Mar, SFMTA announce plan to start hourly downtown L-Taraval bus service

District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar celebrates the completion of the first segment of the L-Taraval Improvement Project on July 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerold Chinn)

Muni passengers will soon be able to take a one-seat ride towards downtown on the L-Taraval bus again. Well, sort of.

Supervisor Gordon Mar, who represents the Sunset and Parkside neighborhoods, said the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will run an hourly L-Taraval bus service from the Zoo to downtown starting sometime this month. Mar and SFMTA staff made the announcement Thursday night during a virtual community meeting about transit projects in District 4.

“This is not the full service restoration I wanted or asked for, Mar said. “But, it’s a step forward and made possible by the recent graduation of a new class of Muni operators.”

Jessica Garcia, the acting service planning team lead for the SFMTA, said the hourly bus service will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays only between the Zoo to Embarcadero. The hourly downtown service will coincide with the already existing service that currently runs between the Zoo and Ulloa Street and Claremont Boulevard (near West Portal station).

Changes to the L-Taraval bus were made during the agency’s July service changes where the bus route was shortened to end near West Portal station, requiring passengers to make a transfer to the station if they needed to continue towards downtown. This came as a surprise for some riders. Before the July service change, the L-Taraval bus route ended at Steuart and Mission streets.

The agency said they also increased the frequency of the L bus service from 10 to eight minutes between the Zoo and West Portal station as part of the July service changes.

Mar penned a letter in July to SFMTA Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin expressing his “strong objections” to the service change in July, citing that no outreach had been done and that the service would affect seniors and persons with disabilities.

Tumlin responded in his letter to Mar that the initial plan before the pandemic began was for the L bus to end at West Portal during construction of the during the L-Taraval Improvement Project. It was later extended to downtown as part of the emergency response early on in the pandemic when the agency shut rail service, Tumlin said.

The SFMTA completed the first segment of the L project last summer and is currently working on the second segment between Sunset Boulevard and West Portal. The SFMTA expects to complete the project by summer 2024.

There has also been talks about interlinking K-Ingleside the L and together, which could take the K and L out of the subway by not entering West Portal station. This would obviously require riders on both rail lines to make a transfer at West Portal to continue to downtown. The concept is not exactly new.

Transit officials spoke of this plan when attempting to restart the subway in August 2020 but it never came to fruition.

At the virtual meeting, Garcia was asked about the possible plan to interlink the K and L.

Garcia said the agency is still evaluating on what to do with the L once the Taraval project is complete.

“It’s still up in the air. There would definitely be an outreach process when we get to that point, but at this point, no decisions have been made, and we’re still evaluating what the plans would be after construction is over,” Garcia said.

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Jerold Chinn

Award-winning transportation journalist based in San Francisco.