Undergrounding the M Streetcar

By Glenn Rogers, PLA :westsideobserver – excerpt

Both the old and new M streetcar alignments avoid a stop at the Senior Center located at the Temple Methodist Church. It is inappropriate to foster a care facility in San Francisco, have the public depend on that center’s care, then abandon the center by no longer providing public transportation for seniors and the disabled.”

This new reconfiguration of the M streetcar going underground is an improvement over the previous plan, where staff was directed to provide an elevated solution. With both M and K streetcars going underground, it removes congestion at the St. Francis Circle and the Ocean Avenue crossing. The M line is improved with elimination of the 19th Ave. crossing beside Stonestown, and the crossing over Junipero Serra would be improved dramatically by an underground route. Instead of a one streetcar track, which is present today and part of the old solution, there would be two streetcar tracks going in either direction. A streetcar would make grade, emerging from underground, at Randolph St. where the road widens…

Where the new M streetcar fails:

Where the new alignment fails in its analysis is that it ends the M streetcar at Parkmerced, where a J streetcar receives passengers moving into the Oceanview district. The opportunity for less service into Oceanview is likely since it is not a well-connected neighborhood. Both the old and new M streetcar alignments avoid a stop at the Senior Center located at the Temple Methodist Church. It is inappropriate to foster a care facility in San Francisco, have the public depend on that center’s care, then abandon the center by no longer providing public transportation for seniors and the disabled. Presently there is a stop at Beverly Street where the senior center is located. Service to this center should be demanded by the neighborhood. Additionally, the stop at the existing Lakeside business districts is considered optional. The elimination of this stop could have a dramatic effect on the existing businesses there. Most important, the J streetcar traveling downtown could just change its sign from J to M at the Parkmerced station instead of having passengers leave the streetcar and find new seating on the M streetcar. In returning home, if this same procedure could occur, it would improve J ridership dramatically. The Parkmerced project was always been about providing more market rate housing for the City tax coffers. This plan to treat J streetcar riders as second class citizens needs to be brought to the attention of the City and SFMTA.

Why the new M streetcar line is better:

In my opinion, this underground solution was necessary because the 18,000 new residents of Parkmerced would appear to be poorly served by the transportation provided by the past plan. The past plan had no solution for the St. Francis Circle congestion, which would be both difficult for traffic and the M and K streetcars alike. In the old plan, there was only one track going each way, this new design has two. With only one track in the old plan, this could lead to lines of streetcars going downtown, one after the other. The first car picking up passengers and the second one trailing behind empty. Then, the elevated track over the Junipero Serra/19th Ave. exchange would have had numerous failings. First, the noise created in an elevated platform would have been hard to ameliorate, causing blight in at least two nearby Towers by the noisy streetcar regularly passing by. Today, the plan is to have the streetcar land on the narrow part of Randolph Street (39′-6″ wide). This would leave 11′-6″ for two rows of parking and for two lanes of cars to pass each other, obviously, not nearly enough space for either activity. Therefore, the plan with the ramp ending at 19th Avenue, near Randolph St., is the preferred plan between these two.

Oceanview’s difficulties:

Other hardships the Oceanview neighborhood has endured in the past has been Highway 280 providing an impassable barrier along its southern border. The entrances into the neighborhood have been minimized by traffic engineers more interested in traffic flow than economic opportunity for the residents. Many parts of the Oceanview neighborhood were designed with super blocks that are 3 to 4 times larger than regular blocks in San Francisco. These giant blocks, popular in the early part of the 1920’s, minimize an opportunity for commerce by having fewer intersections. Typically, family and other businesses occur at street corners. Super blocks have been abandoned by City planners today. The Oceanview district does not need another obstacle to its success like a separate J streetcar line. 1.

1. SFMTA: 19thAve_final_report.pdf

Glenn Rogers is a landscape architect who lives in the Westside

April 2016

SFMTA Presents “Full Subway” Option to Put M-Ocean View Line Underground from West Portal Along 19th Avenue to Parkmerced

The San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority (SFMTA) cited “Superior travel time and safety” as the compelling reasons to move forward with the $2.5-3 Billion “Full Subway” version of the project on Thursday, February 25th at a public meeting held at Waldorf High School on West Portal Avenue. But the subway planning is still in early stages and nothing has been approved, let alone funded. There is still plenty of time for public input…

(more)

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