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Muni Metro is a mass transit system operated in the City and County of San Francisco by the San Francisco Municipal Railway, managed by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Due to its history, it resembles a metro, such as all segments of the lines running under Market Street, in some parts of the city, while resembling either a traditional streetcar network or a modern light rail system on most other segments.

The system Edit

The Muni Metro system consists of six lines:

Five of these lines, the J, K, L, M, and N, originate in the western and southwestern parts of the city, running in mixed automobile traffic and for the most part stopping at street corners like a traditional streetcar (a few high-platform stations have been built). In certain stretches, most lines travel along exclusive or semi-exclusive lanes, separated from auto traffic.

Three lines, the K, L, and M, enter the subway at its southwestern end, appropriately named West Portal. These lines serve these and other stations:

Here, the T line joins the Muni Metro, as it has its inbound terminal at Castro.[1] The K, L, and M lines, along with the T line, continue and serve the following stations:

The J and N lines, running above-ground, enter the subway at this point, via a portal located at Church Street and Duboce Avenue. All six lines continue through the tunnel and serve the following stations:

At this point, the K, L, M, and N lines terminate. The J and T lines continue out the northeastern portal of the subway on the Embarcadero. During peak periods, the J line also extends out onto the Embarcadero, otherwise it terminates at Embarcadero Station. The J (peak period) and N lines terminate at King and Fourth Streets, next to the Caltrain station, while the T line continues onward down Fourth Street, Third Street, and Bayshore Boulevard to the county line.

There is also a line called S Castro Shuttle, which runs up and down the Market Street subway during peak periods on weekdays. The S line will be retired when the T line begins full service in April 2007.[1]

Note that the F Market an all-surface line running historic streetcars, has not been designated as part of the Metro system by Muni, despite the fact that its route designation is similar to that of the Metro lines. The Metro designation originated with the construction of the Market Street tunnel, where F trains cannot go. However, the F trains travel over the J line to the storage facility in the Balboa Park neighborhood when not in use, using a section of track between the F and J lines on 17th Street between Noe and Church Streets. F trains are occasionally seen in service on the above-ground sections of the J line.

(See also List of San Francisco Municipal Railway lines.)

Metro operations Edit

Muni Metro runs from approximately 5 am to 1 am weekdays, with later start times of 7 am on Saturday and 8 am on Sunday.[2] Late-night service is provided along much of the L and N lines by buses that bear the same route designation. (During the Metro Improvement Project starting January 29, 2007, K, L, and M line metro service between Castro and West Portal ends at 9 pm on weekdays and is replaced by surface buses until service ends at 1 am Saturday morning start of service is delayed from 6 am to 7 am as well. This part of the project is scheduled to last about a year.)[3]

The basic fare for Muni Metro, like Muni buses, is $2.00.[4] The Muni Metro system as a whole is a proof-of-payment system; on paying a fare, the passenger will receive a ticket good for travel on any bus, historic streetcar, or Metro vehicle for 90 minutes. Payment methods depend on where in the system Metro streetcars are boarded. In street running sections in the south and west of the city (the old streetcar routes), passengers can board at the front of the train and pay their fare to the streetcar operator to receive their ticket; those who already have a ticket, or who have a daily, weekly, or monthly pass, can board at any door of the Metro streetcar or train. Underground stations have controlled entries via turnstiles, and passengers must purchase or show Muni staff a ticket in order to enter the platform area. On high-platform stations outside the tunnels, ticket machines are available on the platforms; passengers without tickets or passes must purchase them before boarding. Fare inspectors may board trains at any time to check for proof of payment from passengers.

Passengers can transfer from Muni Metro to Muni buses and vice versa, as well as to and from the F line historic streetcars; however, passengers must use the front door on these other vehicles. Passengers can also transfer to cable cars at Powell and Embarcadero stations, though an extra fee must be paid to ride this popular tourist attraction. Four of the downtown subway stations shared by all six lines are also stations on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, and some of the lines also have surface stops at or near the Glen Park and Balboa Park BART stops. While passengers can transfer at these stations, the two systems have different fare regimes and a new fare must be paid when transferring.

Vehicles Edit

The first vehicles on the Muni Metro were those of the Boeing-Vertol-manufactured US Standard Light Rail Vehicle, a project done for Muni and Boston's MBTA. Boeing-Vertol had virtually no experience in building rail vehicles and later left the market in the wake of the problems which came out building the USSLRV. In fact, 31 of Muni's cars were originally made for MBTA and were rejected due to their poor quality and proneness to mechanical failures. The LRVs made up the entire fleet of the Metro until 1995 when their replacements, the Breda-manufactured LRV2 arrived. Larger in size and more reliable (though seen by some living near Metro routes as louder than their predecessors), the LRV2's became the mainstay of the fleet by the start of the 21st Century with the last Boeing being replaced in late 2001.

Because some stops on the Metro system have high platforms and others do not, both the Boeings and the Bredas have variable-height entranceways. Upon entering a car at a street-level stop, the passenger must walk up a few stairs; when the train enters a tunnel or approaches a high-level stop, the stairs rise up to the level of the car floor. This change is signaled by a piercing whistle, and a savvy commuter standing on the stairway in a crowded car can negotiate the change while still reading the newspaper.

History Edit

In the middle of the 20th century, San Francisco was served by a number of public transit railways. There were two modes: cable cars, driven by traction from underground cables, and streetcars, powered by overhead electric catenaries. The cable cars still run in San Francisco today; the streetcars were the ancestors of today's Muni Metro. San Francisco is thus one of the few North American cities whose light rail system has operated continuously since the streetcar era.

In the 1950s, as in many North American cities, public transit in San Francisco was consolidated under the aegis of a single municipal corporation, which then began phasing out much of the streetcar network in favor of buses. However, five heavily used streetcar lines traveled for at least part of their routes through tunnels or otherwise reserved right-of-way, and thus could not be converted to bus lines. As a result, these lines, running traditional PCC streetcars, continued operation until the 1970s, when mass transit rail projects once again came into vogue in the United States.[5]

It was at this time (the 1950s) that the original plans for the BART system were drawn up; these plans envisioned a double-decker subway tunnel under Market Street (known as the Market Street Subway) in downtown San Francisco; the lower deck would be dedicated to express trains, while the upper would be served by local trains whose routes would spread south and west through the city. After construction of the tunnel had begun, however, these plans were altered; only the lower deck would be used by BART, and only a single BART route would travel through the city, while the upper deck would be served by the existing Muni streetcar routes. The new tunnel would be connected to the existing Twin Peaks Tunnel. The new underground stations would feature high platforms, and the older stations would be retrofitted with the same, which meant that the traditional PCCs could not be used in them, and so a fleet of new light rail vehicles was ordered from Boeing. In the event, the tunnel was completed in 1978, but the new LRVs were not delivered until 1980. In February of that year, Muni Metro was officially inaugurated, with weekday N line service in the subway. The Metro service was implemented in phases, with all five lines running in the subway on a full-time basis by November 1982.[5]

In the mid to late 1990s, San Francisco grew more prosperous and its population expanded with the advent of the dot-com boom, and the Metro system began to feel the strain of increased commuter demand. Muni-bashing had always been something of a civic sport for San Franciscans, and not without reason: the Boeing trains were sub-par and grew crowded quickly, and the difficulty in running a system that was half-streetcar, half-subway, with five different routes merging together into one, led to scheduling chaos on the main trunk lines, with long waits between arrivals and trains packed with commuters sometimes sitting motionless in tunnels for extended periods of time.

Muni did take steps to meet these problems. Newer, larger, and more reliable Breda cars were ordered; an extension to the system towards South Beach, where many of the new dot-coms were headquartered, was implemented; and the underground section was switched to automatic train control (ATC). The latter move, though, initially caused more harm than good: the ATC system was plagued by numerous glitches when first implemented, resulting in a spectacular service meltdown in the summer of 1998. During this period, two reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle - one riding in the Muni Metro tunnel and one on foot on the surface - held a race through downtown, with the walking reporter emerging the winner. Still, the ATC problems were soon resolved, and today Muni Metro's service is much better than it was a few years ago. Though San Franciscans still grumble about it, the Metro is one of North America's more extensive and useful mass transit systems.

Future expansion Edit

In 1998, a four-station extension of the trunk line was built from Embarcadero station to the planned site of the new Giants baseball stadium and the Caltrain depot. This new section of the system, though relatively short, was important: it finally linked the Caltrain commuter system into the city's rail transit network, and it provided service to the burgeoning South Beach and SOMA neighborhoods and the new downtown baseball stadium. Perhaps even more important, however, was the mere fact that it was built: it represented the first new light rail tracks laid in the city in decades, and its success heralded more expansion in the wings.

In 2007, a new, extensive line known as the T Third Street opened, as part of the Third Street Light Rail Project, running south from the current Caltrain depot station along Third Street. This line is a modern light rail line, like the Embarcadero extension, and runs all the way to the southern border of the city. At its northern end, the line passes through older industrial areas that have become more residential in the aftermath of the city's late-90s real estate boom; at its center, it will run through some of San Francisco's most economically depressed areas, and planners hope that it will improve the prospects of those neighborhoods. This new line is served by the T Third Street, which will be operated from Castro Station. The N Judah will be scaled back from Fourth and King to Embarcadero Station, as the J Church cars will extended during rush hours to provide extra service to the Caltrain station. Limited weekend T line service began on January 13, 2007, with full revenue service beginning on April 7, 2007.

Federal funding has been secured for an ambitious new project dubbed the Central Subway. This line will head north and west from the Caltrain depot and quickly pass underground into a new subway tunnel. The line will pass under the current Metro tunnel, with a transfer station at Montgomery or Powell, then turn due north with stops at Union Square and Chinatown. Though the line would be relatively short, it would provide service to areas of downtown currently somewhat isolated from the Metro network, as well as a springboard for future expansion. Planners hope that the Central Subway will be completed by 2016.

No further projects have been settled upon as of yet, though there are several areas in the city that would benefit. One route under particular study is the Geary Street Corridor, which would run west from the Central Subway through the densely populated Western Addition, Japantown, and Richmond neighborhoods north of Golden Gate Park. The 38 Geary bus, which covers this route today, is one of the most heavily used in the system.

See alsoEdit

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 T Third Street Service. San Francisco Municipal Railway. Retrieved on January 20, 2007.
  2. Metro Service Hours. San Francisco Municipal Railway. Retrieved on January 20, 2007.
  3. Metro Overhead Improvement Project Phase II. San Francisco Municipal Railway. Retrieved on January 20, 2007.
  4. Basic Fares. San Francisco Municipal Railway. Retrieved on January 20, 2007.
  5. 5.0 5.1 History of the Muni Metro. Retrieved on January 20, 2007.

External linksEdit

San Francisco Municipal Railway
Muni Metro J ChurchK InglesideL TaravalM Ocean ViewN JudahS Castro ShuttleT Third Street
Other Muni services Cable carsF Market streetcarList of all Muni bus and rail lines
Muni Metro stations EmbarcaderoMontgomeryPowellCivic CenterVan NessChurchCastroForest HillWest Portal
Muni Metro system features Market Street SubwayTwin Peaks TunnelSunset Tunnel
Current projects Third Street Light Rail ProjectCentral SubwayE Embarcadero streetcar
Connecting buses AC TransitGolden Gate TransitSamTrans
Connecting rail services Bay Area Rapid TransitCaltrain
Other information Rescue MuniKey System

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