Sunset Beacon

Congestion, Parking, Safety Top Concerns for Planned N-Judah Changes


By Thomas K. Pendergast

A San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA) proposal to rearrange N-Judah tran- sit stops and make other changes along the Irving Street commercial corridor in the Inner Sunset has some local residents and merchants concerned with congestion, parking and public safety.

The Irving Streetscapes propos- al would include Irving Street between Arguello Boulevard and Ninth Avenue, plus Ninth Avenue between Irving and Judah streets.

At a March 14 SFMTA hearing, Dustin White, a transportation planner, said the N-Judah is the heaviest-used rail line in the Muni system, carrying as many as 40,000 people on an average weekday. He described it as a “fairly slow route,” which averages 8 miles-per- hour on surface streets.

He also noted that the entire stretch of Irving Street from Arguello Boulevard to Ocean Beach is scheduled for repaving by the SF Department of Public Works.

White said the SFMTA is seek- ing to improve travel times and improve safety in the corridor because collisions between pedes- trians and cars are not uncommon.

“Some of these collisions are attributed to the fact that folks have to get on and off the trains into the street,” White said.

He said that between Arguello and Ninth Avenue, trains have to stop four times going outbound and five times inbound.

The proposal would remove transit stops in each direction, but would also add two new stops, one

inbound and one outbound.
A new traffic signal would

replace four-way stop signs at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Irving Street, while also removing two N-Judah passenger stops at the intersection (plus two more at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Irving Street).

White explained the reasoning behind replacing the stop signs with a traffic signal.

“If we were to remove the pas- senger stops but keep the stop signs there would not be much time sav- ings for trains, and that’s the reason behind that proposal,” he said.

But some local residents think it might be a bad move from the standpoint of pedestrian safety.

“My concern is that if you turn this (intersection) into a light, cars will race down that hill, accelerat- ing already because they are going downhill, to get through a yellow or even through a red light to get down to Lincoln Way,” said local resident Andrea Jadwin. “That is dangerous and we’d like to request that MTA consider some other type of transit priority lighting here that will keep those people from rush- ing through that light.”

Others criticized the overall scope of the project.

“It’s overbuilt, bloated and ready to backfire,” said Cathy Cohn, another local resident. “How do we put the bulb-outs back in the bottle when this plan is discovered to backfire? … The real issue of reliability is not whether Muni arrives a few minutes late from its schedule. The real reliability users actually care about and depend on

is whether the trains arrive at all for the various reasons that they don’t, including breaking down, and why the N-Judah route, which is the most heavily-traveled line, is clear- ly underserved with the number of (light rail) cars serving it?”

Cohn opined that better mainte- nance and system operations should instead be a priority as they are “low-cost or no-cost solutions.”

Local merchants and business owners are also troubled with the proposal, although their concerns tend to be more about congestion and the loss of parking spots.

David Zimmerman, president of the Inner Sunset Merchants Association and owner of the Blackthorn Tavern, complained about loss of parking on Irving Street from new inbound stops.

“I know San Francisco has a transit-first policy to get people into other forms of transit, but there are certain businesses in our neigh- borhood, such as the two pet hospi- tals, a hardware store, a post office, a lot of businesses that need these spaces. People need to be able to come in and out of these spaces, utilize them. Every single parking spot is desperate in this neighbor- hood.”

Yet the project does have its supporters.

Winston Parsons emphasized with the current situation, with peo- ple having to board the Muni train in the middle of the street.

“There’s a little sign all over the place that reminds people of the California Vehicle Code, that you’re supposed to stop and wait. The sign doesn’t physically stop a three-thousand-pound machine,” Parsons said. “Which is why I’m

really excited about these boarding bulbs. They’ll speed up boarding. It’s safer for people. And I think safety, the ability for people to get from point A to point B safely, is much more important than (saving) a parking spot or two, which I find hard to believe is the life blood of a neighborhood and community.

“A recent study on the Inner Sunset conducted by MTA showed that 50 percent of people that are on the street walk, 21 percent take Muni, 5 percent are on bikes and 22 percent are in cars,” said Parsons, pointing out that most people are walking. “So, the major- ity of people getting there are get- ting there on foot and, honestly, it’s already crowded on the sidewalks, so if we expand the sidewalks we get more people freely and more comfortably to the businesses around there. That’s going to gen- erate more income and business for them.”

San Francisco Supervisor Lon- don Breed is working on the effort.

“We have to balance the com- peting interests. Pedestrian safety and parking are clearly very impor- tant to the merchants, to the com- munity and to the neighbors,” said Conor Johnson, a legislative aide to SF Supervisor London Breed. “So, we’re bringing all those interests to the table and nobody is going to get everything they want. And I think it’s important that we broker a con- sensus that is safe, that improves transit, and that merchants and neighbors are happy with. I think we’re almost there.”

For diagrams of the proposed changes to the N-Judah streetcar line in the Sunset District, go to the website at

Categories: Sunset Beacon

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