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Caltrain cuts service in half during COVID-19 outbreak

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Transit will still operate during the order, despite the mandate to use it as little as possible

caltrains on the track Photo by Z.H.CHEN/Shutterstock

Update: In an effort to keep readers abreast of transit options during a critical time, Curbed SF will update this list daily. A reminder that the public health officers of all nine Bay Area counties advise only using public transit for necessary and essential travel, such as buying food and supplies and visiting the doctor. Practice safe social distancing and stay six feet away from other passengers whenever possible.

With the entire state under a shelter-in-place mandate, how are residents expected to get around for the duration of this indefinite order? The whole idea is that you shouldn’t travel—but “shelter in place” does not mean home imprisonment, and many people will still have to leave home to tend to essentials.

For those who feel anxious or uncertain, note that transit is still available throughout SF, with few changes anticipated.

  • Caltrain announced last week that it’s cutting service by more than 50 percent, dropping from the regular 92 trains daily down to 42 starting March 30, in response to the loss of three-quarters of its daily ridership. “Trains will make all local weekday stops between San Jose and San Francisco every 30-60 minutes, depending on time of day,” Caltrain managers say. For the new schedule, see here.
  • As of March 23, AC Transit is now free to ride for an indefinite period during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. Buses in the system now also allow rear-door boarding so that riders can keep the prescribed six-foot distance from drivers while boarding as well.
  • Muni has halted all subway and light-rail car traffic, which will be replaced by bus service.
  • BART is “strongly encouraged to remain open,” according to the shelter-in-place order, and will maintain regular service. BART ridership has plunged in recent weeks, losing almost 90 percent of its ridership most days, and as such the agency has trimmed operating hours in an effort to save money, switching to a 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. schedule on weekdays and 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.
  • San Francisco Bay Ferry is suspending service to Pier 41, Richmond, Harbor Bay, and South San Francisco, and all weekend service. A reduced schedule—available here—will service the remaining lines during weekdays. The ferry will also cap the number of people on each boat. The agency has told the public to avoid taking the ferry if possible so that essential workers with no other means of commuting can avoid contact, even quipping on Twitter, “Thank you for not riding San Francisco Bay Ferry.”
  • Golden Gate Ferry has eliminated weekend service completely. Starting Monday, it will implement a reduced schedule due to “extremely low ridership.” The new timetable is available here.
  • Like BART and Muni, the shelter directive also qualifies SFO as an essential service and the airport remains open, although for obvious reasons air travel is discouraged under all but the most critical circumstances.
  • A Lyft spokesperson tells Curbed SF, “In line with the guidance from government officials, Lyft will continue to provide transportation for those with essential needs.” Both Lyft and Uber have suspended “shared” and similar carpool options in the Bay Area for the time being, to reduce the number of people in close quarters in ride-hail cars.
  • Uber announced that starting Tuesday it will discount trips made to visit food distribution centers set up at now-vacant SF schools, up to $10 off if app users use the code “SFUSD2020.” The school district will provide free meals for kids 18 and younger during the closure (many families rely on schools to provide one meal per day for students), with a list of active centers available here.

This is a developing story and Curbed SF will update the list as more details become available. Remember: Residents are permitted to leave their homes to attend to necessary business, but asked to avoid optional and extracurricular trips.