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Up for Approval: Making Taraval Safer and Better for Muni Riders

Friday, September 16, 2016

People in the roadway on Taraval Street board and alight from a stopped Muni train.
Our proposed improvements would provide safer boarding areas at L Taraval stops where Muni customers must step into a traffic lane.

Update: The SFMTA Board of Directors approved the L Taraval Rapid Project and the striped boarding zone pilot. The Board directed SFMTA staff to further evaluate preservation of the inbound stop at Taraval and 17th Avenue, which was proposed for removal.

The L Taraval is unique to Muni — it’s the only line in our system where, at most stops, customers must board and alight their vehicle in a live lane of traffic.

Taraval Street is on track for a major upgrade that will result in a safer street and faster, more reliable Muni service. Over the last year, we’ve worked closely with the community to shape proposed changes that address some of the major problems Taraval faces – particularly safety for people walking and boarding Muni trains.

The proposals for the L Taraval Rapid Project are up for approval by the SFMTA Board of Directors on Tuesday. These changes are all part of a much-needed rehabilitation on Taraval that will replace infrastructure like the worn rails, overhead wires, sewers as well as repave the entire street. This overhaul will reduce Muni breakdowns and make the streets smoother and quieter to ride and drive.

But most importantly, adding boarding islands would provide the 30,000 daily riders on the L Taraval the standard of safety and comfort expected on streets throughout the rest of our Muni Metro system.

In just five years, 46 people were hit by a vehicle on Taraval, 22 of whom were getting on or off a Muni train. This puts Taraval on San Francisco’s High-Injury Network — the 12 percent of streets where over 70 percent of injury collisions occur.

A map of reported injury collisions to riders boarding or alighting the L Taraval from 2009 to 2013.
A map of reported injury collisions to riders boarding or alighting the L Taraval  from 2009 to 2013. More details are available in this image.

The L Taraval Rapid Project, part of our Muni Forward and Vision Zero efforts, would bring these improvements starting in 2018:

  • Safer boardings: New boarding islands and striped areas (pilot) as well as wheelchair-accessible platforms
  • Safer crossings: New corner bulb-outs (sidewalk extensions) and curb ramps
  • Faster, more reliable Muni service: New transit-only lanes, traffic signals with Transit Signal Priority and better stop spacing for a faster trip

These proposals were shaped with valuable community input through open houses and meetings with community groups, schools and organizations in the area, online surveys and a walking tour. We also mailed and hand-delivered materials to thousands to notify residents and businesses about the project.

Let’s walk through the proposed changes.

Improvements Proposed on Taraval Street

An existing wheelchair-accessible boarding platform on Taraval at 22nd Avenue.
An existing wheelchair-accessible boarding platform on Taraval at 22nd Avenue.

New Muni Boarding Islands

Residents deserve a safe and comfortable place to board and alight from Muni trains. Transit boarding islands are the standard for Muni and transit systems around the globe where trains load in the middle of the street.

We’ve proposed boarding islands at surface stops for the L Taraval because they’ve been effective at preventing injuries at the two stops on Taraval Street that have them. In fact, during the same five-year period noted above, there were no recorded collisions involving people getting on or off a Muni train at a stop with a boarding island anywhere in San Francisco.

Boarding island locations

  • Outbound only (towards the SF Zoo): Taraval at 26th, 30th, 32nd, 40th and 46th avenues
  • Inbound and outbound: Taraval at 19th, 42nd and 44th avenues

In addition, painted clear zones (.pdf) – striped areas on the pavement to divert traffic away from trains at stops – would be installed at these locations as an interim safety measure before the boarding islands are constructed.

New wheelchair-accessible platforms would be installed on Taraval at 19th, 28th/30th and 42nd avenues.

Striped Boarding Zone Pilot Areas

In response to concerns about parking removal in front of businesses, five stop locations on Taraval would be part of a pilot project (.pdf) to evaluate different approaches to preventing injuries before boarding islands are installed.

Installing boarding islands requires conversion of some parking spaces to a traffic lane. Although our proposal would replace all parking spaces by adding angled parking on nearby streets, we heard requests to evaluate different approaches that don’t require parking removal in front of businesses.

A rendering showing pilot safety measures to be evaluated at five locations on Taraval.
A rendering showing pilot safety measures to be evaluated at five locations on Taraval.

Under the six-month pilot, we will test alternative safety measures at five inbound stops on Taraval between 26th and 40th avenues. These locations were chosen because no Muni riders were hit there during the five-year study period, and very few riders use them to get off the train.

The pilot will test the effectiveness of painted street markings, improved signage and new flashing beacons on Muni trains in getting drivers to stop behind loading trains. The pilot will also be paired with an education and enforcement campaign.

Currently, only 65 percent of drivers stop. If the pilot measures fail to increase that rate to 90 percent, or if anyone is injured at any pilot location, boarding islands will be installed at these locations by default.

Parking Mitigation

As we install these crucial safety measures, our proposed plan would replace all parking spaces (.pdf) removed within one block of Taraval by adding angled parking on side streets. We would also manage the parking spaces on side streets nearest to Taraval to encourage turnover.

Safer, Transit-Friendly Traffic Signals

To make intersections safer and reduce delays for Muni customers, five traffic signals would be installed in the commercial core of Taraval between 17th and 28th avenues. The signals would come with Transit Signal Priority, which allows them to detect Muni trains and turn (or stay) green.

While this proposal originally included six additional signals, we heard from many residents that they were not necessary in the quieter areas of western Taraval.

Muni Stop Changes: Bringing L Stop Spacing Up to Speed

Stops on the L Taraval are closer together than most Muni lines, which results in a slower trip. To help get L riders where they’re going on time, we would remove closely spaced stops on Taraval to align the distances more closely with those on lines like the N Judah.

Chart showing the average distance between stops on the L Taraval (existing and proposed) compared with the N Judah, 5 Fulton and 38 Geary.
Average distance between stops on the L Taraval (existing and proposed) compared with the N Judah, 5 Fulton and 38 Geary. The red dotted line shows the SFMTA’s standard minimum for stop distance.

Under the proposal, we would remove four inbound stops and five outbound stops (.pdf) on Taraval between 15th and 35th avenues. Although we had originally proposed to remove 14 of the 40 surface stops, we preserved more stops based on community feedback.

We would also move the inbound stop at 15th Avenue at Taraval around the corner onto Taraval and install a transit bulb-out.

Transit-Only Lanes

To improve L service even more, center track lanes of Taraval would be converted to transit-only lanes. Left turns would be permitted at most intersections.

We heard community concerns about resulting traffic congestion if traffic lanes on Taraval are reduced from four to two. While our studies found that traffic volumes on Taraval are only about half of the maximum capacity by federal standards, and excess road capacity can encourage speeding, we plan to evaluate the traffic impact of the lane conversions for a year. Red paint wouldn’t be added during the evaluation period.

Pedestrian Bulb-Outs

We’ve also proposed pedestrian bulb-outs (corner sidewalk extensions) on Taraval at 20th, 21st, 22nd, 24th, 33rd and 38th avenues to increase visibility and shorten the crossing distance.

Originally, we had proposed pedestrian refuge islands to help calm traffic at 33rd and 38th, but in response to community feedback we’re going with bulb-outs.

We appreciate all of the great input we’ve received during this process. It has been instrumental in shaping the final proposal, ensuring it helps keep people safe, gets people where they’re going, and brings a better Taraval Street for everyone.

Let us know what you think – you can speak at the SFMTA Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday during the public comment period, email the board at MTABoard@sfmta.com, or email us at muniforward@sfmta.com.