Advocates and Politicos Celebrate Muni’s Resilience
Everybody rides Muni to an event to renew the push for funding, frequent service, and a transit-first city
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Some 60 Supervisors, transit officials and determined activists, rode buses and trains to an event this morning to thank transit operators for their hard work through the pandemic and to renew the push for more service and funding for Muni. “Thanks to the operators who showed up in a terrible time,” said District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, praising the bravery SFMTA staff showed during the height of the COVID pandemic, when many operators were getting sick. Despite that, service, scaled back to core routes, continued to operate. “MTA was recognized nationally… you should be proud as we approach the end of the pandemic.”
The presser was part of Transit Month, a series of programs, contests and events from the San Francisco Transit Riders to celebrate transit’s return and to renew the push for its funding and growth.
Mayor London Breed, Supervisor Matt Haney and other familiar faces at City Hall joined in the praise, adding that they want Muni to return to 100 percent service. “We are committed to funding Muni, to funding SMFA,” said Haney.
Several politicians reported that, thanks to the implementation of emergency transit-only lanes and other improvements, bus service is more reliable than it was before the pandemic. But they worried about the pace of returning to full service. “All of us are concerned that we are at 85 percent of pre-pandemic levels,” said Mandelman, adding that they need to get back to 100 percent and beyond. “Pre-pandemic levels were not adequate. The highest priority should be to get funding for better service that we had before.”
Several politicians and advocates also praised the implementation of free fares for youths. Advocates with the San Francisco Transit Riders, which hosted the event, agreed. “Free Muni for all youth is great,” said Calvin Quick, who had ridden to the event on the 5 Fulton bus. But he worried that the availability of the new pass wasn’t yet well known. “It doesn’t get passed on to the students in school.”
Others stressed that the talk doesn’t always translate into policy. “Thanks for leading by example,” said the San Francisco Transit Rider’s Cat Carter to the politicians and advocates. “We talk about transit first but fall short of that ideal.”
Speaking of which, several advocates no doubt grit their teeth during the speeches of Supervisors Gordan Mar, Connie Chan, and others who were instrumental in closing the Great Walkway and turning it back into the Great Highway during the week, thereby increasing vehicle-miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions. For example, Mar said the city is “at a critical moment,” that it “can’t afford to drop the ball,” and that “we can’t go backwards for our climate.”
But most people were just glad to see the city slowly emerging from the pandemic. “It’s great to be riding Muni again,” said Austin Elliott, who arrived with his dog Ajira. “I hope this city can get the world-class transit system it should have.”
“Everybody should be able to get around our city without a car,” concluded Mandelman.