Muni Service Plan For Winter 2022: On the Right Track

Photo: SFMTA

We’re thankful that after laying out different scenarios for the next Muni service map, SFMTA has an updated proposal that restores much of the service riders have been missing. We know it’s been a difficult conversation over the past few months. We thank SFMTA for listening to riders, working with us, threading many needles, and restoring a lot of coverage given limited resources.

In the early days of the pandemic, SFMTA did an excellent job of redesigning the Muni map to prioritize essential workers, essential trips, and equitable access for those most in need. As they’ve redrawn the map several times over the past 18 months, SFMTA has worked to be responsive to crowding on heavily used lines as well as closing the distance between routes.

With the future of resources for restoring more service uncertain, SFMTA decided the Winter 2022 service plan was a moment to step back and take stock of our most important needs in Muni service.

We evaluated the proposals along with our membership. Our members were overall concerned that major changes to the Muni map were being considered without enough time to do sufficient rider outreach and get rider input.

Also top of mind for much of our membership is ensuring that Muni gets out of its structural deficit and is funded into the future. So one way members looked at the proposals was to consider what might build the most public support for the funding needed.

SFMTA’s Winter 2022 Service Plan offered an alternative to put more resources on fewer lines, in order to provide more frequency and hopefully build more ridership. Some of our members supported this approach.

Building ridership over the long term needs to be everyone’s goal, and we also want to see that fast, reliable, frequent service. However, in this pandemic context, when riders are weary of not having the routes back that they’ve relied on, and weary of all the changes to their service, we need to prioritize restoring coverage first. We’re also not fully convinced that frequent service with less coverage will result in the hoped-for ridership growth.

We seek equity in restoring coverage so that those with the least mobility still have access to key routes, in ensuring marginalized communities are centered in the planning process, and service prioritizes connections to historically neglected communities. Some of our members prioritized those connections — like bringing the 28 19th Ave to Fisherman’s Wharf, restoring the 43, and even a new idea to extend the 18 46th Ave to connect the VA Medical Center all the way to Daly City BART, providing better west-side connections in an otherwise car-heavy neighborhood.

We understand that as a result of prioritizing coverage, some routes will have low frequencies of every 15, 20, or even 30 minutes. This is never great service, and is especially punishing to riders when Muni misses a single bus run, creating extra long wait times. It is therefore crucial on routes with low frequency to have rock-solid reliability. As we look to build back ridership and build back the system, these low-frequency routes can least afford to have missing buses. We urge Muni to prioritize operations accordingly, and hope to see increased frequency as we identify more resources.

Again, we’re grateful to SFMTA staff for all their efforts, and for working to restore routes and their essential coverage. We think this is the right move to build more support for Muni — in 2022, we hope to win the significant funding needed to invest in the high-frequency network, along with growing service across the city, so we can have a Muni system to serve all San Franciscans.

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