N-Judah express bus service set to start in June
UPDATE 8:45 p.m. May 20, 2011: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has delayed a decision on where to place a layover area for buses as part of the express bus service that will supplement Muni’s N-Judah streetcar line.
According to an email sent Friday afternoon from the office of Supervisor Carmen Chu, who represents the outer Sunset District, the SFMTA is considering a layover area on the west side of the Lower Great Highway from Judah Street to 240 feet north of that intersection. But the Sustainable Streets Division of the SFMTA wants more time to consider alternatives and the impact on the surrounding neighborhood. — Ocean Beach Bulletin
Muni N-Judah riders may soon get some relief during their morning and evening commute home. A six-month pilot project to run an express bus between Ocean Beach and the Financial District will begin on June 13.
With 38,000 daily boardings, the agency says the N-Judah is the most used and crowded of all the rail lines. Complaints have been coming in to the transit agency from passengers who are not able to even board the N-Judah during peak hours, according to the agency.
“We have to look at other ways to manage to the existing service better, but also address critical needs. This one is a critical need that has been building for months,” said John Haley, director of transit operations.
Gerald Cauthen, once a Muni chief project manager and co-founder of SaveMuni.com, a rider advocacy group, said the express bus will help out some passengers, but not enough.
“This is just putting a bandage over the problem when management should be looking how on fixing the existing N-Judah line,” said Cauthen. “I’m not sure why they can’t add more vehicles to the line.”
Haley said there were no additional light-rail vehicles available to add to the N-Judah because of the number of vehicles that still need maintenance. He said it’s not likely that number of light-rail vehicles will increase in the next few months, but said the agency has available the buses needed for the express line. A total of 15 buses will be used for the route, including two to three more buses on reserve.
The agency currently has a total of 151 light-rail vehicles, 33 of the those vehicles are used for the N-Judah, according to the transit agency.
In an earlier story on the aging of the Muni fleet, Haley said there are usually 10 light-rail vehicles out of service for major rehabilitation, and eight inoperable and undergoing repairs.
Muni Spokesman Paul Rose said even if all the trains were fixed today and added to the N-Judah line, it will would not improve the headway time of seven minutes.
The six-month pilot project will operate on weekdays during peak morning and evening hours making stops between Ocean Beach and 19th Avenue and Judah Street in the morning before heading to Montgomery and Bush streets.
In the reverse direction, the express bus will start at Sansome and Sutter streets and will make stops between 19th Avenue and Judah Street and Ocean Beach during the evening commute.
Haley also said that this was a supplement to the already exiting N-Judah and that no light-rail vehicles will be taken out of the N-Judah during the express bus hours.
Supervisor Carmen Chu, who has the N-Judah travel along her district, said rider complaints and data from the transit agency have shown that there has been a huge need to improve service along the line.
She also said the express bus is just not benefiting Outer Sunset Muni passengers, but also for passengers who catch the N-Judah farther out of the Sunset District.
“We’re able to alleviate some of the pressures along the line and going to be able to pick up additional passengers on the Carl and Cole area,” said Chu.
Resident and owner of Java Beach Cafe near Ocean Beach, Buffy Maguire, said she is in favor of improvements on the line, but has concerns on how the express bus will impact the entire route.
“It’s not just going to impact the entire Ocean Beach area, but also the entire N-Judah route. People are used the trains running on the streets and now buses will be added, which will add more congestion to the streets,” said Maguire.
The pilot project will cost the agency $800,000. The funds for the pilot project will come from the agency’s service planning budget.
N-Judah Express Route Information:
Morning: First bus leaves Ocean Beach at 6:30 a.m. Last bus leaves at 9 a.m. Total of 11 stops between 48th Avenue and 19th Avenue and Judah Street. Last stop at Bush and Montgomery.
Evening: First leaves Sansome and Sutter streets at 4 p.m. Last bus leaves at 6:30 p.m. Total of 11 stops between 19th Avenue and Judah Street and 48th Avenue.
The terminal at Ocean Beach has yet to be finalized. One proposal includes removing 12 parking spaces on the Great Highway to park the buses during operating hours but Haley said nothing is set yet. He said the buses have more flexibility to where they could be placed compared to light-rail vehicles. Residents can attend a hearing set for May 20 on City Hall, Room 416 at 10 a.m. to discuss the proposed bus terminal.
This article previously appeared on Jerrold Chinn’s Daily Dose of SF blog. Republished with permission.