S.F. unveils 'dramatic' plan to revamp MuniBy Rachel Gordon
City officials unveiled plans Tuesday for a major overhaul of San Francisco's Municipal Railway transit system that, if enacted, would eliminate some bus lines and truncate, expand or reroute many others.
The changes - aimed at improving reliability, speeding travel times and providing more frequent service - are based on an 18-month analysis of transit ridership trends and traffic patterns in San Francisco.
The plan would be the first significant restructuring of Muni routes in two decades and comes amid high public frustration with the system.
"Without dramatic changes we will not see dramatic improvements," Mayor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday at San Francisco State University, where he joined Muni officials to announce the package of recommendations.
Muni passengers from the Sunset District to the Bayview, from North Beach to the Mission District, would be affected.
And even if city officials dangle the prospect of better overall service, political blowback is all but guaranteed.
Moving a bus stop or changing a route has never come easy in San Francisco, where residents have a love-hate relationship with Muni, the Bay Area's busiest transit operation with nearly 700,000 boardings a day.
"It will be incumbent on us to make the case on why the changes are needed," Newsom said.
The plan would saturate the city with transit service where and when it's needed most.
The primary focus would be on Muni's 15 busiest corridors, used by 75 percent of riders.
Lines with little ridership, or whose coverage area is largely served by alternative Muni service, would be discontinued or shortened.
For some Muni passengers, the changes may mean having to walk farther to catch a bus or getting used to riding a different line. The trade-off, however, is that people could arrive at their destinations faster under the proposed schedules.
City transportation officials hope to incorporate the plan into other efforts to improve Muni operations, among them hiring more drivers and street supervisors and stepping up enforcement against motorists who block bus lanes.
"This is not just about fixing Muni. This is about transforming the entire way we manage our streets," said Nathaniel Ford, executive director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni and the city's parking enforcement and traffic control operations.
In all, the plan calls for eliminating six lines. The routes and schedules of dozens more would be altered.
Where routes would be discontinued or relocated, Muni officials say alternatives would almost always be available within a few blocks.
People who now rely on the 2-Clement to get to and from the Outer Richmond, for example, would instead have to take the 1-California or the 38-Geary, both of which run a block away.
A new line would loop through downtown, replacing the 19-Polk on Polk Street and the 12-Folsom in the South of Market, and connecting North Beach with the Montgomery Street Station that serves both Muni and BART in the Financial District.
The popular 24-Divisadero would be rerouted to link the Mission District and the Bayview, and would run along both the Castro Street and 24th Street commercial corridors.
Potrero Hill would for the first time get direct bus service to downtown. The recommendation to eliminate the 56-Rutland line would leave a portion of Visitacion Valley without easy access to Muni, and the loss of the 66-Quintara line would cut off a swath of Golden Gate Heights. In most cases, however, if service is lost by changes on one line, it would be picked up by another.
In addition, buses and streetcars would run more frequently on busy routes, and longer buses would be used on lines with chronic overcrowding, such as the 30-Stockton that serves Chinatown.
Julie Kirschbaum, manager of the Transit Effectiveness Project, the name given the Muni overhaul initiative, said the city has changed a lot in the last two decades, with more people living in the South of Market, more people traveling between the southeastern neighborhoods and Chinatown, and more people who live in the city needing to get to BART and Caltrain for jobs outside of the city.
The new routes and schedules are expected to be rolled out over the next five to seven years, with the first changes aimed for July 2009.
Muni officials say the changes could be made within the existing operating budget, which this year is pegged at $687 million.
A series of community workshops on the proposal will be scheduled to solicit public comments. A period of environmental review would come next. Muni officials and Newsom said they expect the current recommendations to be tweaked over the next year.
Want more details?
To learn about specific route changes, go to www.sftep.com.
To comment on the proposals, call 311 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright ©2008 San Francisco Chronicle. Published 02/27/2008.