Preston questions Breed on reduced late-night Muni service

As Transit Month kicked off earlier this month in San Francisco, Supervisor Dean Preston used his question time with Mayor London Breed Tuesday to ask about late-night Muni service.

Preston said at the Board of Supervisors meeting that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency had made significant progress in restoring Muni routes that were suspended during the pandemic, but that The City remained in a “public transit emergency.”

“Nowhere is the lack of service more notable than during the evening and nighttime hours,” Preston said. “What is your plan for restoring evening and nighttime Muni service?,” Preston asked the mayor.

He pointed out that the dozens of Muni bus routes end earlier at night in comparison to before the pandemic, with some routes now ending service between 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Breed did not share any plans on restoring pre-pandemic evening and nighttime Muni service hours, but said The City needed to prioritize service based on equity and where riders are taking the service.

“That is what is most important, but we need to be honest about our limitations. We don’t have enough operators and mechanics to run more service right now,” Breed said.

The mayor cited a hiring freeze by the SFMTA during the pandemic and retirements, but has has asked the SFMTA to expedite the hiring process of operators.

In a follow-up question to the mayor, Preston asked what her message was to employees who get off work late in the evening, such as restaurant workers, janitors and bartenders.

Breed said that The City continues to make sure that Muni is reliable and that the transit system is not stretched too thin. She added that she did not think Muni service was as “problematic in certain areas and times” as mentioned by Preston.

The mayor said she has seen empty buses, particularly during the evening hours on the weekend and and added that she is keeping track of the data along with the SFMTA, ensuring changes are data driven.

“Our long term plans are to hire more people to get the lines running and to move forward as aggressively as we possibly can, Breed said. “But we also need to have an honest conversation about seeing many of our buses and our trains completely empty in those evening hours.”

Designer and transit advocate Chris Arvin looked at Muni schedules from before the pandemic and the present. They shared the findings on Twitter showing dozens of Muni routes that end earlier compared to before the pandemic.

The SFMTA still runs its Owl service on select routes from midnight to 5 a.m. More information can be found here.

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Jerold Chinn

Jerold Chinn

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Award-winning transportation journalist based in San Francisco.