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Businesses fear L-Taraval train improvements will hurt local parking

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Many stops along the L-Taraval line in the Sunset force riders to cross over lanes of traffic, risking injury. Muni wants to implement a plan reducing the risk to riders. (Courtesy SFMTA)

Taraval Street is a slice of the past, local merchants say.

Like a “Pleasantville” of San Francisco, the sleepy corridor is dotted by single family homes, actual families in those homes, small businesses and most of all — drivers.

Lots of drivers.

“Any retail space needs someone to park there,” Yumi Sam, president of the People of Parkside merchant association told the San Francisco Examiner. Without cars, “they’ll lose business.”

Now Sam, who also works for Allstate Insurance, and other merchants say that driving is imperiled by proposed improvements to Muni’s L-Taraval train.

Those merchants plan to argue against those changes at a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency open house on Wednesday, where the agency will solicit feedback from the neighborhood.

Sam said her organization has a petition with more than 200 signatures in opposition to the transit tweaks.

SFMTA’s planned enhancements for the L revolve around safety, the agency said. The L-Taraval train is a vital commuter link between the residential Sunset neighborhood and downtown, ferrying 29,000 riders a day.

But Taraval isn’t safe for those thousands of riders, SFMTA said.

In the last five years, 22 riders were struck and injured getting off and on the L-Taraval, the agency wrote in public fliers, and there were 46 collisions between pedestrians and vehicles along the L-Taraval corridor in the same time frame.

Taraval was flagged as one of San Francisco’s most dangerous streets for pedestrians by The City.

“We know why many pedestrian injuries occur on Taraval Street,” wrote SFMTA in its fliers about the changes, “riders must cross a lane of traffic and stand in the street to board the L-Taraval. These injuries are preventable and can be eliminated through safer street design.”

To make Taraval safer, SFMTA will install new concrete boarding islands to reduce the risk of pedestrians being struck. And those islands are being built directly in the riskiest places, where pedestrians were struck by vehicles, said SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose.

Rose said parking spaces lost on Taraval due to transit changes would be replaced by increasing parking spaces on side streets.

And to speed up the L, SFMTA will create dedicated transit-only lanes, eliminate and move some train stops, and replace train tracks, worn overhead wires and trolley poles.

Those changes may lead to a potential three minutes saved on each L trip. But some neighbors are riled, despite the time savings.

Paula Katz is a neighbor who lives on 44th Avenue. She said the SFMTA’s plan to “consolidate” stops — reducing them from being placed every two blocks, to every three or four blocks — will make it tough for seniors who depend on Muni.

“It will take many of them more than two to three minutes to walk to a farther L stop,” she said, “and they’ll be forced to walk farther in the rain, the cold and at night in the dark.”

Rose said SFMTA planned on keeping stops close to senior centers and other amenities used by seniors and those with disabilities.

SFMTA has not yet conducted an analysis of who takes what modes of transportation to Taraval.

A 2011 UC Berkeley study called “How Common is Pedestrian Travel To, From, and Within Shopping Districts?” studied people’s trips to many shopping districts in the Bay Area.

It found 25 percent of shoppers walked to Taraval, 0 percent biked, 19 percent took transit and 55 percent traveled by auto.

The L-Taraval open house is Feb. 17 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Dianne Feinstein Elementary, 2550 25th Ave.