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Muni riders push for North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Marina subway stops

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Notes from the underground

A copper-green Flatiron style structure with a pointed dome.
North Beach. Stop it.
Photo via Shutterstock

Last summer, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) pondered such surreal ideas as extending the new Central Subway as far as the Presidio, and asked transit riders to invent their own subway lines in a survey about the future of the still-future rail line.

Nearly eight months later the results (over 8,000 of them) are in, and the public response was mixed, but ultimately exciting for anyone yearning for the once-proposed North Beach Station.

  • In all, 79 percent of people said that extending the subway overall would help “meet their transit goals.”
  • By far the most popular potential destination was North Beach, buttressed by the fact that the city has already dug the tunnels to the neighborhood anyway. (It was the closest place to extract the machinery.) Of those polled, 91 percent support a North Beach station; only three percent do not.
  • The next most popular destination was Fisherman’s Wharf, followed by Russian Hill, the Marina, and Cow Hollow, respectively. Only North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf really have anything like a consensus, with only half as many people supporting a Russian Hill extension, and even fewer favoring spots beyond that.
  • Note that the survey tool that allowed riders to place their own hypothetical stations drew a few odd results; nearly 300 people opted to create a station in Chinatown, which already has one, while others created new stops in SoMa or the Financial District, both of which are only few feet from existing Muni stations.
  • Most commuters favored underground tracks and stations, by a margin of 60 percent if heading north toward North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf, and 56 percent if heading west toward the Marina. At most, eight percent would want an extension exclusively on the surface.

Of course, cynics will point out that SFMTA can barely build the stations it currently has in the pipeline. The latest timeline indicates that riders will not board the finished Central Subway for over a year.

Originally, SFMTA scheduled the Central Subway, which will run through Chinatown, for “substantial completion” in February 2018, then later adjusted that target to December 2018, and again to early 2020.

The subway survey also contained some grim tidings for SFMTA, as only 25 percent of respondents say Muni is their primary mode of transit. While that is technically tied for a plurality among commute methods, it turns out that walking was as equally as popular an option.

Still, it’s a good thing that at least someone at City Hall seems eager about continuing the transit expansion. San Francisco’s light-rail infrastructure is woefully inadequate for the current demand, and the city just finished a decade without a single major municipal transit project completed, save for the quiet Transbay Transit Center.

The last big innovation was the T-Third Street line, which opened in 2007. Even that has never really worked as well as anyone hoped, but if anything that just underscores the need for more ambitious future agendas. Because people aren’t going to get out of their cars unless the city gives them a better alternative.