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
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
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
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.
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
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
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@...