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SFMTA to build boarding islands on Taraval Street after community plan fails

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Earlier this year, the SFMTA piloted a plan proposed by the community to make boarding the L-Taraval train along Taraval Street safer. However, the additional safety signage failed to curb dangerous driving over the program’s six months. (Daniel Kim/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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Concrete boarding islands may soon come to Taraval Street pending a Tuesday vote at The City’s local transit board, all in the name of making the corridor safer for L-Taraval train riders who often disembark in the middle of oncoming traffic.

But that plan has met harsh opposition from merchants along the street, who fear the boarding islands will make driving and parking difficult — and subsequently harm their businesses.

Two businesses on Taraval Street closed after the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency made preliminary safety changes, Clover Cleaners and Hunter’s Threads, with nearby merchants alleging changes to the L-Taraval hastened those closures.

Last winter, the community proposed a pilot plan to make disembarking the L-Taraval train on Taraval Street safer by adding safety signage to warn cars to stop to allow train riders to disembark, and paint safety stripes on the street.

The SFMTA enacted that pilot in early 2017, but the signage and safety stripes failed to stop cars from driving dangerously over the course of the six-month program, according to data collected by the SFMTA.

The SFMTA Board of Directors is set to vote on Tuesday on the agency’s original proposal to create concrete boarding islands along Taraval Street at 26th, 30th, 32nd, and 40th avenues, prompting a loss of 36 parking spaces, among other safety changes.

In the past five years, 22 pedestrians were struck by vehicles getting on or off the L-Taraval train on Taraval Street, according to the SFMTA, and 46 pedestrians have been hit on the corridor in that time. When the SFMTA’s plan to make Taraval Street safer was met by merchant opposition, Supervisor Katy Tang asked the SFMTA to engage with merchant groups for a possible compromise plan.

Tang did not return requests for comment.

Albert Chow, owner of Great Wall Hardware on Taraval Street and a community leader who negotiated with the SFMTA, said the agency did not fully implement the community’s plan.

“We thought it was an economy version of the pilot program,” he told the San Francisco Examiner.

As part of the pilot program the SFMTA installed new, brighter lighting on its trains, added “Do Not Pass” signs to its trains, crafted “State Law: STOP HERE” signs indicating vehicles should stop behind the train to allow passengers to disembark, painted lines for “clear zones” at stops and painted “Transit Boarding Zone” on the street, to indicate cars should keep the street clear when trains stop.

None of that worked.

Drivers complied with the law to stop behind a train to allow passengers to disembark 72 percent of the time on Taraval Street before the pilot program, and the changes increased that compliance to 74 percent according to the SFMTA. The target compliance set by the SFMTA was 90 percent — if that criteria was met, they may have agreed to not install boarding islands.

Chow criticized the SFMTA’s pilot program, and alleged “they barely did education” or enforcement, except near the end of the program.

SFMTA staff distributed safety posters to merchants, designed to remind customers to stop for loading trains, according to a staff report on the L-Taraval project.

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