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J Church trains returned to service December 19, 2020

This Saturday, January 23, will be a big day for Muni and its riders — a lot of service is rolling out, along with a lot of smaller changes to better balance service. These changes will no doubt help thousands of people counting on Muni to get around. They could also be the last big round of service increases for a while, and there are still too many neighborhoods without service. We will continue to advocate at all levels, from San Francisco to Washington D.C., for more funding to bring back the service we need.

In the meantime, Muni is facing a lot of resource constraints and hard choices. When the subway couldn’t open up in August, buses had to serve routes normally served by trains. As a result, routes like the 27 Bryant stayed dark, leaving many transit-dependent riders stranded for months.

This Saturday the T Third trains return, running from Sunnydale to Embarcadero (because of ongoing subway work, riders have to go upstairs at Embarcadero to connect with the rest of Market St. and points west — definitely not great, but perhaps temporarily necessary). The reconfigured surface-only J Church started running trains a few weeks ago. With these trains back in service, buses are freed up to bring back service elsewhere.

The 27 Bryant is coming back at last, although with a modified route on 7th and 8th Street rather than 5th St. This will connect people with groceries and services from Nob Hill, through the Tenderloin, and to the Mission.

The 22 Fillmore is at last straightening out its route to provide more frequent, reliable, direct service to and from jobs and medical services in Mission Bay. The new 55 Dogpatch, planned a few years ago, is launching to connect people and places on Potrero Hill to Mission St, 16th St., Caltrain, and 3rd St.

We’re also getting an entirely new route: 15 Bayview Hunters Point Express (even as 15 BHP Express, it’s something of a mouthful). As slow and unreliable as the T Third has been, community members have been calling for the return of the old 15 bus. A result of strong advocacy by Supervisor Walton and the Bayview community, the 15 BHP Express will serve the side of the hill farthest from the T Third and provide a direct connection to and from downtown. The 15 BHP Express is a long-overdue improvement for this area that has so long lacked good connections to the rest of the city.

The 33 Ashbury is returning, which is great for better access to some hilly areas and medical centers. The 8AX Bayshore is coming back, and will run all day, to help with crowding between Visitacion Valley and Chinatown. A bunch of other changes will increase capacity and balance out service.

While all these increases are great and needed, we need to ask why we’re being forced to choose which routes are in service. There are transit-dependent people all over the city that need their bus lines to return. When can we get more coverage throughout the city? What will that take?

In short, it will take more funding. We need to address nationwide priorities that fund highway expansion at far greater levels than transit, and we need to address regional and local priorities so transit can be resilient and dependable. We need to work especially hard in the coming months and years to secure equitable long-term funding, likely through the ballot box.

So we’re very excited for the service increases coming this weekend. They’re a sign of hope, of return from the skeleton service we’ve had to get by with. They’ll mean access and mobility for who knows how many thousands of San Franciscans. But this is just a start. We still have our work cut out for us to get transit fully funded so it can serve every neighborhood well, to make transit more efficient, and to make it the easy choice for everyone.

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