Parking Removal for M Ocean View Rail Project Raises Concerns

The M Ocean View light rail line transit and safety project proposed the removal of street parking. It's raised concerns for some neighbors.

Streetcar rolls onto street from storage yard.
The M Ocean View streetcar exits the Cameron Beach Yard onto San Jose Avenue. | Anne Marie Kristoff/Ingleside Light

A proposed streetcar boarding island on the M Ocean View light rail line in the Merced Heights neighborhood is causing concern for one organization on the route.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency planners are proposing a new transit boarding island with wheelchair access at 19th Avenue and Sargent Street to replace the transit stop proposed for removal at Randolph Street to improve the safety of Muni passengers.

The boarding island is part of the transportation agency’s M Ocean View Transit and Safety Project, which aims to improve reliability and passenger experience as well as pedestrian safety. Other proposed improvements include the addition of a transit-only lane on San Jose Avenue, pedestrian bulb-outs and wider boarding islands at 15 locations.

During a presentation on the project Tuesday before the transportation agency’s board of directors, Michael Rhodes, a transit priority manager, said nine parking spaces would be removed from the block of Sargent Street.

For the Salvation Army SF All Nations Corps, located just several feet from where the new boarding island would go, this was a serious concern for the elimination of parking spaces required to install the new boarding island.

Jeannie Tam, one of the leaders with the Salvation Army SF All Nations Corps, said parking is challenging in the neighborhood during days they have worship services on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. The church also has a food pantry for low-income residents to pick up groceries, a clothing drive and activities for youth during the summer.

“We have a constant flow of people coming in to register and sign up for things and a constant flow for loading and unloading supplies,” Tam said.

Rhodes presented three options and requested feedback from the board of directors. The first option is to keep the original proposed plan of installing a boarding island that would accommodate a two-car M train.

A second option would have a boarding island that just stretches to the first car of the train and a separate wheelchair ramp would be installed separately near Beverly Street. The second option would reduce the parking impact.

A third option does not include installing a new boarding island, which maintains most of the parking. A separate wheelchair-accessible ramp would still be built. Passengers would continue to board and get off through a parking lane but Rhodes added that the parking lane is wide enough for vehicles to squeeze past the train.

Rhodes added that during the last five years, 10 passengers were hit by vehicles getting off the train and that the project area is on the city’s high-injury network.

Tam said the organization appreciated the goals of the project and the alternatives that transit staff provided but still requested that the proposed transit stop be moved elsewhere.

There was a discussion with representatives from the church to move the stop further south at Monticello Street. Rhodes did not recommend this option as the second car of the train would hang out in the intersection.

“We don't really recommend that necessarily unless we completely shut down Monticello and there are sort of circulation concerns with doing that and usability questions,” Rhodes said.

Director Stephanie Cajina, who did not indicate which version of the plan she prefers, said that staff needed to continue working with the community to find solutions.

“I hope that in discussions we do communicate to the community how important it is for seniors to also safely board transit,” Cajina said.

Board Chair Amanda Eaken said that for staff to fall back on the transit agency’s values and is the most aligned with the transit-first policy. She included that staff consider the best option that is the safest and most accessible for Muni passengers and pedestrians.

Sustainable transportation advocate Cyrus Hall voiced support for the staff’s original plan during public comment.

“Removing the island entirely is wholly unacceptable,” Hall said. “We are struggling to make progress on Vision Zero and we must not miss this opportunity to remove a clear traffic hazard for riders.”

The project will go before the SFMTA board in January and, if approved, initial quick-build improvements would be installed in 2024 and full construction of the project would begin in 2026, Rhodes said.

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