SFMTA’s winter Muni service tweaks aim to ease crowding amid funding constraint

Jerold Chinn
3 min readOct 30, 2023
A 9 San Bruno busis parked at the terminus near Market and Steuart streets in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, September 22, 2023. | Photo by Jerold Chinn

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will continue to make small gradual Muni service changes to address crowding in the winter but transit officials said they are not planning on adding any service over the next two years due to the lack of funding.

Sean Kennedy, the SFMTA’s senior manager for transit planning, said at the Oct. 17 Board of Directors meeting that staff will increase the frequency of several Muni bus routes but will do so in a cost-neutral way.

“Our budget outlook is becoming a little bit more clear and it does look most likely that during the next two-year period, we are not going to have an increase in funds for adding service, Kennedy said. “We are going to have to be making adjustments to crowding and trip serving in a cost-neutral manner.”

Starting Jan 20, 2024, the transit agency anticipates to increase the weekday frequency on the following routes:

  • 24 Divisadero
  • 29 Sunset
  • 38R Geary Rapid
  • 44 O’Shaughnessy
  • 48 Quintara/24th Street
  • 49 Mission/Van Ness

Additionally, the SFMTA plans to increase the weekend frequency on the 28 19th Avenue route.

In order to make the winter service adjustments on the six Muni routes, Kennedy said they will decrease the frequency on the 5 Fulton, 5R Fulton Rapid, 9 San Bruno, 15 Bayview Hunters Point Express and 33 Ashbury/Haight.

SFMTA Director of Transit Julie Kirschbaum said the agency is currently making “incremental” changes to Muni service that riders are less likely to notice.

Kennedy highlighted in his presentation to the SFMTA board that ridership is returning to the Muni system overall with September marking the transit agency’s highest ridership month in four years with ridership recovery at 68 percent of pre-pandemic levels. As of September, the average weekday boardings is at 477,230, according to data on the SFMTA’s website.

Several Muni bus routes, such as the 7 Haight/Noriega, 22 Fillmore and 48 Quintara/24th Street are recovering well over pre-pandemic levels, The routes seeing better recovery in ridership are crosstown routes that connect riders from neighborhood to neighborhood and not destinations to the downtown area, Kennedy said.

When asked by board Director Steve Heminger about when the transit agency has to consider cutting Muni service, SFMTA Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin said the soonest the SFMTA would start “shrinking” is sometime in 2025.

Exactly when in 2025 is dependent on finding a funding gap solution to help the SFMTA fill upcoming projected budget shortfalls. The SFMTA is working with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the state legislature to identify additional funding that will last through the November 2026 election. That’s when regional transit agencies plan to put a ballot measure asking voters to support transit operations in the long term.

“In the meantime, we are keeping a very, very close eye on revenue and on hiring, thinking of hiring again as a throttle,” said Tumlin. “We can we can push the throttle forward if revenue looks good. We can hold the throttle steady, which is what we’re doing right now.”



Jerold Chinn

I am a freelance reporter in San Francisco with over a decade of experience covering transportation in the city. Bylines include SFBay and The Ingleside Light.