San Francisco Riders: Your Ride Will Get Better this year!
Get your Clipper Cards ready because more Muni is coming your way.
On December 7th, the SFMTA Board of Directors approved the Muni Service Network proposal for 2022. This signifies the largest proposed increase in service levels since the agency reduced subway and bus service at the beginning of the pandemic. And it would not have been possible without riders across the city organizing and speaking up to restore needed transit service. We are thankful that there is an urgency amongst our SFMTA board members in prioritizing Muni access to essential services and connecting riders to various destinations without using cars to do it.
What’s coming back?
Revised services were slated to be restored in February, but, because of a shortage of operators, all, except for J subway service, will now probably take place in March, and some later still. The J is expected to be restored in February, coinciding with a new BART schedule that will allow the subway to remain open for service until midnight. Changes that were approved by the SFMTA board include:
- Restoration of full service on Routes 6 (Haight/Parnassus), 23 (Monterrey), 28R (19th Avenue Rapid), and 43 (Masonic).These routes are critical crosstown connections between neighborhoods and major locations within the City.
- Restoration of split peak-hour Express Bus service on Route 8AX and 8BX (Bayshore) through Visitacion Valley, the Excelsior, and Chinatown, providing much needed one-seat express service through these neighborhoods and alleviating crowding on the existing route 8.
- Partial restoration of Routes 2 (Clement), 10 (Townsend), restoring the 21 (Hayes) to connect with BART at Civic Center, along with the 31 (Balboa) rerouted to serve SoMa and Caltrain.
- Returning the J (Church) back into the subway for full service every 15 minutes to the Embarcadero Station. This provides a service improvement amongst riders including those with mobility issues, seniors, and commuters by eliminating the need to transfer at either Duboce or Market Street, and was the focus of a strong community effort
Restoration of J Church subway service represents a major win for advocates, as the SFMTA board overruled staff recommendations, and sided with a unanimous chorus of public comment. Staff sought to only restore evening subway service, retaining a shuttle during daytime hours along with a supplemental bus service. The board felt staff was attempting to “fix a (capacity) problem we don’t quite have yet.”
In addition to the full restoration of routes mentioned above, several routes will have frequency increases to help increase capacity on existing routes (such as the 5 Fulton and the 38R Geary Rapid), or offsetting services that are still suspended (such as the 3 Jackson and the 47 Van Ness).
Not every route will be back, however.
While we cheer for this major victory, some of us are concerned with some of the impacts these restorations would have for some riders. Riders voiced concerns with several routes, due to a lack of coverage or connectivity to major activity centers and destinations. We found that some of the opportunities were missed by the new service plan and could have added to the rebuilding of service, such as not returning Route 47 (Van Ness) to increase the value of the soon-to-be-activated BRT line connecting Fort Mason and Fisherman’s Wharf to SoMa and Caltrain.
The conversation surrounding rebuilding service could have and should have allowed for more equity and engagement with stakeholders; we’ve asked the SFMTA to provide more detailed engagement processes in the future to ensure that all of the voices of the riders would be heard. It was important for the SFMTA Staff and the Board to understand and recognize that the trade-offs with each of the three service proposals would not fully achieve equity goals of providing enough coverage and frequency of service. Furthermore, we should continue to engage with Muni and the public on the nuance between the two — while we should aim to achieve a high-quality, high-frequency transit network, we cannot forget about the routes that intertwine within San Francisco’s neighborhoods to bring the riders closer together.
The path for better service starts with the rider.
There is always an opportunity to grow our services in 2022. As many places continue to reopen, along with vaccinations, necessary staffing and improved infrastructure is needed to make the journey a safe one. The increase of service frequency will help reduce GHG emissions and single-occupancy vehicle rates, while ensuring that we continue efforts towards environmental and mobility justice.
Our proactive engagement with the community and supervisors across town helped provide critical feedback to Muni staff and fueled the discourse to ensure that better, faster, and stronger transit is available for all. Outreach in Visitacion Valley through Supervisor Shamann Walton’s office helped with returning the 8AX and 8BX routes. Hearing the needs of our riders through Japantown and Pacific Heights with access to critical services such as UCSF and community centers. Further engagement is a must should Muni rebuild services beyond the 2022 Service Restoration Plan and as it seeks additional funding to expand service in 2022.
Targeting improvements to neighborhoods that have transit dependent needs will have the potential to decrease car dependence and ownership as well as drive-alone rates, which lead . Adding bus service through the service restoration plan achieves both Muni’s equity objectives, but also helps riders who are still missing their service. This would be the wrong time to ask for further sacrifices from riders, and to pit riders against other riders. Two years into the pandemic it is still very difficult to do thorough outreach with riders, especially those who won’t engage with online activities or posters at bus stops. Those without internet access or smartphone capabilities continue to be left behind at the bus stop.
In order for Muni to achieve future ridership and fiscal sustainability, it is imperative that the agency goes above and beyond to regain the public’s trust to rebuild, refine, and restore services that our riders deserve.
We look forward to working with you, our riders, along with our community members to bring back Muni stronger and faster in the years to come. Thank you for your continued support for better buses (and trains!)