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As the Bay Area pandemic continues to improve, transit agencies are suspending service – or at least starting to talk about it. Improvement plans are still a bit vague at some agencies, but Streetsblog has put together some information on the status of the three big agencies, Caltrain, Muni and BART.
The most dramatic changes in transit in the Bay Area will take place in San Francisco Muni this coming weekend. The changes are only so dramatic, however, because Muni also did something that Streetsblogs knows is unique among transit agencies around the world: They shut down the core of their rail transit system for over a year. Muni’s shutdown of the Market Street subway (along with all rail traffic) in March 2020 was originally a response to pandemic shelter-in-place orders. The service should be resumed in August 2020 – briefly, until damaged overhead lines closed the subway for an indefinite period. But finally, the Muni service, including the subway tunnel (at least for KT and N-Judah), is slated to reopen on Saturday, May 15th. From an SFMTA publication:
One of the final and most important steps in completing repairs and reopening the subway is safety testing and certification. The SFMTA tests the tracks, signaling system and overhead lines to ensure that they are working properly and comply with safety standards. We also tested our train control system to make sure it was working properly. The train control system is an essential part of the safety and operation of the metro. It monitors all of our trains in the tunnel and directs them to the right places.
Meanwhile, Muni has ramped up Mock Services to test their newly restored systems in hopes of avoiding another fiasco similar to the one seen in August.
HeadsUp: Today we will conduct a simulated # MuniMetro service exercise on the # NJudah line in the Duboce portal from around 11 a.m. This exercise will take about an hour. The impact of the service on actual service, if any, is minimal.
– SFMTA (@sfmta_muni) May 5, 2021
A little more from SFMTA’s blog post on the reopening:
At the Castro and West Portal stations there are new signposts and art projects and – drum roll please – Wi-Fi availability thanks to routers installed in stations and cell phone antennas installed in the tunnels. The safety certification for the metro repairs was approved on March 11, paving the way for the metro to reopen and the introduction of another rail service in May.
Again, Streetsblog is not aware of any other transit system in the world that closed its main trunk during the pandemic, including systems with subways and light rail systems similar to those of SF Muni. If the readers are aware of any, please post it in the comments section.
Photo: Streetsblog / Rudick
BART began shutting down at 9:00 p.m. shortly after the COVID strike in March 2020. However, there are currently plans to get things back to pre-pandemic levels as early as September, including night duty. According to the San Francisco Examiner, “Currently trains run every 30 minutes outside of peak hours and stop at 9:00 pm. Under the new schedule, the funds will be used to restore 15-minute intervals between trains until 8:00 p.m. and keep the system open, with 30-minute intervals until midnight, six evenings a week.
The most recent changes came in March 2021 when BART added an additional 26 trips to meet the increased demand. “We will continue to monitor the daily driver count and put more trains into service as passenger demand increases. During our busiest times, commuter trains run on most routes with a frequency of 15 minutes. Other times have 30 minute frequencies on each line. If you’re traveling within San Francisco or on a line with more than one line, trains run more frequently than every 30 minutes, ”a BART press release said.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Caltrain, like other transit agencies, has got things going again, albeit slowly. In March of last year the “weekday traffic was increased from 68 to 70 trains”. Streetsblog reached out to Caltrain to find out when they are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels. Caltrain spokesman Dan Lieberman has not set a timeframe and just wrote, “Caltrain is monitoring driving patterns as well as major trends in traffic and store openings across the region. We also have ongoing discussions with our transit partners and closely monitor their plans to restore service. “
“However, we have included the assumption of restored service in our proposed budget for fiscal 2022 and plan to offer our board of directors options for restoring services in the near future.”
He provided this breakdown to compare the prepandemic service with what is going now:
- 92 weekday trains
- 28 Saturday trains
- 24 Sunday trains
- 3-5 trains per hour during AM / PM commute time
- Bullet & Limited train service during AM / PM commute time
- Local train early in the morning, at noon and in the evening
- 90 minutes local train
- 2 high-speed trains per day in each direction
Current / pandemic service:
- 70 weekday trains
- 32 Saturday trains
- 28 Sunday trains
- 2 trains per hour during AM / PM commute time and midday
- Limited train traffic during the commute and at lunchtime
- Limited A & Limited B samples
- Local train early in the morning and in the evening
- Hourly local train
Note: Golden Gate Transit The following was also posted on Streetsblog: “… the district operated virtually all of the regional bus service, while approximately 90 percent of our shuttle / express bus service, which mainly served office workers, was suspended. This led to a reduction in our bus service before COVID by a total of around 50 percent. We look forward to welcoming our customers again and the district will gradually and appropriately restore bus and ferry services as we see our customers return to the Golden Gate Corridor. “