Despite previous reports that we wouldn't see Muni's K, L, or M lines running in light-rail tunnels until early next year, the SFMTA has surprised us today with better-than-expected news — as opposed to the usual worse-than-expected updates they've become known for.
It's not clear if this happened entirely under pressure from the mayor or the Board of Supervisors. But the announcement today is coming from Mayor London Breed and District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar, touting the fact that the K-Ingleside line will be returning to full service on May 15 along with the previously announced return of the N-Judah. What that means is that transit riders can return to using the light-rail trains, and underground service will be returning to the core downtown tunnel from West Portal, not just from the N line.
The J-Church, L-Taraval, and M-Oceanview will remain above ground, with the J continuing light-rail service from Balboa Park to Market and Church, and the L and M continuing with bus shuttles until further notice.
"The return of the K is an important step forward in bringing back the type of Muni service that San Francisco needs as we emerge from this pandemic," said Mayor Breed in a statement. "This last year forced us to change so much about how our city operates, and one of the hardest parts was the impact it had on our public transit. But while trains and buses weren’t able to run at normal levels, the SFMTA used that time to make important upgrades and repairs to our infrastructure and prepare for the future. Now I’m excited to see more and more people riding Muni to get around San Francisco."
In a tweet, Breed thanked Melgar and the SFMTA for their "work on this."
I'm excited that Muni service for the K Ingleside and N Judah trains will both resume on May 15th, which is an important step forward in bringing back the level of service we need for our economic recovery. Thank you Supervisor @myrnamelgar and @sfmta_muni for your work on this. https://t.co/aV8W9SVvG9— London Breed (@LondonBreed) April 16, 2021
Last week we learned that work had been completed to add new wi-fi service in underground stations and tunnels through the Muni system, in addition to necessary track maintenance and new way-finding signage in stations.
All that sounded a little less terrific with the knowledge that only N Judah riders were going to reap the benefits until 2022. So, today's announcement brings the welcome news that K Ingleside riders, and riders needing to get downtown from Forest Hill or Castro Station, will see train service return in mid-May.
The K and T-Third lines will be "interlined" the way they were pre-pandemic, with full service between Balboa Park and Sunnydale — and trains going underground between West Portal and Embarcadero.
When full Muni service returns next year (or sooner?), the plan is that the K and L lines will be interlined and will no longer go underground — riders will need to transfer to newly interlined M/T trains or S-Shuttle trains at West Portal in order to get downtown, as part of a new plan to reduce train condition and increase efficiency in the core tunnel.
"We are ecstatic to see the K light rail service coming back in May," says Melgar in a statement. "We are reopening, our folks are getting vaccinated, our merchants are seeing an uptick in foot traffic and connecting businesses to their customers is critical to economic recovery and vitality."
Melgar adds, "The K light rail is crucial for District 7 — not just our businesses but also our institutions, such as our SFUSD schools and City College. We need reliable and accessible transit service and to ensure our recovery and success after a year of COVID. I look forward to continued advocacy for my district."