Sunset Beacon

Transit Plans Re-engineered for L-Taraval Route

By Liz Fedak

Route changes totaling between $15 million to $20 mil- lion are in the future for the Muni light rail route that runs along the Taraval corridor. Proposals for the route were revealed to the

public on March 4 by the San Francisco Municipal Transport- ation Authority (SFMTA) as part of its Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP).

Britt Tanner, manager of tran- sit engineering for SFMTA, explained that the TEP, which

began in 2006, was the first real look at Muni. The TEP aims for a “rapid network,” and so there are several Travel Time Reduction Proposals (TTRPs) – engineering strategies developed to reduce delays that vehicles encounter in rapid routes – which

target specific problems along Taraval.

The meeting was the first time that SFMTA came to the public about the L-Taraval. Among SFTMA representatives at the meeting was lead engineer and Sunset resident Robert Lim, a junior engineer with SFMTA.

“It’s personal. I want it to be great,” Lim said.

Although still early in the planning stages, the eventual blueprint will include a reduction in stops, potential substitution of new stops and a boarding experi- ence makeover.

The ideas were presented on 10 posters around a community room at Congregation B’Nai Emunah, 3595 Taraval St., and included the construction of  boarding islands, pedestrian bulb-outs, traffic chokers, speed humps, new transit lanes and traffic signals at new and existing route stops.

Some citizens felt as though the meeting should have been publicized more, but they were excited at the prospect for improvements.

Sean Kennedy, MTA’s project manager, explained that there will be more notice given for meetings in the summer and fall, but that it was just an initial pub- lic meeting.

“It’s hard to get people too excited for ideas and proposals,” Kennedy said.

The SFMTA staff added that the numbers of attendees matched their anticipated out- come, with about 40 arriving throughout the evening.

They opened the planning process to public input due to the March release of TEP’s Final Environmental Impact Report, which included some proposals for the L-Taraval route.

Katie Havercamp, a con- cerned Muni rider and member of the Citizens Advisory Committee, was upset that she did not receive notification of the meeting.

“I pay attention but for people who don’t, they don’t know about this,” Havercamp said. Still, Havercamp explained that she was glad the L-Taraval was being addressed.

“It feels like the forgotten line; the red-headed step child,” she said.

Havercamp attended the meet- ing in part because she envisions a route that is safer for riders in the future.

“Boarding is terrifying. I saw someone who got hit at 19th

Avenue,” Havercamp said. “I want people to stop being injured. There should be no one dying in my neighborhood.”

Rider injuries are a real issue among Muni riders.

Between 2006 – 2011, there were 13 boarding-related injuries and 38 pedestrian-related colli- sions along the entire L-Taraval corridor.

“It’s worse than scary,” Tanner said in describing the boarding process for the light rail.

The goal is to make the route safer and more reliable by mak- ing it quicker and thereby getting trains into rotation more often.

Of the 28,000 daily riders that board the L-Taraval between 46th Avenue and the Embarcadero, about 9,000 board- ings occur in the 2.7-mile Taraval corridor, which stretches between the West Portal Station and SF Zoo.

Tanner explained that the meeting was intended specifical- ly for feedback from the public on ideas so the SFMTA can move forward in planning with consideration of what riders want.

“Nothing is glaringly terrible – which is a compliment for the MTA,” Havercamp said of the early proposals.

Some people chose to write comments on sticky notes, which they attached to the posters. A wide variety of thoughts were posted, including: “Yes, I would walk one to two more blocks;” “8 a.m. today I waited for four trains before there was enough space to stand. How can we get more trains?;” “Cars don’t know not to pass the train when it stops to let riders off … so dangerous;” and “You’ll be eliminating my stop.”

Feedback from the meeting at

Congregation B’Nai Emunah will factor into future planning for the L-Taraval line.

“We have some ideas, but we don’t know which ones make the most sense,” Tanner said.

Route changes may not be completed until 2018. The four- year wait is because there are many merchants along the route, and so the plan also has to evalu- ate what impact it will have on businesses, not just on boarding convenience.

As well, the changes are not yet funded.

Kennedy explained that the MTA Finance Department hopes to procure a general obligation bond from the City to fund the project. The funds could be approved or denied in a November bond vote.

Havercamp, who takes the bus to and from work, advocates for Muni to be the priority in street planning for the Taraval corridor.

“If we have to sacrifice some personal vehicle space – so be it,” Havercamp said.

Kennedy explained that the plans will give buses and trains priority. There may be some parking spot losses, although the goal is to keep the losses close to zero. Part of the planning will include extensive outreach to businesses and people who will be affected at each intersection.

Planners say over the next four to six months plans will be redefined to reflect the choices and values provided through community input, and then pre- sented to businesses for the next stages of development.

All of the posters from the meeting can be viewed at the website dar/meetings/l-taraval-travel- time-reduction-proposals-tep- community-meeting.

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