Muni axes L-Taraval stops at 17th, 35th avenues

Dozens of San Francisco residents who live near or on Taraval Street and use Muni’s L-Taraval line voiced opposition of the removal of transit stops along Taraval Street.

Residents said removing the L-Taraval stops at 17th (inbound), 35th (inbound) and 44th (inbound and outbound) avenues would make it harder for seniors and the disabled to walk to the closest transit stop.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors on Tuesday decided to remove the 17th and 35th avenues transit stops, but keep the inbound and outbound transit stops at 44th Avenue.

Directors though requested staff to observe the impact of the removal of the 17th Avenue inbound transit stop, which is across the street from a Safeway, and the impact of keeping the transit stops at 44th Avenue, and for staff to report back at a later meeting next year.

Many residents voiced concerns of seniors who may have to carry heavy groceries and also having to walk to the next transit stop by crossing 19th Avenue if the 17th Avenue transit stop was removed.

Michael Rhodes, a transit planner with the SFMTA, said the removal of the transit stops along Taraval Street can save riders from 25 to 30 seconds of travel time.

Director Joél Ramos said the 30 seconds of saved travel time on the line can add up for the thousands of passengers who reply and use the L-Taraval:

“I think we have to keep in mind that we have a responsibility to the entire city. It’s not just this avenue, it’s the entire city that is waiting on this line as it gets down to the rest of the route.”

Ramos added:

“If we really want to increase our reliability and the frequency and speed in which were delivering transit service, this what we need to strongly consider.”

Board chair Cheryl Brinkman said that Muni needs to improve its efficiency in order for the transit agency to not lose riders to ride hailing app services:

“It’s a larger picture. It’s not just about that one stop.”

Irene Gregson, who lives near 44th Avenue and Santiago, said even if the next transit stop is a few hundred feet away, it can still be a hardship for seniors, the disabled and parents with children:

“If one reads a report to see a figure of 400 feet on a piece of paper, that’s a number. But to these people, those are actual steps they have to take to the next stop.”

Before the board made its final decision on keeping the transit stops at 44th Avenue, Grant Bartone told the board that removing the stops at 44th Avenue would be difficult for his wife’s parents who live with them:

“From our point of view, removing the L stop at 44th would cause significant hardship to my aging in-laws who commute daily on the L and need the stop as close as possible, especially my father-in-law who had two hip surgeries recently, and continues to struggle with mobility.”

The transit stops at 44th Avenue had been proposed for removal originally in the L-Taraval Rapid Project, but a large a number of riders supported in retaining the stops, according to a SFMTA staff report.

Crews painted clear zones at both the inbound and outbound stops at 44th Avenue to make way for boarding islands.

The SFMTA staff report said merchants expressed concerned with the removal of parking spaces because of the construction of a boarding island at Taraval Street and 44th Avenue.

Removing transit stops to increase stop spacing on the L-Taraval line is part of the larger project of the L-Taraval Rapid Project, which includes installing boarding islands at all of the transit stops.

The SFMTA board approved the project in September of last year. Merchants along Taraval Street were not in favor of the project due to the loss of parking from the construction of boarding islands.

The SFMTA worked with merchants in testing a six-month passenger loading zone pilot where signs, paint on the roadway, larger LED lights on the train and larger stickers on the back of Muni trains, warned drivers that they must stop behind the train to allow for passengers to disembark safely.

The SFMTA set a goal of 90 percent of drivers having to comply with the law at five test locations at 26th, 30th, 32nd and 40th avenues. If the goal was not met, boarding islands would be constructed.

Results from the six-month pilot showed 74 percent of riders complied with stopping behind trains with the new warning amenities.

Construction of the boarding islands is part of a larger Taraval Street project, which will begin in the fall of 2018.