Muni “Double Berthing” Set to Test This Saturday, Launch a Week Later

Photo: RobVSF/Flickr

Muni could launch “double berthing,” or boarding two trains simultaneously in its Metro stations, as early as next weekend — if all goes well in a live test this Saturday, SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin told an agency board meeting today.

Reiskin said Muni officials will demonstrate the feature on Saturday morning for officials at the CA Public Utilities Commission, who must sign off before Muni finally allows two trains at once to board passengers within its underground stations.

“We’re hoping — if we get their approval — to start this in revenue service a week later, on December 13,” Reiskin said, adding that SFMTA will launch a campaign to inform riders of the change using “ambassadors,” flyers, signs, and social media.

The launch date seems more firm than ever, after more than two years of delays from SFMTA officials. Delays were attributed to difficulties in upgrading the software for train controls and platform announcements, and most recently construction on the Sunset tunnel. The original launch date was in October 2012.

The new practice will be “a small but significant change for those who are sometimes frustratingly looking at the platform, but we don’t let them disembark on to it,” said Reiskin.

  • twinpeaks_sf

    This could really help over here at West Portal. There is a back-up daily – sometimes all the way to Castro – because trains crawl through the bottleneck exiting at the portal.

    The practice of double berthing was once common at West Portal, where LRV drivers would switch off the automatic train control system (ATCS) and manually move their second train behind one stopped at the platform ahead.

    It was quite unfortunate when an LRV driver had a medical incident right as he was pulling manually into the station several years ago. He slammed into the train ahead, wrecking both. Fortunately no deaths, but many injuries.

    The practice of manually pulling into West Portal has ceased since. Now the train system has (hopefully successfully) been reprogrammed to allow this practice. I really hope it works.

  • hp2ena

    Where is this demonstration for the CPUC taking place? I’m sure people on here would be interested to take a look…

  • hp2ena

    Unfortunately, to my recollection, it won’t be programmed for West Portal, which is a shame (in part because the platform is too short).

  • CodyHicks

    Correct. Both West Portal and Forest Hill Station are too small.

  • twinpeaks_sf

    Could do a two-car with a one-car. Or a one-car with a one-car. It juust fits.

  • davistrain

    Muni has never been famous for getting things done quickly. I remember the Metro East facility off the “T” line, seems like it was at least two years after the first sign went up that serious construction began. I thought there should have been a sign reading:
    a bunch of workmen will dither around for a few days and then leave.

    An it looks like the “E” line may finally start running next year…but don’t hold your breath or bet the ranch on it.

  • zippy_monster

    Considering that most of the two-car trains run on the N, West Portal isn’t too short. The M and the K run mostly one car “trains”. Until a morbidly obese driver (who had no business being at the helm of a 100 ton vehicle in that condition) had passed out it was regular practice to drop out of ATCS and double berth. The platform is /not/ too short for double berthing, but it sounds like again San Francisco is on the hook paying for inflexible, poorly designed software bandages.

    The inability to double berth outbound at West Portal adds between 6-12 minutes to an outbound trip. Think about the rather drastic measures the MTA takes in order to save a fraction of that time.

    There are, what? 9 possible combinations (1,1; 1,2, 1,3; 2,1; 2,2; 2,3; 3,1; 3,2; 3,3)? Hell you could even be flexible and just do a little addition. Spend the time, test the different combinations, and for fucks sake do it right and speed up one of the worst bottlenecks in the subway. If the project has been dragged on for this long already, what’s another few months or years for a solution that will reap dramatic benefits?

    And the most absurd part? They double berth going inbound at West Portal all the freaking time. It’s utter lunacy to not allow double berthing at West Portal (manual or otherwise).

    Granted it’s utter lunacy to not have some sort of medical exam as a prerequisite for being a driver…

  • hp2ena

    also to zippy_monster: That’s what I meant to say. Platforms at Forest Hill and West Portal are ~300′ long, and since each Breda car is 75′ long, you could fit a combination of 1 and 2-car trains, or even 3 1-car trains. You *could* double-berth two 2-car trains at these stations, but it would be a tight squeeze, especially at Forest Hill. This is because at Forest Hill the platform drops to sidewalk level roughly 7′ between the tunnel portals. This would mean the front door of the 1st 2-car trainset and the last door of the 2nd 2-car trainset would have to be disabled. Same goes if trains have to be spaced at a certain distance, in which the end doors wouldn’t touch the platform at all while boarding passengers.

  • BrettinSF

    8 stations and 1 minute dwell times. This treatment has the potential to cut run time by 8 minutes, powerful stuff. But will tourists and the masses be capable of discerning where to queue? Will ADA access requirements be maintained? Will bunching be intensified.

  • Considering that most of the two-car trains run on the N, West Portal isn’t too short. The M and the K run mostly one car ‘trains’.

    The K operates with one-car trains, but the M and the L are mostly if not exclusively two-car trains during peak hours when this is needed. In order to work at all, this has to work at the busiest times.

    Until Muni starts double-birthing it won’t know what does and doesn’t work about it. Starting with only Embarcadero and Montgomery let’s them work out the kinks before expanding to all stations.

    There will be problems in practice that need to be worked out. Double-birthing potentially creates new delays. Not problems that can’t be solved, but problems easier to solve starting with just two stations in only one direction.

    Passengers may hold doors open for riders who now have to walk down the platform for the second train, or those riders all try to squeeze through the first door of the second train. Maybe N/T trains should only board in the first spot so there are never confused Giants fans running up and down the platform trying to figure out which train to get on (Spot 1: Embarcadero, Ballpark/Caltrain, Sunnydale. Spot 2: Embarcadero only)

    I’m really curious to see what Muni does with the announcements, messages, and signs.

  • Bruce

    Whatever happened with this? I don’t take Muni Metro often; is double berthing in effect yet?


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