more alertness on the part of the rider.

  • Update: The SFMTA Board unanimously approved this proposal at its meeting this afternoon. Only one person testified against it. One member of the board, Bruce Oka, called it a “no brainer.”

  • By Grabthar’s Hammer!

    Never surrender. Never give up.

  • my bad – i thought i answered already:

    I almost never see a cyclist on Carl anyway, presumably because the streetcar tracks are hazardous. Don’t Frederick or Parnassus work better in any case?

    that’s one way to look at it, or one could say that perfectly good road space is being used for automobile storage, which means that road space is unavailable for use by bicycles to travel on. that’s up to us to decide if automobile storage is more important than allowing people to travel this street on bike. i say the car storage has to go.

    people can drive on this street. they can walk on this street. they can take a train on this street. but they can’t bike on this street. how is that fair?

    street space is a precious commodity in any city, but especially in San Francisco, the 2nd most densely populated city in America — we need to use that space wisely, efficiently, for its highest and best use for the benefit of all San Franciscans.

    as for alternate routes, i suppose that people who live on Frederick and Parnassus would love to bike on those streets, but why can’t the people who live on Carl bike on Carl? Because cars are the devices that are hurting the city (and the planet), why can’t we make them take the long way around? why don’t we inconvenience motorists instead instead of cyclists? are we trying to punish good behavior by booting cyclists off of Carl (and myriad other streets)?

    in my opinion, every street needs walk and bike access, except in case of some extreme circumstance, which would almost never happen in real life – maybe some pedestrianized street or something.

    imo, it’s just a matter of how much you want human powered-transport to be able to be a part of people’s lives in SF.

    similar arguments — about the ‘appropriateness’ of allowing bicycles to use a particular street — are made about putting bike facilities on major corridors all the time. for instance, lots of folks argue that bikes should not be allowed to ride on Van Ness, because it’a a major corridor, and bikes don’t belong there, they belong on the ‘kiddie streets’, like parallel-running Polk. i would argue that i hardly care about ‘kiddie streets’ — like Carl — b/c relatively speaking, the streets that really matter are the major corridors — give me dedicated bike space on those corridors, and i’ll deliver you a city that bikes. a lot.

    Carl is a weird hybrid-type small-ish street with a rail line on it. it’s not going to make or break the City — but it will set a precedent — cycling advocates need to figure out if we’re ok with ceding smaller streets to motorized transport as well as the big ones. there are other good reasons to support biking on Carl, tho — bike-sharing will need to be well-integrated with public transport if we want to allow people to get the most from both systems.

    there’s not much evidence that bike advocates want to stake a claim to the city’s most important corridors — like Van Ness, Geary, Divisadero, 19th Ave, etc. We’ve started making a run at Market, but it seems the more progress we make and the more power we have, the less we demand. i don’t understand that. we must be Democrats or something.

    so, what are we to do? do we challenge to have bike access on only roads that some people think we should be allowed to bike on, or do we go after every single road/street/bridge/tunnel/path/boat/train/bus in the city?

    i say we go after it all — not only because it’s the right thing to do for people, but also because it’s the best strategy politically.

    the car people? they’re _praying_ that we don’t go after Van Ness, and Geary, and Divis, and 19th Ave. and they _love_ on-street parking, like that on Carl, because it makes driving easier than biking. can you imagine the fit the auto industry would start having if car storage removal to make room for bikes became the norm? there have been hints of it — it’s just a matter, imo, of us seeing the importance of every. single. decision. the details matter — even on ‘small-ish’ streets like Carl.

  • =v= The real reason Carl is not a high-priority bike route is that there’s a flatter east/west alternative just one block away. Cole from Frederick to Parnassus was once a dry lake, and to get to Carl means climbing up out of the former lakebed, to an intersection where either direction means climbing for another block or so.

    Carl is mostly of interest because they chose it for the western portal of the Sunset Tunnel through the hill, and that choice puts it uphill a bit so that not all riders need to climb when they get off.

    If you’re looking for a bike-priority project that makes sense, how about a bike tunnel through Buena Vista? That be a much worthier thing to devote half an entry’s blog comments to.

  • Yeah, this whole idea of needing to make Carl street an easy ride for both cyclists and streetcars seems pretty Quixotic to me. With Waller and Frederick both available and ideal for bike traffic already, is it really necessary to encourage cycling on a narrow street with train tracks on it? Likewise, with Polk street providing a North-South bike corridor (though far from an ideal one, I’m aware) do we really need to have Van Ness made into a cyclist’s paradise? I mean the point is that cyclists need to travel North and South, not that they need to be specifically on Van Ness, right? Van Ness the street doesn’t matter, Van Ness the corridor does. I agree that every street should be reasonably accessible by bike, but I don’t see why we can’t specialize different streets for different modes of transit – even including cars, within reason. I don’t see Polk as a “kiddie street”, I see it as a traffic artery, much as I see 17th Street, the wiggle, 25th Ave, etc. I wouldn’t drive a car along most of these routes if I was in a hurry, and that’s precisely what makes them ideal bike routes.

  • Bob Davis

    A comment on the “N” line being “motorized” transportation: Light rail cars, streetcars, and trolleybuses in San Francisco all run on power generated at the Hetch Hetchy hydroelectric plant–no coal, oil or natural gas is consumed in running Muni’s electric railways and buses. Even the motors that power the cable cars run on Hetch Hetchy “juice”. Of course now we’ll hear from the “Free Hetch Hetchy” pressure group that wants to take down O’Shaughnessy Dam…….

  • Morton


    So what you are really saying is that we can have environmentally-friendly transit if we are unfriendly to the environment?

    If only we’d dammed Yosemite Valley too, Muni could be even cleaner.

  • Even the motors that power the cable cars run on Hetch Hetchy “juice”.

    SF says it wants to be 100% renewable energy by 2020, up from the 30% we do now. presumably, one of the ways we can get there is by using efficiently most of the ‘free’/renewable energy we have available to us — if we’re not using energy to cart a bunch of overweight people (like me) around SF, we can use it to power their big-screen tvs, right?

    which brings up just one of the myriad reasons to allow people to bike — allow them to get their daily exercise, keep them from getting fat/obese, keep them healthier, happier, more productive, be less costly to society (health care burden, etc.), etc.

  • Jym Dyer

    [… and the thread drift continues …]

    =v= I think it’s great that the city has access to renewable energy, though unfortunately this has made city agencies lax about energy efficiency. Our formerly-light rail has heavier cars than BART, with all the waste that implies, but hey, it’s all clean energy and internal funny money, right?

    The grid is continent-wide, and it’s a huge mistake to ignore this forest for the trees. Every kilowatt of squeaky-clean energy wasted is a kilowatt that somebody else is going to compensate for by burning fossil fuels.


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