Why the SFMTA head says riding Muni is “the right thing to do”

Muni, like many other public transit agencies around the country, is facing a financial “death spiral” in the face of the pandemic. In today’s podcast episode, we talk with Jeffrey Tumlin, the Director of Transportation of the SFMTA who started in his role right at the end of last year—capping a year mired in underground meltdowns with high hopes of turning the train around (as it were).

He had a great honeymoon period, especially with transit fans on Twitter who have been advocating for a car-free San Francisco. But things changed quickly, through little fault of his own.

The pandemic hit right as Tumlin was settling into his new role, and it’s been some rollercoaster ever since. Muni has cut most of its 80+ lines since the pandemic, with only 17 lines currently running as the agency faces the biggest budget crisis it has ever seen. On Saturday, Muni will be restoring 11 more lines, boosting frequency on 13 bus routes, and reopening the underground Muni Metro stations, though the underground routes will also see some changes.

The SFMTA chief is not counting his chickens: “There’s a really good chance things will not work as well on Saturday as we hope. That’s part of the culture that I’m trying to bring to the agency. In order to get the system that we need, particularly in a time of dramatically reduced resources, we have to get creative. We have to move quickly. We have to try things. And sometimes that means getting more comfortable with failure. And quickly making corrections and learning from our mistakes.”

So what must the SFMTA do in order to make Muni awesome, or at least functional? He joined us to provide his take on tomorrow’s Muni service expansion, and some personal insight into the quirkier, more human side of our municipal transit system.

Listen to the interview here:

If you have your own Muni or BART story to contribute, especially if your Muni line has returned, we want to hear from you! Please email us at munidiaries.sf@gmail.com, or tag us @munidiaries on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Photo by via SFMTA.


  • M Gleason

    bring back 21 Hayes

  • Steven

    L in the tunnel again. West Portal is not setup for the elderly and disabled to transfer easily. You screwed everyone who lives on the L line.

  • Phil

    Muni LRVs being TOO NOISY!
    With a sudden increase in “Bell Ringing/Clanging along KLine to and from Balboa….in All hours of day even till Last LRV around 12midnight!
    This is Quality of Life Issue!…Unnecessary Noise Pollution….Don’t Allow this Controllable Issue become the “Norm”!!
    Can you imagine if every Muni Buses and vehicles on the road,clang,honk,make noises for what?
    Please Stop this Bad Habits by Muni LRV Operators!
    It was so Quiet during Pandemic shit down, we would rather have Muni Buses run K-line to West Portal to Balboa station!
    Look what San Jose created “Quiet Time” from Train horns!….what a Novel Idea!
    We live in a condense City and everything we can do to make it Quieter for City Residents living near LRVs routes would increase Quality of Life !!

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