What to expect for Muni Metro’s relaunch on May 15

Significant service restoration includes downtown subway tunnels and historic streetcars

The day many San Francisco transit riders have been anxiously awaiting is almost here.

On Saturday May 15, Muni will welcome riders back to all of its Muni Metro subway stations for the first time since they were closed over a year ago, aside from a failed attempt at a restart in August 2020 that shuddered to a halt after only three days.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will also relaunch the F-Market and Wharves historic streetcar line and debut a new bus route to serve hilltop neighborhoods on the same day, and unveil a system with significant upgrades such as WiFi in the tunnel as well.

Though this significant service restoration still fails to bring back full Muni service, officials hope the increased public transportation options will support San Francisco’s broader economic recovery.

“As we reopen more businesses and activities, it’s essential that our transit service is able to accommodate more passengers and help people get around our city,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement.

Here’s everything you need to know about Muni’s makeover.

Where can I ride Muni Metro?

Rail service will resume on the entire route of the N-Judah line with two-car trains, replacing buses.

Though the K-Ingleside wasn’t supposed to come back until next year, lobbying from neighborhood merchants and their supervisors prompted an early restart. On Saturday, the K-Ingleside and T-Third will begin operating as the KT-Ingleside-Third to expand service between Balboa Park and Sunnydale, serving all stations between West Portal and the Embarcadero.

These lines will join the N-Judah, which resumed service in December of last year. The M and L lines, however, will continue to be served by buses for the time being.

Trains will run on both renewed routes between 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends. After hours, riders will take Muni Owl buses.

What about the streetcars?

Historic streetcars are scheduled to run between 17th and Castro streets and Jones and Beach streets. They’ll run for one shift per day — 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Castro and noon to 8 p.m. from Fisherman’s Wharf — due to current limits on the number of trained streetcar operators.

Outside those hours, Muni Owl bus service will run along Market Street.

I heard something about a new bus in my hilly neighborhood. What’s that?

If you live in or near the Glen Park, Sunnyside and Miraloma communities and are tired of trekking up hills to reach a Muni stop, you might be in luck!

SFMTA is launching a temporary combined loop route between Forest Hill Station and Glen Park Station.

Called the 36/52 Special, the Muni route will also serve Laguna Honda Hospital.

Someone told me Muni Metro got a makeover. What’s that all about?

Subway riders will now enjoy WiFi availability underground thanks to routers installed in stations and cellular antennas installed in tunnels.

If lost, travelers can refer to upgraded wayfinding and signs at Castro and Church stations outfitted with LED technology and new phraseology that nixes the confusing terms “inbound” and “outbound” in favor of a combination of route endpoints and cardinal directions to guide riders.

Finally, SFMTA also installed new public art at the Castro and West Portal stations.

How do I know an equipment failure won’t derail Muni Metro again?

SFMTA’s last attempt at relaunching Muni Metro ended in an overhead wire splice debacle that forced the entire rail system to shut down after just three days, despite weeks of teasing the reopening of a more efficient and revamped downtown subway tunnel.

Officials said the failure revealed the scale of Muni Metro’s weaknesses, and they have spent the last nine months working relentlessly to tackle projects such as overhead line replacements, communication upgrades, emergency system changes and hardware replacements that increase the stability, resiliency and efficiency of the rail system.

To build confidence ahead of this weekend’s reopening, operators have run nearly two full weeks of service testing to ensure the system is ready to handle the return of passengers.

Still, transit director Julie Kirschbaum has cautioned that it will take between five and eight years to fully address the vulnerabilities of Muni Metro, and warned that shutdowns will likely be needed in the future to complete critical work.

I still don’t have adequate transit service. What’s next for Muni?

SFMTA plans to restore 85 percent of pre-pandemic Muni service hours by early next year.

About 91 percent of all San Franciscans are within two- to three-blocks of a Muni Metro stop, but it will cost the agency about $160 million to restore pre-pandemic service levels.

“There is no economic recovery without public transit,” SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin said in a statement. “Our staff is committed to keeping San Francisco moving and is working tirelessly to bring Muni service back better than ever.”

For more information on what’s happening on May 15, look here.


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