L-Taraval changes incense residents, merchants

Merchants and residents along Taraval Street offered up an earful of angry comments on proposed changes to Muni’s L-Taraval that would take away more than 100 parking spaces and several Muni stops.

At a community meeting hosted by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Wednesday night, staff presented a revision of a proposal presented last December aimed at improving the reliability of the L-Taraval for its daily 29,000 riders and the safety of riders and pedestrians who walk along the street, said Sean Kennedy, the program manager of Muni Forward.

The Muni Forward project is the transit agency’s plan to improve service across board. Specific proposals to improve the L-Taraval include adding new or extending transit boarding islands and removing transit stops. The audience booed both ideas.

Dozens of merchants and residents spoke out at the meeting inside the auditorium of the Dianne Feinstein Elementary School with concerns of the loss of parking, which would be taken away from proposed new transit board islands, and the consolidation of train stops.

Kennedy said parking spaces would be taken away where the transit agency plans to either add transit bulbs, accessible platforms or extended transit boarding islands at 15th, 19th, 22nd, 23rd, 26th, 30th, 32nd, 40th, 42nd, 44th, 46th avenues and Sunset Boulevard.

The transit also plans to pilot a project for six months where it would add dash marks on the street at 26th, 30th, 32nd, 35th and 40th avenues to indicate to drivers that they need stop for passengers are disembarking the train. The pilot could be implemented early before construction of other portions of the project.

Kennedy said the transit agency would study how compliant drivers are to stopping for Muni riders getting off trains.

In the last five years, 22 Muni riders have been hit by cars while exiting the train, said Kennedy.

Merchants like Albert Chow, who owns the Great Wall Hardware Co. store on Taraval between 28th and 29th Avenues, said the loss of parking would affect surrounding businesses:

“You’re losing seven to nine parking spaces per intersection where the streetcars stop. We counted. It’s about 135 to 150 parking spaces lost.”

Chow said the transit agency will not recoup the lost parking spaces. Kennedy told the audience that the plan to use side residential streets to make up for the parking loss, but Chow said that was a bad idea:

“Those residents, and I’m one of them, have one, two, three cars. It’s not just one family living in there anymore… They have parking concerns. Then, my customers have nowhere to park.”

Chow had been gathering signatures at the event and during the last several weeks from mostly merchants against the transit agency’s proposed plans. So far he’s gathered 900 signatures and submitted them to SFMTA staff at the meeting.

Some people in audience gave Kennedy other suggestions to improve safety for riders getting off Muni trains like flashing bulb lights, bigger signs on the trains and working with the police department.

Kennedy said the transit agency is working on making bigger signs on trains, possibly putting words on the street and educational campaigns with merchants. He also said the transit agency will work on an educational campaign with the Taraval police station.

Another concern at the meeting was the original proposal to remove 14 transit stops on Taraval Street. Kennedy said the revised proposal would keep stops at 35th and 44th avenues. The 44th Avenue and Ulloa Street stop would also be saved. 

The transit agency expects riders to save 20 percent of transit travel time from the stop consolidation.

Paula Katz, a resident at 44th Avenue and Rivera Street, said she wanted the transit agency to keep all the stops. Katz said she worried about the seniors who would have walk further to the transit stops with their groceries. One of the stops eliminated is on 17th Avenue, near a Safeway grocery store.

She said seniors live throughout the entire stretch of Taraval Street and would be affected.

Katz brought resident Mary Rasmussen to the meeting, who is 102 years old. Katz said Rasmuseen would be one of those affected by the changes who shops at Safeway.

Katz was also gathering signatures during the meeting to save all the transit stops. So far she has gathered more than 1,000 signatures, she said.

Not everyone in the audience was completely against the proposed plans.

Janelle Wong, who lives on 16th Avenue and Taraval Street, said she takes Muni and drives and understands the community’s concerns over the loss of parking, but said safety is important:

”We’re all going to have invest as a community a piece of something for personal safety.”

Some other proposed plans in the project include adding pedestrian bulbs, traffic lights and making the rail track lane a transit-only lane.

Kennedy said that he will take the feedback from meeting and see if possible revisions are necessary. He also said he would be opened to having another public meeting.

The timeline of the project includes approval by the SFMTA Board of Directors sometime this year and construction beginning in 2018.