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Friday, September 17, 2021

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News + PoliticsTransportationBreed says that some Muni lines might not be restored in post-COVID...

Breed says that some Muni lines might not be restored in post-COVID city

Muni needs to change—but the mayor indicated that cuts and 'efficiency' are the main goal.


Mayor London Breed said today that some of the Muni lines closed during the pandemic might not be restored or might have different service levels.

“Many lines have existed for many generations,” Breed said. “We need to make the system more efficient.”

Mayor Breed says some Muni lines might not come back any time soon.

She said that Muni was running a structural deficit, and that some service cuts may be necessary. “It’s more complicated than saying ‘yes, we will restore service to lines,’” she said.

Breed was responding to a question from Sup. Dean Preston, who used the monthly Question Time to challenge the mayor on the future of Muni. His question:

For the last 16 months, many Muni lines have been suspended, some with no timetable for return.  Meanwhile, the MTA — led by your appointees — has refused to issue a plan to return to 100 percent pre-pandemic service hours or restore all suspended lines. All this despite the fact the MTA has received over $700 million in unanticipated Federal relief funding, and the Agency has saved an additional $150 million during the pandemic from decreased operations, and sits on another $150 million in reserves. 

MTA refuses to restore service, or even commit to a plan that involves full return of all suspended lines. And with the economy reopening, San Francisco residents and businesses are being hobbled by anemic service including suspended lines, shortened runs, limited evening/night hours, and severely reduced frequency on community lines.

My question for you is this: Can you commit to the riders of suspended Muni lines that their lines will be restored to service?

Breed said that “we want to restore Muni service as much as we can.” And she said that, thanks to the federal money, there have been no layoffs.

But she said there is still a shortage of bus and train drivers (there is – in part because the city pays them so little), and that some Muni lines might not come back to full service for some time, if at all.

“Coming out of this pandemic service will look a little different,” she said.

The mayor has refused to implement free Muni, even as a pilot project. All the available data shows that public-transit fares play a major role in ridership; lower fares mean more people get out of their cars and onto the bus.

As Preston pointed out, Muni is not broke – but the mayor talked repeatedly about “efficiency,” which in political terminology generally means service cuts.

Preston pushed Breed twice on the issue of whether she would commit to restoring service without cuts. She never really addressed the question, but said that the city would look at data and analyze “problems, challenges, and needs.”

She said the city “can’t stretch service too thin,” and that “the Muni map may look different.”

There’s no question that the map is going to have to look different in the future. In post-COVID San Francisco, it’s entirely possible that much of the past downtown workforce will be working remotely, and that a system designed to feed workers from the neighborhoods into the Financial District will need to change.

Many of the city’s jobs five years from now – or even next year – may be dispersed around the neighborhoods, not clustered downtown.

But that doesn’t mean the city will need less Muni service, or that “efficiency” is the answer. Rerouting lines to serve the population and workforce of the future makes perfect sense. Reducing service makes no sense at all.

And it boggles my mind that the MTA has no plans, is not doing massive community outreach and studies, and isn’t preparing for a public transit system in a post-COVID world.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. Many thanks to Dean Preston for pointing out that London Breed’s vaunted “efficiency” is bureaucratic doublespeak for service cuts.

    Unacceptable that decision makers use the pandemic as a cover to axe services without any public consultation. Two of my bus lines have been cut – one entirely (the 6), and the other truncated. This doubles the time it takes to commute to work in the Marina (the 43 no longer goes there). These are NOT lines affected by the hollowing out of downtown business.
    The mayor asserts that some services have been around for generations.Is this is a bad thing? On the contrary, since these Muni lines were inaugurated generations ago, SF’s population has increased greatly, as well as environmental awareness and the urgency in reducing private car emissions. This was once vaunted as SF’s “transit first” policy, and is now more imperative than ever.

    Why should we put up with bureaucrats making decisions by fiat, without a whisper of public consultation?
    Alice Mosley

  2. “Progressives” are too pinned down to dare be seen as biting the hand that feeds them by instigating a recall.

    That’s the asymmetry of SF politics, one side plays take no prisoner politics for keeps, the other dawdles, meeting the other side half way every time.

    Meanwhile, San Franciscans bear the burden of this corrupt dysfunction while the political class gets paid.

    Progs are bringing a plastic knife to a nuke fight.

  3. That is pretty much what Tumlin said. They may be referring to some of the downtown lines that are not as important as they once were. Instead of working and shopping in the empty downtown area, residents are moving between the the neighborhoods and the focus on transit may shift away from those downtown destinations. There may be more movement between the neighborhoods to meet the needs of the riders.

  4. As long as this city has recall fever, why not recall the Mayor and replace all her appointees?

  5. Tim says:
    “In post-COVID San Francisco, it’s entirely possible that much of the past downtown workforce will be working remotely, and that a system designed to feed workers from the neighborhoods into the Financial District will need to change.”

    Likely true.

    Tim also says:
    “Many of the city’s jobs five years from now – or even next year – may be dispersed around the neighborhoods, not clustered downtown.”

    Or maybe not.

    What jobs? If downtown San Francisco is hollowed out, what jobs will there be in the neighborhoods? Rich people in multi-million-dollar homes can only buy so many things. It takes an employed workforce to create the basis for jobs and a real-life economy.

    We need to reimagine and recreate the San Francisco economy, one based on putting people to work doing useful jobs. And that takes, heaven forbid, economic planning and public investment. The “market” is unlikely to create a viable economy in post-COVID San Francisco.

    Are our current City leaders up to the task at hand?

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