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Muni sets fresh goals after 450 hours of subway delays in January

San Francisco transit officials have set lofty goals to measure the success of how the subway is performing.

In her first monthly report, Julie Kirschbaum, acting director of transit at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, laid out plans and metrics to improve Muni Metro service as riders continue to experience delays inside the subway and long waits to arrive at station platforms.

Transit officials are aiming to reduce total transit delay time by 10 percent, having four or fewer delays lasting 20 minutes each month, and reducing the time it takes to turnaround trains at Embarcadero station by an average of five minutes or less.

Kirschbaum reported that there were a total of 15,000 minutes of delays, or about 250 hours, inside the subway for month of January during the morning peak period in the direction heading towards downtown. In the outbound direction during the evening peak period, there was a total of 12,000 minutes of delays.

There has been some improvement, especially at bottleneck areas at West Portal Station, where the K-Ingleside, L-Taraval and M-Ocean View enter and leave the subway.

The transit agency added two parking control officers near West Portal Station to help with traffic and pedestrian movement so that trains can get in and out of the station faster.

Kirschbaum said this will allow inspectors to confidently move trains safely with the help of the parking control officers.

Inspectors are also working on using a local control panel where an inspector can manually control the train signal to help with subway congestion.

West Portal has already seen a 40 percent reduction in delays, Kirschbaum.

To prevent further delays of trains entering and leaving West Portal Station, Malcolm Heinicke, who chairs the SFMTA board, wanted staff to further look into restricting vehicle movement in the area.

The Embarcadero turnaround is still a “work in progress,” said Kirschbaum.

She said a number of different things can cause delays in turning trains around, including what may not seem as a big impact. For example, operators having conversations with other operators during a shift change or to relief another operator can lead to a delay.

Kirschbaum said:

“The boots on the ground to need adopt more of a Nascar pit, type urgency is what I think is really going to take to starting trains more quickly at Embarcadero.”

This month has already seen a number of subway delays, including a vehicle breakdown on the N-Judah route that lasted longer than it should have on Feb. 4, a broken switch at Castro Station on Feb. 5, and a computer failure that disconnected trains from the automated train control system in the subway, last Thursday.

Tuesday night was no different in the subway with delays and heavy congestion during the evening commute.

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