Muni under pressure to fully restore bus lines, especially in underserved communities

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It has been a year and a half since San Francisco's transit system was severely affected by the pandemic. While most of the bus and underground lines have been restored, it's not business as usual.

City officials and community leaders are urging MUNI to completely restore the lines, especially in underserved communities.

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In April 2020, MUNI was forced to suspend 51 of its 68 transit lines.

"Our service will be deeply unreliable. There will be long gaps in service," that was the SFMTA director at that time.

"Today there are five bus lines that continue to be temporarily suspended, all of them serving parts of the Western Addition and Japantown," explained Jeremy Chan, of the Japantown Task Force. "Lines like the 2 and 3 are particularly important for our seniors."

Japantown has a high density of seniors as well as senior services.

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The pressure from the community was instrumental in forcing Muni to announce that service would resume on three of the five lines beginning next February.

"We are not going to use the pandemic to downside and permanently get rid of buses that are critical for our public transportation system," said San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston.

MUNI told ABC7 News that just last week, they averaged 344,000 trips compared to an average of nearly 750,000 before the pandemic. That's because, they say, ridership has not recovered.

"It could partially because people are still working from home, it could partially be people are concerned about the rise in anti-Asian violence," said Chan.

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In a statement MUNI said, "Looking forward to the next 6 months, it is our goal to restore more if we can tackle the long-term funding."

While MUNI has sustained losses, the transit system has received millions of dollars in federal assistance.

"This is a question, are we going to take an austerity approach where we don't spend the money that we're getting from the federal government because we are saving it for a rainy day or do we spend aggressively now to make sure we restore bus service so that folks have their buses and the economy can recover," said Supervisor Preston.

Some routes have been cut down because of operator shortages due to the city's mandate that only vaccinated employees can work after Nov. 1.
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