Coronavirus Impact: Overcrowding on San Francisco buses after MTA slashes 80% of routes

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- On Wednesday, SFMTA eliminated most of it's bus lines.

Only 17 of the city's bus lines, with the highest ridership, are currently operating, but fewer buses has created some overcrowding.

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The streets may be empty, but much of what's left of San Francisco's bus fleet, is bustling.

The social distancing that people are practicing at bus stops is often undone when they get on board. Photos taken on Wednesday show people sitting side-by-side, and standing shoulder-to-shoulder at 4 pm on the 38 Geary.

"They're too crowded!"

Sharon, who did not want to share her last name, frequently rides the bus to run errands. She demonstrated how she uses sanitizing wipes and her hood to protect her face, when she can't keep six feet of distance on Muni.

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"If I see somebody that isn't wearing a mask or is talking too much, I just get off and walk!" she said.

Only 17 of Muni's 79 bus lines are running right now, which is just 20% of the city's transit lines. But, with 100,000 people still riding every day, it means there just isn't enough space to maintain social distance on the few buses that are left in service.

"Service will be unreliable, there will be many missed runs and we're going to need a lot of patience in order to get through," said SFMTA's Director of Transportation, Jeffrey Tumlin, in a recorded message this week.

Tumlin predicted problems when 40% of Muni operators were unable to show up to work this week.

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"Many of our frontline workers who are members of vulnerable populations or who have vulnerable people at home, they've increasingly needed to stay home in order to stay healthy and safe."

Even with fewer routes, Tumlin says every San Franciscan is within a mile of a bus stop, but that's a long walk with groceries, or kids, or if you're disabled.

"The word was that they were be coming up with alternatives, probably an increase in paratransit or working with other agencies to try to make up for the loss," said ABC7 news contributor and Chronicle insider, Phil Matier.

Matier pointed out another solution that SFMTA has been fighting for years.

"I think if this proves one thing, it's that like it or not, cars are still needed."

And now, even MTA is asking people stay off public transportation and walk, bike, or yes, even drive.
The 17 core Muni routes that will remain in service, with some modifications include:

  • N Judah Bus

  • L Taraval Bus

  • T Third Bus

  • 1 California

  • 8 Bayshore

  • 9 San Bruno

  • 14 Mission

  • 14R Mission Rapid

  • 19 Polk

  • 22 Fillmore

  • 24 Divisadero

  • 25 Treasure Island

  • 29 Sunset

  • 38 Geary

  • 38R Geary Rapid

  • 44 O'Shaughnessy

  • 49 Van Ness/Mission

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