Damaged power lines lead to transit mess

Muni Metro riders found themselves in a transit “nightmare” Tuesday after damage to two overhead power lines crippled The City’s train routes for hours and left passengers running for shuttle buses in lieu of streetcars.

The trouble began around 7:30 a.m. with a damaged overhead wire between the underground Van Ness Avenue and Church Street stations, which service the K-Ingleside, L-Taraval, M-Ocean View and T-Third lines. Passengers were required to transfer trains at the Church Street station or take surface-street transit while repairs were made to the power lines, officials said.

Additionally, some inbound N-Judah and J-Church trains began turning back before entering the downtown subway to provide outbound service, a Muni spokeswoman said.

“Today has been a horrible nightmare,” said Diana Barry, who said she waited an hour for an inbound N-Judah train early Tuesday morning. “It’s like the Muni meltdown of the ’90s. Bad, bad, bad.”

Muni — which carries about 672,000 riders each weekday on 1,000 buses, trains and trolleys — quickly deployed and began operating shuttle buses between the Embarcadero, West Portal and Castro Street stations. Repairs were complete and service was restored to all lines by 11 a.m., Muni spokeswoman Maggie Lynch said.

About the same time, however, a broken overhead wire at 30th Avenue and Judah Street along the N-Judah line caused damage to an electric arm connecting a train to the wire, Lynch said. A second N-Judah train passed through the damaged area before the operator could be notified. That train was also put out of service, she said.

The damage shut down the N-Judah line — Muni’s most popular metro train, which carries more than 30,000 riders each weekday — in the Outer Sunset district for nearly two hours. Shuttle buses were deployed to the area to minimize delays.

Since delays to the N-Judah occurred between peak commute hours, most riders were surprised when a shuttle bus arrived instead of a train, but were not put off by the delays.

“The bus was a little slower, but that’s what you get when it’s not a streetcar,” said Quin Backer, who was making his way to work at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Tuesday’s incidents were unrelated and caused by random mechanical issues, officials said. While the overhead system between the Embarcadero and Castro Street stations was replaced in the last year, Lynch said “mechanical things break from time to time.”

“I am certain that the crew will do a thorough inspection to determine if this is a failure that could have been prevented and to ensure that if it was, that we take steps to keep it from happening in the future,” she added.

Regarding the N-Judah breakdown, Lynch said overhead lines are inspected on an ongoing basis, while the arms that connect the trains to the overhead lines are inspected weekly.

arocha@examiner.com

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