Residents demand to keep L-Taraval stops

Residents in San Francisco’s Parkside neighborhood are asking officials from the City’s transportation agency to keep nine train stops proposed for removal in the final L-Taraval Rapid Project proposal.

The project involves making Taraval Street a safer environment for pedestrians, Muni riders who get on and off the L-Taraval and to make the train line run faster between the zoo and West Portal, said Michael Rhodes, transit planner for the Municipal Transportation Agency

In a public hearing held Friday by the SFMTA, residents explained that taking away of any stops would hurt seniors and the elderly, who rely on many of the stops transit planners are proposing to remove.

A Safeway supermarket stands on a sloping section of Taraval between 17th and 18th avenues. Officials contend residents will be able to get off at 19th Avenue instead where the transit agency plans to place a boarding island.

Parkside resident Paula Katz, who submitted petition called “Save Our L-Taraval Stops,” said the removal of stops hurts the elderly population who rely on the L:

“We have a very elderly population that rides the L and many have relied on it for over a generation. It’s completely unacceptable for you to cause hardship that will hurt these people as they have to walk an extra blocks when they’re carrying packages from the Safeway, post office just trying to catch the L.”

Katz said the extra two minutes saved on the L-Taraval was not worth the removal of stops:

“The two-minute time savings for some is insignificant compared to the extra time, hardship and inconvenience you will cause many to lose their stops.”

Mariana Chow, who took the L-Taraval to the public hearing, said the time savings did not matter as it would be wiped out by waiting to enter the West Portal station:

“Just this morning when I get in here, I ride the L streetcar and before the tunnel I had wait for 15 minutes because we can’t get into the tunnel.”

Barry Hermanson, who has lived in the Sunset District since 1978, said that taking the stops is a reduction in Muni service.

He said it would make it harder for people to access transit and that some may seek alternative options.

Boarding Islands

Transit planners are proposing to add boarding islands to intersections where Muni riders have been hit while getting off the L-Taraval. They will also test out a six-month pilot at some intersections using paint on the street and signage to warn drivers that they must stop before the last train to let riders board and off the train.

The transit agency will test the pilot at inbound stops at 26th, 30th, 32nd, 35th and 40th avenues on Taraval Street, said Rhodes.

Planners had originally proposed to add them at most stops, but merchants opposed the plan because it required to take out seven to 10 parking spaces in order to construct a boarding island.

Merchants like Albert Chow, owner of the Great Hardware store, had previously said that taking out the parking would hurt businesses on Taraval Street.

At the public hearing, he called the project “Muni centric and Muni exclusive.” He submitted a petition with 800 signatures opposing the project.

Chow added:

“We do live here. You might be the engineer professionals, but I am a citizen professional of my street. I know what goes on my street.”

Chow wants to the SFMTA to evaluate the entire project for six months to let residents and merchants try it out first. Once the six month period is over, he suggested the SFMTA come back to the community to see what part of the project worked and did not work.

There was support for the boarding islands at the public hearing.

Julia Fox said that she agrees with Muni officials when they call Taraval one of the dangerous streets in the City.

Fox said on she was nearly hit while getting off the L-Taraval this week:

“Just Wednesday about to step off the L train at 35th Avenue, I’m almost hit by a large, fast-moving car that was blasting past.”

She warned other passengers by yelling out “car.”

The SFMTA reports that between 2009 and 2013, 46 people were hit by a vehicle, 22 of whom were hit getting on or off the L-Taraval.

Laura Tam, a resident on 47th Avenue with her kids, said she supported boarding islands at all stops. She said the islands will help fulfill the City’s Vision Zero goal of zero traffic deaths by 2024:

“Children, elderly people, visually or mobility impaired people such as a good friend of mine, should not have to step off the train in the dark hoping they don’t get hurt.”

Peter Straus, a member of the San Francisco Transit Riders, said he supported the project, but concerned with some of the changes made in the final proposal:

“In particular we’re very supportive of having boarding islands at all stops. They are technically called safety islands and they are called safety islands for a purpose.”

The final proposal now heads to the transit agency’s Board of Directors sometime in September, said Rhodes.

Proposed removal of L-Taraval stops

  • Inbound and Outbound: Ulloa Street at 15th Avenue, Taraval Street at 17th and 28th avenues
  • Inbound: Taraval Street at 24th Avenue
  • Outbound: Taraval Street at 22nd Avenue (in front of KFC) and 35th Avenue

Proposed boarding islands

  • Inbound and Outbound: Taraval Street at 19th, 42nd and 44th avenues
  • Outbound: Taraval Street at 26th, 30th, 32nd, 40th and 46th avenues