L-Taraval safety tops open house agenda

Safety concerns by Muni riders will be one of the many topics transit officials will discuss at Wednesday night’s open house to share its proposal to improve the surface portion of the L-Taraval route.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will invite the public to give feedback on proposed safety measures for the L-Taraval, which carries about 29,000 daily riders.

The proposed measures include new and extended boarding islands, plus transit and pedestrian bulbs. The work will focus Taraval Street between 15th and 46th Avenues and also on Ulloa Street.

Sean Kennedy, program manager for Muni Forward, said the L-Taraval riders face safety challenges when they board and disembark from trains because most transit stops do not have boarding islands. The rail tracks are in the middle of lane traffic so riders must get off the train through traffic:

“The top concern the agency has heard from riders is that the boarding and alighting conditions are unsafe.”

Kennedy said by law, drivers have to stop stop when the train doors open, but many drivers do not comply despite efforts to enforce the law.

Taraval Street is on The City’s high-injury corridor list, with 22 of the last 46 pedestrians in the last five years hit by cars were getting off the L-Taraval into oncoming traffic, said Kennedy.

Feedback from a mobile survey conducted by the SMFTA this year of 130 people who responded, said their top concern was people getting off the train and getting hit by a vehicle.

The safety concerns have been shared by San Francisco transit bloggers Agent Akit and Greg Dewar, who both said more enforcement is needed and that there have been too many close calls for L-Taraval riders at busy intersections like on Taraval Street and 19th Avenue.

Alongside calls for more enforcement, new boarding islands are planned at 15th, 18th, 26th, 30th, 32nd, 40th, 42nd, and 46th avenues. The SFMTA is also planning to extend boarding islands at 22nd, 23rd avenues and Sunset Boulevard.

New pedestrian bulbs at 20th, 21st, 22nd and 24th avenues and traffic calming measures on 33rd and 44th avenues are also part of the proposal. Traffic signals are proposed for 17th, 18th, 22nd, 26th, 30th, 32nd, 24th and 35th and 40th avenues.

Transit planners are also studying restricting left turns. The proposal includes restricting a left turn onto Sunset Boulevard, but more restrictions could be included.

Speeding up the L-Taraval

Muni riders know the ride to and from the Outer Sunset and downtown can sometimes be a long one especially when riders have to stand through the entire ride.

The plan to improve the L-Taraval will also include measures to help speed up the route, said Kennedy:

“The L also faces travel time and reliability challenges due to the close spacing of stops, which are about 620 feet (two blocks) apart in most cases. Coming to a full stop this frequently adds to travel time and makes for a less comfortable ride.”

Muni plans on removing stops at Ulloa Street, 17th, 22nd, 24th, 28th, 35th and 44th avenues, and adding a designated transit-only lane to clear a path can help the L-Taraval run on time, said Kennedy:

“Traffic in front of the train can also add to delay. Even though the surface portion of the L is only about a third of the length of the full route, it takes longer to travel than the rest of the line, which is why we’re focusing on this segment for travel time savings.”

He said riders can expect to save as much three minutes of travel time in each direction:

“To put that in perspective, riders boarding at 46th and Taraval would feel like they boarded about eight blocks closer to downtown based on the travel time savings.”

Kennedy said the proposal will help make the route and safer and more reliable for Muni riders:

“This proposal aims to address these concerns through a suite of treatments that will make it safer for people walking and waiting for Muni, and improve reliability to ensure the L sticks closer to its schedule. Riders should see better spacing of train arrivals, with fewer trains that are bunched together.”

Muni riders can attend the open house Wednesday night at the Grace Lutheran Church, 3201 Ulloa St., from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

2015 L-Taraval On-Time Performance

May: 55 percent
June: 54 percent
July: 56 percent
August: 54 percent
September: 52 percent

Source: SFMTA