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The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency late Monday evening abruptly announced that the subway system will once again shut down and will replace rail service with bus service starting Tuesday.

In a series of tweets at 9 p.m., the SFMTA’s Director of Transportation Agency Jeffrey Tumlin said the agency is reverting back to bus shuttles to replace rail service because of an employee at the transportation management center testing positive for Covid-19 and issues with overhead wire splices:

“Rail service today was unacceptable, and I apologize to our riders. On Day 3 of our rail system restart, we discovered two major problems that will force us to retrench, shutting down the rail system once again for the next several weeks…”

An employee working at the management center, which Tumlin described as the “nerve center” of the rail system, tested positive for Covid-19.

Following contact tracing protocols, several other employees will need to quarantine, Tumlin said:

“A couple controllers in quarantine means we can’t operate the system safely.”

Tumlin did not say how long the subway will be closed, but San Francisco health guidelines say that if a person comes into contact with a person who tests positive for the virus, they should be quarantined for 14 days starting from the date they last made contact with the infected person.

Another issue that arose during the reopening of the subway had to do with new splices on the overhead wire system, which provides electricity to power the trains.

Tumlin said the splices did not do not meet manufacturer specifications, Tumlin said. Monday morning, the subway had a five-hour delay caused by splice that failed near Forest Hill station, Tumlin said.

The agency is looking into a distributor to manufacture better splices.

Officials expanded some bus service on Saturday due to the freeing up of buses that had been used previously for rail service. Tumlin said the SFMTA will still be able to run the restored bus service, but frequency could be impacted:

“Tomorrow morning will be rough.”

An agency spokesperson said it could be several weeks for rail service to return.

Subway service had just resumed on Saturday with a new rail system configuration that included fewer lines entering the subway portals.

Tumlin said the Muni service is missing about 30 to 40 percent of service hours and lost 80 percent of capacity because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The agency is carrying about 150,000 passengers a day.

The agency has posted frequency information for bus shuttle service for the rail lines on its website.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn covers transportation and City Hall in San Francisco for SF Bay. Email: jerold@sfbay.ca. Twitter: @Jerold_Chinn. Instagram: jeroldwashere.

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