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. It began as one of San Francisco's streetcar lines in 1917, and was partially converted to modern light-rail operation in 1981, as part of the creation of the Muni Metro system in the late 1970s. While many streetcar lines were converted to bus lines after World War II, the J Church remained a streetcar line due to the private right-of-way it uses to avoid the steepest grades on Church Street, between 18th Street and 22nd Street. Buses cannot negotiate the grades, and the right-of-way is too narrow to accommodate anything wider than the streetcar tracks.
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 on a private right-of-way. 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 provide access for wheelchairs.
While most other lines in the rail system can be run in two-car configurations, the J line is 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.
Extension to Balboa Park Station
The outer end of the line was originally at Church and 30th Streets, where streetcars used a wye to turn around. In 1991, 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 caryard than previously. However, the 2.3-mile (3.7 km) new section was initially used only by light rail cars starting or ending their runs; all-day J-line service was not extended along the new tracks until March 1992. This extension of the J-line to the Metro Center now also provides vintage F Market cars a connection to the adjacent Geneva Yard, where they are stored when not in service. Occasionally J-Church streetcars use the wye at 30th and Church as a terminus during rush hours, or during irregular operations.
Station and stop listing
inbound to outbound
|Embarcadero||Financial District||Inbound terminus
Connects to F Market & Wharves and BART; within walking distance of E Embarcadero
Serves Ferry Building
|Montgomery Street||Financial District||Connects to F Market & Wharves and BART|
|Powell Street||Financial District||Connects to F Market & Wharves and BART|
|Civic Center/UN Plaza||Civic Center||Connects to F Market & Wharves and BART|
|Van Ness||Civic Center and Tenderloin||Connects to F Market & Wharves|
|Duboce and Church (inbound only)||Duboce Triangle||No stops at this station outbound
Meets N Judah via a separate platform
|Church and 14th (outbound)
Church and Market (inbound)
|Duboce Triangle||*||*Connects with K, L, M, T and S at the Church Street Station in the Market Street Subway
Connects with F Market & Wharves streetcar
|Church and 16th Street||Castro||Connects with 22-Fillmore|
|Church and 18th Street||Castro||Connects with 33-Ashbury|
|20th Street||Mission District||Located on its own right-of-way in Dolores Park|
|21st Street||Noe Valley||Right-of-way|
|Church and 22nd Street||Noe Valley|
|Church and 24th Street||Noe Valley||Connects with 48-Quintara|
|Church and Clipper||Noe Valley|
|Church and 27th Street||Noe Valley|
|Church and 29th Street (inbound)
Church and Day (outbound)
|Church and 30th Street||Noe Valley||Connects with 24-Divisadero|
|30th Street and Dolores||Bernal Heights||Connects with 24-Divisadero|
|San Jose and Randall||Bernal Heights||Connects with 14-Mission, 49-Van Ness|
|San Jose and Bosworth (or San Jose/Glen Park)||Glen Park||Located across the street from the Glen Park BART station.|
|San Jose and Santa Rosa||Mission Terrace|
|San Jose and Santa Ynez||Mission Terrace|
|San Jose and Ocean||Mission Terrace|
|San Jose and Santa Rosa||Mission Terrace|
|Balboa Park||Mission Terrace||*||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
- "TEP Route Data & Proposed Changes". San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-15.
- 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.
- Modern Tramway (UK: Ian Allan Publishing): 430. December 1991. Missing or empty
- Muni Metro and San Francisco rail map (195KB PDF)
- J-Church route information from the SF Muni Map Project