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Supervisor pushes for Muni service timeline, alleges ‘de facto route abandonment’

While San Francisco transit officials say they are targeting Aug. 14 to restore additional Muni bus service and expand service hours, some say those plans do not go far enough to meet passenger needs. Several city officials and Muni riders are concerned about routes not planned for this year’s return.

Calling for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to provide a better timeline for Muni service restoration, Supervisor Dean Preston said Thursday he will hold a hearing at the Board of Supervisors’ Government and Audits Committee to discuss what he calls the agency’s “de facto route abandonment.”

Preston said in a statement:

“People have been waiting for a year and a half and there has been little transparency regarding when, if ever, these Muni lines will return. The economy is fully reopening, and yet the return of our transportation system is nowhere close to where it needs to be. We need some answers and some commitments from MTA.”

Residents of the Tenderloin and transit advocates joined Preston Thursday afternoon in a rally urging the agency to bring back the 31-Balboa route, which covers the Richmond, Tenderloin and downtown areas. Advocates have started an online petition in support of the route’s return.

The 31 is not slated to come back in the August round of restoration. In an interview with KTVU Friday morning, SFMTA Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin said the 31 will be at the top of discussions planned for early next year.

Transit officials have not publicly announced intentions to abandon any Muni routes during recent meetings with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority and the SFMTA Board of Directors, but Preston said the agency needs to be more transparent in how they inform riders about when their routes will return.

Muni service was decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving just 17 routes by late March last year. The agency has since been restoring service in increments.

What Muni Service is Coming Back in August

The SFMTA’s Director of Transit Julie Kirschbaum wrote on the agency’s website Thursday that the next service change took into account rider feedback and recent Covid-19 policy changes — capacity restrictions have been lifted and operators are again allowed to change shifts in the field now that vehicles aren’t being sent back to the yard for between-shift cleaning.

Full route restoration will happen on the 5R-Fulton, 18-46th Avenue, 28-19th Avenue, 35-Eureka, 36-Teresita and 39-Coit.

Other bus routes returning include the 23-Monterey, 52-Excelsior, 56-Rutland, 57-Parkmerced and 66-Quintara. These bus lines will return but with augmented routes. For example, the 52 will extend out to the westside of The City to cover parts of the 6-Parnassus/Haight route along Ninth Avenue and Quintara Street since the 6 is not returning for service this summer.

Kirshbaum also said the SFMTA in August is expanding evening service hours on 16 routes that were not part of the agency’s previously announced plans. The 16 routes will run from 5 a.m. to midnight, extending the current 10 p.m. cutoff.

She added that the agency will also restore all of Muni’s Owl late-night service, which runs from midnight to 5 a.m. Many passengers advocated for the Owl service return during a recent SFMTA board meeting.

Additionally, the SFMTA is establishing a new route, the 58-Lake Merced, that will travel along John Muir Drive and Sloat Boulevard to serve passengers west of the lake. The new route will connect riders to the Daly City BART station, 14-Mission and Westlake Shopping Center.

It’s not clear yet when train service will return to the M-Ocean View where for over a year, buses have replaced train service traveling to the Stonestown Galleria mall, San Francisco State University and along San Jose Avenue.

Kirshbaum previously said she is unable to confirm status of the M until sometime in mid-July when the agency will have a better gauge on available operators — it’s expected that some operators will retire at the beginning of the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Further information about Muni service that is scheduled to return in August can be found here.

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