J-Church Line Could Be the First to Get All-Door Boarding

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The J-Church has emerged as the top candidate for Muni to test all-door boarding as a way to speed up service on its busiest and least reliable lines. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Transit Director John Haley said today that it is being evaluated for a pilot program that could lead to a system-wide change in boarding policy.

“The single biggest delay in moving our service along is the fare transaction,” Haley said in a report to the SF Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee today. “Going to all-door boarding would dramatically speed that up, so we’re taking a look at that.”

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said the agency is evaluating the details of what the pilot would look like. He explained that although passengers holding proof of payment or a Clipper card can already board trains by any door, those paying by cash at street-level stops are still required to board at the front, leading to time-consuming queues.

Allowing passengers to board at any door, as well as providing ticket vending machines at street-level stops, could help speed up lines like the J, which has received extra attention since Supervisor Scott Wiener called for regular reports from the SFMTA on efforts to improve its reliability.

As a more immediate measure to improve service, Muni will adjust the J’s schedule next month from a variable 5 to 13-minute headway to a more consistent 9 minutes, said Haley.

“That will not just make it easier from an ‘understanding when the train is coming’ perspective, but also to balance the loads on the train,” he said.

The agency is also evaluating the stretch of Church Street between 24th and 30th Streets for opportunities to reduce the number of stops, said Haley. SFMTA staff are targeting a stop between 30th and Clipper Streets (which lies between 25th and 26th Streets) and will soon make presentations to the Accessibility Advisory Committee and Citizens Advisory Council on a proposal, he said.

The biggest cause for delay on the J-Church remains vehicle failures, said Haley, which make up nearly half of all delays 10 minutes or longer. The agency is still playing catch-up on overhauling the trains after the T-Third Street line was opened in 2007, adding 40 percent to the miles they travel, he said.

Double-parked cars are still the second-biggest cause of extended delays, and Haley said the agency plans to focus parking control officers on Church Street when nearby schools begin their sessions in the fall.

Rose said it isn’t known when riders could see all-door boarding or stop optimization, but both are in the works.

  • Using a metro line isn’t much of an experiment for all-door boarding since Muni’s existing policies allows people with valid proof of payment or a Clipper card to board any door.

    It would work better if they could use a bus line.

  • how about improving J-line service by enforcing F-line crews to actually WORK on their pull-in and/or pull-out runs and stop and pick up passengers.  Seems few still do!

  • DO

    How about getting rid of some of the stop signs on Church street

  • Aaron

    When will this adjusted headway take effect?

  • Good point. Though it’s still pretty crazy, in my view, that a woman driving a train has to stop and deal with transactions and hand out tickets. Seems like their focus should be on driving. I’ve been on trains where this definitely adds a lot of minutes to the trip. Hoping they get this implemented by the time the Central Subway is done.

  • I should have added, Muni metro’s last attempt at prepay machines didn’t go so well.  It got a bad rap along the Caltrain extension route when they kept breaking down.  Muni eventually yanked the machines in favor of passengers paying on-board.  Heck, the ones at Stonestown and SF State was the really old ones that used to sell Cable Car tickets during the $3 a ride era.

    The fare machines woudn’t be necessary on something like the T-Third line because it stops at level platform stops and people paying cash can just line-up inside the car while it’s running.  Surface stops means people line up outside the door taking precious minutes.

    Maybe Muni could take a less costly approach, encourage passengers with cash to to line-up inside the car and pay while the vehicle is in motion.  Many operators already put transfers on a rubber band.

  • How about getting rid of some of the cars on Church Street?

  • Caleb

    Just wondering to myself:
    Which is more cost-effective, putting ticket vending machines at all stops, or
    putting them on all metro vehicles?  By my estimate, there are maybe 110 metro
    cars running at peak time (individual cars, not trains), it seems like it might
    be easier to equip the cars themselves with the vending machines, rather than
    at all the stops.  (I think Portland Streetcar does this.)

  • Anonymous

    Good to see stop consolidation being considered but they shouldn’t just target Clipper St. Should be one stop every three blocks (550m/1800ft) dropping to two blocks on the steep bit at the top of the hill:

    Market, 17th, 20th, 22nd, 24th, 27th, 30th.

    Or alternatively, keep the stop on 21st (top of the hill) and re-activate the disused stop in in Dolores Park at 19th St:

    Market, 16th, 19th, 21st, 24th, 27th, 30th.

    Both these stop patterns would allow two-car trains to run, as the stop at Liberty street currently prevents two-car trains.

  • Masonic will be the death…

    I am by no means a muni expert, as I avoid it like the plague, so be gentle with my suggestion. That being said why don’t they simply go to a clipper card only system? Boston has a Charlie (Clipper) Card for admittance at all stops, and at underground stations you can pay with currency. If I am recalling correctly there is no way to directly board any T train using coin or cash anymore. Why not simply require Clippers for all above ground stops for all routes?

    I understand there will be some inconvenience as everyone gets used to not boarding with cash, but with say 30-45 day notice, and at worst a missed train folks would catch on. Who knows maybe that little initial extra effort would even clean up some of the ridership (the urine soaked drunk riding about on an expired transfer s/he found on the ground comes to mind). With a card only system you end fair jumping with expired transfer slips, and would cost nothing with respect to installing new machines as all trains already have the Clipper system installed at all doors.

    One big hiccup I guess would be the delay between loading fare on the card and being able to use it, as I understand in the past this was an issue.

  • Anonymous

    @83b5031778ed3921e47c379daa4b4763:disqus You can still pay with cash on board the T: http://www.mbta.com/fares_and_passes/subway/

    But, you are right, in that most people use the Charlie Card. That being said, funny you bring up the T in this context. You must know that the T, when above ground (like our MUNI) is *horrendously* slow — we really shouldn’t strive to be like that. The B green line, for example, stops constantly along Comm Ave and takes 20-30 minutes to go from Allston to where it goes underground at Kenmore square. You can almost walk it that fast.

    But I think comparing MUNI streetcars to the Boston T when above ground is a great comparison though … as they both suck about the same. The difference is, Boston has a legitimate underground subway to make up for this, whereas SF does not.

  • Sean

    Agreed, I think this is posturing if it isn’t considered on a bus. The 38 Geary is by far the most obvious place to start, those precious minutes of dwell time saved easily pay for a few fare inspectors who could double as safety. 

  • Running a mandatory clipper only service is not feasible on Muni, it’s basically impossible.  Also, the T-Third accepts cash by paying the driver.

    By going Clipper only, that discourages visitors who would prefer to pay cash to take any Muni route with such an enforced policy.

  • I thought about that option too.  By doing that, the city doesn’t have to find an electrical source to tap on the pavement and bust the pavement to do the job.  Having it on the metro means drawing power from the cars or just ripping out the existing fare boxes and using that as a power source.

  • J282

    An all-door-boarding trial on the major bus lines: 38, 14, 71 would be great!

  • mikesonn

    Add in the Stockton Corridor (30/45/8x) from Columbus to Market (it’s already practiced, just make it accepted).

  • Anonymous

    Talking about fare transaction, one time there was a guy trying to slip a one dollar bill into the fare machine. It must have taken him more than 30s to finally succeed. The whole time the metro stopped with the doors open waiting for that guy to put that bill in. I wonder how many instance like this happen on each run.

  • Anonymous

    I guess it’d be too obvious to have a secure J-Church boarding platform at popular stops like the Dolores Park ones, that you can only enter by paying fare?

  • CommonSense

    Many of the MUNI lines stop every 2 blocks. This should be increased to a stop every 3 blocks; this way, you are still only about a block away from the nearest stop.

  • Anonymous

    To do that on the J would mean tearing out most of the platforms and building new ones….

  • Anonymous

    @murphstahoe: Much of the J stops every one and a half blocks, so you can just remove every other stop to get three block stop spacing. Start by removing the stops at Liberty St, 21st St and Clipper St- no platforms to remove, just paint out the yellow markings.

    Then, as an optional extra measure, remove the stops at 16th St and 18th St and build a new one at 17th St. This would indeed require demolishing and rebuilding platforms, so it’s debatable whether it’s worth doing.

    Muni should anyway have a long term plan to replace the existing low platforms on the older lines with high platforms. Level boarding would help speed up transit times, particularly for lines with large amounts of senior and disabled riders, and improve safety and comfort whilst waiting.

  • Anonymous

    Muni could have spent that 800,000 better they got from the Stimulus funding. Instead they built those stupid kiosks at Geary/Masonic and at the Cable Car plaza. If they’d at least put some ticket/clipper reloaders at places like UCSF med center, key stops in the westside and in the south, and so on, it’d have been money better spent.

  • Anonymous

    Akit, jd_x, I believe “Masonic will be the death…” was refering to Boston’s T, not San Francisco’s.

  • Sprague

    Stop consolidation is certainly needed to speed up Muni trains and buses on many lines, but stops that allow for easy transfers to and from other Muni lines should be kept (as is the case at both 16th and 18th streets).

  • Anonymous

    True- maybe Market, 16th, 18th, 20th, 22nd, 24th, 27th, 30th is the best pattern.

    Or you could eliminate one more stop by doing Market, 16th, 18th, 21st, 24th, 27th, 30th. Trouble with that is, if you keep 21st St you also have to keep Liberty St- I’m pretty sure that stop was added just to prevent people on Liberty St from dangerously using the right of way as a shortcut to get to the 21st St stop. And there’s no way you could add proper two-car platforms to either 21st St (it’s on a curve) or Liberty St (no space whatsoever).


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