L-Taraval public hearing set for Friday

A final proposal of the much-heated and debated L-Taraval Rapid Project will make its way to a public hearing this Friday at City Hall.

Back in February, merchants and residents were not pleased with the latest proposal presented by officials from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for the Taraval Street corridor.

The proposal presented six months ago included adding boarding islands, a red transit-only lane, traffic signals and removing some train stops to speed up the L-Taraval.

Merchants worried about where the boarding islands would be constructed because it would require taking away seven to 10 parking spaces, according to the transit agency’s proposal.

The plan had called for one-to-one parking replacement at nearby streets.

Albert Chow, owner of the Great Hardware store on Taraval between 28th and 29th Avenue, said a there would not be enough parking spaces at nearby streets and that it would have an economic to businesses at community meeting held in February.

Instead, the SFMTA is proposing to test a boarding zone pilot at Taraval Street and 26th, 30th, 32nd, 35th and 40th avenues, which includes painted warnings and new signage to drivers that they have stop to let passengers board and alight trains.

The transit agency will test the pilot for six months and evaluate how drivers comply to the newly-painted warnings and signage. Officials are seeking a near 100 percent compliance rate, but if the compliance rate is less than desirable, or if crashes occur in the pilot locations, officials said they will end the pilot and install boarding islands.

SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said:

“SFMTA will work with SFPD, merchants, and pedestrian safety advocates to coordinate education and enforcement efforts to support the pilot.”

Officials said they still plan to add boarding islands where Muni riders have been hit by a train either getting on or off. Those locations include 19th, 42nd and 44th avenues in both inbound and outbound directions. Boarding islands would also be added at 26th, 30th, 32nd, 40th and 46th avenues in just the outbound direction.

The transit agency said 22 riders have been hit by cars while getting off trains during last five years.

Chow said during public comment at Tuesday’s SFMTA Board of Directors meeting that he hopes the transit agency will consider talking merchants after the pilot is over:

“What we want to do is have a six-month time where we could evaluate as a neighborhood how we like these changes and how we could live with it or not live with it. And hopefully after that period of time, SFMTA can have a another series of community meetings where we can vote on these features that are going on our roadway in our neighborhood.”

Another concern was the removal of 14 train stops. Officials said they will now only remove nine stops, but that still does not satisfy Paula Katz, a resident in the outer Parkside neighborhood.

Katz told SFMTA board members on Tuesday that the transit agency needs to keep all the L-Taraval stops, and submitted a petition with over 1,600 signatures:

“Many of the signatures in our petition are from L riders whose lives would be negatively impacted if they lose their stops and have to walk an extra block or two when they are catching the L or coming home and when they shop at our local merchants, the library, post office and our local Safeway, which for some incredible reason all are losing their L-Taraval stops.”

In the final proposal, the transit agency plans to remove stops in both directions at Ulloa Street and 15th Avenue, Taraval Street and 17th and 28th avenues. In the outbound direction, stops at 22nd and 35th avenues and inbound stop at 24th Avenue.

The transit agency said it will keep the red-transit only lane as part of the proposal, which would take out one traffic lane. Officials said they will evaluate the transit-only lane to see what impact it has to traffic congestion.

Other features of the final proposal include a number of pedestrian bulbs, traffic signals and restricting left turns at Taraval Street and Sunset Boulevard (both directions) and on 18th Avenue (eastbound).

The final proposal comes after the SFMTA along with Supervisor Katy Tang held smaller meetings with residents and merchants to discuss the proposal in more detail and to give everyone an opportunity to ask questions from officials after the intense larger community meeting back in February.

Rose said the smaller meetings gave opportunities for everyone with different opinions to speak about the project:

“The small group meetings provided an opportunity to discuss issues in a more interactive environment with a range of stakeholders holding different views on the project. While the themes of feedback were similar to what we’ve heard in other venues, such as the public hearings and survey responses, this offered a chance for people with different views to discuss their respective concerns at greater length in a more interactive and respectful setting.”

Merchants and residents can still be heard at this Friday’s public hearing at City Hall at 10 a.m., Room 416.