This is a carousel. Use Next and Previous buttons to navigate
San Francisco, which once packed 68 crowded bus lines into its lean streets, stands to lose most of them as the pandemic sinks its transit budget and steers riders into cars.
Up to 40 of the bus lines that San Francisco cut at the beginning of the pandemic are not coming back unless the city finds a new revenue source, transportation chief Jeffrey Tumlin said this week. Just about every aspect of San Francisco's transportation future looks grim.
Elbow-to-elbow transit has long been a feature of life in San Francisco. Yet the daily bustle ended with COVID-19, which closed schools and businesses, moved offices into homes and lured more people into cars.
And the huge blow to Muni, which is on life support, has implications for the environment, the livability of San Francisco and the ability of the city to bounce back economically post-pandemic.
"The cuts that we're making are terribly painful," Tumlin said during a board meeting Tuesday, his voice breaking slightly as the four directors solemnly nodded.
In the ensuing two months, the world changed for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Officials agreed to cancel a planned Clipper card fare increase under pressure from two city supervisors — a decision that by itself stripped $20 million in anticipated revenue. And cases of COVID-19 surged again, tamping down hopes that the normal commute would resume any time soon.
"By fiscal year 2023, we will have a problem that we cannot overcome without cutting service," Jonathan Rewers, senior manager of budget, financial planning and analysis, said at Tuesday's meeting. "It will just come to that. We have cut everything to the bare bone."
The board voted Tuesday to pass the amended budget, despite misgivings that it would not include a fare increase. As a result of that change, the agency had to wind back free Muni for youth, though low-income youth still ride free .
Muni's backlog in infrastructure maintenance — equipment that still needs to be repaired and replaced — has ballooned to $110 million, and Rewers said it will cost $472 million annually just to keep a "status quo" state of good repair. Studies of transit systems around the globe show that, at best, 80% of riders will eventually return, with the rest lost to telecommuting, cars or bicycles amid heightened fears of COVID-19 infection.
That's the optimistic projection, Rewers said. He presented a worst-case scenario in which social distancing rules severely limit the number of people Muni can carry on each vehicle. In that case, he said, the agency might limp along with fewer than 150,000 riders each weekday, or one-fifth of its pre-pandemic haul.
Many people view automobiles as protective armor against a deadly virus — a mentality that has led to car parades for birthdays, graduations and protests — and it will likely persist in the coming years. Traffic data show that even in a period of remote work, bottlenecks at the Bay Bridge and SoMa are already getting choked during rush hour.
Cat Carter, head of the grassroots advocacy group San Francisco Transit Riders, is still adjusting to that strange reality. Before shelter-in-place orders clamped down, she rode transit up to four times a day. But after her office shut down March 7, Carter mostly stayed home and gingerly avoided public spaces. She hasn't stepped on a bus since that day.
Still, she vehemently defends Muni against perceptions that it's dirty or unsafe.
"People assume it's gonna be a Petri dish," Carter said, pointing to all the extra cleanings, the Plexiglass barriers for operators, backdoor boarding and other precautions — like allowing workers to take time off if they felt sick or had a sick family member. Muni and other transit systems also require riders to wear masks.
It may take "public theater" to lure people back to Muni, Tumlin said, noting that his staff is "literally looking at cleaning products that smell like bleach."
"Having our buses smell like cleaning products is pure theater, but may actually be necessary" to comfort the public, he said.
Carter and other transit enthusiasts have some hope for the future. In August, Muni plans to reopen its Muni Metro light-rail system, along with a few more bus lines. The agency has gradually built bus service back up from a low of 17 in April to 23 now. Next month officials will restore a few more. Though transportation planners are still picking the routes, they know it will fall short of the 68 lines San Francisco had in February, spokeswoman Erica Kato said. The Central Subway is still on track to open at the end of 2021.
It may take a shift in cultural attitudes to resurrect the shared daily ritual of commuting. In the meantime, officials in San Francisco will struggle to maintain even a skeletal service.
Correction: An earlier version of this article did not state that low-income youths can still ride Muni for free.
- How to track a typhoon: The forecasters on the front line of extreme weather
- A Devastating Look Into Burn Injuries
- Frank Lampard: Have expectations changed at Chelsea this season?
- Did You Manage To Avoid Cincinnati Bell's (NYSE:CBB) Devastating 78% Share Price Drop?
- Disney Plus: Launch dates, prices, preorder discounts, movies and shows to expect
- Disney Plus: Launch dates, prices, preorder discounts, shows and movies to expect
- Facebook's Libra cryptocurrency loses support of five founding members
- Erra Bus Telugu Movie Review and Rating
- WeWork founder Adam Neumann loses multibillionaire status
- Friday morning news briefing: 'What do Remainer MPs expect?'
- Power Transmission Towers and Cables Market to Worth US$13.90 bn by 2023 with Mounting Demand
- Liz Peek: Trump won’t lose his job due to impeachment – Dems will have hard time beating him in 2020
Muni expects to lose the majority of its bus lines permanently as financial devastation mounts have 1107 words, post on www.sfchronicle.com at July 3, 2020. This is cached page on VietNam Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.