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Buses Rule the J-Line for Two Months
By Kathleen Mahony
Noe Valley residents who normally ride the J-Church streetcar to and from downtown San Francisco may soon find that their daily commute has a twist to it.
Muni announced in October that starting Nov. 25, it will replace the deteriorating rails on the curvy section of the J-line between 20th and 22nd streets. The project, which is expected to last until Feb. 2, 2001, will also involve repaving the cross streets. During the two months of construction, J-Church riders will switch to buses for the Noe Valley leg of the journey.
The J-line rail replacement is part of a comprehensive program to upgrade aging segments of track and overhead wiring on streetcar lines throughout the city. According to Muni, the upgrade will provide a smoother ride for passengers on the J. It will also reduce breakdowns and delays, as well as noise and disturbance for neighbors along Church Street.
"This rail replacement will go a long way toward reducing the noise and vibration that the new Breda cars make along the tracks," says Muni spokesperson Laura Spanjian. "We received many noise complaints from the neighbors when those new cars came out four years ago, and this will help resolve that problem."
However, Muni's primary goal is to maintain safety, Spanjian says. "Some of the rail is getting really old, and this is one area that has seen a lot of stress in the past few years. We don't want any safety issues, so the rail needs to be replaced."
Construction will take place on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The track between 20th and 22nd -- a narrow stretch that winds through the back yards of homes on Church and Chattanooga streets-- will be closed to pedestrian access for the length of the project.
During construction, streetcars will travel on only the part of the J-line that heads downtown from Church and Market streets. Buses will be substituted on the rest of the route, from Church and 14th to the end of the line at Balboa Park Station. To minimize inconvenience to J riders, Muni has promised to run the buses 25 percent more often than the streetcars, and at five- to six-minute intervals during rush hour.
Noe Valley commuters traveling outbound from downtown may take any of four Muni Metro lines -- an L, K, M, or J--to the Church and Market stop. Then they must exit the train and catch a bus on the southwest corner of 14th at Market (next to the Johnfrank Restaurant) to continue on the J-line to Noe Valley.
Inbound passengers should board buses at existing stops along Church Street and then transfer to the underground trains at Church and Market, or to J-Church streetcars on the surface of Market Street heading downtown. They can also hop the F-Market historic streetcar on Market at Church.
As word spread last month, Steve Campbell and other regulars on the J began storing up on patience. "It is going to make it difficult to get anywhere, but if it really is going to make things better, you know...you just have to deal with it," Campbell says.
Spanjian understands that some people will be upset about having to transfer from a train to a bus. "But other than that, there is really no reason to [worry]. We have the buses scheduled to run every six minutes, so service should be better or at least comparable to what it was before -- there should be no difference in the time of the commute."
What is likely to cause more stress for Noe Valley residents is the project's impact on parking in the neighborhood. During construction, Church Street between 22nd and 23rd streets will be occupied, day and night, by trucks and equipment. The north side of 20th Street between Church and Dolores streets will also have fewer parking spaces available. However, Muni assures residents that parking spots will be freed up as supplies are used by the work crews.
For updates on the rail replacement, call 554-2474 or visit www.sfmuni.com. For service information, call the Muni information line at 673-MUNI (6864).