:streetsblog – excerpt
Everything has changed with the pandemic. But with crisis comes opportunity
It was only a couple of months ago that SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin sat down with Manny Yekutiel of Manny’s in the Mission, San Francisco’s Valencia Street events space, to discuss protected bike lanes and improved bus service. But, as Tumlin expressed during a second Q&A with Manny, held virtually yesterday/Wednesday evening, that may as well have been 100 years ago. With the COVID-19 lockdown now in its fourth week, everything has changed. Muni has suspended train service. It has eliminated all but 17 of its 83 bus routes. And it is no longer enforcing most parking regulations, to make it easier for people to shelter in place. The agency is also hemorrhaging money as ridership plummets and more and more operators call in sick.
Streetsblog wrote up this (edited) Q&A based on yesterday evening’s conversation…
Tumlin: We’re not committing to major new projects during this period because the health directive is preventing us, but also because we want to make sure we have proper community engagement. Right now we’re a service for the Department of Public Health (DPH). Our job is moving essential workers and serving as disaster service workers… and preparing for the lift of the shelter in place. What happens when things start to normalize? We can’t just flip a switch and go back to where we were a month ago.
Manny: You have the core routes. What lines would you bring back in first?
Tumlin: The most important next step is to provide enough capacity so our essential service passengers can maintain social distance. Our immediate work is expanding capacity on lines where we know there’s overcrowding. Then we need additional testing of operators, so we can stabilize our workforce. Then we know the next lines we want to bring back based on good data we have on where is the highest ridership, where we have people who depend the most on transit, and where are our institutions…
Stripping down Muni to bare essentials is giving us opportunities. For example, we have to ask: can we bring Muni service back in a way that is better than it was before? Much of the Muni system is based on the competition of franchises in 1912. Is that what San Francisco really needs in 2020? Should we ask the question: do we want more lines with less frequency, or do we want fewer lines with much more frequency? There isn’t a clear answer, but we have to ask the questions. [How about instead of holding buses to fixed schedules, we just have drivers maintain equal intervals between runs?] If we can make that work, it could significantly help transit reliability…(more)
We see some good ideas here. Listening to the drivers and the public instead of hired planners may provide a better approach that serves the public better.Allowing more AC Transit and Golden Gate stops and more private operators to close the gaps may also be a solution to better serving the public. Smaller faster buses more nimble vehicles that maneuver easier would help to maintain the speed. We need a return to seats for everyone so stop the order of those long buses with sideways seats.