M Ocean View Improvements Still Put Cars First

Upgraded signals are supposed to let trains get priority at traffic signals, but Streetsblog found that Muni continues to wait

An M Ocean View crossing onto 19th. Photo: SFMTA
An M Ocean View crossing onto 19th. Photo: SFMTA

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Muni’s M Ocean View trains are supposed to be getting a jump on traffic. But is that happening in practice?

SFMTA recently completed upgrades to its M Ocean View service on 19th Avenue, with paving, track and signal improvements on its right-of-way between Junipero Serra Boulevard and Rossmoor Drive.

From the SFMTA release:

The project goals were to boost reliability and on-time performance of the M Ocean View through the heavily traveled 19th Avenue corridor, increase pedestrian safety around the Muni track right-of-ways and replace a section of aging track around 19th Avenue and Rossmoor Drive.

A centerpiece of the project is the addition of Transit Signal Priority (TSP), which should favor the M Ocean View at traffic signals, turning them green for the train.

Muni added colored pavement and more treatments to help keep cars off the tracks where they leave 19th Ave.
Muni also added colored pavement and updated  treatments to help keep cars off the tracks where they leave 19th Ave. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick if not indicated

“The M Ocean View improvements–planned transit priority at the massive Junipero Serra/19th Avenue intersection, and track replacement–seem like smart near-term improvements with some tangible, albeit modest, benefits to riders on the M line,” said Livable City’s Tom Radulovich.

But when Streetsblog traveled down the M Ocean View today to get a sense of how well it’s working, it wasn’t clear that anything–as far as train operations and reliability go–has actually changed. Trains this afternoon were as bunched, irregular, and as herky-jerky as ever. They certainly didn’t seem to have any priority over automobile traffic.

IMG_20181212_123320
This afternoon at about 12:30 Streetsblog saw two M Ocean Views, more-or-less nose-to-tail, still stopping and waiting to cross 19th.

Inbound M Ocean View trains left the Stonestown Gallery station, started moving, but then stopped–as they always have–before crossing out of the median of 19th Avenue at Rossmoor, even though there wasn’t any car traffic in the way. The train had to hold as the traffic signal started its phase from red to green.

This signal, which is supposed to allow trains to cross 19th, was still green until the train was forced to stop and wait
This signal, which is supposed to allow trains to cross 19th with priority, was still green for cars and red for the train as it approached–the train was forced to stop and wait… even though there were no cars approaching.

Streetsblog has emailed SFMTA to find out why the new signal doesn’t start changing when the train leaves the station, so it doesn’t have to stop and wait to cross 19th Avenue, and will update this post accordingly.

Despite the new signals, Streetsblog saw M Ocean Views waiting and waiting for the green light
Despite the new signals, Streetsblog saw M Ocean View trains waiting and waiting for the green light at Junipero Serra also.

And what about the other set of signals, at 19th Avenue and Junipero Serra? Streetsblog was only able to watch two trains cross this location, but they also didn’t seem to have any signal priority–let alone pre-emption–at the intersection.

“I’m not surprised Muni hasn’t fully taken advantage of transit signal priority,” said Cat Carter, spokesperson for the San Francisco Transit Riders. “Seems that’s a pattern–take the T Third for example.”

Again, Streetsblog has inquiries out to SFMTA to find out from them what’s going on.

Do you ride the M Ocean View? Let us know if you’ve noticed improvements since these upgrades were implemented. Post below.

***

Update, 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 13, from SFMTA’s Erica Kato, a spokesperson for the project:

Transit Priority is in at Rossmoor and working correctly as currently designed. It is designed for the trains to stop first before giving them the green light to discourage train speeding, protect pedestrians and because of the existing conditions/stop locations. This is better than the previous existing condition, which the light turned green for the train movement every 2 minutes no matter what is happening ( e.g. train/no train/train just too far away to make it).

Transit Priority was added at Junipero Serra northbound only as an extension to the green if trains are present. The idea is that it makes trains less likely to be blocked by left-turning vehicles and more likely that they make it through the intersection in only 1 cycle. This is not designed as signal preemption.

We are still analyzing how the project is working and can make tweaks to the timing in the future to keep improving the intersections.

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