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Muni Citizens’ Advisory Council Hears Presentations About Caltrain, Agency’s Strategic Plan and Housing Development Opportunities

At its February meeting, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Citizens’ Advisory Council heard presentations about Caltrain’s upcoming service changes, Muni’s new strategic plan and forthcoming housing developments on city-owned land.

Caltrain Presentation 

Catherine David, a senior planner with Caltrain, briefed the council on Caltrain’s plan to electrify its trains and upcoming service changes.

Council member Mark Bellew invited Caltrain to the council following a briefing from the SFMTA about private commuter shuttles in San Francisco in December.

Construction on the Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project will we begin in mid-2017 and conclude at the end of 2019. After a year of testing, the electrified trains will begin running in 2021.

David also outlined the agency’s plan to implement service changes in the coming months.

Weekend service changes include increasing the space between trains from 60 minute to 90 minutes, resulting in fewer trains on Saturday and Sunday. The weekend changes will go into effect in summer 2017.

In April 2017, weekday service will be tweaked by adding six stops to the 305 train as well as adding and removing service at Tamien Station.

Council members asked David general questions about the train service to gauge whether the agency will be able to handle projected growth in commuters.

“We have twenty trains sets available and all of them are in service. We don’t have any extra trains,” David said. “The goal with electrification is that we will not only be able to get a new system but run our cars more quickly and efficiently.”

SFMTA Strategic Plan 

Anne Fritzler, from SFMTA’s Strategic Planning and Initiatives department, briefed the council on the agency’s latest strategic plan.

Fritzler highlighted the 17.6 percent growth in jobs and 7.6 percent population growth in San Francisco between 2010 and 2016, causing an increase in both public and private transit times.

Another notable trend was an increase in people who cited ride-sharing services as an alternative when Muni is unavailable. In 2015, 18 percent said they would turn to Uber or Lyft. In 2016, the rate was 29 percent, according to SFMTA ridership surveys.

Council member Steve Taber pushed the SFMTA on the public transit travel times cited in the presentation.

“This is abysmal,” Taber said, referencing the fact that the average public transit commute time in San Francisco, a city that is only seven miles across, was 40.3 minutes in 2016, according to the presentation. Muni employees were were unsure whether the Metropolitan Transportation Commission data included time waiting in the station.

Transit Oriented Development

Rafe Rabalais, a long-range asset development manager, outlined the agency’s plans for building four transit-oriented developments on agency-owned lots around the city.

Two of the locations — the Upper Yard at Balboa Park Station, 4th and Folsom streets above the Central Subway — were previously identified, while the other two categories are still just possible locations including the agency’s Muni yards, parking garages and surface lots.

While Rabalais highlighted the importance of building housing where possible, he noted that the agency will be cautious about building over transportation facilities such as Muni train storage and maintenance yards that the agency might never be able to recover due to high demand for land.

“What we’ve recognized […] is that the core function [of the Muni yards] cannot be impinged upon because there’s such a scarcity of land in this city,” Rabaiais said. “We’re going to have to be creative and work around core transit functions.”

Meeting Recap

  • The council invited CalTrain to brief them on the status of the transit line.
  • Muni employees presented the agency’s latest strategic plan and the most notable trends based on ridership surveys.
  • Rafe Rabalais presented plans for building transit-oriented developments on agency-owned properties around the city.
  • Passed a motion from the Operations and Customer Service Committee calling for the elimination of the 83x line due to an agency budget shortfall in fiscal years 2017 and 2018.
  • Passed a motion from the Engineering, Maintenance and Safety Committee calling on the agency to support the Palou Streetscape Project.

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