Muni Trains Get Slight Speed Boost in Twin Peaks Tunnel

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For six years, Muni trains have been running through the Twin Peaks tunnel well below their former top speed of 50 mph due to worn-out tracks, which put trains in danger of derailment, according to the SF Municipal Transportation Agency.

At an SFMTA Board of Directors meeting today, Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said the tracks had finally been replaced between Castro and West Portal stations, and that the speed limit on the Eureka curve, which approaches Castro Station, was raised from 15 mph to 25 mph. Reiskin said the SFMTA will evaluate whether or not train speeds on the curve could be raised further, but that the higher limit wouldn’t exceed 30 mph. Along most of the Twin Peaks tunnel, train speeds are capped at 35 mph.

Director Cheryl Brinkman said she and her husband noticed the speedier trip over the weekend. “I’m sure that’s going to be much appreciated by the passengers,” she said.

The issue was raised at an SFMTA Board meeting in late 2009, when former board member Cameron Beach (who has since passed away) grilled agency staff on the lack of progress getting the K, L, and M metro lines back up to their historic speeds. In response, the agency said it was studying if and when trains could run at 50 mph again, but didn’t provide a timeline. Nat Ford, who was head of the SFMTA at the time, said increasing speeds could also increase train congestion at West Portal.

We have a request in with the SFMTA about whether the agency plans to raise train speeds along other sections of the tunnel.

  • mikesonn

    So historically they ran at 50 mph but even with improved tracks they will still be capped at 30 mph?

  • That’s only along the Eureka curve, which I don’t know the historic speed for. I added something to help clarify that.

  • KCMetro Sup

    I thought part of the problem was with the Breda LRVs themselves, being overweight and having horrible brakes.  As a transportation worker in Seattle, I used to drive Breda dual mode coaches, which were overweight, underpowered (52mph max speed on the freeway) and brakes that would smoke and fade.  When they were converted to trolleys (Frakenbredas), some of the weight was reduced, but we continue to have issues with reliability.

  • Guest

    Thanks for the info. Do you happen to know about the recent upgrades to the train control cables (i’ve seen new orange and green dectector cable go in), and if MUNI is still working on a dual bearthing plan, or running three car trains??  I haven’t heard anything in a while and was wondering what’s still in the pipeline. 

    I think there are quite a few options, but obviously no golden bullet to help metro run smoother. (unless you consider separating the N and J from the KLM to eliminate those mid-tunnel crossings, and upgrading crosstracks to turn trains around without passing embarcadero… etc etc.)

    Thanks for the info!

  • Henry

    As far as I know, Muni is upgrading their ATC signal cables. It might be for the future upgrade to the ATC system itself, which may allow for double-berthing.

  • Davistrain

    This goes back many years, but in the olden days, there was a station near the Eureka curve, so cars (in those days, PCC’s like the “F” line uses now) had to slow down for that.  Also, bear in mind that the TP Tunnel was originally designed for traditional streetcars that would go 30 mph in full parallel with a strong tailwind.
    Regarding the criticism of Breda light rail cars being overweight: I’ve seen similar reports on the Bredas that run on the LA Metro Gold Line between LA and Pasadena. 

  • The station platform is still there.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe the technical folks can shed some light on this one. Are the frequent delays between Church and Van Ness caused by:

    a) the fact that two subway lines merge into another three at that point, or
    b) the fact that those two subway lines have only just entered the control of the ATC at that point, and so the ATC was not able to time the merge very efficiently, or
    c) just due to crappy ATC and not related to the physical infrastructure?

    If the problem is c, the solution is to upgrade the ATC. If the problem is b, the solution is underground the N on Duboce so that it enters ATC control at Carl & Cole, and probably terminate the J at Church & Market. If the problem is a, there is no easy solution, but given that other underground railways manage merging far more efficiently than Muni I suspect it’s not the issue here.

  • Nigel Spate

    Breda having a shockingly poor reputation for rolling stock. The MUNI is a success story compared to the Boston T which had @ 10 years of problems until it got its fleet of Breda LRV’s into service! The Dutch having sent their need Breda high speed trains back to Breda for good after repeated problems. A photo in a recent edition of the the British Modern Railways journal showed a Breda High Speed train in a yard with the words ” Don’t buy trains from Italy” graffitied all down it’s side – says it all really. That said. I actually quite like the MUNI Breda LRV’s . Remember how bad the Boeing units were? Maybe the lesson here is if the manufacturer’s nam begins with B avoid apart from Bombardier that is!


Derailment Shuts Down Muni Metro Service in Twin Peaks Tunnel

Riders hustle from an inbound shuttle bus to Castro Station. Photo: Michael Rhodes A train derailment in the Twin Peaks Tunnel disrupted Muni Metro service between Castro Station and West Portal Station today, extending into the evening commute. The middle section of the second car of an outbound L-Taraval train came about a foot off […]