In January, the L-Taraval corridor between West Portal and the San Francisco Zoo will see six major changes, the first implementation of Muni Forward’s Vision Zero plan to protect pedestrians and transit riders in the area.
The changes include the beginning of painted boarding zones, the establishment of “clear zones,” transit-only lanes, and painted safety zones at sidewalk corners.
Two of the most controversial changes—the removal of both stops (to improve transit time) and parking spaces (to make way for boarding islands)—will also be coming to the corridor in early 2017.
The changes come three months after the SFMTA Board of Directors approved changes to the L-Taraval corridor between West Portal and the Zoo back in September, as part of the city’s Vision Zero plan.
Transit riders are currently forced to step into the street, and oncoming traffic, as they board the L-Taraval. The area has had 46 pedestrian collisions over the last five years, with 22 people hit while boarding or disembarking from the light rail, leading the city to designate it as a high-injury corridor.
"As an agency, it is our responsibility to design streets as safely as possible," said SFMTA director Gwyneth Borden at the time. "We just saw that horrible accident where a tree fell on a woman. The question is, did the city do its job? ... We don't want to take the risk that someone becomes paralyzed—or worse, dies—because we want to save some parking spaces."
Here’s what residents can expect:
Clear Zones Installed At 8 Intersections
As a transitional solution for transit riders before full boarding islands are built in 2018, SFMTA will install “clear zones” at eight intersections. These will have street markings to create an area between traffic lanes and the light rail lane for passengers to disembark safely.
However, the clear zone is not meant to be a waiting area for transit riders, says SFMTA. Instead, transit riders should continue to wait on the sidewalk.
The clear zones will be installed at the following intersections:
- Eastbound and westbound: 19th, 42nd and 44th avenues
- Westbound only (north side): 26th, 30th, 32nd, 40th and 46th avenues
Safety Zones Installed On 6 Street Intersections
Similar to the clear zones, safety zones are another transitional solution before sidewalk bulb-outs are installed. Meant to make pedestrians crossing intersections more visible to drivers, these painted safety zones extend sidewalk corners and will be protected from traffic with the addition of soft-hit posts.
Painted safety zones will be installed at: Taraval at 20th, 21st, 22nd, 24th, 33rd and 38th avenues.
6-Month Boarding Zone Pilot Launched
As the installation of boarding islands requires the removal of parking spaces, some residents were vocally opposed to the measure. One solution that arose from community feedback was the creation of a boarding zone pilot that would not require parking space removal.
The boarding zone pilot includes painted street markings to delineate boarding areas, signage on the back of trains and along the street, and an education campaign.
The criteria for success is a 90 percent compliance rate from drivers in stopping for passengers as they embark and disembark on the Muni light rail, and no accidents or injuries. Currently, compliance is only at 72 percent.
SFMTA has been firm in stating that if the success criteria are not met during the pilot, boarding islands will be installed in 2018.
Painted boarding zone locations: Taraval at 26th, 30th, 32nd, 35th and 40th avenues.
Transit-Only Lanes Installed
Taraval will also see transit-only lanes installed, and drivers will only be able to pass or make left turns. The lanes will also be painted red at the end of the construction project.
The installation of transit-only lanes has been controversial in other parts of San Francisco—in particular, the Mission Street corridor. Merchants believe that reduced parking and forced right turns drove business down after the installation of the lanes, eventually leading to a compromise between the neighborhood and the SFMTA.
One major difference between Mission Street and Taraval Street is that Taraval sees much less traffic. "Our studies found that traffic volumes on Taraval are well below the lanes’ capacity," says the SFMTA. "However, to address concerns about traffic congestion, we plan to measure the traffic impact of the lane conversions for a year to identify any necessary adjustments."
Service Discontinued at 8 Stops
On February 25th, some residents will need to walk further to catch the L-Taraval, as certain stops will be removed to improve service time between the SF Zoo and West Portal. “We will make the distances between L stops similar to those on lines like the N-Judah,” said the SFMTA.
One stop still under consideration is the eastbound 17th Avenue stop—the "Safeway stop"—used by many in the area who buy groceries at the supermarket. Community members were strongly in favor of keeping the stop, and at the hearing in September, the SFMTA Board of Directors decided to reinvestigate.
Stops removed are:
- Both eastbound and westbound: Taraval at 28th Avenue, Ulloa at 15th Avenue
- Eastbound only: Taraval at 24th Avenue
- Westbound only: Taraval at 17th, 22nd and 35th avenues
Removal of Parking Spaces
To make way for the clear zones, some parking spaces will be removed along the corridor and parking meters installed to encourage turnover. To see the full list, visit the SFMTA's website.
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