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Muni plans better service for low-income riders, people with disabilities

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SFMTA reforms also single out neighborhoods with significant minority populations

A Muni train pulling away from a street platform. Public Domain Photo

As reported in the San Francisco Examiner, City Hall is making plans to improve Muni service specifically aimed at low-income neighborhoods, people with disabilities, and communities of color, according to a Tuesday presentation at the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.

Per a staff memo prepared for the meeting, the route changes are part of the SFMTA’s “Service Equity Strategy”:

The Service Equity Policy directs SFMTA staff to identify equity neighborhoods based on percentage of low-income households, private vehicle availability, race/ethnicity demographics, and disability status.

[...] SFMTA staff identified two to three key needs for each neighborhood and for routes heavily used by seniors and people with disabilities based on feedback received during stakeholder outreach and where data revealed underperformance.

According to a 2017 paper published by the New York-based public policy group Demos, riders with disabilities, low-income residents, and communities of color are less likely to own cars and more likely to rely on public transportation, meaning service cuts and unreliability disproportionately affect those demographics. In part, it reads:

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently rated America’s public transit system a D-minus. [...] While all Americans need and will benefit from increased investments in public transit, communities of color will benefit the most.

Workers of color are more likely to lack a vehicle at home, and to commute by public transit. And they are overrepresented among those workers with one-way commutes of 60 minutes or more.

SFMTA’s equity focus areas are Chinatown, Bayview, the Western Addition, SoMa, Ingleside, the Tenderloin, the Mission, Visitacion Valley, and the Outer Mission/Excelsior area. Ingleside is a new addition for 2018.

Commenting on service shortages in the Portola neighborhood—not included on the list, but shares key bus lines with many of the above—Supervisor Hillary Ronen said Tuesday, “Buses are packed on the 8 and the 9 every day. Every day I rode the 9, I kid you not, there was a fight.”

Photo by Steve Morgan.

SFMTA recommendations are broad and preliminary, with some of them as simple as identifying a problem in a neighborhood—e.g., train congestion or unreliable bus service. But in some cases, staff explore specific solutions, like the implementation of longer coaches or painting in transit-only lanes for certain lines.

Here are a few ideas put forth for spotlighted neighborhoods:

  • Ingleside: “Explore, solutions to train congestion at West Portal,” Increase frequency on K-Ingleside, M-Oceanview, and 29-Sunset lines.
  • Bayview: Increase frequency on T-Third Street, 44-O’Shaugnessy, “Exploring possibility of running [23-Monterey] on Industrial and Palou instead of deviating to Produce Market,”
  • Chinatown: “Address gaps in service [on 10-Townsend],” switch to 60-foot buses on 30-Stockton, “explore travel time and reliability improvements” for 30-Stockton and 45-Union Stockton.
  • SoMa: “Explore transit-only lanes” on Folsom Street, increase frequency on 12-Folsom.
  • Mission: Improve 14-Mission reliability.
  • Western Addition: Run 60-foot buses on 7-Haight daily.

For the full list of exploratory recommendations, check out the memo.