J Church Transfer Improvements Project - Fall 2020
Expanding Subway Capacity
As traffic congestion returns, the SFMTA is working to protect San Franciscans who continue to rely on Muni to get to work and essential appointments during this pandemic. If just a fraction of the people riding transit before the crisis begin driving alone, traffic congestion will be so severe that it could paralyze the city’s economic recovery. Without action, transit-dependent San Franciscans will bear the costs of traffic congestion, like an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 on slower, more crowded buses and trains. The J Church, which was suspended along with all other Muni Metro lines in March, returned on August 22nd (currently as a bus substitution). Once we are able to put Metro rail back in service it will free up buses currently in use for the L, M, N and T to serve additional routes and improve frequencies systemwide.
As rail service is restored following its temporary suspension under the Core Service Plan, the SFMTA is proposing to increase capacity in the subway by readjusting which train lines enter the tunnels. Creating an improved transfer point between the J Church and Church Station at Church and Market and keeping that line out of the tunnel will allow the J Church to circulate more reliably and frequently and will improve the ability of transit riders throughout the entire Muni system to get to and from downtown.
Improving Transfers to the Subway
To improve a key transfer point on the J Church, beginning August 22, 2020, the SFMTA installed a temporary emergency transit zone and restricted through-traffic on Church Street between Market and 15th streets. The project was designed so that the J Church would run as a surface-only rail line between Balboa Park and Church Street just south of Market Street. At that point, customers travelling downtown would connect to the Church Street Muni Metro subway station.
Due to the unforeseen shutdown of all Muni Metro rail service, the J Church was replaced with a bus substitution beginning August 24th, 2020. The substitution bus followed a similar route to the new rail configuration.
In its initial phase, J Church passengers used the platform on Church just south of Market as both the last inbound stop and first outbound stop. The improvements also accommodated commercial loading, the ongoing operation of the 22 Fillmore, and the option for local businesses to use curbside space for commercial purposes, such as dining and shopping. This project is part of the SFMTA’s broader COVID-19 transportation recovery plan and is designed to reduce crowding and travel times.
The project originally called for J Church rail service to be extended from Market Street to Duboce Avenue once new accessible platforms are added on Church at Duboce (northbound) and at Market (southbound). After feedback from neighbors, merchants, and riders, the J Church bus route was extended from Market Street to Duboce Avenue while rail service is suspended. It is expected that the necessary accessibility improvements will be in place by the time Muni Metro rail service is restored, so J Church trains will also extend to Duboce Avenue when they return.
The J Church was chosen to remain out of the Muni Metro subway because of surface-level route constraints which limit the line to one car trains. By turning back the J Church before it enters the subway we can ensure that more two-car and three-car trains are able to maximize the capacity of our subway system. In addition, by traveling a shorter surface route, the J Church will save travel time allowing for increased frequency, which increases the total capacity of the J Church line. This will help to reduce crowding and support social distancing on-board.
Accessibility and Safety Improvements Beginning August 22, 2020
To assist Muni customers transferring between the J Church and the Market Street transportation for the duration of this temporary service plan, through traffic was prohibited on Church Street between Market and 15th streets and the curb lanes on both the east and west sides of Church Street were designated as pedestrian safety zones with no vehicular traffic. Local traffic is still permitted, such as delivery services, commercial loading, and resident access.
With the unforeseen need to substitute bus service for rail, we are evaluating all aspects of this implementation to determine if additional changes are warranted.
Accessibility and Safety Improvements When Rail Returns
When J Church rail service is restored, Duboce Avenue will continue to serve as the final inbound stop. To support this, the following changes will occur:
(1) a new temporary accessible platform will be added to the boarding island on Church Street south of Duboce Avenue next to Safeway
(2) a new temporary boarding zone and accessible platform will be added on Church Street south of Market to serve as an outbound stop (replacing the stop north of Market Street, which is not wheelchair-accessible)
Safety and accessibility highlights - Winter 2020/2021
The SFMTA may adjust the precise configuration in this area over time based on detailed design and engineering to enhance accessibility and transit efficiency . Turn restrictions may be implemented in some locations. Commercial loading and access to private driveways on Church between Market and 15th streets will be maintained.
Community Meeting and Public Comment
The J Transfer Improvements project held a public hearing on Saturday, July 25, 2020, at 11:00 AM for proposed street changes at the intersection of Church and Market Streets.
A recording of that meeting is available on this web page. All comments were reviewed by project staff and entered into the public record. These changes have been authorized by order of the City Traffic Engineer and will be reviewed at the SFMTA Board of Directors Meeting on September 15th, where additional public comments on the project will be heard.
Implementation and Sunset Date
If approved, the temporary transit zones would be installed in late summer and will be striped only with white paint, making them easily reversable. The transit zone will automatically be removed after the emergency order is lifted, unless there is a public process to make the transit zone permanent.
Outreach and Evaluation
The urgent nature of this emergency calls for putting temporary measures into place immediately. This approach allows the city to respond quickly to protect public health and support economic recovery while we work with the community to evaluate and adjust the design of this project in real time. Areas of evaluation will include:
- Health and safety benefits
- Economic health
- Neighborhood impacts and equity
- Transit performance
- Traffic safety
Community-based organizations, stakeholders and neighbors will be involved in shaping the process for evaluating and adjusting the design of this project. Based on public feedback and ongoing, on-the-ground data monitoring of the transfer zone changes, we can adjust our operations meet the needs of the community and Muni customers. Both qualitative and quantitative data will be collected after implementation and will inform any changes needed and whether permanent approval of the transfer zone should be pursued.
We want your feedback
Once the temporary transfer zone is installed, we need your input to help evaluate it. When you sign up to receive project updates, you will receive a link to a community feedback survey via email or text shortly after the transfer zone is installed.