Castro Station shuttle to return to morning commute

A reincarnation of Muni’s Castro train shuttle is making a triumphant return to the subway starting Nov. 7.

Known historically as the Castro S-Shuttle by Muni riders, the trains used to travel between the Embarcadero to Castro stations several years ago. The shuttle eased crowding on the light rail vehicles and at other Muni Metro stations.

The reintroduction of the shuttle will run from West Portal to Embarcadero stations during the morning rush commute, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said the transit agency will run two one-car trains.

Supervisor Scott Wiener said in an email statement to SFBay that he had been pushing transit officials at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for the shuttle to return:

“I’m very happy MTA has brought the Castro Shuttle back. As a daily Muni rider from the Castro Station to downtown, I know how frustrating it can be to see those over-crowded subway platforms and trains bursting with riders.”

He added that the shuttle will ease the daily crush load of passengers waiting at station platforms and make the subway system run smoother for all passengers.

Rose said the transit agency has not run any type of shuttle train service since 2014, with the exception of special events like to the San Francisco Giants games, because of vehicle maintenance challenges and the lack of train operators.

Instead, the transit agency used available trains on providing full Muni Metro service on all lines.

But now the transit agency has the operators and trains to add the shuttle service back into the schedule again, said Rose.

John Haley, SFMTA’s director of transit, said the transit division has focused on building back up the number of trains available for service. During the last six to eight months, maintenance crews have been working on replacing components in the train’s propulsion system, which has helped get the train count back up.

With more trains coming of the maintenance shop, Haley said he was confident enough to launch the Cole Valley Shuttle last month and now the subway shuttle next month despite now having a total train count of 149 instead of 151.

Haley said the cost of repairing the two remaining trains was not worth it and could go toward purchasing new vehicles instead.

The transit agency last month launched another train shuttle on the N-Judah line in the Cole Valley neighborhood, which officials said have reduced passenger pass-ups by 63 percent.

Success of the Cole Valley Shuttle heavily relied on SFMTA crews practicing multiple times on making the switchback at Hillway Avenue near UCSF. Haley required crews to make the switchback in 2 minutes and so far have been able to do it under one minute.

It was important for crews to do it quickly so that the train headway is not affected and that traffic in the area is not blocked, said Haley.

SFBay asked Haley if the S-Shuttle in the subway would also be available during the evening commute between Embarcadero and West Portal stations.

He said the transit agency needs to do more analysis first to see where the transit agency could fit the shuttles in the schedule in the evening commute.