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Keeping Streets Safe and Muni Resilient During El Niño

Monday, November 23, 2015

A pedestrian crosses a downtown street carrying a red umbrella while a Muni bus waits to finish its turn.
Last year's December rains were just a taste of what's in store this winter. Photo taken December 11, 2014.

El Niño is approaching fast, and while a season of rain might seem like a blessing for our parched state, severe storms can also present formidable challenges for getting around in San Francisco.

The SFMTA and our partner agencies are making preparations to help ensure we can all continue to travel safely and rely on resilient transit through the wet winter. In our agency-wide El Niño Preparation and Response Plan, we outlined the storm surge vulnerabilities of the city's Muni system, the street network, as well as the key steps our agency's various branches will take to prevent disruptions.

El Niño's fierce rain and winds – not seen since 1997 – will pose a challenge for Muni's sprawling network. To meet that challenge, we've aimed preventative measures against flooding in the subway system and our vehicle storage facilities, along with measures like thorough checks of equipment such as pumps and generators, as well as robust sandbag protection.

 Out on the streets, we're teaming up with Public Works to target tree trimming where overhead trolley wires are at risk of falling trees and branches damaged by the wind. We've also identified the most flood-prone streets, and while mitigating the impacts of the storms will be a top priority, we've crafted alternate plans for safe Muni service in preparation for the worst.

Of course, keeping our streets safe is paramount, especially as the risk of traffic collisions increases with wet pavement and low visibility. That's why we're taking measures to ensure that our teams Parking Control Officers, signal engineers and other essential personnel will be on hand to keep our street infrastructure in order and provide guidance for safe traffic flow.

El Niño is expected to bring an extensive downpour following years of drought, which means our city can't be too prepared for the impacts. As you make your way around the city this winter, especially when driving, be sure to slow down and take extra care to ensure everyone can make it home safely – and without headaches.

Don't forget to sign up for Muni Alerts by text or email to get the latest on any disruptions to your most frequently used routes or lines.