Muni cleared for downtown double berthing

The much-anticipated wait for Muni trains to double up on some subway station platforms may soon be over.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency received a key final approval from the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates rail systems, after approving a safety report from the transit agency.

SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said Muni riders could see the double berthing of Muni trains in the subway sometime by mid- to late-May.

The maneuver will allow two different trains in some of the subway stations to load and unload passengers. This could only happen at the Civic Center, Powell and Montgomery stations, which are long enough to allow double berthing to happen.

Normally in the subway, only trains in the first position on the station platform would be only allowed to load and unload riders while trains in the second position would have to wait until the first train leaves to move up to disembark riders.

SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin said last December that it can be an annoyance for some riders not able to get off train when they arrive at the station in the second position and have to wait.

SFBay reported last December that the transit agency performed a live demonstration for CPUC rail officials. Rose said the demonstration in December went well. The last approval needed was for the officials approve a safety report from the SFMTA, which it did this week.

The transit agency has been working on double berthing for a number years, which included multiple tests and software upgrades to its Automated Train Control System.

San Francisco Transit Riders Union member Ilyse Magy said the group is glad to hear that double berthing is coming to fruition after a long wait:

“Getting this change approved by the PUC has taken far too long. If SFMTA wants to try random double-berthing, we support it.”

Magy said riders should be able to get off if they have reached the platform.

What’s next before double berthing happens? More updates to the automatic train control. Rose said:

“We are currently upgrading automatic train control to accommodate this new function in the subway.”