Supe seeks boost for Outer Sunset transit

Muni service can be frustrating at times for residents of San Francisco’s Outer Sunset.

There are plenty of Muni lines in the district — like the N-Judah, L-Taraval, an express bus for the N-Judah riders,  28-19th Avenue, 29-Sunset and 71-Haight/Noriega — but residents who do not live near any of these lines often instead use private vehicles to drive to work, to school or to shop.

Supervisor Katy Tang, who represents the Sunset District, wants to change that.

Tang has requested that the San Francisco County Transportation Authority’s Finance Committee, which is made of five San Francisco supervisors, approve a Strategic Analysis Report on improving transit access on the West side of San Francisco, and also looking into how improve other transportation options:

“We have huge a population that either needs to make trips to downtown San Francisco or try to access South Bay. And so that was primarily our focus in terms of the high level analysis we have asked the TA to engage in through this SAR.”

The committee approved her request, which goes to the full authority for approval next week. The review will look at the history and context of the area being studied, current Municipal Transportation Agency projects in the Sunset that are in progress, and how people in the Sunset currently travel to their destinations.

Maria Lombardo, chief deputy director of the authority, said staff could pick one or more destinations and study them in-depth by looking at what current options are available in those areas and how competitive they are to the private vehicle.

Lombardo said staff will also look at existing studies, including Supervisor Tang’s Sunset District Blueprint report completed last year. The report conducted by Tang and her staff focused on gathering ideas from residents on how improving the living environment in the Sunset.

The report said major investments need should be made in order for children, families and seniors to make alternative transportation options like Muni their first choice:

“Residents feel that alternative modes of transportation are not convenient because they cannot reliably easily travel from the Sunset District to other neighborhoods.”

The report also said that residents feel that Muni service is irregular at times and should run more reliably during peak commute hours.

Tang’s report also showed the estimated average travel time from the outer Sunset to downtown takes nearly an hour on Muni.

Supervisor Scott Wiener said at the committee that it was a glaring hole in the system:

“It’s really problematic that it’s so much faster to get to downtown from the East Bay than it is from the Outer Sunset, in particular, but also the Outer Richmond.”

Public transportation changes though are on its way that the SFMTA said will make Muni service more reliable, according to the SFMTA.

The Muni Forward project, part of the transit agency’s plan to make service improvements changes on more than half of the Muni routes, is already in progress.

The Sunset Tunnel construction now in progress will include upgrading traffic signals along the N-Judah route at nine intersections to give trains transit signal priority. This would allow traffic signals to hold green lights a little longer for approaching trains.

Work also includes building two accessible platforms, replacing worn out rail tracks and the overhead wire system.

There are also plans to improve the 28-19th Avenue bus route by having an all-day limited service run seven days a week and eliminating stops on the regular service route.

The 29-Sunset was last year given its own left turn only lane on Lincoln Way at 19th Avenue so the bus would not have to use often-congested Irving Street to get access to Crossover Drive.

Greg Dewar, an inner Sunset resident who writes about the N-Judah and other Muni topics on his blog “The N-Judah Chronicles,” said though the Sunset is seeing some of the transit improvements being implemented, city leaders should do less talking and more doing:

“While another report may be fine for the politicians, those of us who rely on transit don’t benefit from such endless talking.”

The report from authority is expected to be completed in six months and cost $30,000. After the report is complete, the authority board will have the opportunity accept the report and recommendations.