If you’re staying in San Francisco for the upcoming holidays, you might have some difficulty getting around The City on Muni.
For the first time, Muni will run a reduced-service schedule for an entire week, with buses starting later and running less frequently before, during and after Christmas on Tuesday.
Muni will run its Saturday schedule on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Dec. 31. The Saturday schedule will entail less frequent service on busy bus lines such as the 14-Mission and 38-Geary. Cable cars, light-rail lines and streetcars will not be affected.
On Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, Muni will run an even more skeletal schedule, although that is not a departure from the past.
Faced with a $7 million deficit in its transit division this fiscal year, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, projects that it will save $70,000 a day under the reduced service, resulting in total savings of $350,000.
Ron Austin, a spokesman for the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni operators, said the reduced service flies in the face of San Francisco’s transit-first goals. Austin said plenty of commuters will be back in their regular routine by the end of the week, and they will be seething when service is not at its normal level.
“The SFMTA management makes these decisions and sits in their office,” Austin said. “We’re on the frontline and we bear all the brunt for people’s frustration with the system. But this isn’t even about us—it’s about riders not
getting their fair due.”
Agency spokesman Paul Rose countered that ridership levels drop by 35 to 40 percent during the last week of December, and that the service reduction will actually benefit taxpayers.
“Rather than having people pay for service with half-empty buses, we’re adapting our schedule to meet the needs of our riders,” Rose said.
Ben Kaufman, a spokesman for the San Francisco Transit Riders Union, questioned the agency’s lack of outreach.
“There has been absolutely no communication about this plan to the riding public, many of whom will be working next week,” said Kaufman. “This plan again highlights the problems with Muni — a lack of communication with its riders and a lack of funding for its transit service.”
Supervisor Scott Wiener bemoaned that last point, noting that the agency recently agreed to spend $1.6 million on a plan to provide free service for low-income youth riders instead of using the money for its operational needs. He also said it was a mistake for the Board of Supervisors to exempt large nonprofit institutions from paying a transit-impact development fee, a source of funding that could have generated millions for the agency.
“This underlines Muni’s structural deficit and its unsustainability,” Wiener said. “Until we get serious about funding the agency, we can continue to expect these kinds of cuts.”