It’s time to improve West Portal Station

San Francisco Transit Riders
6 min readMay 9, 2024


By Dylan Fabris, SFTR Community and Policy Manager

On March 18th, San Franciscans came together to mourn the loss of a family in West Portal, where a father, mother, and two young sons were killed by a speeding driver while waiting for the bus.

Nobody should ever be killed on our streets, and while San Francisco has so far struggled to meet its goal to eliminate all traffic fatalities, the March 18th memorial seemed like it could be a turning point, as members from all corners of our community came together to honor the victims and reflect on the damage that traffic violence causes in our city. The air was heavy as parents, business owners, workers, advocates, and top brass from the City all mourned together, with what seemed like an understanding that we cannot allow such a senseless tragedy to repeat itself.

In the past, the City has been notoriously slow to take action following fatal pedestrian crashes. That’s why San Francisco Transit Riders was happy to hear that District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar and Mayor London Breed, along with the SFMTA, were proposing fast-tracked, common-sense changes to slow down private traffic in the intersections around West Portal Station where March’s crash occurred. We are disappointed that implementation of the plans is now being delayed following outcry from some merchants. Instead of a quick turnaround at the SFMTA Board, the new “Welcoming West Portal Committee” will meet over the next several months to further dissect the plans.

SFMTA’s proposed design changes for West Portal. These plans are under threat of being watered down following opposition from some merchants. SFMTA should instead expand these proposals to improve safety and transit access. (Photo: SFMTA)

The changes being proposed in the plan are not particularly radical: Protection would be added to the bus stop where the crash occurred, certain turn restrictions would be implemented to reduce speed and confusion around the station’s busy crosswalks, and parts of the streetscape would be pedestrianized or turned into transit-only lanes, making it harder for cars to get up to the high speeds necessary to plow straight through a Muni bus shelter.

San Francisco Transit Riders applauds the speed at which these proposals were drafted by SFMTA and shared with the community, and calls for their implementation as soon as possible, and for future fatal crashes to be addressed with a similar level of urgency & infrastructure. The proposed changes in West Portal will slow traffic to lower the chance of crashes at one of San Francisco’s busiest transit hubs, and will provide tangible speed and reliability benefits to the thousands of people citywide who rely on the half-dozen transit lines that serve the corridor.

But while these proposals are a great start, they don’t go far enough. There are still several bus stops in the area where concrete protection is not being considered. And placing bus stops across the street from West Portal Station (rather than directly in front of it) still exposes people to the danger of crossing a busy street to catch their transit connection. To adequately protect people using one of the city’s busiest transit hubs, more changes must be considered beyond what is currently being proposed.

San Francisco Transit Riders suggests the following short-term changes:

  • The SFMTA Board should immediately approve all of the original proposed changes, and the agency should implement the changes as quickly as possible. The agency can leverage the upcoming Twin Peaks Tunnel closure to complete the street work in West Portal while Muni Metro service is offline.
  • The Welcoming West Portal Committee should work to identify additional transit and safety improvements for the corridor.
  • The committee should include a diverse panel of stakeholders, including people who take transit, walk, and bike in the area. The panel must include local business owners, but should reflect the broad diversity of people who move around West Portal, and therefore merchants should not be overrepresented on the committee.
  • The Welcoming West Portal Committee cannot be used as an excuse to water down the crucial but insufficient changes identified in the original proposal.

In the longer-term, San Francisco Transit Riders, in consultation with our members, recommends the following service and infrastructure changes to improve public transit speed, reliability and access to the West Portal neighborhood and beyond:

  • Add concrete infrastructure to separate Muni rail lines from car traffic. This would ensure the existing transit-only lanes on the corridor are actually adhered to, allowing trains to be free of delays caused by drivers who currently ignore posted signage and block the tracks.
  • Use new in-motion charging technology to extend Muni’s 6 Haight/Parnassus route from its current terminal at 14th Ave & Quintara St to West Portal Station. This change will directly connect West Portal to several neighborhoods that have high levels of transit ridership, including Cole Valley, Haight-Ashbury, UCSF Parnassus, and the Inner Sunset.
  • Turn the 800 and 8300 blocks of Ulloa St. (directly adjacent to and in front of the station) into a pedestrianized transit plaza to allow safer and quicker transfers for people moving between streetcars and buses. Transit riders should not need to navigate active car traffic to catch their connections at one of the city’s premier transit hubs.
  • Evaluate all bus stops, especially those on the High Injury Network, to determine where further safety improvements are necessary to protect transit riders.

Examples from San Francisco and around the country show that increasing transit and pedestrian access helps communities and businesses thrive. People on foot, bike, and transit consistently spend more time and money in merchant corridors, supporting local businesses more than drivers. As a hub for multiple Muni lines, transit delays on West Portal — where private cars currently run up to twice as fast as public transit — impact access and economy all across the city. Slowing down cars also makes corridors more enjoyable, lowering air and noise pollution and the threat of serious crashes like the one earlier this year.

West Portal would not exist if it wasn’t for the streetcars. Before the eponymous western portal of the Twin Peaks Tunnel opened in 1917, the neighborhood was not much more than open space — part of San Francisco’s wild “Outside Lands.” The addition of streetcar service west of Twin Peaks was the seed that allowed the neighborhood to grow, and to this day, the Muni lines that run through the neighborhood serve 50,000 trips per day.

The City should go above and beyond implementing the safety features proposed in SFMTA’s original plan by adding additional transit reliability and access improvements that could help connect people from across the entire city to West Portal’s businesses and community.

Concrete once separated streetcars from auto traffic on West Portal. Today, as the dual climate and street safety crises demand urgent action, and local businesses continue to recover from the pandemic, bold changes will be necessary to save lives and help our city thrive. (Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp26.120)

And these changes must not stop at West Portal. Last year, a four-year-old girl was hit by a car and killed near the station at 4th and King. And days after the tragedy in West Portal, another car crashed into a person waiting for the bus on Fulton St. More must be done to slow down traffic, encourage transit ridership, and protect transit riders from the physical harms of traffic violence.

Vision Zero is a transit issue, and transit is a Vision Zero issue. While the changes proposed for West Portal are a good start, SFMTA must do more to not just react but also prevent injuries in the neighborhood and citywide.



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