The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority cut most of its bus service last year due to the pandemic, and has been slow to bring it back due to budget concerns and low ridership. (Samantha Laurey/ Special to S.F. Examiner)

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority cut most of its bus service last year due to the pandemic, and has been slow to bring it back due to budget concerns and low ridership. (Samantha Laurey/ Special to S.F. Examiner)

Supes urge SFMTA to expedite restoration of Muni lines

Resolution emphasizes focus on seniors, individuals with disabilities and community routes

Supervisor Myrna Melgar introduced a resolution Tuesday calling on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority to expedite the return of transit service to pre-pandemic levels with a focus on community routes and emphasis on equity.

Co-sponsored by eight other supervisors, the resolution “urges the SFMTA Board of Directors to present a proactive plan with an anticipated timeline, acting within their existing authority, to expedite reinstating transit lines, including near areas with significant inclines, but not limited to, other hard-to-reach zones in The City.”

SFMTA cut all but 17 of its 89 Muni lines indefinitely in April, including a shutdown of Muni Metro, citing the need for social distance, a shortage of transit operators and decimated ridership.

Almost overnight, a citywide transportation network was replaced with a far more limited service plan that left entire corners of The City without transit access.

Swaths of San Francisco have been left without access to Muni, a reality the resolution asserts “inadvertently created an omission of other populations from accessing essential services, such as child care, work, grocery stores, medical and pharmaceutical needs” and left “many frontline, essential workers unable to access their place of work.”

SFMTA has brought back Muni piecemeal. As recently as Jan. 23, it restored the T-Third train line as well as a number of other bus routes such as the 27-Bryant, 33-Ashbury and 15-Bayview Hunters Point Express.

However, its ability to restore service quickly has been severely curtailed by $68 million and $168 million budget deficits in the next two fiscal years, respectively.

“I recognize the real budget constraints that SFMTA has endured because of COVID-19 and the public health order. However, we must take action to rectify gaps in service before we permanently lose vital transit lines,” Melgar said.

When deciding which lines to bring back, the agency has continually reiterated its data-driven approach to delivering additional service to areas that continue to use transit frequently, many of which are home to high concentrations of low-income or transit-dependent riders and essential workers.

“Frankly, the SFMTA needs to recognize that reinstating these lines is an equity issue,” Melgar said. “Transit is an essential service and we cannot possibly best serve all neighborhoods in San Francisco if we are going to purely look at ridership levels.”

The resolution encourages the SFMTA to include seniors and individuals with disabilities in its equity analysis, specifically describing the difficulties faced by those who reside in San Francisco’s notoriously hilly neighborhoods that largely continue to exist without any transit service.

Melgar represents District Seven, which includes neighborhoods such as Twin Peaks, West Portal and Forest Hill, and says many of her residents who are older or who have mobility limitations have been cut off from essential services and left alone to navigate the area’s steep inclines without community routes such as the 36-Teresita and 6-Haight-Parnassus.

To that end, it also calls on the SFMTA to expand the existing Essential Trip Card Program to provide another transportation option to these mobility-impaired populations.

Under the ETC program, individuals over 65 or with a disability can pay $12 to receive $60 worth of taxi trips monthly — roughly three round trips — to essential services.

Melgar’s resolution asserts this program fails to facilitate more than one cross-city round-trip and “is not feasible for those on fixed incomes that have relied on transit services.”

While resolutions have no legislative authority, this one,if approved at the Feb. 2 Board of Supervisors meeting, would require a response from SFMTA within 60 days.

Melgar said she hopes to create an honest and effective partnership with SFMTA to address these problems, and the resolution includes a commitment from the Board of Supervisors to work with relevant stakeholders to determine how to fund and advance the reinstatement of Muni routes.

cgraf@sfexaminer.com

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