A T-Third train approaches the platform at Third and Mariposa streets. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)

Breed, Walton announce plan to end switchbacks on Muni T-Third ‘immediately’

Walton vowed to end practice shortly after he was sworn into office

The roughly 40,000 daily riders of the T-Third line have come to know the practice of “switchbacks” well.

A Muni train headed to the Bayview will stop, mid-route, and turn back around to shore up service elsewhere in the system, leaving riders stranded on their way home.

Now, city officials say, that regular practice will end “immediately.”

That announcement, and promise, come from Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Shamann Walton, as well as the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, who on Tuesday are expected to unveil their precise plan to end the practice, according to Walton’s office.

The approach is multi-pronged and will depend on both new technology and new practices.

SFMTA will staff up its recently modernized Transportation Management Center to better manage the entire transit system, hold a train on “standby” along the T-Third roue to fill gaps in service, and implement regular reviews of wait times and performance data along the T-Third, among other improvements to the system.

“Ending switchbacks on the T-Third Line is a good step towards achieving equitable transit service in San Francisco,” said Breed, in a statement. “Our residents rely on our public transit every day to drop their kids off at school, get to work and run errands. We not only need to end switchbacks, we need to do more to invest in our transportation infrastructure so that our trains and buses are consistently on-time and reliable.”

After Walton was officially sworn into office this January, one of his first acts was to announce he would work with SFMTA to end switchbacks, which have not only been seen as an inconvenience to riders, but as a racial inequity because the poor train service mainly impacted a historically black neighborhood.

Muni’s previously announced effort to fast-track buying 151 new train cars from contractor Siemens will allow them to boost trains on the T-Third, the San Francisco Examiner previously reported. Efforts to boost hiring and combat a systemic operator shortage may also help make more trains available on the T-Third line.

“For years our residents in the Southeast corner of San Francisco have felt isolated and disenfranchised and switchbacks on the T-Line have continued to keep us isolated,” Walton said, in a statement. “Stopping switchbacks is one common-sense way to connect Southeast sector residents to the rest of San Francisco and improve their quality of life. I’m excited to work with the Mayor and SFMTA to end switchbacks on the T-Line immediately.”


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