J Church

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J Church
J Church logo.svg
J Church train in Dolores Park, May 2018.JPG
An inbound J Church train in Dolores Park in 2018
TypeLight rail/Streetcar
SystemMuni Metro
LocaleSan Francisco, California
TerminiEmbarcadero station
Balboa Park station
Daily ridership14,787 (2013)[1]
OpenedAugust 11, 1917; 102 years ago (1917-08-11)[2]
OwnerSan Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
Operator(s)San Francisco Municipal Railway
CharacterAt grade & underground
Rolling stockBreda LRV2 and LRV3
Siemens LRV4
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
ElectrificationOverhead lines, 600 V DC
Route diagram

N Judah T Third Street
F Market & Wharves
Union Square/​Market Street
Central Subway
Civic Center
F Market & Wharves
Van Ness
F Market & Wharves
Market Street Subway
Duboce Portal
to surface tracks on
Market Street (closed 1982)
N Judah
Church and Duboce
Church and 14th Street
F Market & Wharves
K Ingleside L Taraval M Ocean View T Third Street
Church and 16th Street
F Market & Wharves
pull-ins &
Church and 18th Street
Right Of Way/20th Street
Right Of Way/Liberty Street
Right Of Way/21st Street
Church and 22nd Street
Church and 24th Street
Church and Clipper
Church and 27th Street
Church and 29th / Church and Day
Church and 30th Street
30th Street and Dolores
San Jose and Randall
Bernal Cut
San Jose/​Glen Park
San Jose and Santa Rosa
San Jose and Santa Ynez
San Jose and Ocean
K Ingleside
Balboa Park
M Ocean View
Muni lines
BART lines

The J Church is a Muni Metro light rail line in San Francisco, California, mainly serving the Noe Valley and Balboa Park neighborhoods, connecting them to downtown.

Route description[edit]

J Church's private right-of-way over Dolores Heights

The line runs from Embarcadero Station in the Financial District to Balboa Park Station and the Balboa Park neighborhood near City College of San Francisco. The downtown portion of the line uses the Market Street Subway, along with four other Muni Metro lines (K/T, L, M and N lines). The J exits the tunnel at Duboce Avenue along with the N Judah and turns onto Church Street. Between 18th and 20th Street, the line cuts through Dolores Park in a private right-of-way featuring a 9% grade, the steepest section of the Muni Metro.[3] After crossing 20th Street, it cuts across the blocks east of Church, around a steep hill and returns to Church Street at 22nd Street in Noe Valley. The J then follows Church to 30th Street, then to San Jose Avenue and Geneva. Between Randall and Cotter Streets, there is a right-of-way in the middle of San Jose Avenue. At the end of the line, the J loops around the Metro yard at San Jose and Geneva, alongside Balboa Park Station.

The J Church line stops at large stations for the downtown section of the route and at smaller stops on the rest of the line. Most of the smaller stops are designated by a sign on the sidewalk, while a few have concrete "islands" in the middle of the street next to the tracks that may provide access for wheelchairs.

While most other lines in the rail system can be run in two-car configurations, the J line is almost always run with a single car in order to accommodate the stops in the right-of-way, which are not long enough to have two light rail cars with open doors simultaneously.


The J Church begins service at 5 a.m. weekdays, 6 a.m. Saturdays and 8 a.m. Sundays and continues until 12:15 a.m. every night. Headways range from 7 to 15 minutes during the day, and 15 to 20 minutes at night. There is no late night service along the entire J line. Some of the route is covered by the L-Owl and N-Owl service provided by diesel buses run on Market Street between Church Street and Steuart Street. Owl service on the 24 Divisadero line runs near the portion of the J line north of 30th Street, and 14 Mission owl service runs near the portion of the line south of 30th.


An outbound J Church PCC streetcar running through Dolores Park in 1980

Track work on the J Church line was largely completed in 1916, and service from 30th Street and Church Street to Market Street and Van Ness Avenue on August 11, 1917.[4][2] Service was extended along Van Ness Avenue to Pine Street on August 29, 1917; this extension was discontinued on May 31, 1918, with service extended along Market Street to the Ferry Building the next day.[5] The new Transbay Terminal became the inner terminus for every other streetcar on January 15, 1939, with all service routed there after January 1, 1941.[5]

As part of the creation of the Muni Metro system, it was partially converted to modern light rail operation in 1981 - the last line to do so.[6][7] While many streetcar lines were converted to bus lines after World War II, the J Church avoided this due to the private right-of-way it uses to climb the steepest grades on Church Street, between 18th Street and 22nd Street.[8]

Extension to Balboa Park[edit]

The outer end of the line was originally at Church and 30th Streets, where streetcars used a wye to turn around. Studies to extend the line from its southern terminus had been made in the 1920s[4] and 1970's.[9] In 1990–91, the tracks were extended to the Balboa Park BART station and the Metro Center (Muni light-rail maintenance and operations base), giving J-line cars a much shorter connection to the yard than previously. The extension opened on August 31, 1991, but the 2.3-mile (3.7 km) new section was initially used only by light rail cars starting or ending their runs;[10] all-day J-line service was not extended along the new tracks until June 19, 1993.[11][12]

An inbound J Church train turns from San Jose Avenue onto 30th Street

This trackage was laid along the Bernal Cut, the former right-of-way of the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad.[4]

This extension of the J-line to the Metro Center now also provides vintage F Market cars a connection to the adjacent Cameron Beach Yard, where they are stored when not in service. Occasionally J-Church streetcars use the siding at 30th and Church as a terminus during rush hours, or during irregular operations.

The 19th Avenue Platform & Trackway Improvement Project originally included pocket tracks to allow J Church trains to continue past Balboa Park with service to Stonestown. Due to community backlash, the compromise plan did not include the facilities necessary to run joint J-M service.[6]

The line was temporarily through-routed with the surface section of the K Ingleside line from June 25 to August 24, 2018 due to the Twin Peaks Tunnel shutdown.[13]

Future plans[edit]

In March 2014, Muni released details of the proposed implementation of their Transit Effectiveness Project (later rebranded MuniForward), which included a variety of changes for the J Church line intended to improve reliability and decrease travel times. The proposed changes included the removal of two stops (Liberty and Church and 30th Street), minor relocations of several other stops, construction of boarding islands and transit bulbs, and transit-only lanes on three blocks of Church Street, plus an increase in frequency from 9.5-minute headways to 8-minute headways during the morning peak.[14]

Most of the changes will be included in the proposed J Church Rapid Project. However, one element - dedicated transit/taxi lanes and left turn restrictions on Church Street between Duboce Avenue and 16th Street - was chosen for implementation as a pilot project to test its effectiveness. The red-painted dedicated center lanes (for use also by the 22-Fillmore bus) and turn restrictions were added in March 2013. The project proved to reduce travel time and improve reliability on both rail and bus, while not significantly increasing travel time in private automobiles.[15] Based on these positive results, the SFMTA Board made the changes permanent in June 2015.[16]

With the completion of the M Ocean View Subway, the J Church will be re-routed to connect with the M Ocean View at a new four-track subway station at SF State. The J line is expected to enter a new portal on 19th Avenue near Monticello Street with a subway tunnel following approximately the current M line alignment between Monticello Street and Holloway Avenue along 19th Avenue.[17][18]


Neighborhood Station/Stop Transfers and connections Notes
Financial District Handicapped/disabled access Embarcadero K Ingleside L Taraval M Ocean View N Judah T Third Street S Castro Shuttle Connects to F Market & Wharves and BART; within walking distance of E Embarcadero
Serves Ferry Building
Handicapped/disabled access Montgomery Street K Ingleside L Taraval M Ocean View N Judah T Third Street S Castro Shuttle Connects to F Market & Wharves and BART
Handicapped/disabled access Powell Street K Ingleside L Taraval M Ocean View N Judah T Third Street S Castro Shuttle Connects to F Market & Wharves and BART
Civic Center Handicapped/disabled access Civic Center / UN Plaza K Ingleside L Taraval M Ocean View N Judah T Third Street S Castro Shuttle Connects to F Market & Wharves and BART
Handicapped/disabled access Van Ness K Ingleside L Taraval M Ocean View N Judah T Third Street S Castro Shuttle Connects to F Market & Wharves
Duboce Triangle Handicapped/disabled access Church and Duboce (inbound only) N Judah No outbound stop
Meets N Judah via a separate platform
Church and 14th Street (outbound)
Church and Market Street (inbound)
K Ingleside L Taraval M Ocean View T Third Street S Castro Shuttle* *Connects with K, L, M, T and S at the Church Street Station in the Market Street Subway
Connects with F Market & Wharves streetcar
Muni bus lines: 22, 37
Castro Church and 16th Street Muni bus line: 22
Handicapped/disabled access Church and 18th Street Muni bus: 33
Mission District Right Of Way/20th Street Located on its own right-of-way in Dolores Park
Right Of Way/Liberty Right-of-way
Noe Valley Right Of Way/21st Street Right-of-way
Church and 22nd Street
Handicapped/disabled access Church and 24th Street Muni bus: 48
Church and Clipper
Church and 27th Street
Handicapped/disabled access Church and 29th Street (inbound)
Church and Day Street (outbound)
Church and 30th Street (inbound only) Muni busses: 24, 36
Bernal Heights 30th Street and Dolores Muni busses: 24, 36
Handicapped/disabled access San Jose and Randall Muni bus: 14, 49
Glen Park San Jose and Bosworth Located across the street from the Glen Park BART station.
Muni bus lines: 23, 35, 36, 44, 52
Balboa Park San Jose and Santa Rosa
San Jose and Santa Ynez
San Jose and Ocean
San Jose and Santa Rosa Muni bus: 49
Handicapped/disabled access Balboa Park K Ingleside M Ocean View* Outbound terminus
Connects with BART via Muni Metro's mezzanine level
*Utilizes turn around shared with K Ingleside; within walking distance of M Ocean View
Muni bus lines: 8, 8BX, 29, 43, 49, 54, 88


  1. ^ "TEP Route Data & Proposed Changes". San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-15.
  2. ^ a b "Happy Centennial, J-Church". streetcar.org. Market Street Railway. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  3. ^ "General Information". San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Menzies, Jeremy. "Hooray for the J: 100 Years on the J Church". sfmta.com. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  5. ^ a b Stindt, Fred A. (October 1990). San Francisco's Century of Street Cars. p. 186. ISBN 0961546514.
  6. ^ a b Callwell, Robert (September 1999). "Transit in San Francisco: A Selected Chronology, 1850-1995" (PDF). San Francisco Municipal Railway.
  7. ^ McKane, John; Perles, Anthony (1982). Inside Muni: The Properties and Operations of the Municipal Railway of San Francisco. Glendale, CA (US): Interurban Press. pp. 189–190. ISBN 0-916374-49-1.
  8. ^ Perles, Anthony (1981). The People's Railway: The History of the Municipal Railway of San Francisco. Interurban Press. pp. 176, 181. ISBN 0916374424.
  9. ^ "Copy of Map of Possible J Church Line Connection to Ocean Division via Bernal Cut for Muni Metro". SFMTA Photography Department & Archive. February 29, 1972. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  10. ^ "World News [regular news section]". Modern Tramway. UK: Ian Allan Publishing. December 1991. p. 430. ISSN 0144-1655.
  11. ^ Springirth, Kenneth C. (2015). San Francisco's Magnificent Streetcars. Fonthill Media. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-63499-001-1.
  12. ^ "World News [regular news section]". Light Rail and Modern Tramway. UK: Ian Allan Publishing. September 1993. p. 249. ISSN 0964-9255.
  13. ^ "Twin Peaks Tunnel Improvements". San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. June 25, 2018. Archived from the original on June 26, 2018.
  14. ^ "Chapter 3: Proposals by Route". Transit Effectiveness Project Implementation Workbook (PDF). San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. March 24, 2014. pp. 52–56.
  15. ^ "Church Street Transit Lanes: Final Report" (PDF). San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. February 2015.
  16. ^ Chin, Jerrold (June 3, 2015). "Church Street transit-only lanes become permanent". SFBay.
  17. ^ https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/projects/2016/Station%203%20Street.pdf
  18. ^ https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/projects/2016/Full-size%20rail%20map.pdf

External links[edit]

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata