Biggest service boost in years on tap for Muni 

Every morning for the past four years since selling her car, caregiver Rahel Belate wonders if she will be able to board a 38-Geary Muni bus from Divisadero Street to head downtown for work.

She said buses too crowded with riders often pass her stop.

Soon, that scenario could dramatically change for Belate and the other 165,000-plus daily riders who use the busiest bus lines. Starting April 25, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, will give the transit system its biggest service boost in decades.

“This is long term, focused and systematic,” Transit Director John Haley told reporters last week of the SFMTA’s ambitious Muni Forward plan. The last time an increase in service this significant occurred was when Market Street was torn up in the 1970s to build subway tunnels for Muni and BART, Haley said.

“This is as big of a change,” he said.

One major new feature will involve renaming “limited” bus lines to “rapid.” The 38L-Geary, for example, will now be known as the 38R-Geary.

“Rapid better denotes the point of the service,” said Sean Kennedy, program manager for Muni Forward.

On the most-used lines — the 5R-Fulton, 8AX-Bayshore, 8BX-Bayshore, 14R-Mission, 14X-Mission, 38R-Geary and 41-Union — there will be more buses deployed more frequently during morning and evening commute periods to reduce overcrowding, Kennedy said. The 28-19th Avenue and 10-Townsend will also see a boost in trips, though not as substantial as the other lines.

And in response to the new Leap and Chariot private bus services from the Marina to downtown, the 30X-Stockton will run for longer in the morning, as will the 14X-Mission, 1AX-California, 1BX-California, 8AX-Bayshore, 8BX-Bayshore, 31AX-Balboa and 31BX-Balboa lines. Also, the 38R-Geary will run on Sundays.

The Muni route map will be completely redesigned as well. Route lines that used to be several colors will now simply be blue or red. Red lines will be used for the rapid network, while blue will be used for the rest of the system. Route lines will widen where service is frequent, and shrink where it is scarce.

For example, a thin blue line for the 36-Teresita means the bus comes every 20 minutes or so. A thick red line for a 38 bus means it comes every five minutes or so.

Rapid route signage across The City will be marked in red, with normal route signage marked in blue. And in bus shelters, there will be new bike racks. The shelters will also have red solar-powered lanterns.

There will be no changes to light-rail service at this time. But in the fall, more route changes are planned.

“This is not just one watershed moment,” said Haley, adding that incremental changes are in the works.

About The Author

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Born and raised in San Francisco, Fitzgerald Rodriguez was a staff writer at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and now writes the S.F. Examiner's political column On Guard. He is also a transportation beat reporter covering pedestrians, Muni, BART, bikes, and anything with wheels.
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