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Early morning BART service cuts could affect Mission District commuters

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Planned cuts to early morning BART service could disproportionately affect the Mission District, BART officials said Thursday. Planned transbay shuttles for riders are currently expected to terminate downtown, dropping riders trying to reach 26th or 24th Street stations short of their destinations. (Mike Koozmin/2013 S.F. Examiner)

Cuts to early morning service planned to allow for maintenance work could disproportionately hurt San Francisco’s Mission District, BART officials said Thursday.

At the BART Board’s regular meeting Thursday, directors said that replacement buses for cancelled early morning trains will not reach into the neighborhood, requiring a longer or more expensive journey for some of the most vulnerable workers.

“I know there are questions about reaching the Mission,” said Director Rebecca Saltzman. Director Bevan Dufty, who represents the areas near the 16th Street and 24th Street BART stations, also asked staff to look into bolstering Mission District service. “Should we be considering our own bus service?” he asked BART management.

BART is preparing to retrofit the underwater Transbay Tube to be more earthquake resilient. That work is set to begin in February next year and last for three and a half years, but in order to complete it 4 months faster BART will start train service an hour later, bumping its start time from 4 a.m. to 5 a.m.

On Thursday, BART planners presented a replacement bus plan to shuttle workers from the outer Bay Area in the early morning, more than 60 percent of whom are headed to San Francisco. A final plan is expected in September.

The tentative plan is for shuttles bound for San Francisco to terminate at the Salesforce Transit Center, but that’s downtown.

For riders who normally travel to stations in the Mission District, BART assistant general manager of operations Paul Oversier said shuttles could potentially provide connections to the 14 Mission and 14 Rapid Muni lines. Dufty noted the 14 and 14R have seen more robust service lately.

That’s not ideal for Mission businesses, however, who are concerned the shuttle plans put an extra burden on neighborhood workers. Karen Heisier, co-owner of Mission Pie near the 24th Street BART station, wrote an email to BART on Thursday lambasting their proposed replacement service plan.

“I am disappointed that there does not seem to be consideration of an additional bus hub at 24th Street, something that has been demonstrated to be of importance in other mitigation plans,” she wrote. Despite analysis showing that only about 200-300 early morning riders exit beyond San Francisco’s downtown stations, Heisier noted that they are likely “dominantly service sector workers and those least able to accommodate increases to transit cost or to retain jobs if they can’t arrive on time.”

Kelly Powers, associate director of the Hotel Council of San Francisco, also told BART the shuttle plan should not exceed current BART fares, especially considering cost increases and schedule fluctuations would hurt vulnerable service-sector workers — and the hotels that employ them.

Without a hub in the Mission, early morning riders may face paying double fares: once to cross the bridge on a shuttle, and another to Muni for a transfer trip. That’s a problem Oversier said BART will need to negotiate with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which runs Muni.

“We may need to work out some free transfer arrangement,” Oversier said, “We’ve had that arrangement with Muni in the past.”

To those who voiced concerns of burdensome costs for workers, Oversier made a promise.

“The principle that will hold,” he said, “is the cost for that end to end, of the BART bus transferring to Muni, will be equal to or less than the cost of the BART trip.”

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