J-Church focus of Muni program 

A Muni improvement program used to speed up the 1-California line is going to be put to the test when it takes on the transit agency’s lowest-performing train, the J-Church line.

Running from downtown to the Balboa Park station, via Noe Valley, the J-Church line has the worst on-time performance of any of Muni’s rail lines, arriving on schedule less than 62 percent of the time, far below the 85 percent on-time goal that voters asked for in a 1999 ballot measure.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who represents constituents in Noe Valley, called the J-Church line "deplorable" and said he’s been complaining about its service for years.

On Friday, Dufty, along with Mayor Gavin Newsom and the head of Muni, Nathaniel Ford, took a rideon the J-Church and announced a new performance pilot program that will focus extra resources on the rail line to get it on schedule. On an average weekday, the J-Church line has an average ridership of 18,700 passengers.

The program will add additional supervisors to make sure trains go out on time, use overtime operators to fill in for absent drivers and dedicate parking and traffic officers to relieve gridlock in busy intersections. Agency officials will also try to identify locations that frequently impede traffic flow, through problems caused by parking or poorly timed lights.

The pilot will be similar to one done in 2006 for the 1-California — which brought the on-time rate up to 88 percent from 81 percent, just a few percentage points below the voter goal. To move the J-Church line up to target will take a 23 percentage point improvement.

While riding on the J-Church, Newsom noted the line’s many twists and turns and that, because of the rigid nature of the rail, it is more difficult to turn around corners, slowing down the train when there is a car parked close by. He said some of the parking spaces near the turns might need to be eliminated.

"We’re looking at the parking spaces right now, because the cars make it very difficult to traverse those turns," Newsom said.

The J-Church pilot study will begin Monday and last four months. Although the three-month 1-California improvement program ended up costing about $168,000, Ford said it is not yet known how much it will cost to get the J-Church up to speed.

beslinger@examiner.com

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