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Transit Month Set for September

Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

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Transit in San Francisco, and everywhere in the country, took a major hit during the pandemic. This was compounded in San Francisco by maintenance failures that lead to over a year of subway closures. Muni is struggling to come back, with ridership still at only about 224,000 weekday boardings--one-third of pre-pandemic levels. Against this challenging backdrop, the San Francisco Transit Riders is hoping this year's "Transit Month," planned for September, will help do a little to prime Muni's return.

"Transit-only lanes put in during the pandemic are making trips faster and more efficient. Headway management has made travel more reliable. Riders we spoke to in the Mission district said they really appreciate the extra service and reliability they've seen over the past year," wrote the SFTR's Cat Carter in an email to Streetsblog.

And from an SFTR release about the event:

For our 6th annual celebration, we’re moving from a week-long program to a full month as the city emerges from the pandemic, students return to school, businesses open up, and people return to workplaces.

The group has already started scheduling, with the following events set up to start marking in calendars:

    • September 8: Community members and city leaders ride Muni to City Hall
    • September 1-30: Ride Muni Challenge for city leaders, members, and the public to ride transit (with prizes!)
    • October 1: Celebration of public transit and riders at the Rider First Awards party!

Meanwhile, this chart below shows the trend lines in ridership. Note the black and green lines, showing ridership drops in 2020/2021. And while it's clear ridership is inching back up, things are happening slowly and it remains to be seen how ridership will ultimately shake out.

Graphic: SFMTA
Graphic: SFMTA
Graphic: SFMTA

As reflected in the chart, Muni cut things back to its core service program of bus routes when the pandemic started, but they've slowly been bringing lines back. In mid-August the M Ocean View rail service will resume between the Embarcadero station and San Jose and Geneva Avenues. So will the 5R Fulton Rapid service from La Playa to the Transit Center Bus Plaza. A full list of planned service restorations is available on Muni's site.

The question is will ridership follow. For that to happen, it won't be enough to go back to the pre-pandemic way of doing business.

"As we talk about the future of transit, we need to remember that pre-pandemic, we were seeing missed runs all over the place, meaning big trip delays and riders missing transfers. SFMTA was making service promises it couldn't keep, and it looks like they're trying to avoid that mistake as they bring service back. We want to see all routes returned by this winter, but we also need to be realistic about what the service levels will look like," added Carter. "We'll be talking a lot about this throughout Transit Month, and beyond."

The SFTR also has a petition, asking the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors to continue to give Muni its own lanes, priority at intersections, and the ability to return to 100 percent service and beyond.

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