K-Ingleside train to return on May 15

Announcement comes on the heels of pressure from Supervisor Myrna Melgar

Muni Metro’s K-Ingleside train will return on May 15, more than six months ahead of schedule.

Mayor London Breed and District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar announced the news on Friday, citing the restoration of train service to the line as a key part of The City’s economic recovery as residents continue to get vaccinated and halt the spread of COVID-19.

“The return of the K is an important step forward in bringing back the type of Muni service that San Francisco needs as we emerge from this pandemic” Breed said in a statement. “This last year forced us to change so much about how our city operates, and one of the hardest parts was the impact it had on our public transit.”

Muni Metro trains have been suspended since March 2020, save for a failed restart attempt in August that led to the system shutting down again after less than three days.

Though surface route buses have run in place of trains, the underground downtown tunnel has remained closed, and residents, small business owners and local politicians have repeatedly voiced concerns that the lack of light rail service exacerbates unreliability and leaves many with insufficient transit access.

“We are reopening, our folks are getting vaccinated, our merchants are seeing an uptick in foot traffic and connecting businesses to their customers is critical to economic recovery and vitality,” Melgar said in a statement. “We need reliable and accessible transit service to ensure our recovery and success after a year of COVID.”

Earlier this year, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency announced plans to bring back service on the N-Judah and T-Third to West Portal, allowing for train travel all the way from West Portal to the Embarcadero.

The agency plans to restore 85 percent of Muni service hours systemwide, which includes buses and trains, by January 2022, but it had previously said the return of additional rail before then was “unlikely.”

Officials cited hiring vacancies, a growing structural deficit that existed even before the pandemic and caution around spending more than it earned as reasons for the slow roll-out.

Friday’s announcement did not include any explanation of how these circumstances had changed to make restoration of the K-Ingleside possible.

“Our ability to make this announcement of additional Muni service is a true testament to the collaboration between Muni staff, our labor unions and community partners,” Julie Kirschbaum, SFMTA’s director of transit, said in a statement. “We know that key transit connections are critical to The City’s economic recovery, and we’re thrilled to reopen the subway and ramp up service.”

During the lengthy subway shutdown, SFMTA has focused on upgrading the subway system and addressing overdue maintenance work.

Returning Muni Metro riders can expect to notice new wayfinding and directional signals at Castro and Church stations; public art at Castro and West Portal; wireless internet; and quicker trips as a result of improvements to overhead lines and tracks.

“But while trains and buses weren’t able to run at normal levels, the SFMTA used that time to make important upgrades and repairs to our infrastructure and prepare for the future,” Breed said in a statement. “Now, I’m excited to see more and more people riding Muni to get around San Francisco.”

cgraf@sfexaminer.com

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