N-Judah shuttle trains ease Cole Valley commute

Muni riders who board an N-Judah during the morning commute at Carl and Cole streets have often been met with a nightmare.

Some mornings, it’s a miracle if even a handful of riders can squeeze themselves onto an extremely crowded train.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Director of Transit John Haley once called these riders “lost souls,” because they  were unable to board arriving N-Judah trains packed to the doors.

These “lost souls” may now have a train to board.

Transit officials, along with Supervisor London Breed, launched a new N-Judah train shuttle on Tuesday morning that makes short trips between Carl Street and Hillway Avenue near UCSF and the Embarcadero station from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. to help alleviate overcrowding.

Hillway Avenue has an existing track turnaround for trains to switch directions.

For years, the N-Judah — which carries an average of 40,000 passengers each day — has suffered from overcrowding, especially in the Cole Valley neighborhood, which has two stops at Carl and Stanyan streets and Carl and Cole streets.

More than 100 passengers are typically unable to board a N-Judah because of overcrowding, said SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose.

SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said at the transit agency’s Board of Directors meeting Tuesday that the train shuttles will allow the agency to put more capacity on the already overcrowded N-Judah:

“… As anyone who ever rides the N-Judah at the time of day know, once you get to that inter portion, the cars are usually full. So the folks at Carl and Cole, at Duboce Park, at Church and Duboce often can’t board the train.”

Rose said the new train shuttles are meant to be a permanent service.

SFMTA Board Director Malcolm Heinicke said the new shuttle was great news, and that adding more shuttle service along other lines was of interest to him.

Heinicke requested Reiskin come back with a presentation when data is available on how the new train shuttles are performing, comparing it with the N-Judah bus shuttle service and plans for expanded shuttle service to stations at West Portal and Castro.

Transit officials in 2012 launched a bus shuttle service called Nx-Judah express bus in hopes of shifting riders off the trains. The popular route services the outer Sunset Muni riders from Judah Street and 48th Avenue to 19th Avenue to downtown during peak morning and evening commutes.