Muni ridership remains less than half of what it was before the pandemic, because almost nobody is commuting downtown these days. And the SFMTA is facing some tough decisions as it looks to restore more service in 2022, so it's looking for the public's input on how to proceed.

"The SFMTA continues to face the worst public health and financial crisis in our agency’s nearly 110-year history," said SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin in a press briefing on Monday, per KPIX. "Our challenge from a ridership perspective is really the fact that downtown San Francisco office buildings are sitting mostly empty. The data currently says that it will be at least 2025 until we can expect the office commute to really comeback."

Tumlin called its financial situation, combined with the pandemic, "twin and entwined crises," and he added that the entire transit system has had be be "completely restructure[d]" six times since April 2020 — including when the Muni Metro was brought back into partial service in May, with the L-Taraval line still using bus shuttles.

Going forward, the transit agency has to decide if it will restore the seven bus lines that remain in suspension, or if it will bring back just a few of them. And the options being presented to the public suggest that we can't have it all — either pre-pandemic frequencies on busy bus and train lines can come back, or all the old bus lines can come back, but probably not both.

Muni has established three new bus routes in the last year: the 58-Lake Merced, the 55-Dogpatch, and the 15-Bayview Hunters Point Express. And service frequencies have already increased on the 38-Geary, and on the Potrero/San Bruno corridor to every two minutes, the SFMTA says.

But the seven suspended lines — the 28R-19th Avenue Rapid, the 10-Townsend, the 2-Clement, the 3-Jackson, the 6-Haight/Parnassus, the 21-Hayes, and the 47-Van Ness — may not all feasibly be brought back next year, especially if more bus frequency is needed on other lines.

So, the SFMTA is proposing three alternatives and putting it out for a vote:

  • The Familiar alternative brings back all seven of the all-day Muni routes that have yet to be restored.  
  • The Frequent alternative increases service on high ridership Muni lines, and comes with not restoring five of the seven pre-pandemic Muni bus routes: the 2-Clement, 3-Jackson, 6-Haight/Parnassus, 21-Hayes and 47-Van Ness.
  • The Hybrid alternative aims to balance the Familiar and the Frequent scenarios, and doesn’t restore two routes: the 3-Jackson and 47-Van Ness.

You can see each of the three alternatives mapped out here, with further details.

The SFMTA intends to bring back the 10-Townsend, with a slightly different route, and the 28R-19th Avenue regardless of which scenario is chosen.

And, they note, "Compared to the Familiar scenario, with the Frequent scenario, in a 30-minute travel time, the average San Franciscan can get to about 4,000 more jobs and educational opportunities, and in a 45-minute travel time, 9,000 more jobs and educational opportunities."

The survey closes October 1, and you can take it online here.

There will also be two more virtual open houses, with Q&As:

And you can learn more about the proposed plans here.

"Over the past several years, and throughout the pandemic, we have seen travel patterns and needs shift," the SFMTA writes.

But if you know your needs are going to change by next year and you need one of those bus lines, you'd better let them know.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images