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Muni says it will improve practice that forces riders off trains early

SF Public Press
 — Dec 13 2010 - 11:20am

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, said it will try to  answer complaints by Muni riders that trains are forcing passengers to get off  before the normal final stop and then turning the train around in the other direction. The practice is called a switchback.

Muni said it will only do switchbacks if there is a train following within five minutes and will make sure passengers know the last stop the train will be making on its run though clear operator announcements and by posting the correct information on light-rail vehicle signs.

The report says the N-Judah, L-Taraval, and M-Ocean View had the most switchbacks between January and October of this year. The N-Judah, which had the most, had 376 switchbacks out of 60,125 total trips this year, an increase of 100 switchbacks. 

Supervisor Carmen Chu, who has both the N-Judah and L-Taraval traveling through her district, has received numerous complaints from residents in the past several months regarding trains turning around without notice. In September, she asked the agency to look into these incidents.

Although switchbacks are increasing, the agency's spokesman Paul Rose said they are necessary “and works to re-balance service throughout the rest of the system.”

Traffic jams and major Muni delays are taken in consideration if a switchback is necessary to minimize delays, said Rose.

The most common complaints are that operators do not announce they are switching back, that trains are not displaying the correct final stop and that it is taking too long for the next train to arrive, according to SF 311.

Switchback By The Numbers

Line: N-Judah (La Playa to Caltrain)
Total Trips: 70,545
Switched Short Trips: 226 (An average of one short trips in every 312 trips)

2010 (January to October)
Total Trips: 60,125
Switched Short Trips: 376 (An average of one short trips in every 159 trips)

Line: L-Taraval (46th Avenue to Embarcadero Station)
Total Trips: 60,970
Switched Short Trips: 97 (An average of one short trip in every 628 trips)

2010 (January to October)
Total Trips: 51,535
Switched Short Trips: 177 (An average of one short trip in every 291 trips)

Line: M-Ocean View (Geneva Yard to Embarcadero Station)
Total Trips: 50,583
Switched Short Trips: 73 (An average of one short trip in every 629 trips)

2010 (January to October)
Total Trips: 43,675
Switched Short Trips: 61 (An average of one short trip in every 715 trips)