Those who live near Ocean Beach in San Francisco's Sunset District often have a very difficult time getting to and from work. During peak commuter hours residents who ride the N-Judah trolley line often find themselves spending more than an hour
just to get to work. This past summer a bus shuttle express was introduced to the N-Judah line and has been provided to accommodate shortfalls in MUNI transit service to the residents of the outer Sunset.
According to the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, (SFMTA) The N-Judah trolley is the most heavily used light-rail line in the MUNI system. It serves as a main artery of transit from Ocean Beach at La Playa and 48th Ave to 4th & King Streets, just past AT&T Park where the Caltrans train station is located in the newly developed area of Mission Bay.
The trolley line serves close to 40,000 people daily, boarding on and transferring to and from the Judah Street thoroughfare to various parts of the City. The Judah line serves mostly as a commuter route to downtown.
As a working middle-class neighborhood, the Sunset District is very dependent upon the N-Judah as its transit lifeline to the Financial District. Delays and “switch-backs” during peak commuting hours causes problems and frustration for residents who must rely on public transit to get to work and school.
The goal of the Judah Express Route is to provide residents in the outer-Sunset with an additional transit choice while helping to relieve crowding and on the trolley line. The morning bus shuttle operates every 10 minutes inbound from Ocean Beach starting at 6:30 a.m. on weekdays. The shuttle bus makes all 11 local stops along Judah Street between 48th Ave and 19th Ave. Then the shuttle continues nonstop to Bush and Montgomery Streets in the Financial District. The last inbound shuttle bus leaves Ocean Beach at 9: a.m.
The afternoon commute for this Judah Express going outbound begins at 4: p.m. from Montgomery and Bush on weekdays, making its way to the Sunset District while stopping at all the designated stops along Judah Street from 19th to 48th Ave.
SFMTA released a six-page memo to the press detailing the objective of the Judah Express. The information said that it has exceeded expectations. Since its pilot program implementation in June of last year, the Judah Express shuttle bus has increased the ridership of the N-Judah line from 5,000 passengers on average to over 7,000 passengers on a weekly basis.
It was not clear in the memo-report how the five to seven thousand passengers per week totaled to the daily boarding estimate of 40,000. Clarification was limited as media representatives like Paul Rose, have been very busy, trying to respond to the thousands of daily inquiries. SFMTA considers the shuttle express successful and will use it as a model for future service expansion. Rose noted that rider response has been positive.
City Supervisor Carmen Chu who represents the Sunset District at City Hall has been working steadily to ensure MUNI systems are running smoothly and meet the transit needs of residents. Back in February of last year, the entire Board of Supervisors expressed concerns that MUNI has not been able to hold itself accountable, despite many efforts to "fix MUNI."
Chu and her staff view the Judah line Express Shuttle as constructive way for MUNI and the SFMTA to address the growing transit needs of one of the world's most popular cities. Yet, "this new express shuttle does not replace the service on the Judah Street line. It only serves as a supplement giving commuters another option in meeting their transit needs," said Cammy Blackstone, a legislative aid working at Supervisor Chu's office in City Hall.
The memo-report issued to the press said that in the initial planning phases for the shuttle bus express, different groups within the Transit Division worked together to map out the route. A comprehensive customer information program was developed in which transit ambassadors were deployed in the initial days to introduce customers to the services. The express shuttle route along Judah Street is served by a dedicated fleet of Gillig motor coaches painted with a distinctive blue stripe along the top of the shuttle. The N-Judah Express logo is prominently fixed on the bus shuttle exterior to alert riders of its arrival along the route.
Political consultant and transit blogger Greg Dewar sees the new shuttle bus as a good effort and “a smart public relations move on the part of the SFMTA and worthy of some applause,” he said.
Yet he was quick to point out that a bus shuttle is only a short-term fix to MUNI’s overall transit failures of service to the Sunset and avenues beyond. Dewar who lives in the outer-Sunset not far from La Playa Street which stretches parallel along the ocean, knows the frustrations of residents. He can relate very well to disappointments residents have as they struggle constantly to rely on a transit line system that has been plagued with troubles for years. Dewar maintains a blog on the web called “The N-Judah Chronicles.”
“This shuttle is really a hack solution, it was never mentioned in the Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP), which is estimated at a cost of 3 million,” said Dewar.
As one of the busiest transit lines in the City, Dewar noted that this shuttle bus “doesn’t solve the traffic jams and actually only duplicates an existing system that has a continuous backlog of maintenance issues.”
Rose noted that since the initial trial run of the Judah Express people have asked that hours be extended. For a system that has been under lots of criticism lately, the positive response was uplifting news for SFMTA. The cost would be about $1.6 million, annual for the shuttle service noted Rose.
For more details about the Judah Express Shuttle visit the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority web site. Or call 311.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com