Friday, June 01, 2007

Notes on the N-Judah Line in San Francisco

Notes on the N-Judah Line in San Francisco

We already have a transitway in the San Francisco Bay Area very
similar to the BRT transitway proposed for Telegraph Avenue in
Berkeley and Oakland, and it works very well.

I rode on the N-Judah line in San Francisco from the Van Ness station
at Market out to 46th Avenue at noon on Wednesday, May 30. The
N-Judah stops at UCSF Medical Center and ends at Ocean Beach.

For most of the route along Irving St from Irving and 2nd to 9th
Avenue, along 9th Ave from Irving to Judah, and along Judah from 9th
and Judah to 46th Avenue, the tracks occupy the two center lanes and
there is one car lane in each direction. Judah Street is six lanes
wide, as is Irving Street. There is parking on both sides of the
street. At the streetcar stops, there were generally sidewalk height
boarding platforms a lane in width which required the replacement of
the parking lane with a traffic lane to allow cars to pass.

There is no local service on this route.

There are white diamonds painted on the asphalt between the tracks
every so often - the same as the symbols on HOV lanes on the freeway.
I asked the conductor what the diamond symbols meant, but he didn't
know. Cars turning left pulled into the streetcar lane to make the
turn. The conductor said that sometimes during rush hour cars would
get in the way, and that he would like to see better enforcement.

Between 8th and 19th Ave I noticed one sign that said 'Keep off
Trackway' and another one that read 'Keep off Raised Trackway.'
The signs were posted on light poles on the sidewalk.

A white line was painted on the street to the right of the tracks to
demarcate the streetcar lane.

There were ramps for loading wheelchairs about every third or fourth
stop. I spoke to someone in a non-motorized wheelchair who told me
that he was able to roll downhill to most of his destinations. He
would plan ahead to make sure that he got off at a stop that had a
wheelchair ramp and was located uphill from his destination.

One of the stops of this line is at UCSF on Irving between 6th Avenue
and Arguello. Needless to say, there is a wheelchair ramp at this stop.

At most of the stops platforms are sidewalk-height, and to enter the
car required climbing up two steps. At a few of the stops waiting
passengers stood on the street - there was no platform.

Stops were placed every third block. According to Julie Kirschbaum,
Senior Transportation Planner at the San Francisco County
Transportation Authority, stop spacing on the N-Judah is 1000 - 1200 ft.

I rode the line at noon on a weekday, and traffic was light. The
steetcar was half full. I'd taken a previous trip on the N-Judah
on a Saturday afternoon about a month ago, and again,
there were no congestion problems. It would be useful
to know what's it like during a Friday rush hour.

One interesting feature occurs shortly after leaving the West Portal
tunnel entrance (which leads to the underground along Market): the
streetcar stops at the curb when making a turn at Carl and Cole Sts.
Between the exit from the tunnel that goes under Buena Vista Park till
Stanyan (I think) the streetcar is running on a street with one lane
in each direction and a parking lane on either side of the street, so
it is actually running in the traffic. This goes on for two or three

I was particularly interested in seeing what kind of development had
taken place along the corridor. There are two, three, and four story
buildings. There was a new-looking 4-story building at the corner of
7th and Irving with shops below and either apartments or condos above.
By and large the neighborhood along the Judah corridor looked old and
well-established. There was no sign of any mega-development. The
buildings are reasonably well-maintained.

While not exactly the same as the Telegraph Corridor, the Judah
corridor may be somewhat representative of what we'll see on Telegraph
Ave if the 'Combined' BRT is built. It looks functionally equivalent
to the 'Combined' BRT proposal for Telegraph, since there is no local
bus service and the stops are three blocks apart.

A delegation from the Willard and LeConte Neighborhood Associations
should take a ride on the N-Judah. I think they would be reassured
about the impacts of a BRT on Telegraph.

Len Conly



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