San Francisco Muni ends switchbacks on rail line

Posted on April 10, 2019

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and city officials said they are ending switchbacks on its T Third Line. The effort aims to establish equitable and reliable transportation to the southeast sector of San Francisco, as part of the agency’s Equity Strategy.

The Muni Service Equity Strategy is an ongoing effort to improve service performance in eight Equity Strategy neighborhoods.

A switchback occurs when a Muni rail line changes directions in the middle of a scheduled run. This usually occurs to address service gaps throughout the system to provide more balanced service across the city. However, given the inconvenience it causes for people who have to off-board the switching train, the SFMTA committed to a new policy to minimalize and prevent such switchbacks on the T Third line. Muni customers in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood have raised concerns about switchbacks and the difficulties associated with having to disembark from a train and wait for another one to transport them to their destination.

“Ending switchbacks on the T Third Line is a good step towards achieving equitable transit service in San Francisco,” said Mayor London Breed. “Our residents rely on our public transit every day to drop their kids off at school, get to work and run errands. We not only need to end switchbacks, we need to do more to invest in our transportation infrastructure so that our trains and buses are consistently on-time and reliable.”

To accommodate the elimination of switchbacks on the T Third Line, the SFMTA will:

  • Provide updated schedules with more accurate travel times, because switchbacks, historically, were needed to get service back on schedule.
  • Integrate rail service controllers into the modern Transportation Management Center, allowing for better management of the entire system.
  • Have a train on standby along the route to slot in and fill in any gaps in service.
  • Regularly management review of long wait times and other performance data to address performance issues.
  • Continue to improve subway service, which can create longer wait times for service above ground.

By eliminating switchbacks along Third Street, T-line riders can expect trains with destination signs indicating “Sunnydale,” to go all the way to the end of the line. The result will be a better, more predictable trip for customers headed southeast.

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