Supervisor Hillary Ronen rides the 9R bus. (Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/S.F. Examiner)

Longer buses lead to less fighting on the 9R line

One Muni official has the cure for fisticuffs on San Francisco commutes: longer buses.

The introduction of longer 60-foot buses on the 9R-San Bruno Rapid bus route in June has led to less crowding and fewer fights on board during morning commutes, according to Muni Forward Program Manager Sean Kennedy.

The 9R is one of the most heavily trafficked Muni commuter routes in The City.

“The buses are packed, both the 8 and 9 every single day,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen, at a July City Hall meeting. “Especially on the 9, where there are pretty much fights every single day.”

However Kennedy told her in response that “The incidents have gone down.”

Kennedy publicly discussed the transit tensions with Ronen, who represents the Mission and Bernal Heights, among other neighborhoods, at a San Francisco County Transportation Authority board meeting on July 24. Kennedy had just told the board the SFMTA replaced 40-foot buses on the 9R route with 60-foot buses in June.

She asked Kennedy if he’d noticed fewer brawls since improving bus service.

“We heard those same comments you just said over the last six months ad nauseam,” Kennedy said. But operator reports and 311 calls have lessened since the new buses were deployed, he said.

Following the meeting, Kennedy, a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency staffer, sent data to the San Francisco Examiner in August showcasing just how spacious the new buses are for riders commuting from the Mission, Portola, Visitaction Valley, Bernal Heights and other neighborhoods the 9R serves.

He confirmed fewer fights have been reported since the larger buses came into play, and called it a “downward trend.” The reason? “If you’re not face to face with everybody you can move out, tensions decrease a little bit.”

The 40 foot buses would often carry an average maximum load of 32 passengers per bus during the morning commute peak, from 6-9 a.m., according to SFMTA data requested by the Examiner, which was obtained August 23. But those 32 passengers had to contend with only 31 available seats. Once the 60-foot buses were implemented, the average maximum load of passengers increased only slightly to 32, but now 44 seats are available to 9R riders.

The morning of July 25, Ronen and the Examiner took a ride on the 9R for a test commute, to see the crowding for ourselves.

Ronen and the Examiner met at Silver and Mission Streets and walked to the nearest 9R stop on a brisk morning, and watched a few of the buses roll up for passengers with no crowding evident. After waiting for a few to pass by for observation purposes, we boarded. Ronen used to live along the 9R line and commuted on the bus to City Hall every morning.

On board, seats were widely available, though the supervisor and the Examiner chose to stand.

After the ride, Ronen posted a review of the experience to Facebook.

“Before I moved, I used to ride this line regularly and it was almost always overcrowded and an awful experience,” she wrote. “MTA has recently changed out the 40’ [buses] with 60-footers and it’s worked. Thrilled for the residents of the Portola.”

Now, Portola neighbors won’t need to be golden glove awardees just to get to work.

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