A couple from a small town in New Jersey are surprised by what they find when they visit The City.(File photo Mike Hendrickson/Special to the s.f. Examiner)

A couple from a small town in New Jersey are surprised by what they find when they visit The City.(File photo Mike Hendrickson/Special to the s.f. Examiner)

Regional transit agencies use Muni stops at no cost with no hassle

As San Francisco gears up a pilot program for private shuttles to access Muni stops, several regional transportation systems have been using The City’s public-transit infrastructure for decades with no formal policy in place and at no cost. The arrangement, however, seems to be working just fine.

Unlike the private shuttles used by tech companies as well as medical and educational institutions, the buses operated by Amtrak, AC Transit, SamTrans and Golden Gate Transit have been using Muni stops primarily on Market, Mission and Potrero streets and Van Ness Avenue as far back as 50 years, said spokesman Paul Rose of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

“It’s been a working model for decades, and we certainly had enough time to get this coordination right,” he said. “And we’re now working to do the same for private shuttles as well.”

Part of the reason there has been “no impact to Muni service,” Rose said, is that most of the outside agencies use only a small number of stops. Private shuttles will be able to use 200 stops under the pilot program.

Six of Amtrak’s seven stops are Muni’s and used with the SFMTA’s permission, said Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham. Seven is a small number considering Muni has about 2,500 stops across San Francisco, Rose said, and the shared stops are often large enough to accommodate multiple buses.

<p> “Oftentimes Amtrak riders are Muni riders because these are public-transit agencies, and at this point there hasn’t been an arrangement to charge public-transit agencies,” Rose said. “They’re agencies that benefit the entire region and Muni as well.”

Golden Gate Transit comes closest to having a formal agreement. Since 1972, when the agency’s buses first began transporting people between Marin and Sonoma counties and San Francisco, the agency has received an “encroachment permit” at no cost from the Department of Public Works. The permit acknowledges Golden Gate Transit’s roughly 110 stops in The City and that about 75 percent of them are shared with Muni, said agency spokeswoman Mary Currie.

“We have an ongoing working relationship with the city staff,” she said. “Our planners work with their planners to make it work for everybody. It’s a system that has been working for a lot of decades and it’s working well.”

SamTrans has had stops in San Francisco since it began providing service in the 1970s, said spokeswoman Christine Dunn. Some are shared with Muni “because they take up less space than multiple bus stops and allow SamTrans riders and Muni riders to travel seamlessly between San Francisco and San Mateo counties.”

From the East Bay, AC Transit has a stop at Beale and Howard streets and late-night service stops on Market Street at Van Ness Avenue and Seventh, Powell, Third and Sutter streets.

It makes more sense to share stops with Muni because establishing AC Transit’s own stops is “quite a process” that involves clearance from The City, residents and merchants, said agency spokesman Clarence Johnson.

As with public-transit agencies, some form of agreement was reached with the SFMTA, Johnson said, because buses “can’t just roll into anywhere and stop; we have to have approval to do that.”

Among the factors the SFMTA coordinates with public-transit agencies at the shared stops are arrival times, how long it takes to board and off-board, whether there is enough room for multiple vehicles, and which locations are most appropriate.

What is working with regional transit agencies is what the SFMTA seeks to accomplish with the commuter shuttle pilot program, which would charge $1 per stop per day for private providers.

The pilot is facing an appeal over the California Environmental Quality Act impact report exemption it received. And the shuttles themselves have been seized on by anti-displacement activists who say they represent the gentrification of San Francisco.

“The reason we have a pilot in place is because previously there had been no coordination” with commuter shuttles, Rose said. “And this pilot will allow us to better coordinate with the private shuttle companies to reduce the impact on Muni.”

Amtrak stops in S.F.

Pier 39 (Beach Street and The Embarcadero)

Ferry Building (101 The Embarcadero)

Hyatt Regency San Francisco (5 Embarcadero Center)

Moscone Center (747 Howard St.)

Caltrain station (700 Fourth St.)

Westfield San Francisco Centre (835 Market St.)

Civic Center (1139 Market St.)

Note: All stops except Ferry Plaza are shared with Muni

Source: AmtrakAmtrakBay Area NewsSamTransSan Francisco tech busesTransittransportation

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