Muni to T-Third riders: Stand up and take it 

Shirley Hall needs a place to sit. The 72-year-old retired horse-racing clerk is among the hundreds of riders of the embattled T-Third metro line who have been standing, leaning and sitting on platform floors since Muni removed benches at some station stops two weeks ago.

"I’m a senior, and standing here and waiting for a long time isn’t convenient," said Hall, who rides the T-Third almost daily. "Sometimes you wait 20 minutes. Most of the time I just stand up against the wall."

The bench ordeal is the latest blemish on the $648 million rail line, which began operating seven days a week in early April. On the first day, only 11 percent of the T-Third trains were operating on time. The new line caused a systemwide meltdown that left riders on other trains, including the J-Church, K-Ingleside, M-Ocean View and N-Judah, stranded for up to 50 minutes.

Muni began removing the benches along the T-Third line — which connects the Bayview to the Financial District — after discovering four broken benches since June. The cause is still under investigation, Muni spokeswoman Maggie Lynch said, adding that the initial assessment indicates a "manufacturing [or] field installation problem with some of the welds."

The transit agency decided to remove all 33 benches with backrests — which cost about $2,200 each and were manufactured by a Pittsburgh company — "due to the potential of public injury and possibility of broken benches ending up on the trackway," Lynch said.

Now, there is no seating at four stations — including Kirkwood/LaSalle, Oakdale/Palou, Arleta and Sunnydale. The metro line’s other platforms were equipped with different benches. "The benches, which have no back support, do not show any signs of defect," Muni spokeswoman Kristen Holland said.

It will take about three months to manufacture and install new, permanent benches. The agency is determining the design of interim seats that will be in place by the end of August, Holland said. But that’s not fast enough for some.

"The stops are too far apart. You have to wait too long for the next one to come," said Minnell Harrison, who has lived in the Bayview district for 40 years and uses a cane to walk, regarding the T-Third. "Now I have to stand much longer than I would like to."

Meant to connect some of San Francisco’s most isolated neighborhoods with downtown, the 5.1-mile T-Third metro line is The City’s first transit-infrastructure project in decades. After a rocky start, Muni officials reintroduced some of the service changes that came along with the T-Third, including the N-Judah Caltrain service and the 10-Townsend weekend bus service.

arocha@examiner.com


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