Irving Transit Bulb-Outs Downsized to Appease SFFD, Parking Complainers

Transit bulbs were reduced to less than half the size in the Ninth and Irving area, compared to the original proposals (shown in the inset).

Sidewalk widenings on Irving Street in the Inner Sunset, proposed by the SFMTA to make it safer and easier for tens of thousands of commuters to board the N-Judah, have been cut down in size to a fraction of the original proposals due to neighborhood complaints about losing car parking and protests from the SF Fire Department.

The plans are scheduled for preliminary approval at an SFMTA engineering on Friday at 10 a.m. The SFMTA Board of Directors must approve the plans at a later meeting.

The changes originally proposed as part of the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project would have widened sidewalks along almost the entire south side of Irving between Eighth and Ninth Avenues [PDF], both sides of Irving between Fifth and Sixth Avenues [PDF], and the west side of Ninth between Irving and Judah Street. These long bulb-outs would have served full two-car trains at new stop locations planned for the N-Judah, Muni’s busiest line, while providing more breathing room on a busy pedestrian street.

The plan now calls for transit bulbs less than half that size (see all of the proposals here).

“It’s disappointing to consistently see projects that work to reclaim public space as shared space for everyone to enjoy, and that are in our existing plans and guidelines get watered down,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider. “Whether it’s Irving Street, Potrero, Polk, or Columbus, the time is ripe for the transportation community to show our opposition to mediocrity.”

The transit bulbs on Ninth Avenue and on Irving between Eight and Ninth were shortened to preserve car parking for merchants and neighbors who protested the removal of, at most, 30 spaces, according to SFMTA staff. The new plans remove just 13 parking spaces, including one for a bike corral.

Surveys, however, showed that transit bulbs accommodating two-car trains were favored by the greatest number of respondents. An on-street survey also found that the vast majority of people in the Ninth and Irving commercial district arrive without a car, a finding consistent with those in other neighborhoods around the city.

Only 22 percent of people in the area arrived by car, while 50 percent walked, 21 percent took Muni, and 5 percent came by bike, according to a field survey of 105 respondents conducted last fall by the City Controller’s Office [PDF]. Those who arrived by car visited the least often — a plurality of them come “less than once the week.” In comparison, a plurality of people who don’t drive to the area said they come “every day” or “about five times a week.” Those who walked reported spending the greatest amount on a weekly basis.

Meanwhile, a survey about the N-Judah TEP plans [PDF] — conducted at a public meeting and online — found that most people favored the full length transit bulbs to the smaller ones. Sixty percent said they “somewhat” or “strongly” liked full-length bulbs, with 48 percent “strongly” liking them.

Survey results on transportation modes from the City Controller’s Office were consistent with those in other neighborhoods.
Results from an SFMTA survey conducted at a community meeting and posted online.
The new proposal for Irving between Fifth and Sixth (left), compared to the original (right). Click to enlarge.

On Irving between Fifth and Sixth, 39 percent also “strongly liked” the full-length bulbs while only 16 percent strongly liked the half-length bulbs. But those bulbs were shortened because of the SFFD, which is notorious for watering down plans for sidewalk extensions, claiming they would hinder emergency vehicle access. SFFD spokesperson Mindy Talmadge said those were the only bulb-outs in the plans that the department protested, because the configuration would “require fire apparatus to conduct all emergency operations from vehicles staged directly under the high tension street car transit wires, creating a potentially hazardous condition for responders.”

The “acceptable compromise” was to “shorten the length of the transit bulbs,” Talmadge added. Mountable curbs were “discouraged for obvious pedestrian safety reasons.”

A proposal for a bike lane that runs between the sidewalk and boarding islands on Irving was also not included in the plans, though they were favored by a slim majority of survey respondents. The bike lane would have been in the style of the setup at Duboce Avenue and Church Street, with the bike lane at road level between two curbs. However, SFMTA staff said the new proposals don’t preclude a bike lane that’s raised up to curb level, where crossing pedestrians would get priority. Without such a measure, people bicycling on Irving would be forced to ride right next to the Muni tracks.

Comments on the project can be emailed to The SFMTA will consider the proposals at an engineering hearing at City Hall on Friday.

  • hp2ena

    Well, if there were a fire on Irving, the wires would have to be shut down anyway. Right?

  • RichardC

    The Fire Dept objections make perfect sense – there should always be lots of clear, level pavement that isn’t under trolley wires for fire truck staging. To that end, they’re surely campaigning hard for removal of all on-street parking from 9th, Irving, Carl, Duboce, Church, and every other 2-lane street where parked cars would block wire-free staging areas.

  • neigh bor

    This is really embarassing for democracy.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    Obviously, the SFFD is just about to propose that – it’s the only logical argument they could make!

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    I’m quite disappointed at how quickly this project was watered down. All aspects seemed well thought out and fair. I live right where the new stop will be between 5th and 6th and thought a widened sidewalk would be really awesome. I hope the opponents don’t totally kill this one – their shouting obviously has already worked, while the surveys have been discounted.

  • timsmith

    This proposal still leaves Muni riders wading through parked cars to access the train. Is that even a legal design for a newly-renovated transit platform?

  • Hugo

    The tallest building on Irving between arguello and 9th is what, like 3 stories, besides the UCSF parking garage? Wtf does their “apparatus” do that’s so special at that height. Regardless, I think SFMTA caved way way way too much on this proposal. I get that the combined 44 and N stop might be tricky, but the extra one parking space in front of the mucky duck makes no sense. And to disolve the bulb at 8th and Irving to one car is ridiculous. That sidewalk barely fits normal pedestrian traffic let alone a transit stop. On a positive note, the move of the stop all the way to 8th seems to make some sense to make train movements more predictable

  • Justin

    Another example of how SFMTA is unwilling to take a chance on making streets safer for people, it shows how risk adverse this agency is, despite all evidence there to make our streets safer. This agency has no guts and audacity to go all the way in trying new ideas to enhance safety for people. When will this agency man up and just persevere through this loud opposing obtuse minority?

  • Kyle Gebhart

    once again, the “transit first” rhetoric proves meaningless

  • Michael Smith

    Reason #92 for shaking up management at the SFFD:
    Parked cars present a far bigger obstacle than a 6″ curb.

    Is the SFFD going to now fight against any parking where there are overhead lines? That would certainly be an interesting battle.

  • njudah

    Amazing how a few idiots who shout a lot and stamp their feet like spoiled brats get their way, and everyone else on the line pays the price. Everyone in the outer sunset should be pissed, and they should remember this when they’re stuck on a slow inbound N.

  • Sean Rea

    I wrote asking them to convince me that I should give a damn the next time they do a survey or hold a community meeting. Time and time again they’ve shown themselves to be a spineless organization. When I went to the Inner Sunset TEP meeting a couple months ago the meeting was so poorly run that the only way you could provide comment was to shout over everyone.

    I was going to go to the meeting tomorrow, but I think I’ll do something else instead of wasting my time.

  • sebra leaves

    Since when do we tell the fire department how to do it’s job? Jumping over curbs, is not good for the those multi-million dollar trucks and it tends to wear on their tires and wheels. I’d like to see some of you try to maneuver a fire truck or engine around the city streets. Some photos of the fire trucks on Potrero. See how they use all the
    lanes to get in and out of this General Hospital driveway. How will they
    do it with trees and a medium?

    Right now there is one street that I know that is not under construction from 17th to 14th Street. This is the most inconvenient way to fix the streets for all modes of traffic, including bike and buses. Who do we complain to about this disruption?

  • Mario Tanev

    How about jumping over parked cars? Is that easier? Let’s remove all parked cars everywhere so that fire trucks have more space.

  • Jamison Wieser

    Ultimately, the only people the SFMTA really has to make happy are the Supervisors who control their budget.

    If your Supervisor thought they’d be run out of office for screwing over Muni riders, cyclists and pedestrians, while pandering to self-centered drivers who think they should be able to park anywhere, any time, for as long as they want, those would be elevated, two car stations with ramps at either end for full accessibility!

  • Jamison Wieser

    It’s the death of a thousand cuts. Half-a-platform adds a minute, what’s the big deal? Just shave a minute off over there, waving hand vaguely in the opposite direction.

    Most riders won’t even notice because from their perspective it’s just as bad as it’s always been, but just look at the money SFMTA spent and didn’t do a damned thing to speed up Muni. Boondoggle, people start yelling.

  • njudah

    you said it. It’s amazing how the stupids at the SFMTA has spent millions on the TEP, did unprecedented outreach, and now under Ed Lee and Ed Reiskin, is undoing it with spineless BS. That said, the fact that citizens accept this kind of crapola means that they need to STFU about Muni when they’re stuck on it and it’s screwed up.

  • njudah

    agreed. the TEP “outreach” is bs and someone (or someone) needs to be fired. Hell, fire the entire SFMTA management and start over. I’m sick of giving a shit if no one else does.

  • Jamison Wieser

    I’d break that down a bit more: talk to planners and folks lower down in the SFMTA who see the bigger picture and I think you’d find they agree with you.

    Ed Lee — don’t leave out the Supervisors who have double-say on SFMTA’s budget between their rolls as the TA board and with the final vote on it as Supervisors — have much short sighted objectives.

    Wherever Ed Reiskin and the SFMTA board stand on things, they ultimately have to get their budget approved by the Supervisors. All those planners lower down get their marching orders and have to make it sound good whatever the case.

    And with Muni in such shambles there’s no shortage of much-needed, short-term, high-impact (at least high-visibility) improvements to be made even if they don’t advance the bar or even take away from long-term planning.

  • njudah

    oh I hella agree re: supervisors. In fact a few years ago I tried to start a movement to Veto the SFMTA budget when some shenanigans were going on, but most Supervisors couldn’t be bothered to listen, and most people didn’t quite understand HOW such an action could help the SFMTA.

  • Guest

    Like you care about the fire department.

  • America is democratic … except when it comes to parking. Each car gets 5 votes, while each person gets one vote. Why would it be any other way? *shrugs*

  • cwalkster

    Spending up to $3 million on cosmetic changes is a waste of money. MTA wants to shuffle streetcar stops around, extend the sidewalk to the tracks at a few places.

    For all that money MTA isn’t promising better service.

  • cwalkster

    Everyone in the outer sunset has a good reason to be angry. The N Judah has the most switchbacks of all streetcars. The outbound N Judah regularly kicks passengers out at Sunset Blvd because they have to return downtown. From Sunset Blvd to the end of the line is only a few stops.

  • Nathanael

    Definitely makes sense.

    Also, SFFD is buying oversized fire trucks for some reason. Buy appropriate-sized fire trucks and you won’t “need” extra road space.

  • Nathanael

    There’s an exemption written into the ADA law for streetcars boarded from the middle of the street, unfortunately. Otherwise it would be illegal.

  • Jarrett M

    It’s sad that such fundamental components of a modern mass transit system get cut out over a few parking spaces. We’re talking about a transit *platform* here, that’s long enough for the whole train. What a concept! Can anyone imagine a modern light rail line being built without platforms, or a platform that’s too short for the entire train? That’s essentially what’s happening here. There’s room for compromise and debate over more grandiose plans, but this is like building sidewalks, or installing sewer pipes. You just do it.

  • sebra leaves

    Driving back east across the Mission today, I stopped at a signal on South Van Ness at the bus line,which is set a few feet back from the intersection to make room for the bus to turn. To make the turn into that street, the bus crosses over into the other lane. Fire trucks and engines aren’t the only vehicles with a wide turning radius. Street widths were established by the state to accommodate the widest vehicles on the road. By narrowing the streets the SFMTA is making it harder for those vehicles, including their own buses, to get around. If the SFMTA really wants to speed up the buses they should keep the intersections clear and wide to make turning easier, instead of putting in bulbouts and streets islands, and trees and plants in the middle of the road. Watch the buses make those turns and see how they slow down and cross into the other side of road, and ask yourself, why the SFTMA wants to plant obstacles for their buses and fire trucks.

  • ¤ So basically the 9th/Irving intersection will still be set up for wide turnarounds, which some part of that 25% will see as an opportunity to hit the gas pedal and cut off the train, sometimes hitting it or its passengers.

    The foot traffic in this commercial district is pretty heavy, and it will be nice to have more pedestrian space, but this fails to address the most dangerous corner.

  • You’ve gotta be kidding me, they want to reduce the size of the curb bulb outs?

    If you’ve ever exited the outbound N-Judah at that intersection, cars just buzz by and don’t give a damn about the doors being open and the passengers stepping out. I had to scream “STOP!!!!” a few times due to careless drivers trying to drive by because I was about to exit the last door of the second car.

    If the cops don’t want to enforce it and write tickets, install the damn bulb outs to cover the entire two length train.

    As for the fire department, I don’t see them often running their sirens down Irving, they usually use Judah as their east-west corridor.

  • Thunder

    Thank goodness for the plan revisions! The half-train bulbs are a reasonable compromise between improving transit passenger experience and retaining sufficient parking options for residents and businesses, alike.

    I appreciate the SFMTA’s listening to the concerns of folks who live within the area and provided feedback at the community meetings.

  • murphstahoe

    Now with the compromise transit riders will only be in half the danger!

  • cwalkster

    murphstahoe – wrong again.
    One streetcar is 75 ft long.The revised transit bulbs are at least 100 ft long and are widened by 14 ft to the tracks. Vehicle drivers will not be able to squeeze between a streetcar and parked vehicles and endanger passengers boarding/exiting.
    Drivers will have to line up in single file behind a streetcar.


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