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SF Muni Board Meeting: Taraval Improvement Project Meets Resistance

Attending a board meeting that discusses issues from how the Geary BRT will be implemented to hearing residents’ pleas to reopen bus stops is essential in assessing the next steps in reshaping one of San Francisco’s most critical issues: transportation. However, going even deeper into meeting people and understanding how a large city’s bureaucracy works truly motivates me to go into even more meetings like the one I attended today so that I can figure out how I can finally start my long career as a transportation planner and discover how much work I need to do to convince city, state, and federal leaders to act and do the right things for our infrastructure and mobility.
A multitude of issues have been covered, including the upcoming BART closure between Daly City and Glen Park for multiple weekends, a proposal to extend the F-Market streetcar line to Fort Mason, and a long public comment section regarding “improving Taraval Street — or not”. The Board discussed the upcoming closures of BART tracks between Daly City and Glen Park stations from late July to October for a total of seven weekends. Mr. Reiskin said that substitute services will be available, including SamTrans express shuttles between Daly City and Glen Park, and San Francisco Muni doing localized service which includes Balboa Park Station. This will mean longer commutes for many commuters, but the goal will be the same for throughout the BART network: a safer, more reliable ride. It seems that in special circumstances like this, San Francisco Muni is willing to lend a helping hand to bring passengers around the closure, especially that a good chunk of BART’s ridership comes from passengers traveling within, to, and from San Francisco.
The public comment portion of the meeting was riddled with complements and complaints, such that much of the discussions I heard in the meeting were focused on two upcoming projects. The proposal to extend the F-Market and Wharves streetcar line to Fort Mason has been received with encouragement that at least one respondent mentioned that it will help connect the underserved tourist attraction to Downtown and Fisherman’s Wharf. Moreover, another respondent said that it will improve public transportation access to the neighborhood by luring in even more visitors to the area and give residents an alternative to the 30-Stockton bus line. And since that the planning has been in the works since 1980, it seems that the project is a hybrid collaborative project, in which the Arts Community and the Market Street Railway are supportive in making this endeavor possible. If it were me, I would highly support that project to the point that, where possible, find a way to extend it west to the Presidio Transit Center so that tourists can have a one-seat service, on board a historic streetcar, between Market Street and the Presidio. And by the way, I hope the streetcar extension will also mean balancing out the split mode between buses and the streetcar, although part of the route will be single-tracked due to the width of the tunnel under Fort Mason linking Beach Street and Marina Green.
Perhaps the most interesting section of the meeting was when a respondent told the board about San Francisco Muni reducing stops along Taraval Street as part of the L-Taraval Rapid Improvement Project, in which it was met with community opposition. A group that is opposed to the project has garnered around 1,600 signatories so far, in which they voiced their concerns regarding the reduction of six stops along Taraval and Ulloa Streets. As part of Muni Forward, this project is aimed at improving speed and reliability on that corridor; however, at least three residents have been adamant to the upcoming changes, such that business owners will be affected greatly by such actions. Save Our L-Taraval stops mentions that six stops between West Portal and SF Zoo will be eliminated, including Taraval and 17th, Taraval and 21st/22nd, and Ulloa and 15th, among others. Speeding up service on Taraval would, as the public says, only save them 3 minutes; not to mention, if the stops at 17th and 21st will be removed, it could increase the risk of accidents occurring on Taraval and 19th Avenue, one of the line’s busiest stops. And the vociferous opposition has continued as at least ten speakers have poured their concerns on the Taraval Rapid Project. Even one respondent said Muni designs stops by complaints rather than by guidelines, which means that negotiations between the government and the people can be edgy, especially when we talk about accessibility for seniors and the handicapped. I will cover this issue in detail on another post so that I can examine the problem and provide ideas for the community so that Muni can reconsider their plans to improve Taraval Street without sacrificing accessibility.

In Addition

A lot of the public comments have been focused on addressing the commuter shuttle stop at Dolores Park, in which a few respondents requested the Board to restore service to the area. One respondent said that he has to walk several blocks to get to his stop on Valencia Street instead of walking closer to Dolores Street and take the commuter shuttle to his work, while another resident said that the area along Dolores Street near the Park is suitable for regular commuter shuttle service, saying that it serves a lot more residents better than keeping all services along Valencia Street. If it were me, I would route the shuttle along 18th Street with the 33-Ashbury, place stops on Dolores Street, Church Street, and Castro Street, and restrict such services to 40-footer buses and smaller only so that conflicts between residents and the planning agency can be lessened. If, however, Muni plans to restore stops along Dolores Street, I’d take it with caution, especially the gradient of Dolores Street south of the park can be steep to place accessible bus stops, and that it is roughly two blocks away from the J-Church light rail which can provide alternate service.
Paul Peterson has been a transit supervisor for the past 39 years, in which he has announced his retirement from San Francisco Muni. He has served in the cable car and motor coach divisions for which he has trained thousands of drivers over the years, and he has been grateful for the service he has done for the City and County of San Francisco, from transit operator to one of the key transit supervisors for Muni. Most of all, he is thankful for the wonderful work Muni has given him in his long tenure, such that he started his career as receiving over 300 new trolleybuses and the fare was 25 cents, to a point that he trained 1,000 new drivers in the past five years.A handicapped
I also ran into the Bell Ringing champion, Leonard Oates, which is an amazing encounter. I heard his sample bell ringing, which I found utterly fantastic hearing his championship piece in action.

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