Problems persist with drivers attempting to enter Muni tunnels


It keeps happening, again and again.

On the night of Sept. 25, an unauthorized vehicle entered the Sunset Tunnel near Carl and Cole streets around 7:37 p.m. The N-Judah was delayed until about 9:28 p.m., according an incident report from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Bus shuttles supported the N-Judah during the delay.

Hoodline reports that San Francisco police arrested the driver for driving under the influence.

Incidents like these are not uncommon for the transit agency. According incident report from the SFMTA, a vehicle on Aug.19 stalled at the entrance of the Sunset Tunnel blocking the N-Judah from 5:40 a.m. to 6: 42 a.m.

The SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said since 2010, the transit agency reported 22 incidents of unauthorized vehicles blocking or entering the Sunset Tunnel.

No data was available on how many drivers have entered or attempted to enter the Duboce Tunnel, which is where the N-Judah and J-Church get into Muni’s underground subway.

Despite the lack of data, that tunnel too has been the scene of incidents of drivers attempting to enter the tunnel.

Rose said the transit agency put up new “DO NOT ENTER” electronic signs this year near Carl and Cole Streets to dissuade drivers from entering the Sunset Tunnel. Electronic signs at intersection of Church Street and Duboce Avenue were put up by the transit agency in 2011, said Rose:

“We’re always looking for ways to deter and prevent autos from entering the tunnel.”

Speed bumps are present on both entrances of the Sunset Tunnel and at the Duboce Tunnel.

The bumps help change the feel of the road to hint at the motorist that they should not drive on this part of road, but it still did not stop the motorist from entering the tunnel during the incident on Sept. 25.

The transit agency does close the gates late at night once trains stop running to prevent motorists from entering the tunnel in the middle of the might, but the incident on Sept. 25 happened during when N-Judah trains were still running.

When an incident happens like the one on Sept. 25, there is a protocol that the transit agency follows. First, a number of transit agency staff including a supervisor and the rail track department, are called to the scene. A tow company and the police department are also contacted.

Rose said the supervisor assesses the situation and the track department inspects the track for damage and aids in moving the vehicle. The tow company removes the vehicle and the police department assists with any other issues and cites the driver.

The incident on Sept. 25 occured with an N-Judah train already inside the Sunset Tunnel, so Muni riders were assisted in getting of the train.

Twitter users came up with some ideas to prevent these incidents from happening again including spike strips and bollards that move down as a train arrives and then move back up to block vehicles:

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay and covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a San Francisco native and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Follow Jerold on Twitter @jerold_chinn. Email tips to

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