Muni officials diverted buses from routes across The City Tuesday night to bolster service for those attending events at the Chase Center and Oracle Park. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Muni offers free bus rides after diverting Bayview buses to Chase Center

Agency pledges not to cut service on ‘equity routes’ serving poor communities

Muni is offering free rides Thursday and Friday night on bus lines that saw service shortages when the agency diverted operators to a Chase Center concert during commute hours.

The agency also pledged to no longer divert service from “equity” bus routes serving poor communities and communities of color in order to bolster Chase Center shuttles.

Those operators were diverted from multiple lines where they were intended to shore-up absences, said the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. That includes the 8-Bayshore, 8AX and 8BX lines, bus routes with 33,000 daily riders serving neighborhoods with significant Chinese and black communities.

When he first heard of the cuts to bus service, Supervisor Shamann Walton, who represents The City’s southeast, called the move “racist.”

“I wouldn’t call it a win,” Walton said of SFMTA’s latest announcement. “I would say it’s helpful for tonight and tomorrow and provides some relief to riders.”

However, Walton said, “there is much more to do to guarantee that this doesn’t continue.” He promised to work with his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors and SFMTA to seek permanent solutions.

SFMTA issued their statement Thursday morning, a day after the San Francisco Examiner first reported the Bayview bus diversion. SFMTA struck a defensive tone, arguing that those diverted operators were a small portion of overall service across The City.

The agency is experiencing an operator shortage, they said, and had asked Muni operators to volunteer in their off-time to drive supplemental Chase Center service. When none volunteered, they diverted operators from other lines.

The agency did not apologize in the statement.

However, SFMTA did offer free Muni rides between 5 p.m. and midnight on Thursday and Friday on the 8-Bayshore, 8AX, 8BX, 19-Polk, 38-Geary and 38R-Geary Rapid lines, reflective of the evening commutes affected by riders.

Notably, many Muni commuters use pre-paid monthly passes on Clipper cards. Those free rides would not benefit them.

Queena Chen and Jon Hee, co-chairs of the Chinatown Transportation Research and Improvement Project, an advocacy group, sounded a hopeful tone.

“We would like to thank SFMTAfor your commitment to the Muni Equity Strategy,” they wrote. “We’re pleased to hear that going forward, Muni equity lines won’t be impacted by the Chase Center.”

However, Chinatown TRIP wrote, they feel Muni can “do better.”

The 8-Bayshore lines are often “packed, late, or missing altogether,” a frequent complaint the group hears from the Asian Pacific Islander community.

Reacting to the Examiner’s coverage of buses diverted from the 8-Bayshore to Chase Center, everyday Muni riders sounded off on social media.

“Is this why I waited 31 minutes for the 8 last night to get home?!?” wrote Twitter user @MadMaxFlapper, “along with elders, tired parents, babies?” That Muni rider then tweeted photos of 8-Bayshore waits of 50 minutes and 63 minutes at their bus stop.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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