Twitter line’ may not be getting message out as ridership falls short 

click to enlarge S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner File Photo

In contrast to its speedy title, Muni’s Twitter Express bus is off to a pretty slow start.

The 83X Mid-Market Express bus, dubbed the Twitter line for its route to and from the microblogging site’s headquarters, averaged just 360 passengers a day in its first two weeks of service, a tally that puts the service well below its projected ridership numbers.

Before unveiling the line June 11, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency projected that 400,000 passengers would use the bus annually, or roughly 1,538 per weekday. At its current pace, the line would only attract 93,600 passengers a year, less than one-quarter of its original forecast.

But spokesman Paul Rose said the agency is still encouraged by the line’s growing usage. Ridership is increasing each day, and the agency predicted that it would take a little while for the line to catch on, Rose said.

“For the first 15 days of service, this is where we thought we’d be,” said Rose, who said the agency is considering adding or relocating stops on the line. “In launches like this, the passengers typically increase as they find out about the service.”

Twitter, which received extensive tax breaks to remain in San Francisco, recently moved into new headquarters on 10th and Market Streets, sparking talks of a resurgence of the long-troubled mid-Market Street corridor. The 83X bus runs during morning and evening commutes between mid-Market and the Caltrain station at Fourth and King streets.

Ben Kaufman of the San Francisco Transit Riders Union said his group questions the use of Muni funds for projects that seem so short-sighted.

“We see these specialty routes as short-term projects, when the SFMTA needs long-term solutions,” said Kaufman, who was skeptical that the line could be cost-neutral. “The SFMTA should be developing a robust transit system that centers on their most heavily used lines, and projects like the 83X just seem like a distraction to those plans.”

Kaufman mentioned the NX bus line — a complementary express route to the N-Judah light-rail line — as another specialty route that neglects long-term needs.

“Really, all of Muni’s Express lines ignore the system’s major problems,” Kaufman said. “They only serve particular communities and they don’t address inherent problems with Muni service.”

The 83X is currently one of Muni’s least-used routes, according to agency data. The 56-Rutland is the only full-time line carrying fewer daily passengers.

The 83X does stack up favorably with three other Express lines — the 80X Gateway, the 81X Caltrain and the 82X Levi Plaza — which respectively carry 132, 125, and 268 passengers daily.

For the 83X to meet projections, it would have to average 1,610 passengers a weekday for the rest of the year. That’s more than four times the current ridership.

Even through the line is well below projected ridership, Rose said the agency still expects the service to be cost-neutral. The SFMTA expects the line’s increased costs to be offset by operating and maintenance efficiencies.

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Will Reisman

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