Due to the significant drop in ridership and reported weekly losses of $1 million, the SFMTA announced late Wednesday that Muni Metro train service will shut down indefinitely on March 30, with bus shuttles replacing those train routes.

The announcement comes as BART is reducing its schedule though remaining in service for essential service workers and essential transbay trips — and Muni is recommending that riders use BART to travel between downtown SF stations. Those who are still relying on the J, KT, L, M, and N lines can take bus shuttles that will make all regular train stops.

The SFMTA explained in a blog announcement that the change will allow them to keep station agents safer, and refocus resources elsewhere — like conducting some much needed maintenance work during a prime opportunity to do so.

Closing the Muni Metro underground system will allow us to redirect custodial resources to other, higher-use facilities and minimizes risk to our station agents. Based on our ridership data and observations, we do not expect these changes to impact the ability of our riders and operators to maintain social distance. And while the rail system is closed to passengers, we plan on doing important maintenance work to our vehicles and infrastructure. It’s a unique opportunity to improve the state of good repair of our system and come out of this shutdown stronger than ever.

Furthermore, the agency announced that rapid bus lines are being discontinued for the time being — and on the 5 Fulton and 9 San Bruno lines, longer buses will run to help maintain social distancing.

Also, the 47 Van Ness bus will stop service on Saturdays and Sundays during this service change period as well.

No end date for these disruptions has been provided.

As the Examiner reported ten days ago, the SFMTA was already losing $1 million per week in fare revenue before the full extent of the local lockdown had even begun.

SFMTA Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin tweeted about the situation, saying, "We were poised for major service improvements. But now we are making contingency plans for cutting service," and adding that the agency would try to boost neighborhood-focused service to help with shorter trips, since no one is commuting anymore.

Tumlin also pushed back on a call by SF Supervisor Dean Preston to make Muni free during the shelter-in-place order, saying, "Do we cut fares or service? [Government] isn’t your magical wish-fulfillment machine... My budget must balance."

The agency is also having to step up sanitation efforts on its vehicles, and try to protect drivers during this pandemic as well. To that end, the SFMTA tweeted on Tuesday, "We've increased the cleaning of our vehicles. We're supplying our frontline staff with wipes & sanitizers. We're requiring operators use the security barriers on coaches and ensure the cab door is closed/secured on LRVs."

Photo: Matt Baume