Today’s Headlines

  • Muni Misses T-Third Deadline, Puts Commuters on Buses (SFExaminer)
  • Move to Ban Private Buses from Transit Lanes (SFExaminer)
  • New Push for Housing Near Transit (SFChron, EastBayTimes)
  • Developers Want in on New SoMa Development Spot (SFChron)
  • More on Lifting Parking Requirements in SF (Curbed)
  • Housing Planned for South SF Caltrain Station (DailyJournal)
  • Proposal to Fix Leaning Tower (SFChron)
  • Transit to Googleville (EastBayTimes)
  • Motorist Kills Little Girl in Antioch Parking Lot (EastBayTimes)
  • Antioch Hit & Run Motorist Critically Injures Woman (EastBayTimes)
  • Commentary: Oakland’s Stadium Near Transit–Stay There (Curbed)

Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA, national headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Muni are still running a bus for the T despite their claims to be back in service on Tuesday. Nobody at the MTA is fit to supervise the construction of a birdhouse, much less a streetcar platform.

  • As I stated in my comment in the Examiner article on this matter, the MTA failed miserably when it built the short platforms too close together. It never accounted for the ridership demand and usage patterns. It merely built a streetcar line with platforms, not a light rail line. The Central Subway platforms are only as long as a 2-car train set so MTA messed up yet again. Billions wasted on replacing a bus line that worked just fine.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Muni failed by not just using off-the-shelf low-floor trams from one of numerous manufacturers, as seen in any European city, which do not require platforms.

  • mx

    “Move to Ban Private Buses from Transit Lanes”

    Has anybody actually studied this or are we just legislating based on gut feels now? Because it should be possible to determine the extent to which private buses in transit lanes are delaying Muni (vs using excess lane capacity, as transit lanes will be empty most of the time if they’re actually enforced) and make an informed decision instead of just grandstanding.

    I’d note that Supervisor Fewer still wants taxis to be able to use transit lanes, which means that you can still buy your way out of traffic in SF, but only if you pay a lot to ride in a small car and not a more efficient bus.

  • My only issue with the low-floor trains is that all the underground stations, as well as the N line stations along the Embarcadero, would have to be replaced. Disruption would take years and cost billions…because everything Muni does ends up costing billions. Just look at the cost of the station canopies.

  • thielges

    That ban might be motivated by anti-gentrification interests who will use any tool they can get their hands on to discourage new residents and slow the rising costs of housing. (Any tool except building more housing that is.)

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Obviously only a moron, or an MTA planner, would suggest such a thing. The existing metro should use existing trains in 4-car configurations to shuttle people up and down Market Street. All of the surface lines should be replaced by low-floor trams without platforms but with signal priority and dedicated lanes. This would cost almost nothing and the service would be a lot better than it is today.

    Surely you’ve seen this before?

  • Yep, I remember that link. I think the 4 Embarcadero stations for the N can accommodate 4 cars, but both West Portal and Forest Hill can handle 3. Regardless, there are affordable ways to improve service and move more riders more quickly than what we have.

  • Technically you’re right, SFMTA didn’t account for ridership demand, but then I don’t expect them to have made any plans or decisions before they existed.

    Planning for the eastern waterfront goes back to the 1980s. In order to support development in the decades ahead, planners proposed replacing the bus with a rail line.

    The SFMTA only took over late in the design and planning, but planners for Muni and the City did account for ridership demand, which is what led to a light-rail line which can accommodate two-car trains running a close as 2 minutes apart.

    SFMTA was in charge by the time detailed Central Subway planning started and did consider longer platforms, but it would have been wasteful since the T-line can only run two-car trains and already has a very high capacity. In fact, the T-line has almost the same capacity as the rest of the Muni Metro system combined.

  • Contemporary US planning and safety codes now require a platform, regardless of the height. The days of exiting trains into moving traffic are (thankfully) over.

    There are quite a lot of differences between the US and Europe standards which have caused US transit agencies problems over the years because even “off the shelf” designs have to be customized so heavily.

    Even the best and most reliable vehicles built overseas can be trouble if you have to wait for specialized parts and equipment which have to be shipped on a boat. Muni absolutely failed at buying from Europe with the Breda trains, and not enough of them either.

    SFMTA, on the other hand, ordered the most reliable line of LRVs on the North American market, the new Siemens trains built in Sacramento. They’ve proven even more reliable than promised, which probably has a lot to do with parts and technicians just a few hours away.

  • The new trains aren’t the most comfortable. The long side bench seats only encourage the homeless to sprawl out and take a snooze. Plus, the seats themselves are higher than the old seats…I’m 5’6″ and have a hard time placing my feet firmly on the floor.

  • Run the L from the Zoo around West Portal and to Daly City BART (combination M/L combo) and 1-car trains from 22nd/Taraval to Balboa Park (K/L combo). Extend the J to SFSU. Extend the M/L to Daly City BART. The huge inconvenience of westside travel is a quick connection to BART.

  • Yeah… after Muni’s decision to buy the custom-built Breda’s, SFMTA wanted the new trains to be as “off the shelf” as possible.

    Siemens’ default benches are pretty bad though, which is why the SFMTA is having them changed.

    I don’t know how much they’ve worked out already, but the idea was to pilot test a different design(s) on the first batch of trains before manufacture of the next 175. I assume they’ll retrofit the first 68 as well.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Well there’s platforms and then there are platforms. See Portland. Muni’s design is an intentional compromise where they have arranged the streetcar service in such a way as to maximize convenience for people who don’t use it. People have to get off in the middle of the road and walk to the end of the block and beg for a crossing signal, while people in cars get signal priority. That’s a social problem, not a regulatory one. Portland shows that if you consider the needs of riders you can make a streetcar system where riders embark from sidewalk-height platforms on the side of the road, not on elevated platforms in the middle of the road.

  • Well, there platforms, and there are platforms, and there are those ugly things on the Third Street which look like a toned-down version of Wired Magazine layout from the 1990s.

    The T-line stations are customer-hostile. The zig-zagging walls are used to orient advertising to passing and idling drivers, even though it narrow the platform with pinch points and creates hiding spots for criminals. Whether or not that’s even happened, it just makes the platforms feel unsafe.

    It’s like someone wanted to sabotage from anyone from ever accepting a high-platform station again.

  • Portland Streetcar isn’t quite comparable to Muni Metro; it’s central city circulator which compliments and extends the regional light-rail network.

    Portland does a light-rail network more Muni Metro named MAX, but it operates with low-floor LRVs boarding from the curb so the customer experience is pretty much the same as Portland Streetcar.

    So why not low-floor LRVs? After all, Portland operates essentially the low-floor, version of Muni’s new Siemens trains.

    Portland essentially started their light-rail network from scratch where the SFMTA inherited a 106-year-old streetcar system designed for cars the size of the F-line and it has its quirks.

    The one which seems the biggest deal killers right off the top to me is the tight turns throughout the Muni system where the trucks (the wheel assemblies) need a lot of space under the car for free movement. That’s also why the SFMTA’s streetcars and light-rail vehicles cannot have panels covering and protecting the trucks. They’d pop right off.

  • Ridership of the K/T combined is about 33,000 (2013). The N is well over 40,000. So, it’s hardly approaching all the other lines combined.

    You mentioned the issue with the platform design. Another issue is spacing of the stops as they are way too close together. The other problem is lack of signal priority. Had the T line been constructed with long platforms, like the N on the Embarcadero, and fewer stations it could easily have warranted longer platforms in the Central Subway. As it stands, the design prevents any hope of expanding the line to meet additional capacity. 2 minute headways are a pipe dream. That will never, ever happen.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    You nailed the analogy. I won’t be able to forget it now.

  • I’m sure you know well enough that maximum capacity and existing ridership are different.

    Yes. The stations are too close together and some of the placements seem a block or two off, don’t they?

    It’s exactly where you might think: Muni and City Planners were pressured by a community fearful of having to walk an extra block, merchants worried about customers having to park a block away, and politicians meddling too directly in transit decisions, with conflicting opinions leading to compromises.

    Muni and transit are not the only concern along the Third Street/Bayshore Corridor, which has a lot of shipping activity which is very important to the economy. Three-car trains would require upwards of 50% of cross-streets to be closed in some areas, which is just not acceptable.

    …or wasn’t acceptable at the time.

    I think a more accurate way to look at the T-line is a baseline to work from. The T won’t reach that 2-minute frequency as it is now, but the T doesn’t need to support 2-minute frequency from the start. Additional street closings will be needed, but the capability is there.

    Signal priority won’t be fully operational until the Central Subway opens, and Fourth and King will also remain a bottleneck until the Central Subway opens and the T is rerouted through it.

  • 4th/King will continue to be a bottleneck after the CS opens. That won’t change. Signal priority along 3rd was promised before a single train rolled down the street.
    I’m well aware of griping about walking an extra block…I lived in Parkside and dealt riders complaining they would have to walk an extra block (many of these riders also complaining that the service is too slow). It’s a lose-lose situation. So, SF is stuck with streetcars. People need to accept its limitations and not hope for something bigger and better.

  • You seem so caught in this four-car-or-nothing idea, and you’re being very dismissive of anything to speed up and improve service: closing turn pockets, closing some cross streets, signal priority, and even relocating or eliminating stations ove time.

  • Well excuse me for wanting to ride a real mass transit system in a supposed Transit First City. And as for the 4-car-or-nothing idea, even the MTA is mulling the idea of 3 car sets on the N while others, including myself, push for 3 car sets in the Market St. subway. Your concern is adding up the small things with the hopes of a faster and better service. My concern is the service (system) itself. We’re dealing with a streetcar system, not a real light rail system.

  • Well, to get some language squared away, a streetcar is street-running rail vehicle, even when it has dedicated rights of way. Cable cars technically qualify, but let’s just keep to motorized traction.

    Muni Metro is a streetcar system and a light-rail system.

    Portland’s light-rail system is restricted to two-car trains because they decided not to close down half the streetcars downtown. Does that make them not a real rail transit system?

    Extending the N-Judah to three cars is problematic because there are several short blocks where a 225-foot / three-car train would not have enough clearance or even hang into the intersection, which need to be worked out.

    SFTMA included three-car trains in their subway testing last year. There’s a few more prerequisites though and of the ones I know, SFMTA is almost done:

    1. Turning back shuttles at West Portal sucks and can create delays. There’s a single crossover and it’s facing the wrong way. The track has been installed as part of the tunnel project but locked in place. These last several weekend closures are to finish the work integrating them into the system allowing faster shuttle turnbacks at West Portal.

    2. SFMTA needs separate State approval for one-car, two-car, and three-car trains with thousands of miles at each stage to prove them reliable before allowing another car. SFMTA has a really good pace going on moving trains from arrival through all the tests and a required 5,000-mile burn-in, which I’ve heard is under a month. I don’t know what the PUC requires beyond just putting on a lot of miles to prove they’re safe and reliable.

    I expect all the effort at SFMTA is being put into getting the last dozen or so of the first batch of 68 Siemens LRVs into service and running as two-car trains. They’ve gotten so many new cars into service already I’ve caught a lot of West Portal Shuttles lately.

  • That four-car Market Street Subway is a real project, though no train is being booted from the subway.

    The 19th Ave project has evolved into a four-car subway all the way down to Parkmerced. Every involved group seemed to say “F incrimental tweaks, let’s get real”.

    This is a proposed project map from one of the presentations.

    – Up to four-car M-line trains would run from Embarcadero to Parkmerced

    – The J-Church would take over the Ocean View leg of the M with a new transfer station at SF State. This idea has been floated before, but Ocean View residents (understandably) didn’t want a crappy transfer in the middle of 19th Ave, but opinions changed once it was going to be a nice

    – When the K and M meet at St. Francis Circle is cool: outbound trains on a lower level, inbound on the upper level.

    – The K and M would have a new subway station under West Portal Ave. while the L would still use the existing surface station, but have it all to itself. This is a point where the computer can hold or even re-order K L M trains.

    – Even though the original Boeing trains ran four-cars long, they were shorter. Only Forest Hill and Castro require lengthening, and that’s only by about 10-feet. They might only need three-cars on the M for the first many years anyway.

    – If it looks like the M-lines tail tracks are pointed at Daly City BART, it’s on purpose. No plans at the moment, but the option is there.

    This project is in one of those study phases when it pretty much goes dark until we fund out how many billions this will cost. I know one of the considerations being considered is how to break this up into several projects which can be phased.