Muni Weighs How to Restore Service If It Gets the Chance

IMG_1319.jpgPhoto: Myleen Hollero/Orange Photography

If Muni operators approve a concessions agreement their union leaders brokered with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency last week, the agency and the riding public could be faced with an unusual task. Instead of public hearings to determine what Muni service will be cut, the SFMTA could be holding hearings on how to add back capacity.

The plan is to use the $18.7 million in savings from the concessions, if they're approved, combined with anticipated funds from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, to restore 55 percent of the service cut last month by September 4, building up to a complete restoration of service by July of next year.

The simplest version of that entails restoring service to what it was before the May 8 cuts. But with hoards of data from the Transit Effectiveness Project already informing many of the cuts, the SFMTA is now looking to the TEP to shape service restoration. That's more complicated than simply adding back service as it was, though, since the agency would then need to hold public hearings throughout the summer, while a one-for-one service restoration could be done without extended public discussion.

"It would be simpler to add back service where we cut it, but want to stay within the TEP theme," SFMTA Executive Director Nat Ford told Streetsblog.

Either way, the SFMTA has already crafted an initial outline [PDF] for a large portion of what the September service restoration could look like. Late night "owl" service will be restored to 30-minute frequencies across the board; community routes will go back to their previous end times; and some of the city's most crowded routes will get a capacity boost, including the 1X series, the 8X series, the 24-Divisadero, and the 44 O'Shaughnessy.

That adds up to over half of the 55 percent of service that will be restored initially, but still leaves much of the plan uncertain. Ford said the agency is looking at lines where overcrowding is the worst as it contemplates how to add back the service hours.

In addition to the May 8 service cuts, which Muni enacted to help cover its current and projected budget deficits, the SFMTA made major service changes last December. Those were also heavily informed by the TEP, and -- a surprise to many riders -- actually were virtually neutral in terms of the total number of service hours delivered. The May 8 cuts, which the agency now hopes to reverse, were much deeper, axing 10 percent of Muni's total service hours.

Of course, all of this may be wishful thinking, for now: the Muni operators previously rejected a concessions package, and the SFMTA Board hasn't authorized any other near term major revenue infusions, like a proposed demand-based extension of parking meter enforcement hours across the city.

If Muni is able to restore service, what lines are a priority for you? As always, let us know in the comments section below.