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Coronavirus Pandemic: San Francisco Muni To Cut Service By Nearly Half To Prioritize Essential Workers

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- San Francisco's Muni will reduce service by nearly half this week, eliminating many of its lines that are seeing low ridership and focusing on lines used by essential workers during the pandemic, SFMTA officials said.

Beginning Monday, SFMTA said to expect delays and longer wait times as about 40% of Muni operators won't be driving due to the stay-at-home order. By Tuesday and Wednesday, more service reductions will begin gradually.

On Tuesday, service will be discontinued on the 2-Clement, 3-Jackson, 5-Fulton, 7-Haight, 10-Townsend, 21-Hayes and 31-Balboa lines because of low ridership or nearby lines.

On Wednesday, the service will be further reduced to the 17 core lines: buses along the N-Judah, L-Taraval and T-Third light-rail lines that were previously halted because of the coronavirus, as well as the 1-California, 8-Bayshore, 9-San Bruno, 14-Mission, 14R-Mission Rapid, 19-Polk, 22-Fillmore, 24-Divisadero, 25-Treasure Island, 29-Sunset, 38-Geary, 38R-Geary Rapid, 44-O'Shaughnessy and 49-Van Ness/Mission lines.

On Monday, SFMTA director Jeffrey Tumlin tweeted a picture of what the system would look like with the changes in place.

"Right now, we want to prepare the public for increased wait times in the meantime on Monday," SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato said in an email. "While all current lines will be in operation (Monday), we will have a reduced number of operators" on those routes.

Muni operates approximately 80 bus, light rail, historic streetcar and cable car routes.

Kato said the cuts are coming primarily to "minimize risk to our staff and public, while also being able to provide for the most essential needs/services with the appropriate social distancing where our riders actually are."

Some routes that serve medical centers of concentrations of "essential" workplaces have seen added ridership in the past few weeks, she said, and those routes figure to be preserved or even bolstered. Kato did not say which Muni routes have experienced ridership gains.

The ability to preserve "social distancing" will also help
determine whether a given route will continue operating, Kato said.

Muni officials also said Sunday their buses and trains have seen patronage plunge during the weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, as has happened with BART and other Bay Area transit agencies operating buses, trains and ferry boats. On any given week, Muni sees roughly 700,000 daily rider trips throughout its system. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, ridership has dropped as much as 83% on some days, according to the SFMTA.

But Muni officials said the cutbacks are more about safety in the COVID-19 era and less about plummeting passenger counts and associated money losses.

Muni had already ended most light rail service with the March 30 closure of its subway under Market Street. A few scattered bus route suspensions had already been announced, also. Cable car service on the F-Market and E-Embarcadero lines is also on hiatus.

To stay notified about any Muni service changes, visit their website.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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