muni_generic.jpgTaking transit between the Outer Sunset and downtown San Francisco is about to get a little less crushing–soul or otherwise–when the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency adds a fleet of buses to relieve the city’s most crowded light rail line.

At Tuesday’s SFMTA Board of Directors meeting, the agency unveiled a proposal to increase capacity on the N-Judah line, which has 38,000 daily boardings, or nearly one-third of Muni’s rail ridership.

“The N line is a real workhorse for Muni and we want to make sure that we can accommodate the large ridership,” board Chairman Tom Nolan said in a statement Tuesday.

The train line stretches nine miles from Ocean Beach past downtown along The Embarcadero to Fourth and King streets, and 70 percent of the route is on surface streets.

By the time morning inbound trains reach Carl and Cole streets, one of the line’s busiest stops before reaching Market Street, trains are often too full to pick up any additional passengers, leaving would-be riders behind at the curb.

The proposed six-month pilot program would provide buses during peak periods that would make express stops between the Outer Sunset and the Financial District beginning June 13 at an estimated annual cost of $1.8 million.

According to the SFMTA, the buses, dubbed the Nx Judah Express, would also provide better access to more stops in the Outer Sunset along Judah Street for customers with disabilities.

Morning peak express buses will make 11 stops between 48th Avenue and 19th Avenue along Judah Street before beelining to Bush and Montgomery streets.

Similarly, evening express service will begin at Sutter and Sansome streets and will run express to 19th Avenue and Judah Street before making 11 local stops.

Where the rubber meets the road, the buses are expected to best their train counterparts, albeit narrowly. Inbound buses are expected to make the trip in 39 minutes–one minute faster than the trains–and outbound buses are expected to make the trip in 39 minutes–two minutes faster than the trains.

The trial’s inbound express buses will run between 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m., and outbound express buses will operate from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

A maximum of nine vehicles, manned by 17 operators, would make the 32 daily trips, five days a week.

A public hearing will be held Friday regarding the proposal’s need to remove 12 parking spaces during the morning peak hours to accommodate a proposed terminal for up to three buses on Great Highway at Judah Street.

No parking removal is required for the proposed evening bus terminal on Sutter Street at Sansome Street.

“As a pilot, this program will show us if this is a feasible solution and whether any further changes need to be made,” SFMTA executive director Nathaniel Ford said in a statement Tuesday.

Supervisor Carmen Chu, whose district includes the Outer Sunset, also said in a statement that the pilot would be an improvement for all riders along the N Judah, not just those west of 19th Avenue.

“I am pleased to see the SFMTA working on a real solution to the concerns of Muni customers,” Chu said.

Patricia Decker, Bay City News

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