SFMTA crew installing new overhead wire in the subway tunnel.
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is wrapping up the recent wave of major subway repairs, bringing a smoother and more reliable ride to passengers with Muni Metro reopens.
New wayfinding signs and art projects are in place at Castro and West Portal stations, along with Wi-Fi availability, thanks to routers being installed in stations and cellular antennas being installed in the tunnels. Safety certification for the subway repairs was approved on March 11, paving the way to reopen the subway and phase in more rail service in May.
SFMTA staff used this rare extended subway shutdown as an opportunity to accelerate other upgrades and necessary maintenance work by packaging them with subway repairs to maximize results. During normal service, subway maintenance crews can only work within the few hours a day when trains are not running.
The work completed during the pandemic provides significant customer improvements, including a quicker ride, the convenience of Wi-Fi and fewer breakdowns in the tunnel. This work represents an important down payment on a larger set of deferred capital needs, including replacement of the train control system, track replacement between Castro and Embarcadero and upgrades to the subway and station support systems, such as station electrical panels and fan systems. SFMTA has also been able to train additional crew members in tunnel operations and maintenance.
One of the last and key steps in finishing repairs and reopening the subway is safety testing and certification. The SFMTA is testing the track, signal system and overhead wires to ensure they are functioning properly and meet safety standards. SFMTA has also tested the train control system to ensure it is in proper working order. The train control system is a crucial part of subway safety and operation, overseeing all the trains in the tunnel and directing them to the right places.
Other important repairs and improvements included:
- Track grinding: Track maintenance crews grind the track to smooth it out, providing a smoother, quieter ride with less wear and tear to vehicles. This work had been in the queue for a while but was deferred because it requires service to be shut down and takes many hours. SFMTA was able to take advantage of the extended shut down to finally undertake this vital improvement.
- Tunnel lighting: Subway maintenance staff replaced the lights inside the tunnels between Castro and Van Ness stations and are completing installation of new tunnel lighting between Embarcadero and Montgomery stations. These lights are vital for train operators to see potential hazards. They are also necessary for visibility in emergencies. The previous lights were 50-years old and dim, creating safety concerns. While customers might not notice these new tunnel lights, this important safety upgrade will nevertheless make their trips safer.
- Signs: SFMTA is also installing new wayfinding and directional signs at Castro and Church stations–part of a larger effort to improve wayfinding throughout the Muni Metro system. This includes upgrading the wayfinding signs inside stations that point customers to stairwells, elevators and escalators, and indicate where they lead. New station identification signs will also let customers know where they are when their train pulls into one of these stations. All these new signs will be brighter and more visible with LED technology.
- Public art: When entering or exiting Muni Metro at Castro or West Portal, riders will also see brand new, beautiful artwork on the accessible bus platforms at street level.
With this new signage, SFMTA is moving away from the confusing and outdated use of “inbound” and “outbound” wording in the subway. Instead, SFMTA will use a combination of route end points and cardinal directions (north, south, east, west), that are easier for customers to navigate and consistent with rail systems and stations in most major cities worldwide. As an example, that means if someone is taking the N Judah at Powell Station and their destination is in the Sunset, they will look for signs for trains going to “Ocean Beach/Westbound” because Ocean Beach is the final destination west on the route.
With the reopening of the subway, SFMTA will continue to gradually phase back Muni Metro rail by extending the T Third Metro to West Portal and bringing back the N Judah Metro rail between Ocean Beach and 4th and King. SFMTA says it expects these service changes to take place in May and will share additional details as they become available.