Muni

SFMTA to Vote on Taraval Parking, Transit Stops

By Thomas K. Pendergast

 

Three light-rail train stops and 36 more parking spaces may be permanently removed from

Taraval Street, between 15th and 46th avenues, if the SF Municipal Transportation

Agency’s (SFMTA) board of directors approves a final plan for the L-Taraval streetcar line

at its Dec. 5 meeting.

 

The new plan comes after more than two years of debate and contention between

residents and local merchants on Taraval Street and Muni, plus a failed six-month “pilot”

program that explored the idea of putting in signage instead of boarding islands

in the middle of Taraval.

 

The addition of boarding islands at stops on the L-Taraval light rail line was a response to

improving passenger safety, after a study showed that 22 people were hit by cars over a

five-year period while stepping off the L-Taraval train and directly into traffic.

 

Proponents of the plan also say it will improve the “reliability” of the system and decrease

travel times along the transit corridor for Muni riders. Stops at Taraval and 17th and 35th

avenues, going eastbound, and 44th Avenue, in both directions, will be eliminated if the

proposed plan is approved.

 

Of the stops earmarked for removal, perhaps the most controversial is the eastbound stop

at 17th Avenue, which is within a half block of a Safeway market. The elimination of the

stop would add 11 parking spaces back onto Taraval, but some neighborhood activists say

the parking is not needed because the Safeway building has a parking lot on its roof.

 

“There is that parking lot there but there are other merchants besides the Safeway that

are in that area,” said Muni spokesperson Phillip Pierce. “It was actually approved to be

removed by the (Muni) board in September of 2016. The board asked for staff to look a

little bit more at this and come back with a recommendation.

 

“The main reason that it was recommended for removal is that it is too close to the 15th

and 19th avenue stops. It’s about 630 feet away from each of those stops, and the minimum

stop spacing is actually 900 feet, so it is well underneath that minimum. Obviously, the

fewer stops there are, the quicker the train is able to move and the more reliable service is,

meaning that it comes when it says it’s going to come; it comes more often; and it has a

better on-time performance, especially in mixed traffic.”

 

But for senior citizens and people with mobility issues, the extra blocks are worth saving.

 

“It’s very difficult for many seniors, people with disabilities, families with young children

and many other riders to have to walk two extra blocks,” said Paula Katz, a Sunset resident

who regularly uses both the 44th and 17th avenue stops. “It’s uphill, often, and out in the

Sunset it’s cold, it’s foggy, in the rain. Who wants to walk an extra two blocks? It saves Muni

maybe five, 10 or 15 seconds per stop, but it’s taking those people who lose their stop an

extra two, three, four, five minutes because they’ve got to get up, leave earlier and make

sure they have enough time to walk to their stop.”

 

Muni’s plan to add 15 new boarding islands along the L-Taraval streetcar line, which

originally included the removal of nine stops, was approved by the board on Sept. 20.

The plan includes transit-only lanes for streetcars in the two middle lanes of Taraval,

between 15th and 46th avenues.

 

Also at the Sept. 20 meeting, a six-month pilot program using only paint, signage and

flashing lights on trains at some, but not all, of the stops was also approved.

The pilot program was evaluated at the inbound 26th, 30th, 32nd, 35th and 40th avenue

stops, and the measure of success was whether or not the changes would get vehicle

drivers to stop safely and legally for customers boarding and disembarking from the trains

at least 90 percent of the time. The transit agency began collecting data last April.

 

The results were not what some had hoped, with an overall 74 percent compliance rate,

instead of the 90 percent target rate. Since the pilot program failed, according to Muni,

boarding islands will be installed at the pilot program locations, which will result in the

loss of 36 parking spaces along those areas of Taraval Street.

 

It is the loss of parking spaces that has Albert Chow most concerned, both as the owner of

the Great Wall Hardware store and leader of the People Of Parkside Sunset (POPS).

 

“We are really disappointed in the loss of the pilot program, because at least then we could

have saved some spaces. They’re looking to take away another 35 or so spaces in addition

to the 80 we already lost,” said Chow. “But I have to say … they didn’t really implement a

very strong pilot program. It wasn’t that noticeable on the street and the final version that

we had planned, if that pilot program had passed the experiment, would have been much

more enhanced than it is now on the roadway. So, we feel a little cheated on that,”

he added.

 

Chow said POPS is now advocating angled parking on some side streets off Taraval and to

perhaps remove some “unnecessary” red zones and bulb-outs to get some spaces back.

In spite of the fact that eliminating the inbound stop at 17th Avenue would give back 11

parking spaces, Chow said he does not think those are worth it, not at the expense of

local residents.

 

“If we lose the spaces at least the people will have a place to board the train because it’s a

big gap between 15th and 19th for someone with a lot of groceries,” he said. “On top of that

Safeway there is a full-sized parking lot on the roof. We would advocate, as merchants, that

we recover some parking on the side streets to help businesses that are on the other side of

Safeway. I think that stop is pretty important because almost everybody in the

neighborhood shops there.”

 

Pierce said the removal of the stops at 44th Avenue would restore 12 spaces back onto

Taraval Street, thus lowering the additional number of removed parking spaces to 24.

He said the new boarding islands planned make it easier for disabled people to board

because they will have wheelchair ramps at 19th Avenue, in both directions; 22nd Avenue,

eastbound; 23rd and 28th avenues, westbound; 30th Avenue, eastbound; plus Sunset

Boulevard and 42nd Avenue, in both directions.

 

He also mentioned that installing metered parking along some parts of Taraval would

help increase parking turnover, freeing up valuable parking spaces that might otherwise

be occupied by people who would use the spaces for many hours or days.

 

Katz was on a small committee of local citizens and Muni officials who worked together to

hammer out some of the details of the plan. She says the agency was not always

forthcoming.

 

“They refused to tell us exactly when they were starting the bus stop removal surveys or

stopping them, or when they would be out doing the surveys,” Katz said. “They refused to

tell us exactly when they would be doing the video-taping at 17th Avenue to observe

Safeway shoppers. They refused to tell us when they were starting the video-taping for the

pilot program.

 

“So, there were some things listened to about what we were saying and they were

responsive, and there were other things that they basically didn’t want to deal

with us about,” Katz said.

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