Muni projects promise subway crowd relief

Jam-packed Muni trains and crowded station platforms are a typical occurrence for everyday commuters heading to work or school.

This isn’t news to the 150,000 light rail riders who experience this on a daily basis, but San Francisco’s transit agency wants commuters to know short- and long-term improvements are in the pipeline to deal with capacity issues.

At a meeting Friday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency staff updated board directors on the transit agency’s Rail Capacity Strategy. The strategy addresses providing more capacity on Muni trains as the population and employment opportunities continue to grow in The City.

Some of the near-term improvements include projects that would take approximately two to five years to complete.

Grahm Satterwhite, a SFMTA principal transportation planner, said projects like the West Portal Conflict Resolution would look at making it easier for the three different Muni train lines to enter the subway:

“We want, really want, to reduce the conflict with rail so they can transition in and out of our subway system as easily as possible. This means looking at how we reduce vehicle conflicts, but also pedestrian and bicycle conflicts as well.”

The project includes restricting conflicting turn movements and replacing magnetized rails to help improve reliability and travel time. The cost would be $1.5 million as a pilot project, and take less than three years to complete.

Another near-term project involves constructing a Muni Metro extension pocket track east of Harrison Street. Satterwhite said the extra pocket would act as an overflow for the current Embarcadero Station turnback, which gets heavy use from multiple Muni lines.

The newly constructed pocket would also be able to accommodate three- to four-car trains, said Satterwhite. The project cost is $8.5 million and would take four to five years to complete.

Other near-term projects include upgrading the transit signal priority along the Embarcadero from the Ferry Portal to Fourth and King Streets, and improving pedestrian and bicycle circulation near the Church and Duboce portal.

One major long-term project that specifically deals with capacity issues will take place on the M-Ocean View line. The project could possibly put the Muni line underground from West Portal through 19th Avenue.

The plan would help reduce conflicts with 19th Avenue traffic, which also serves as Highway 1, the transit agency said. In addition, newly designed stations would possibly hold four-car trains to allow more capacity on the route.

The cost of project would range from $2.5 to $3 billion.

The transit agency said the near-term improvement projects will consider funding as part of the SFMTA’s 2017-2021 Capital Improvement Program. There are 17 projects listed in the strategy.

Curious Muni riders can read the updated Rail Capacity Strategy on the SFMTA website.