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UPDATED: Supervisor Carmen Chu to Hold Hearing on Unannounced Turnarounds on the N-Judah and L-Taraval Lines Monday, Jan. 10th!

Yes, you read that right. Supervisor Carmen Chu is holding a hearing as chair of the Board's City Operations & Neighborhood Services Committee to ask the perennial question all riders of the N-Judah and the L-Taraval ask - why the frak does Muni insist on dumping people out at 19th Avenue outbound with no prior warning?

The hearing will be held on Monday, January 10th at 10:30am in Room 250 in City Hall. Because it's during working hours, many people are likely to not be able to attend (I will try but I may have a conference call for work at the same time). Naturally, SFMTA boss Nathaniel Ford won't be there, but John Haley, Director of Transit, will be, to listen and get a talking to from the supervisors.

Now, let's be clear, this issue has been talked about for a long time, and so far, every time we get the MTA bosses to make promises, and nothing happens. For fun shall we review a few past posts?

2007: Reader Mail from Eve Batey (then of the Chronicle, now of the SF Appeal) , Reader Mail from N Rider Jeff, Follow Up to Jeff's Complaint, How a Bad N Judah Line Hurts the Poor, Yet Another Reader Mail complaint, Big Promises Made to Assemblymember Fiona Ma and the Sunset District Neighborhood Coalition (via Reader Mail), More Big Promises Broadcast In the Press

2008: After All Those Promises of Firings, The Turnarounds Continue, And Continue

2009: Reader Warren's Complaints about the Same Operator Doing Turnarounds

You get the idea. This doesn't even include the bazillions of Tweets made by frustrated commuters over the years.

Now, telling tales of how this kind of unreliability is a royal pain in the ass is important, so that perhaps someone at the MTA or Muni might have a Grinch-like heart-growing experience and decide to do something for a change. It goes almost without saying how traumatic this kind of unreliability is for seniors or the disabled living on the west side - but let's face it everyone relying on Muni on the westside is screwed in one way or another and it's unacceptable, period.

Just as important, however, is demanding very specific dates and promises of what will be done to fix the problem once and for all, and what the MTA and Muni need to do so.

Recall that in 2006 at a town hall meeting, Nathaniel Ford made promises to fix the 9th/Irving & 9th/Judah signaling problems that were endangering people. Soon afterward, in 2007, the MTA quietly backed off their promises. It wasn't until a woman had her legs cut off by a train in 2008 that the SFCTA stepped in to pick up the slack and build a system to try and prevent this.

Because the timing of this meeting means you may not be able to attend, I would urge you to please email Supervisor Chu (and CC your own supervisor if you don't live in District 4 since these kinds of FAILs can affect people on all Metro lines) and describe in brief how these turnarounds affect you, and demand that the MTA commit to producing an action plan with specifics. You should also CC your comments to the SFMTA, and/or hit them on Twitter at @sfmta_muni now, and every time they screw up, in the hopes they might one day listen.

There's no magical solution to all of this, but it's time the MTA and Muni be told what to do by the owner/riders, and demand specifics as to what they will do (not plan to do) to fix them. We've talked too much about this already - playtime is over, it's a new year, and it's time to do something.

Comments

Greg,
I think it's actually called "short turn". In my experience on the L they typically do this when another L is chasing within a few blocks. It's frustrating, but then, I'm fine so long the turned around train hustles back into rush hour to get people out of downtown. As far as announcements go - most times the short turns are being announced, in my experience anyway. I chalk up the rest to Muni's ESL problem. This isn't Minnesota after all...
More annoying to me is the scenario when they run up Taraval empty ("going out of service") when they could pick up riders on the way to West Portal and further out to the Green yard.
To management's credit, recently the track down at the end of Taraval has been blocked off so trains wouldn't linger down there and rather run in service instead, or so I hope.

It is very frustrating that they schedule these meetings during the day and at a physical location. Hopefully someone can go and livetweet.

Greg, I find it most frustrating when I am on a half full N Muni and we are dumped at 19th, then the next 2 trains do the same thing. Last time, I was left standing I the sun with groceries for over 30 minutes until they were taking us thru. There were approximately 50 of us there by then. Some had walked, some had taken cabs, and some had gone to Lincoln to find a bus. Also, due to the delay, and the police onboard, I had to tag my pass again, and due to multiple stops made earlier, now I had to pay again. I can understand a switchback when you have a light load and a new train going thru in a few minutes, but I have seen this multiple switchback at 19th several times now, and it is getting old.

On the "N", I rarely recall another train being near but I recall a lot of promises to that effect. If two trains are running close together then, of course, people understand the necessity for an occcaional turnaround. The simple reality is that all who ride the N have experienced being dumped, without warning or consideration. And often, the dumping occurs at night, in the damp and the fog. I am old #70s# and can still walk but a 15 block slog on a dark, foggy night is just wrong!!!

To mitigate the impact of significant delays, specific actions have to be taken to re-balance the lines to assure that service is returned to normal. The most efficient way to do this is to utilize an industry standard of turning trains short of the end of the line at a location where there is the least impact to our customers. In fact, less than one half of one percent of riders on the N, L, and M are affected by this action. While this may have some impact on a very few customers at the end of the line, it helps to provide timely service for the rest of the system, including customers in that same community continuing in the opposite direction. Also, a train is not turned unless there is a train behind in close proximity - less than five minutes - to accommodate the displaced customers.

Going forward, the SFMTA will be taking the following actions to minimize the impact of switchbacks on customers:
o Ensuring vehicle destination signs display the correct final destination for the train;
o Operator will make announcements en route to advise customers of the switchback destinations and location of the following train;
o If possible, establish the switchback prior to departure from Embarcadero Station, so that platform signs, on-board announcements and LRV signs display the correct information of the final destination.
o Immediate implementation of a standby train at the N Judah and L Taraval outer terminals to fill gaps in service and reduce the need to turn back trains at Sunset Boulevard.

Finally, it is true that Mr. Ford did make a commitment to fix the 9th/Irving and 9th/Judah signaling issues and made good on that promise when the SFMTA implemented the improvements the following year.

Paul Rose
SFMTA

Thanks for posting. It's nice to see you as a PR rep for Muni and the MTA posting here (even if my calls don't ever get returned).

However, a few corrections:

1. We are NOT "customers." Using this terminology demeans the people who use Muni. Muni is owned by the citizens of San Francisco and its original charter made sure to point out that its purpose was to be operated for the benefit of the people vs private corporations who operate on behalf of stockholders.

When you call us "customers" you are essentially downgrading us to that of people paying to use a service owned by a private corporation. We are the people the system is to be operated on behalf of, we are the priority, not upper managent, not employee unions and not contactors.

2. I stand by the timeline. It was in 2006 the commitment was made to fix the 9th/Irving+9th/Judah intersections. It was in early 2007 that I was told by my Supervisor that the MTA had backed off its commitment, and it was in 2008, after a tragic accident, that the SFCTA put up the money and got the plan going to find a fix to the problems there. I stand by my research.

3. Your belittling of the problems caused by the turnarounds ("While this may have some impact on a very few customers at the end of the line") indicates the contempt Muni management has for the owner/rider. I dare you to tell a senior citizen, a disabled person, or a mom with little kids who has to walk 25 blocks home that they are just a "few" people inconvenienced by Muni's inability to manage the fleet. More to the point - if this wasn't such a problem, why is it that every year I hear more complaints from Muni owners instead of less?

4. To suggest this practice somehow makes things better for riders, particularly on the N, is laughable given the frequency of tunnel failures these days.

5. As for the "plan" - we have been hearing this for years, which pre-date your arrival to the agency. The fact that Supervisor Chu felt a need to call a hearing, after years of "promises" and "plans " the MTA and Muni have never abided by indicates this. Until we see this happening, it's just words. I'm more than happy to reserve judgement, but understand that after being told over and over again something's changing and things get worse, I'm more than a bit gunshy of believing whatever the MTA says.

Thanks again for your comments. You are always welcome to post and it is appreciated. And I am happy to respond to your concerns as well. In the future, it would help if once in a while I could get some heads up on what Muni and the MTA is up to, and I'm more than happy to report on successes at Muni. After all, while we don't always agree on everything, we all want the best Muni SF deserves.

@Paul Rose. Thank you for replying. While short turns are an industry standard, there are different ways to implement them. The rider respectful method is to bring the following (sadly often mythical in Muni's case) train up to effect a real transfer so that NO ONE is left standing in the fog. Then the second train can honestly turn back without cheating any of the riders.
These turnbacks would be unnecessary if Muni implemented dynamic resequencing of outbound trains @ Embarcadero. As you approach MOU negotiations, the specifications for LRV service need to be changed. The runs should be posted as hours of work, route NOT specified. With that, the "premium" now incurred for a route change is moot. Next,remind ALL operators that running OOS/No Passengers on pull ins is a rule violation which will no longer be ignored. The bottom line here is that present policy is NOT acceptable, and MUST be made more rider useful.

One aspect of "short turns" that I'm not clear on is, do the headsigns on the trains that are turning back indicate this? The statement from the Muni rep would imply that sometimes they don't. In the old days, the PCC's would have roll sign indications such as "N Judah to 30th", or "L Taraval to 35th", so prospective riders wouldn't expect to go the whole route. Historical note: The old Market Street Ry. Co. (ran many of the trolley lines up until 1944) had a strict discipline policy for streetcar crews who didn't display correct route and destination signs.

@ Bob Davis. It is my understanding that a majority of these short turns are NOT properly signed, but are declared "on the fly". The correct signage issue went in the toilet with the increasingly dysfunctional Boeings. Assuring correct signage has not recovered.
As a result, riders board based on signage claiming full route, and find out only at the short turn point that they have been(at best) misled.

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