Update on the ill-conceived M line plan

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All that expensive tunneling (in green) to serve only the east edge of the Development?? A shuttle bus to a depressed Holloway Station would serve many more people and be much cheaper.

Some time back SaveMuni posted an article entitled: “A Roundup of Recent SFMTA Mistakes.” Mistake No. III describes the ill-conceived 19th Avenue/M-Line tear-up.

Despite the absurdity of this project, the SFCTA and SFMTA are ploughing ahead, pointing to a $70 million “contribution” from the developer of the Park Merced Project as justification for spending between $1.2 and $2.0 billion of the taxpayers’ money to put the Muni M-Line in a subway along the west side of 19th Avenue in order to facilitate a tunneled detour a short way into the Parkmerced Development.

Apparently realizing how outlandish it sounds to spend all that money to attract a few dozen additional Park Merced riders a day, the SFCTA now seeks to add luster to the project by contending that it will bring about an increase in the carrying-capacity of the Market Street subway. What the SFCTA is carefully not saying is that the needed increase in the capacity of the Market Street subway can be accomplished without in the process screwing up 19th Avenue and the M-Line. With respect to the 19th Avenue/M-Line tear-up, here are some of the questions in need of answers:

a.) Instead of going to the enormous expense of rerouting the M-Line, why not simply depress the Holloway Avenue Station at its existing location in front of SF State College and so as to provide ample storage space for bicycles as well as safe, below-grade pedestrian access from the East as well as the West?

b.) Under what circumstances does a developer’s “contribution” of $70 million justify a low-return public expenditure of between $1.2 billion and $2.0 billion?

c.) Instead of acquiescing to the demands of the Park Merced Developer, why not improve service on the K-Line as well as the M-Line by depressing both lines at the southwest end of West Portal Avenue and proceeding under the 13-phase St. Francis Circle intersection, to the Juniper Serra median in the case of the K, and via a depressed trackway to the 19th Avenue median in the case of the M? All K and M line riders, including those living in Park Merced, would benefit from this change.

Instead of abandoning the valuable 19th Avenue transit median the focus should be on:

a.) Correcting the egregious error made in the mid-1990s by returning the peak-period carrying-capacity of the Market Street subway to what it was before the unfortunate cuts were made. By alleviating the excessive peak period crowding that now deters many people from using the subway, this would attract tens of thousands additional riders a day to the subway system, thereby easing traffic congestion in San Francisco.

b.) Eliminating the major additional impediment to reliable K and M line service that exists because of the 13-phase St. Francis Circle Intersection. This additional improvement could be accomplished by depressing Lines K and M between the southwest end of West Portal Avenue and the medians of Junipero Serra and 19th Avenue respectively.

A Further M-Line Update: January 24, 2016

The SFCTA and now SFMTA continue to devote staff and consultant time to changing the M-Line.   This is puzzling.   Making the Holoway Station safe and convenient is one thing; changing the entire southwest end of the line is something else again.

Our skepticism notwithstanding, two of the worst elements of the original proposal have recently been discarded.  The SFMTA has dropped the idea of tearing up the west side of 19th Avenue and is now planning to keep the M-Line in (or under) the median of 19th Avenue, as it should be.  A big improvement.  And they’ve also blessedly thought  better of the proposal to send LRV’s over Junipera Serra Boulevard on a viaduct.   These improvements have come partly because those involved in the project have shown an unusual willingness to listen to and consider new ideas.  This openness gives reason for hope that there will be further improvements.  Liz Brisson, SFMTA’s knowledgeable M-Line Project Manager, will update SaveMuni on the latest M-Line and Muni Metro thinking at its forthcoming meeting on February 15th, (5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Turk/Fillmore Police Station).

No matter how these end-of-the-M Line changes evolve they will not increase substantially increase today’s M-Line ridership.  Of far greater long-range importance to San Francisco is the long delayed Caltrain extension into downtown San Francisco.  When Caltrain is up and running in the new Transbay Transit Center, the extended commuter rail service is expected to take a serious bite out of the hundreds of thousands of cars that pour daily into San Francisco from the South.  If on the other hand, current trends continue, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) projects that 253,000 cars will be pouring across the San Mateo County line into San Francisco by 2035.  San Francisco waits for its government to get its priorities straight and deal with the most serious problems first.

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