Muni officials diverted buses from San Francisco’s southeastern neighborhoods and elsewhere to buttress bus service to Chase Center arena Tuesday night, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.
The diversion of Bayview buses in particular — which serve 33,000 daily riders — drew a sharp rebuke from Supervisor Shamann Walton, who represents the neighborhood. He called the move “racist” against a historically black community and one with many Asian Pacific Islander residents.
“This is unacceptable, institutionally racist and we need to identify solutions that will not impact our residents’ commute home,” Walton told the Examiner in a statement. Referring to the supervisoral districts encompassing San Francisco’s east and southeast neighborhoods, Walton added, “residents in D9, D10 and D11 will be heavily impacted by this evening commute decision.”
Seeing Walton sound the alarm on Twitter, his colleague Supervisor Hillary Ronen tweeted, “This is not OK!!!”
City officials previously sounded the alarm that a San Francisco Giants game could impact T-Third Muni train service to both the ballpark and arena, the first such double-up of events between the two destinations.
To ensure smooth service, buses that would normally be ferrying San Franciscans commuting to Portola, Visitacion Valley, the Ingleside and Bayview from work instead helped Dave Matthews Band fans arrive in Mission Bay.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said it diverted three buses from the 8-Bayshore line, a heavily-trafficked bus route, and other bus lines “throughout the system” to substitute buses on the 78Xand 79X routes which serve Chase Center arena events because of the agency’s ongoing operator shortage.
“While we never want to miss service anywhere, providing strong transit options to the Chase Center is critical to getting people on transit and reducing auto congestion,” Erica Kato, an SFMTA spokesperson said in a statement. “Without the transit service to Chase, we would have seen high auto use and ripple effects on transit reliability throughout the eastern part of The City, especially on routes like the 8-Bayshore, which use the freeways.”
Muni’s operator shortage led to a meltdown of the system last summer as hundreds of buses sat undriven in their barns. A new contract between the Muni operators union and SFMTA approved by the union in May will offer better raises, with hopes to retain more drivers.
Until then, Muni is steadily improving its hiring, the agency said. A class of 41 new Muni operators is set to graduate just this Friday, adding to 160 new operators who graduated this year.
Kato defended the cuts to the 8-Bayshore, and other citywide buses, stressing that only ten buses were taken out of service on other lines to help bolster the 78X and 79X. “This is an incredibly small number that was designed to be a non-impact to our regular riders and commuters,” she said.
But importantly, as the Muni meltdown showcased last summer, each bus “run” is responsible for trips across a route and back for an entire shift — one missing can increase wait times for riders in ways that are noticed.
Despite SFMTA’s assurances, advocacy groups representing communities of color were incensed.
Queena Chen, co-chair of Chinatown Transportation Research Improvement Project, a transportation advocacy group, said diverting any number of 8-Bayshore buses may hurt riders’ commutes because the group has already heard complaints of missing service on the 8-Bayshore.
The route is also part of Muni’s equity plan, Chen said, which is meant to ensure service is brought to impoverished communities and communities of color, who need Muni most.
“That policy is to give more services to underserved communities,” Chen said. “Decreased service is very concerning to us, especially since the last few month the eight has seen less runs.”
The 8-Bayshore, 8AX and 8BX routes serve a combined ridership of 33,000 people.
“We want to make sure all communities are served at the capacity they should be,” Chen said.