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Faced with sick and quarantined bus operators and a need to provide basic service on core routes for essential trips during the COVID-19 crisis, Muni is going to temporarily phase out all but 17 bus routes starting this week.

The cutbacks will start Tuesday/tomorrow, April 7, when the 2 Clement, 3 Jackson, 5 Fulton, 7 Haight, 10 Townsend, 21 Hayes and 31 Balboa will be discontinued. On Wednesday, April 8, things will be pared down even more, with only 17 routes still to run. Rail service was halted last week and replaced with buses.

The chart below from SFMTA shows what will remain:


From an SFMTA statement: "This core network will provide service within one mile of all San Franciscans. This approach allows Muni to continue to serve San Francisco’s medical facilities and focuses on equity to ensure service for our customers most reliant on transit. The frequency of buses will vary by line so that lines experiencing some crowding will have more frequent service than others. "


SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin, who took over the reigns of the agency this year only to be faced with this unprecedented crisis, tweeted about the ironic position the COVID-19 pandemic has put him and the entire agency in:

"I appreciate Director Tumlin's leadership and efforts towards transparency in making these very difficult decisions. We've been seeing alerts about delays because Muni operators aren't available, and we've been hearing about large gaps in service from riders," wrote the San Francisco Transit Riders Cat Carter, in an email to Streetsblog. "Now SFMTA is expecting as many as 40 percent of their drivers to be out this week. So these cuts to service are unavoidable, and we know SFMTA is working hard to provide service where it's most needed."

That said, with city services under such severe strain, Streetsblog finds it odd that interagency cooperation and collaboration still seems elusive. For example, the 14 Mission buses parallel BART for a good deal of the route. If BART accepted Muni fares during the shelter-in-place order, passengers on the 14R, the 'Rapid Bus'/express service of the 14, could ride BART between the Outer Mission and downtown. BART has lots of available seats right now because of the COVID-19 lockdown (the 14 express service doesn't run past 7 p.m., so even with BART's 9 p.m. closure time, riders would get more service). Passengers on intersecting bus lines, such as the 29, seen in the lead image, could be given free transfers to BART at Balboa Park as a replacement for the 14R. Muni could then divert 14R buses to bolster other services.

Carter told Streetsblog she thinks the 14R is a popular route and still essential. However, she added that "I'm always for fare integration! And an argument could be made that during a pandemic, a lot of our usual rules shouldn't apply."

Streetsblog reached out to SFMTA to ask if they considered working with BART to replace service on the 14R. "The 14R will remain until further notice. Please check out our website for any changes or updates," replied spokesperson Erica Kato.

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