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Major Muni Meltdown In Progress...AGAIN....

You have got to be kidding me.

I put off turning on the machine for an hour or so, and suddenly on Twitter I read up on a derailment at West Portal (again) and a J-Church/car collision this morning. Reports from our friends indicate the bus replacements for the KLM are insufficient, and that owner/riders are being told that the KLM lines are ending at Van Ness.

Twitter friend @wirelesschunk posted this picture of the chaos at West Portal, and this one as well. Twitterer @albertpoon got a shot of one of the (few) replacement buses.

This isn't the only report we're getting, Twitter friends @tangobaby reported problems with the N this morning and @soleilune reports the N was terminating at Hillway (!) for some unknown reason.

Wow.

Right about now is when I'd insert a "wouldn't it be great if we had a Mayor" wisecrack, but we all know Mayor Newsom has checked out. The problem is, NO ONE is in charge, and NO ONE is paying attention, and the result is you are going to see your Fast Passes and fares go up, and see not only service cut back, but see this kind of disaster on a weekly basis. To which I can only say WTF?

I'll be keeping an eye on Twitter, you can always send me a message at @njudah or email any on the scene pics to gregdewar@gmail.com .

Comments

For those who depend on Muni to get to their job and earn a living, start making alternate plans as the slow meltdown continues. Keep your car if you have one. Consider backup commute ideas such as walking, biking, or carpooling for inevitable Muni fails. It's not going to get any better in 2010.

The derailment was actually not at West Portal but (from the looks of it on sfmunicentral) right on top of the switch for the surface connection just past Castro, on the outbound track. It looks like they're turning outbound trains at Castro. Hypothetically, if the subway could support 4 car trains, they could have coupled up pairs of LL and MM trains and sent them through on the single track in waves, 2 or 3 at a time, hopefully leaving a bit of space for return trains, the rest of which would have to accumulate on the east end, or come back via the J. Such a service plan would probably be a pain to recover from, but it would at least get people to work.

It looks like I was lucky enough that my M train made it through the tunnel this morning. I saw the derailed L train between Castro and Forest Hill station. The driver looked to be getting out of the operating booth, which to me seems like that the train had just derailed. There was a bunch of hazy smoke in the tunnel behind where the L train was stopped that cleared up a little ways before my M train entered Castro station. Glad no one was injured, also glad I was early enough that I wasn't delayed in getting downtown!

Yeah, for all the worry I had, this morning on the N was the Clusterfuck Run I was expecting yesterday. Slower than molasses (and packed!) from where I got on at 22nd Avenue all the way down to Montgomery.

@joel: many people were saying that this morning. I'm on "vacation" so I didn't have to use it today, and it just seemed odd that it would be so bad today, given that the rail work finally got done...

@jeff: true enough. The problem is that there is not nearly enough room on the streets to add tons of more cars, and there certainly isn't enough parking to fit everyone who leaves Muni for a car. The City needs to get its shit together and stop pretending that either a) Santa Claus will come down and save us and b) talking about federal laws it can't override is more important that Muni.

@mouse Eh, there are a lot of things that could be done better. BART manages to single track if need be, and they've got a much more "primitive" train control system. If you're watching the MUNI screen shots, surely you've noticed that central control is asleep at the wheel... and letting the few trains that are actually in the metro bunch up mercilessly.

@greg That the MTA hasn't come up with a contingency plan yet is amazing to me. It's not like they've closed the subway from Castro to West Portal for maintenance before...

I'm kinda surprised this sort of thing hasn't happened sooner. I've only seen a handful of instances of negligent maintenance, but what's caught my attention has been enough to send shivers up my spine. I hope/wonder if the NTSB will weigh in on this...

According to the latest info from sfgate, the derailment damaged some bits of the signal system (transmission wires? the switch itself, perhaps), and "there is no estimate on when service could be restored", which does not bode well for the evening commute, and possibly not even for tomorrow morning. I really do wish they'd come up with some way to keep things running anyway. If the track itself isn't damaged and it's just the ATCS that is bad, they might even be able to run some kind of reduced service if they institute absolute block between Castro and Forest Hill or something.

I'm puzzled by the requirement for the shuttle buses to follow the stop list (West Portal / Forest Hill / Castro / etc.). Has Muni ever tested running shuttles from West Portal to Ninth + Judah with expanded N-Judah service ? That would seem to require the least number of shuttle buses due to a faster turn-around. Plus there would be less wear and tear on the buses due to the shorter and milder hills.

(Of course the above may be too out-of-the-box for Muni.)

More on the N-Judah / S-Shuttle concept :
I did a bit of tinkering with Mapquest (sucks) and Google Maps (slow but smarter). Mapquest routed me via Woodside-Portola-Market (south side of Twin Peaks). Google went Clarendon-Twin Peaks-Clayton-17th-Douglass-Market (north side of Twin Peaks).

Runs :
WP to 9th+Judah] just under two miles (2- mis.);
WP to Castro Stn.] three-plus miles (3+ mis.);
WP to Van Ness Stn.] about four-and-a-half miles (~4.5 mis.).

Co-ordinates :
9th Ave. and Judah St., 94122
West Portal Stn. - Ulloa St. and West Portal Ave., 94127
Forest Hill Stn. - 390 Laguna Honda Blvd., 94116
Castro Stn. - 17th St. and Castro St., 94114
Van Ness Stn. - Van Ness Ave. and Market St., 94102

The problem with going to 9th and Judah is that now you're running the N way over capacity, and any disruption brings everything crashing down very, very quickly. Considering the general reliability of street running and the whole mess at Church and Duboce, I wouldn't be very comfortable with the idea of putting all the service on that. Also, I don't know what the capacity constraints are in terms of street running, the Sunset Tunnel, and the Duboce portal. By the way, here's where the TEP proposal of extending the 6 to West Portal would come in handy for getting people to 9th and Judah, or even all the way downtown in cases like this. The only problem then would be getting enough buses deployed quickly in case of a disruption.

How strong are the LRV cars ?

Can the present equipment support three or four car consists ?

I know that sections of the system impose a limit of one car due to platform length and others are limited to two cars. The Market Street Subway platforms seem to have enough length for either a pair of two-car consists or a four-car consist. I also know that our present cars are mid-size by global standards. At least one system in Europe is running cars that are about 50% longer than ours.

Re : #6 + TEP
This looks like there might be a need to electrify Masonic from Haight to Balboa (?). Then trolley coaches from the Masonic + Geary Yard could make the run over to West Portal Stn. fairly quickly. The distance from the #6's present terminus to West Portal is surprisingly short.

#6 TEP extension :
Three blocks on 14th Ave;
Several blocks on Taraval St;
Turn onto Claremont Blvd.;
Down the hill to Ulloa St.;
Turn into West Portal Stn.;
Return via Wawona St. (Lenox Way is narrow and the turn is too tight).

The capacity to run four car trains definitely has nothing to do with how "strong" the cars are in any possible sense: they're MUs, so that just doesn't matter. I believe the problem was that the Bredas take much more power than the Boeings did, and thus having more than two in a train would trip circuit breakers at the substation. I don't know if the wire replacement project addressed this, but it would be nice if it did. There's also an issue with Forest Hill not being able to accommodate a four-car train of Bredas, which wasn't a problem with Boeings due to the latter not being able to use the front doors at high platforms. There might also be issues with the ATCS system if, for example, it's picky about having the odometer calibration match between cars, that would make it more difficult to run longer trains and impossible to couple arbitrary trains together.

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