Residents Upset Over Outer Richmond Muni Service Cuts

bus.jpgPhoto: Susan Vaughan
The MTA, in the middle of a $129 million budget shortfall, plans to reduce bus service to the outer avenues at various points in the Richmond District, already one of the most difficult parts of San Francisco to reach via public transportation.

“It sucks,” said Richmond resident Sandy Newport who lives near 40th and Fulton and works at 12th and Clement and was specifically concerned about plans to eliminate the 38-Ocean Beach bus.  “I’m a hairdresser, and I have lots of elderly clients who depend on the bus to come here and get food,” she said as she waited for the bus outside the Safeway at La Playa and Cabrillo.

At the same time that bus service will be reduced, fares will go up.  Starting July 1, the one-time fare will go from $1.50 to $2.00; fast Passes will go from $45 to $55, and then to $60 by January 1, 2010; and the new Fast Passes will no longer be BART-enabled.  Richmond residents who take buses downtown and then transfer to BART to go to the Mission District or beyond will now have to pay an extra $10 for a pass that will also work on BART within the City.  The Senior, Youth, and Disabled Pass will go from the current $10 to $15 in July and to $20 by January 1.

“I don’t care if they raise the fare,” said Newport.  “I’d rather pay more and have the service than have to walk further and wait longer.  It doesn’t seem fair that they are doing both.”

A rider waiting for the 38 at Cabrillo near La Playa who wouldn't identify himself noted that part of the current budget debacle was due to the passage of the 2007 Proposition A charter amendment that turned the operator salary into a floor, dictated by operator pay for the two highest paid public transportation systems in the country.

Mira, a Russian immigrant on a fixed income, had not known about the increases in passes for seniors. When she found out, she spoke for herself and her husband.  “I think it’s too much,” she said, shaking her head.

Another rider, Lina Chao, thought the increases in bus fares were unavoidable.  “The price of oil and the salaries of employees are increasing,” she said, though she was not pleased about the route changes. “It will be very inconvenient, especially to go to the Safeway.”

To try to address concerns like these, MTA Executive Director Nat Ford wrote in a May 22 memo that fare increases and service cutbacks could be mitigated by potential service enhancements to various lines serving the Richmond District.

The MTA plans to increase peak period frequency of 38-L (from Financial District to Point Lobos) from 7 to 6 minutes and extend weekday service hours from 6:45 pm to 9 pm.  The 5-Fulton will increase frequency in the morning and late afternoon, east of 6th Avenue.  And the 1AX- California will extend to 6th Avenue, with the 1BX-California starting near 6th Avenue instead of Park Presidio (where it now starts) in order to reduce overcrowding on the 1BX.

None of these potential service enhancements, however, seem to really address the issue of service cutbacks to the outer avenues, especially during non-peak periods.

When Outer Richmond resident and SFBC Program Director Andy Thornley realized that service on the 5-Fulton would be reduced past 6th Avenue, he was not pleased.  Thornley said he had been looking forward to the 5 getting better through implementation of the MTA’s Transit Effectiveness Project before the budget crisis hit.  “It’s definitely discouraging to see the 5 get worse” past 6th Avenue, he said.

Other service changes in the Richmond District, according to a link on the MTA website:

  • The 5-Fulton past 6th Avenue will be cut in half during peak periods.
  • The wait time between 31-Balboa buses will go from its current 10 minutes to 12 minutes.
  • The 18-46th Avenue, which currently goes from the Legion of Honor, south on 33rd to Geary, and west on Geary past Sutro Heights and the Cliff House, will be rerouted to traverse the route that the 38-Ocean Beach now travels from 33rd Avenue to the Safeway at La Playa.
  • The 2-Clement will cease to operate past 14th Avenue, and the 4-Sutter will be entirely eliminated.
  • The segment of the 1-California that goes south of Market Street to Howard along Main and Beale will be eliminated.  This may not seem significant to residents of other parts of the City.  However, without light rail or BART, Muni-dependent residents of the Richmond District find getting almost anywhere beyond the Financial District time-consuming and awkward.  Right now, the 1-California is the only bus from the Richmond District that makes it past the Transbay Terminal into SoMa.
  • The 29, though not part of the downtown feeder system, will cease operation north of Baker Beach.  Riders destined for the Golden Gate Bridge or the Presidio Main Post will have to transfer there to the PresidiGo, a free shuttle operated by the Presidio Trust.