The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is making changes to the terminal of the N-Judah in the Outer Sunset neighborhood after the California Public Utilities Commission flagged the agency for safety concerns over trains colliding with motorists.
In a letter dated Nov. 30, 2022, from the CPUC to Melvyn Henry, the chief safety officer for the agency, the letter highlighted more than a dozen incidents between Muni trains and motorists at the intersection of Judah and La Playa streets, where outbound trains are temporarily stored until they loop back to pick up passengers at the first stop before continuing inbound.
Between 2019 and 2022, staff from the CPUC’s Rail Transit Safety Branch and Rail Crossings and Engineering Branch, there were 15 reported collisions between trains and motorists, including a train hitting an ambulance. The letter said the collision happened Sept. 27,2021 when the train began to move as a parked ambulance was near the tracks while the medical crew were responding to a person needing attention.
Part of the letter from the CPUC, which regulates safety at light rail crossings in the state, said:
“The CPUC staff considers storing a 2 car consist in an active four-way intersection a hazardous condition.”
Staff from the CPUC recommended the agency find an alternative location to store the trains, but the SFMTA has instead found another solution.
The SFMTA Board Directors approved the terminal safety improvements on Jan. 16, which include restricting left turns on northbound La Playa at Judah streets and westbound Judah at La Playa. Additionally, right turns will be prohibited on northbound Lower Great Highway at Judah Street and restrictions placed on left turns in the southbound direction.
Transportation planner Dustin White said the SFMTA will install delineators adjacent to the terminal to prevent vehicles from entering the area where the trains are stored.
In addition to the terminal changes, the board approved parking alignment changes on the northern side of the Lower Great Highway between Lincoln Way and Kirkham Street to prevent parking of oversized vehicles. The agency will convert parallel parking to angled parking as requested by Distrct 4 Supervisor Joel Engardio’s office and residents in the area.
Despite signage prohibiting oversized vehicles from parking on those three blocks, White said the signage is routinely ignored.
Ian James, a community engagement manager for Glide, said the parking changes will lead to the displacement of those living in their vehicles and that the changes “serve no safety functions.”
Engardio highlighted the popularity of the Outer Sunset neighborhood, including a shoutout in the New York Times, adding:
“The increased interest and attraction to the Outer Sunset and to the Great Highway Park means we need to ensure that our streets are safe and accessible so everyone can enjoy this part of San Francisco. This item addresses two very important issues that makes the NGO to turnaround much safer.”
White said the changes at the N-Judah terminal approved by the SFMTA board will still need approval from the CPUC. The SFMTA anticipate to implement quick-build improvements in March of this year.
Jerold serves as a reporter and San Francisco Bureau Chief for SFBay covering transportation and occasionally City Hall and the Mayor's Office in San Francisco. His work on transportation has been recognized by the San Francisco Press Club. Born and raised in San Francisco, he graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in journalism. Jerold previously wrote for the San Francisco Public Press, a nonprofit, noncommercial news organization. When not reporting, you can find Jerold taking Muni to check out new places to eat in the city.