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Arriving soon: Three-car N-Judah trains

More crowd relief is coming to one of San Francisco’s busiest Muni Metro lines this year in the form of a three-car train.

The first three brand new Muni trains will be deployed to the N-Judah line, allowing transit officials to add a three-car train to help add capacity to the line.

The N-Judah continues to have problems with crowded trains during the rush hour commute despite the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s efforts during the last five years to relief crowding, most recently with transit officials adding the N-Judah two-car train shuttle last fall.

John Haley, director of transit for the SFMTA, said while the train shuttle was well received by Muni riders, but crowding still remains a problem:

“It’s the workhorse line.”

He added:

“There’s always a need for more service on the line.”

By having the first three new vehicles on the N-Judah, Haley said he can now add a three-car N-Judah train to the line using either the new trains or the current Breda trains. Passengers can expect to see a three-car train in service by the fall and run through the entire N-Judah route.

New Muni Metro photo gallery

The first new train arrived last month the Muni Metro East Rail facility with testing already underway and the transit agency expects the second train  to arrive in the third week of February from Sacramento where Siemens Industry Inc. is building the new trains.

Muni riders would probably appreciate the extra trains as weekday average boardings on the N-Judah rose by 9 percent from 45,100 in 2008 to 49,100 in 2016, according a report from the SFMTA.

Testing the new trains will play an important role in how quickly the trains are ready for service and how well they perform inside the subway when integrated with the Automatic Train Control System also known as ATCS, said Haley.

The California Public Utilities Commission will also need to certify the trains for safety before the trains can launch for service.

Muni riders may actually see a first glimpse of the new train being tested on the street in about two weeks.

Haley said the SFMTA will have nine trains by the end of the year and a second three-car N-Judah train is definitely not out of the question.

There are also plans to separate the KT line and make the T-Third a two-car train as more new trains arrive.

Haley said the main problem on the KT line is the running time and the travel time:

“The KT line is painfully long.”

Haley said the plan for the KT line in 2018 is in preparation for the Central Subway, which will connect the T-Third line to Chinatown and open for service in 2019.

Average weekday boardings on the KT line are on the rise as well from 32,400 in 2008 to 42,500 in 2016.

When the T-Third was first introduced in 2007, delays inside the subway, specially at the Castro crossover switch, caused transit officials at the time to combine the two lines, said Haley.

A 2007 San Francisco Chronicle article reported about the delays at the time.

One concern Haley had of separating the lines is with how the K-Ingleside trains would add to the number trains switching back at the Embarcadero also known as the Muni Metro Turnback. Haley said the plan to separate the lines is still being worked on.

The SFMTA’s Board of Directors will hear Haley’s presentation at the board’s retreat meeting on Tuesday at the War Memorial Building inside the Green Room at 9 a.m.

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  1. Any updates on this?

  2. Darksoul SF says:

    Pointness keep funding N-Judah – Ridesr are not sacrificed regardless of improve made specifically for N Judah.

    Put money and improves on others train like J-Church, More on L-Taraval, K-Ingleside and M-Ocean View.

  3. If the K switch-backs at Embarcadero are a problem, why not make them switch back somewhere else, like Folsom or 4th & King?

  4. Wait, can the stops on the street-running segments of the N accommodate 3 car trains?

  5. What happened to double berthing?

  6. The reason the K and T lines were fused in the first place is that when the T line began service the turnback at Embarcadero couldn’t handle the volume, and severe congestion resulted. I don’t see what’s changed since then. The problem will remain until the T starts running on the Central Subway tracks instead of the Market Street Subway.

    1. The Embarcadero turnaround was also an issue when the extension to Caltrain opened as trains used the Embarcadero station to turn back. Who designed this crap? Oh, probably the same idiots who wanted to run the T under 3rd (IB) and 4th (OB) and then dog leg around Geary and Stockton with no connection to the Market St. subway.
      Once the CS opens, the question is whether the K will turn back at Embarcadero or continue along to 4th/King. Otherwise, expect reduced service along the Embarcadero surface line as only the N will run to Caltrain. Of course, Muni’s response would be to ask riders to transfer at Powell/Union Square…because so many people will want to walk a few blocks in a passageway to then descend 10 stories to wait for a 1-car T train to take them to Caltrain. Then again, this would be a moot point if Caltrain actually connected to the TTC…

      1. Michael Mathews says:

        I think T trains will be 2-car once the Central Subway opens. The J and K lines don’t really need 2-car capacity except in the subway. 1-car trains in the subway are horrible for efficiency.

        1. Central Subway is capable of only handling two car sets. However, that doesn’t mean that Muni will operate 2-car trains. Remember, we are dealing with Muni.

    2. DragonflyBeach says:

      I thought it was their inability to do a Castro turnaround, efficiently.

      1. You’re both right!

        When the T line opened it turned around at Castro, which creates something like a 30 second time when it blocked both tunnels crossing over and around 60 second minimum turn around time at Castro.

        The K was still operating as separate line, meaning 4 lines turned back at Embarcadero and 2 continued. And which lines turns back s also a factor because they also swapped where the J and the N turned back and discovered it took longer than expected to board a one-car J than a two-car N. (the new CEO at time inherited a real clustersmurf of an agency which was not prepared to operate a sixth line)

        Both Castro and Embarcadero were bottlenecks and fusing the lines solved the turn-back delays at both stations. The T is an extension of the K, so it took down the number of lines in the tunnel.

        Once the Central Subway opens, the default plan was to go back to the N-Judah, but that was really just a placeholder when the Central Subway was being planned and engineered.

        What’s changed in the meantime is ridership growth on the system, there’s been a lot of development along the waterfront and Caltrain ridership is up. Another question they need to answer is if going back to the N-Judah alone will provide frequent enough service along the Embarcadero?

        1. Michael Mathews says:

          The T trains are packed in the rush hour now, because people are going past 4th and King to jobs near UCSF. This morning at 7:30 a.m., there were no N trains in sight (prediction was 18 minutes when I got off at Powell to wait for either an N or a T) and the single car T was like Tokyo.

        2. I never trust those predictions.

          I leave Mission Bay early enough to avoid the evening rush, but it sounds like two-car T-line trains are next up after a three-car N-Judah.

          The first full group of 24 trains are intended for expansion, including enough for full-time two-car T-line service at Central Subway startup. The idea is to grow the fleet from 151 to 175 before they start retiring the existing trains, I don’t see the entire existing fleet lasting that long, but a lot more trains regardless.

        3. After the Central Subway opens, Muni should continue to run K trains to the 3rd/23rd St. turnaround which will provide service along the Embarcadero as well as UCSF/Warriors arena. The T should run from Chinatown to the end of the line in 2-car sets. If it turns out that there isn’t demand for 2-car sets from the turnaround to Vis Valley then switch it up…1-car K trains along the entire route and 2-car T trains from the turnaround to Chinatown.

        4. So… that’s a third big pinch-point, which combining the K/T didn’t help with. Whenever K/T trains turn from King to/from Fourth, it adds an extra phase to the signal lights which creates traffic congestion and delays rounding the intersection for both lines.

          The plan is for the E and N lines to cross the T perpendicular. That way lines can cross the intersection without forward moving traffic. The turn will still be used for getting trains in and out of the yard and running shuttle to Mission Bay trains during events at the Warriors Arena (the development approval requires they pay for traffic control to manage the intersection and pay for extra Muni service) using the same loop as Mission Bay Central Subway shuttles.

          The turn just south of 23rd is already in use pulling trains in and out of Metro East rail yard. There is a full loop if you trains run through the yard, it’s already in use moving trains around for maintenance and opens up the risk that a broken down train could stop K service.

          It’s nice to have more options, but simplicity helps operations. Let the Central Subway get off the ground, see how the Warriors shuttles go before taking it another step.

  7. Moving more people with an additional car is one thing. Moving people faster, in general, is another. As long as the surface routes stop every couple blocks and share the streets with traffic it will remain slow. A traffic light was recently installed at 18th/Judah which was supposed to help speed up the N line. Wrong. When I’ve been on it, trains now sit at the light at 18th and then again at 19th. No signal priority for the train operator. It adds another minute to my commute. It may not sound like much, considering a commute from the Sunset to downtown takes 35+ minutes, but the most heavily used light rail line in the city shouldn’t take this long. At the very least the N line should be underground from downtown to 19th Ave with stations every half mile (Duboce, Cole Valley, UCSF, 9th/Judah, 19th Ave.). There is plenty of complementary bus service nearby for local connections. Let’s move, folks.

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