Guest Commentary: Transit Riders Support a Faster, Safer L Taraval

The "Safeway Stop" on the L-Taraval. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
The "Safeway Stop" on the L-Taraval. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

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Today, Tuesday, December 5, at the SFMTA Board of Directors meeting (Room 400, City Hall, 1:00 pm), the MTA Board will be voting on the remaining proposed improvements to the L Taraval Muni line. This is a great opportunity for riders to help improve the L Taraval’s speed, reliability, and safety.

The proposed improvements have been studied, piloted, and surveyed. They’re part of a larger project – new tracks that reduce vibration; upgraded overhead wires; water and sewer upgrades; new trees and other streetscaping; transit only lanes; new traffic signals, and of course, boarding islands (since, you know, riders are currently dumped in a live lane of traffic).

San Francisco Transit Riders strongly urges the approval of all SFMTA staff recommended improvements. We don’t want any more delays or compromises when the benefits to transit riders, pedestrians, and the city are clear. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to overhaul a major Muni light rail corridor in support of Vision Zero and our Transit First policy. We must get it right.

The key issues at hand today are transit stop removal and boarding islands. Stop removal is always a controversial issue. No one wants to take stops away from the elderly or disabled. But we are also realistic that Muni vehicles, and particularly light rail trains, can’t stop at every corner. Difficult decisions must be made in order for transit to get riders where they need to go, and in a reasonably competitive amount of time. San Francisco Transit Riders believes the proposed L Taraval stop consolidations balance the stops well. (However, if the SFMTA Board does not support the removal of the additional stops at 44th and inbound 35th and 17th avenues, we urgently insist that full boarding islands be installed at each stop.)

The other main source of controversy is the boarding islands. As an unfortunate compromise, SFMTA agreed to do a pilot program to see if better street markings would keep riders and pedestrians safe. The pilot program failed, showing no real increase in drivers stopping behind the L Taraval, so riders are finally on track to get the boarding islands they deserve.

We commend Supervisor Katy Tang for standing up for rider safety, and thank the SFMTA for working to make this project a reality. These improvements will serve well the 10,000 riders who board in the Sunset; we can hope that more will join them, leaving their cars behind, and enjoying all the benefits of an upgraded L Taraval.

Rachel Hyden is Executive Director of the San Francisco Transit Riders, a rider-based grassroots advocate for world-class transit in San Francisco. A version of this commentary also ran in the SF Examiner.

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