Noe Valley Voice April 2011

Muni Looks at Ways to Speed Up the J-Church

By Corrie M. Anders 

Here’s one quick and inexpensive solution to help the J-Church line run faster in Noe Valley: convert four-way traffic stops into two-way stops at four intersections along Church Street between 25th and Day streets.

City transit officials offered that strategy, which would give streetcars and other vehicles smoother sailing along a busy stretch of Church Street, at a March 28 public hearing at City Hall.

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener requested the hearing to press transit officials on why service on the J-line has been so erratic in recent years.

John Haley, director of transportation for San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), presented a number of strategies to improve service for the nearly 15,000 passengers who ride the J-Church each day.

They included fine-tuning train schedules, cracking down on double-parked cars, and removing stop signs to improve the flow of street traffic.

Allowing streetcars to proceed without stopping for side traffic at Day, Cesar Chavez, 26th, and 25th streets would help reduce travel time, Haley said. Installing traffic signals at those specific intersections in the future would be beneficial as well, he said.

Haley also proposed the consolidation of two streetcar stops along 30th Street—the ones near Church and Dolores streets.

Trains currently run 9 to 13 minutes apart on the line. Haley told Wiener the agency could establish a regular schedule of 10-minute intervals, which would lessen confusion and give riders a better sense of when to expect the trains.

During the morning and afternoon rush hours, double-parking on Church is a particular impediment between 24th and 30th streets. Vigorous enforcement against violators would definitely improve service, Haley said.

The J-Church takes approximately 36 minutes to run its 6.7-mile route from the Financial District, through Noe Valley and Glen Park, to the Balboa Park terminus.

Haley reported that the line has an on-time performance rate of 76.8 percent—5 percent better than the overall average for streetcars.

During a six-month period ending in March, Muni accounted for 38 delays of 10 minutes or more on the J-Church—caused by disabled rail vehicles. Non-Muni problems caused another 20 such delays—the majority of them resulting from cars on or near the tracks.

Haley said the SFMTA might set up a pilot project to determine the feasibility of the agency’s ideas. Any changes would require further public meetings and final SFMTA approval to implement.

Wiener said he was “pleased” with the immediate and long-range proposals. The supervisor said he would work with the agency to make sure that “people have a predictable source of public transportation.”

The hearing before the Board of Supervisors’ Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee attracted a dozen speakers, including seven students from Mission High School.

Aaron Thomas, 15, a 10th-grade student, said he leaves his home at 29th and Diamond streets at 7 a.m. in order to catch the J to make his first class at 8:10 a.m.

“The last J-Church I can take and not be late is 7:30,” he said. Like the other students, Thomas complained that tardy streetcars several times had caused him to arrive after the start of his class at Mission High, at 18th and Dolores streets.