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Muni service cuts to help cut $57m deficit

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  • 4/29 SF Chronicle
    Published Friday, April 29, 2005, in the San Francisco Chronicle Squeezing the system $57 million deficit dictates cuts in service By Kathleen Sullivan After
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 30, 2005
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      Published Friday, April 29, 2005, in the San Francisco Chronicle

      Squeezing the system
      $57 million deficit dictates cuts in service

      By Kathleen Sullivan

      After the rush hour ends, the 2-Clement bus pulls away from the curb
      every 20 minutes at 32nd Avenue and Balboa Street, near a
      pizza-by-the-slice shop popular with students at nearby Washington
      High School.

      Four blocks later it turns east onto Clement Street, beginning a
      rumbling journey across San Francisco that will end on the city's
      eastern shore near the stately Ferry Building.

      It is one of 14 bus lines, ranging numerically from the 2-Clement to
      the 82X Presidio Express, that are facing changes in service or
      frequency to help the city's Municipal Railway close its $57 million
      deficit.

      The majority of the changes would reduce service or the frequency of
      the buses, and the J, K, L, M and N trains, during off-peak hours --
      9a.m. to 4p.m.

      Community meetings about the proposed changes will be held in May.

      Maggie Lynch, a Muni spokeswoman, said the agency relied primarily on
      ridership numbers to determine where to trim service. In some cases,
      changing the routes will allow the agency to eliminate duplicate
      service, places where two bus lines overlap on the same street.

      "We're talking about lowering the frequency of buses on the
      2-Clement," she said. "We're also talking about rerouting the 2
      between Arguello Street and Presidio Avenue to operate via California
      Street, and replacing the mid- day connection to Sutter and Post
      streets that is currently provided by the 4- Sutter," she said.
      "We have duplicate service out there. Hardly anybody rides the 4."

      Lynch said the agency will replace 40-foot buses with 60-foot buses
      so they will be able to handle the increased capacity on the revamped
      routes.

      Predictably, the prospect of waiting longer for buses does not please
      the regular mid-morning riders of the 2-Clement.

      Katrina Knutzen walks from her home in the Presidio of San Francisco
      to Clement Street to catch the bus. She rides it to the end of the
      line, and walks to the Ferry Building.

      One recent weekday morning, Knutzen, 26, dressed in a bright white
      shirt and black slacks, took a seat by the window on the 2-Clement.
      She was heading to the Market Bar Cafe, where she works as a waitress.

      When told she might have to wait longer for a bus, a look of dismay
      crossed her face.

      "Oh really," she asked. "It's already long enough."

      Knutzen said she prefers the 2-Clement to the 1-California, which she
      could also take downtown.

      "This route is so much more relaxing," she said. "It doesn't get as
      crowded and hot at the 1-California."

      Linda Atkinson, who was sitting behind Knutzen, in a seat facing the
      center aisle, leaned forward and joined in the conversation, saying
      "It feels like they already cut it back."

      Atkinson was making a return trip to her downtown home on the
      2-Clement bus after doing her grocery shopping at the Richmond New
      May Wah Supermarket on Clement Street. She had filled a small black
      suitcase with groceries. "This must weigh 75 pounds," she said,
      pointing to the luggage parked at her feet.

      It is a trip she makes three times a week.

      "We Chinese like to buy fresh," she said with a smile.

      While Atkinson, 63, sang the praises of the new market, she decried
      Muni's proposal to cut service on the bus that brings her to Clement
      Street, which is known for its Asian markets, and then takes her
      across town to the home she shares with her husband and two daughters
      near Union Square.

      "Why would they cut a really popular bus line," she asked. "This one
      goes all the way to the Palace of the Legion of Honor. Tourists take
      this bus to go out there."

      Thomas Han, 33, catches the 2-Clement at Polk and Larkin streets
      and rides it to the Ferry Building. There, he catches a high-speed
      pontoon boat for Larkspur, where he works as an optician.

      [BATN: Pontoon!!!!?]

      Like other passengers, Han, who was holding a brown backpack on his
      lap, seemed resigned to longer waits.

      "I guess I really don't have a choice," he said.

      For Francois, a 21-year-old man who declined to give his last name,
      the ride on the 2-Clement was the last leg of a morning commute that
      began in Concord on a BART train. It would end when he got off the
      bus at a 7-Eleven store in the inner Richmond District.

      Sitting in the center seat at the back of the bus, Francois, who was
      wearing a gray and black Raiders jacket, said he has the trip timed
      so he can get to work on time. Fewer buses -- arriving every 30
      minutes instead of every 20 minutes, for instance -- would mean he'd
      have less room for error.

      "It would mean I would have to get here earlier to make sure I could
      make it to work on time," he said, as the bus lumbered down Market
      Street and he spread his arms out on the backs of the adjoining empty
      seats.

      When Meg Wong got off the 2-Clement at the end of the line on 32nd
      Avenue, she was carrying a large white canvas bag in the crook of her
      arm, two white plastic grocery bags -- one in each hand, and a purse
      slung across the front of her gray sweatshirt.

      "Lots of old folks, we take the buses, because we don't drive," said
      the 68-year-old Wong, who was wearing glasses with lavender-tinted
      frames. "A longer time to wait would be hard. On Clement, some of
      the bus stops have no place to sit down. For old folks, that's hard."

      Community meetings about the proposed Muni services changes will be
      held at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Municipal Transportation Agency Board
      of Directors Meeting in Room 400 at City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B.
      Goodlett Place; at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Pacific Energy Center,
      851 Howard St.; at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Richmond Recreation
      Center, 251 18th Ave.; on May 11, in Chinatown, time and location
      to be announced; and at 6:30 p.m. on May 12 at City College of San
      Francisco, 50 Phelan Ave. For more information, call (415) 934-3907,
      or TTY at (415) 923-6373, or see <http://www.sfmuni.com/adjustments>

      Possible cuts

      Muni lines facing possible cutbacks in service or frequency:
      2-Clement, 3- Jackson, 4-Sutter, 6-Parnassus, 7-Haight, 10-Townsend,
      16AX and 16BX-Noriega Express, 21-Hayes, 26-Valencia, 52-Excelsior,
      54-Felton, 66-Quintara, 71/71L- Haight Noriega, 82X Presidio Express,
      and Metro lines: J, K, L, M and N. Late night Owl Service on the
      5-Fulton may be limited to Friday and Saturday nights. Evening
      service on two other lines could be reduced from every 20 minutes to
      every 30 minutes.


      E-mail Kathleen Sullivan at ksullivan@...
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