San Francisco public transit system is losing $1 million a week and will shut down train service as ridership plummets amid shelter-in-place order

San Francisco

  • The city and county of San Francisco’s public transit system is shuttering its train and light rail services and replacing them with buses as ridership plummets amid a coronavirus pandemic.
  • Known as Muni for short, the system has reported an estimated $1 million in weekly losses since the virus and subsequent regionwide shelter-in-place order has kept its usual riders into their homes.
  • Public transit ridership is down across the country as the virus continues to spread.

San Francisco’s public transit system is shifting to buses-only as ridership plummets amid a regionwide shelter-in-place order to contain the coronavirus disease.

The San Francisco Municipal Railway, known as Muni, has reported an estimated weekly loss of $1 million since residents have been directed to stay in their homes to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19.

According to a Thursday blog posted by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which oversees Muni, the agency is shuttering its train and light rail services and replacing them with buses. The J, KT, L, M, and N lines will still be operating but with buses, and riders will be able to board and deboard at the same above-ground stops used for Metro bus services that run on weekend mornings. Muni Rapid routes will also be discontinued, except for the 14R Mission line.

The underground Muni Metro subway stations will be closed except for the ones downtown that riders also use for BART, another transit system in the Bay Area.

The changes will help funnel resources to routes outside of the downtown area that are providing connections to essential jobs and services for people, according to the SFMTA. Public transit has remained open during the shelter-in-place order for those providing essential services, like grocery workers.

The agency will also take advantage of the suspension to perform maintenance on system infrastructure and vehicles.

“It’s a unique opportunity to improve the state of good repair of our system and come out of this shutdown stronger than ever,” reads the SFMTA website. The changes will go into effect on Monday.

The major city’s public transit suspension comes as a pandemic grips the US — and as 20-plus states usher its millions of residents indoors in a bid to stunt the spread of the virus. Nearly one in three Americans is currently under a shelter-in-place order.

Public transit ridership across the country has dropped, as The New York Times reports. Some transit stations in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia have shuttered due to staff shortages, according to WTOP. Transit service in Boston has also been limitedin response to the spread of the virus.

There are more than 20 transit operators in the Bay Area, all of which have taken a hit as its usual riders have stopped coming into the office. BART, the Bay Area’s largest transit operator, has seen ridership drop and is losing an estimated $57 million a month in sales taxes, fares, advertising revenue, and parking fees

The region’s operators are expected to receive $1.3 billion from the federal stimulus bill — the bill reportedly includes a total of $25 million for public transportation, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

The SFMTA has taken other precautions amid the outbreak, like replacing the city’s beloved cable cars with buses to provide operators with a closed cab. The open-air vehicles didn’t have any such partition protecting operators from riders. Operators can also use their discretion and skip bus stops if they deem their vehicles too full of passengers to leave room for social distancing.

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