Will Transferring Be the New Normal for K Ingleside Riders?

The K Ingleside was disconnected from the T Third line on Jan. 7. What's next for light rail line?

A K Ingleside light rail vehicle at the Miramar stop on Ocean Avenue. File photo/Ingleside Light
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K Ingleside light rail passengers experienced for a few days in January what might be the future of their downtown commutes: Transferring at West Portal Station.

The record-breaking storms had knocked out power lines, stopping the street-level service for several days and requiring a shuttle bus.

The bus service lined up with the disconnection of the K from the T Third line on Jan. 7, eliminating the long horseshoe-shaped route that took passengers from Ingleside to Sunnydale.

The T now goes north on Fourth Street into the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s new Central Subway, and the K terminates at Embarcadero Station.

Signs about the changes to K Ingleside light rail service were attached to Ocean Avenue streetlight and utility poles in the last week of December.

But what may come next for Ingleside’s historic Muni line isn’t being advertised.

The SFMTA as recently as late last year intended to join the K with the L Taraval as it did for a few months in 2020 in a bid to reduce the number of trains in the subway to improve service.

However, many passengers will lose their direct route downtown as transferring at West Portal Station will be required.

L passengers expressed their frustration with transferring to former District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar that they want a direct route downtown.

“There’s been no community outreach or opportunity for public input on that plan,” Mar said in September at a candidates debate where he shared that the transportation agency intended to keep the lines merged. “I’ve insisted with MTA that we must have a meaningful input process before they move forward with that change.”

SFMTA Public Information Officer Stephen Chun confirmed Mar’s statement, adding that the agency does extensive outreach and always consults the community prior to any large or permanent transit changes and plan to do so if the merger goes forward.

"[T]here are no plans underway to interline the L and K at this time," he said.

Chun did not give a clear answer when asked if merging the lines is still on the table or when the merger plans were abandoned since Mar's comments.

District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar is among those against this potential merger.

“If the rumblings were to proceed, Supervisor Melgar would continue to stand in staunch opposition to the merger,” Melgar’s Legislative Aide Emma Heiken said. “The merger would serve to dissuade Westside residents from using the Muni and would cause declines in ridership.”

District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai did not respond to a request for comment.

LK Origin and Future

Five months after the pandemic put a halt to all light rail service in March 2020, the SFMTA created the LK-Line to temporarily create a surface-only route to significantly cut delays and congestion in the subway as part of its Rail Recovery Plan. The emergency configuration ended that December once the L Taraval Improvement Project construction resumed.

Not everyone is sold on the idea of combining the K and L. Aside from L passengers expressing concerns, transportation advocacy groups are sharing alternative ideas to allieviate subway congestion.

The Bay Area Transportation Working Group, former transit professionals, advises Muni to restore the practice of coupling the K and M at St. Francis Circle.

“For this to work K trains operating along Ocean Avenue would have to receive transit-preferential treatment and signal preemption at St. Francis Circle,” the group wrote in an article about the subway.

Correction: This article was edited and updated to make clear the status of merging the K and L lines.

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