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Bay Area public transit agencies cut hours and routes amid coronavirus outbreak

Even cable cars are temporarily canceled

A man wearing a dark hoodie and a white mask over his nose and mouth, while standing on a train platform with a blue and gray train behind him. Photo by Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

The Bay Area’s attempts to suppress the spread of the novel coronavirus have had a devastating effect on public transit use—particularly on BART, which, along with other SF public transit agencies, struggles to maintain service amid a collapse in ridership.

Starting Monday, BART will severely curtail its hours, operating between 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. on weekdays, rather than the usual 5 a.m. to midnight schedule.

Weekend trains will run between 8 a.m. until 9 p.m., instead of opening at 6 a.m. on Saturdays and operating until midnight Saturdays and Sundays.

BART managers plead necessity, saying that the change is based on “an exhaustive review of ridership and train car loads” and that the scaled back schedule will help save on costs at a time when the system is bleeding cash.

Last week, ridership declined between 70 and 89 percent on weekdays, with the 70 percent figuring coming from Monday, before the current shelter-in-place order went into effect in every county BART services. The drop leapt to 87 percent the day after.

“BART is currently providing lifeline train service to workers who are keeping the region functioning during this pandemic,” said BART General Manager Bob Powers in a written statement on Tuesday. He also asked for monetary relief from state and federal governments. Unlike many local transit systems, BART relies mostly on fares. Many of its other sources of income, like parking fees and ad revenue, were also affected by declines in ridership.

Muni, which relies significantly less on fare dollars, will also cut back service, citing “necessary service reductions during the order to shelter in place.

The following Muni lines are cancelled until further notice:

  • E Embarcadero
  • 41 Union
  • 88 BART Shuttle
  • NX N Express
  • 1AX/1BX
  • 14X Mission
  • 30X Marina
  • 31AX/BX Balboa
  • 76X Marin Headlands Express
  • 78X/79X Marina Express
  • 81X Caltrain Express
  • 82X Levi Plaza Express
  • 83X Mid-Market Express

Additionally, the F Market will switch over to subway service between Castro and Embarcadero, and then a bus between the Ferry Building and Fisherman’s Wharf. Cable Cars are no longer operating, but substitute buses will run the same routes.

Caltrain eliminated “baby bullet” service from SF last week, but has announced no additional service cuts. Caltrain management says it has also indefinitely suspended a planed 30-cent fare hike for Clipper Card users that was supposed to into effect April 1.

SF Bay Ferry, in addition to previously announced service changes, 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.