New 5L-Fulton Limited Muni Line Has Brought 2,000 More Daily Riders

Photo: SFMTA

Muni’s one-year-old 5L-Fulton Limited service, which provides a crosstown trip 15 percent faster than the 5-Fulton, has attracted 2,000 additional daily riders to the bus route. That’s according to new data from the SFMTA.

“This is what Transit First looks like,” said Peter Lauterborn, an aide to Supervisor Eric Mar. “We need to keep investing in transit.” Lauterborn is also the manager of the No on Prop L campaign, although Mar’s office isn’t officially associated with it.

Limited-stop service on the 5 has been met with virtually universal praise ever since it was introduced as a pilot project last October, and later made permanent by the SFMTA. The agency also made improvements that speed up both local and limited service, like a road diet that created wider lanes for buses on one section, and removing some lesser-used stops. The SFMTA also plans to install transit-priority traffic signals and bus bulbs along the route.

It’s unclear how many of the 2,000 additional riders are new Muni riders, or shifted from other routes. More details are expected to be presented to the SFMTA Board of Directors at its meeting on Tuesday.

  • I appreciate the road diet on Fulton near USF and the Lucky supermarket. The old configuration was really narrow and creepy to drive on.

  • BBnet3000

    Im curious: How do these trolleybuses pass regular 5-Fulton trolleybuses?

  • hp2ena

    They don’t. Until bypass wires are installed, the 5 is operating as a motor coach.

    Interestingly, some of the motor coaches that typically run on the 5 (New Flyer 8700 series) actually have the signal priority trigger, and not the trolleybuses (out of Presidio) that run on the 5L (the articulated trolley buses do).

  • Steve

    Edit: Let me rephrase – Does anyone know if there’s a good reason why they call it the 5-Limited instead of the 5-Express? Seems like flunking Marketing 101…

  • David Marcus

    Express routes in SF are routes that skip over whole sections of the city, like the 38AX. Limited routes are routes which just bypass minor stops. 5L is consistent naming for Muni.

  • David Marcus

    The 5 still seems to get most of its ridership from the limited stops. I wish we could ditch the 5 altogether and transfer its frequency to the perpetually overcrowded 5L.

  • p_chazz

    Because it’s not an express. The terms “Limited” and “Express” have particular meanings. An express bus makes no stops in the middle of its route. Example: 38 AX or 38 BX. A limited bus makes a limited number of stops in the middle of its route. Example: 5 L. A local bus makes all stops.

  • was 2000+ riders a day really worth the loss of 16 parking spots?

  • Jim

    Limited lines stop at major intersections or intersections where other lines cross. Express lines skip whole sections like David explained below, but run local once the express portion is done.

  • Steve

    Got it. So there is a need for two terms. I think “Express” is great, but “Limited” not so much. Limited stops are just a feature, a means to an end. People don’t care about features, they care about benefits — in this case a faster trip that saves time. So the name should emphasize speed. Why not call it the 5-Rapid. Or just call it the 5 and rename the old route the 5-L…. for “leisurely”… or “lethargic”.

  • Steve are you a product manager? Keep whispering those sweet feature vs. benefits talk in thine ears.

  • I realize they aren’t going to overhaul their nomenclature any time soon, but even after you thoughtfully explained that, I am still thinking too hard about it…which leads me to believe that there’s a better way out there to communicate what these lines mean.

  • Bruce

    There has been some talk of rebranding the “Limited” lines as “Rapid” as part of the Muni Forward modernization effort.

  • Bruce

    New trolleybuses should be coming next year, IIRC.

  • coolbabybookworm

    I’ve enjoyed the improvement and found the bus line more reliable during commute hours. I don’t have to check the schedule or Nextbus since they arrive so frequently.

  • RoyTT

    “Rapide” implies speed and no Muni bus service is speedy.

    “Limited”, on the other hand, is easy to achieve.

  • SuperQ

    I would re-brand this way:

    5 becomes 5-L (Local)

    5-L becomes 5 (normal, what would be limited-stop)

    Add 5-X (Express, huge bypasses)

    Most of the lines in SF need this kind of thing, the stops in SF are far too close together. For example here in Berlin, the average distance between stops on the bus between my home and the nearest major train station (Ostbahnhof) is ~400 meters (1312ft), or about ~4 stops per mile. If you take the 14 from Embarcadero to Chavez, it’s 6.75 stops/mile. Apparently there are other routs in SF that are close to 10 stops/mile, but some of them go on hilly routes where more stops are understandable.

  • I don’t doubt there’s better terminology, but “Limited” is a standard term widely used by other transit agencies.

    Even if it’s less descriptive, it’s a term locals and visitors are likely to be familiar with.

    Where there routes named 135 and 135L it’s more likely riders will assume the L is a limited (or more vaguely the 135L is a variation of the 135) than the other way around.

  • SF Guest

    My favorite express bus was the 17X Park Merced Express. It went from 2d/Mkt to SF State faster than the ‘M’ car and entered Interstate 80 from Harrison/7th Sts.

  • If you mean the mentions of a “rapid network” that’s something a little different and includes limited and local service.

    During the Transit Effectiveness Project service was sorted into four categories:

    Rapid Network
    Core lines and corridors with the highest ridership regardless of local, limited, or express. The point is to speed up all the lines along these corridors, include local busses.

    Local Network
    Likewise the local network might include limited lines, but the second tier of routes that criss-cross the city and are essential to get around, but lower priority.

    Community Connectors
    The short busses that weave through hilly neighborhoods to get people to and from the major transit hubs, stations, and transfer points.

    Specialized Services
    Event and commuter lines that don’t run all day.

  • Bruce

    No, separate from that I believe I saw an idea to change the current scheme of local/Limited/Express to something involving Rapid. I’ll try to find it again.

  • I wouldn’t be surprised if the BRT lines end up branded “Rapid” with a 38R replacing the 38L.

  • p_chazz

    Rename limited as express and express as super express!

  • Steve

    … and watch ridership go up!

  • Jim

    I don’t know if other agencies do it, but LACMTA uses a series system to denote local, limited, express, and other variations (

    Perhaps, SFMTA could adopt this system as well? However, since most of the number scheme dates back to the cable car days, and we all know how long time SF residents love change.

  • Sam Foster



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