Muni’s three-train shuttle service a hit with riders

One of Muni’s most popular service vehicles these days may be the week-old “S-Shuttle,” the only three-car train in the system and a long-awaited congestion reliever for travelers between the Embarcadero and St. Francis Circle stops.

The pilot, launched Oct. 4, provides three round trips on weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m..

Since its first day, the shuttle has received much praise from riders, including on Twitter.

“Some people said it was a great thing and wished we had done it a long time ago,” said Paul Rose, spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

For decades, two-car light-rail trains were the maximum due to problems with the train couplers and surface platforms that are not well-equipped to accommodate longer vehicles. But with so much crowding and “pass-ups” — when a crowded train skips a stop — during commute hours, Muni officials decided to try the pilot, and connected a car to an existing two-car train.

“It came about as part of a larger set of strategies to improve the service and reliability,” said Director of Transit John Haley. “But also exploring the conventional wisdom — myth, if you will — that we can’t run three-car trains.”

The shuttle train has only run into a couple of issues, including a power adjustment.

Transit officials don’t have a timeline for evaluating the future of the pilot yet, but Haley said he is “very confident” it will continue to be successful and become part of the service plan.

“The biggest constraint to doing more of this is not having enough cars,” he said. “We want to make sure that we’re serving the entire system.”

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