San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency officials on Monday said they’re seeking input from residents as they move forward with plans to restore transit service to pre-pandemic levels sometime in early 2022.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, SFMTA drastically cut service, reducing hours and suspending some bus and rail lines, due to historically low ridership.
Since then, the agency has brought back several lines and extended some service hours, in addition to also increasing service along busy lines and adding two entirely new bus lines. However, the agency has still not returned to full service levels. Currently seven lines remain suspended and Muni is functioning at 75 percent of pre-COVID service hours, Muni officials said.
“The SFMTA continues to face the worst public health and financial crisis in our agency’s nearly 110-year history. Back in April 2020 we needed to completely restructure the transit system in order to deal with these twin and entwined crises, and we’ve continued to rebuild the transit system six times since then to respond to rapid changes in travel behavior, in travel demand, to address social equity and to protect the health and safety of our workforce and passengers,” SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin said during a briefing on Monday.
Although the agency remains underfunded, Tumlin said it’s committed to pushing forward with a restoration plan that makes the most sense and takes into account that ridership — a major revenue source — is at 45 percent of pre-pandemic levels on average.
“Our challenge from a ridership perspective is really the fact that downtown San Francisco office buildings are sitting mostly empty,” Tumlin said. “The data currently says that it will be at least 2025 until we can expect the office commute to really comeback.”
As SFMTA officials consider their options to restore service under limited resources, the agency is requesting that residents take a survey through Oct. 1, asking them to choose between three restoration options.
The first option would restore all pre-pandemic routes and hours.
The second option would increase service on high-ridership lines, which would decrease wait times and crowding on those lines. Under this option, however, five of the seven routes currently suspended would not be restored.
The third option would create a hybrid scenario of the first two options, with the goal of restoring pre-pandemic service while also increasing service on popular routes. The third option, however, would also see only two of the seven suspended routes restored.
“We really want and are hoping and asking for people to give us their honest feedback on these alternatives,” said SFMTA Transit Manager Sean Kennedy. “This is one step in the recovery process. This is not the end all be all of what Muni service will look like in the future.”
Muni’s latest restoration plans comes as Supervisor Dean Preston has been calling on Muni to restore service to pre-pandemic levels. Back in July, Preston proposed a resolution urging the agency to restore full service by the year’s end.
To find more information about the three restoration options and how to take the survey, which is offered in multiple languages, visit www.sfmta.com/2022network.