On the scene: Frustrations run high as Muni attempts to control bus capacity

As we enter into the least-restrictive “yellow tier” of the state’s COVID re-opening framework, is riding public transit becoming safer? Ridership on Muni reached historic lows since the start of the pandemic. Even so, Muni has established capacity protocols on buses to keep riders and drivers safe. In practice, that can translate into a frustrating experience for riders and drivers alike, as not everyone has gotten the memo on why the bus is blowing you off. In this snapshot from rider Eric, he describes what riding Muni is like nowadays.

My wife and I made a “jaunt” to the Ferry Building recently, just to throw some money at our favorite food purveyors, and because the 2 and 3 haven’t run since April, we now have to walk to the Transbay Terminal to pick up a 38. No problem really, and you get your choice of seats. However….by the time we get a stop away from Powell Street, the bus is over the limit for safety and the driver doesn’t have to stop if he doesn’t want to, so we blow right past Powell. He lets two people off at the corner of Mason, just to lighten his load, and continues.

Two blocks from Van Ness, he blows by another stop but this time, a woman runs after the bus and catches us at the next red light. Boy, does she let him have it!

F-bombs and middle fingers and demands to open the door. Plus, she keeps stepping in front of the bus to keep him from going.

Two light cycles later, the driver finally tells her that he’s only allowed 30 people on the bus, so she goes down the side counting people.

“You only got 26! Let me the [f-bomb] in!”

But this time, he gets off before she can get in front.

But wait! There’s more!

The next stop is Van Ness. We see five people standing in the street with arms outstretched and another eight or so on the sidewalk. There is no way these people are going to let this bus go by! Our bus has to stop.

The result is that a dozen more get on, and now the bus really IS crowded. People with masks around their chins, pissed off people who’ve been passed by for how long….I can’t blame them.

Luckily, our stop is next. Except the driver won’t stop to let anyone off because there’s one—one—guy at the stop.

I stand up and pull the cord hard; not like it does anything, as he blows past the Laguna stop as well.

Five of us scream at him: “Hey! We’re trying to get off and reduce the number of passengers!”

Finally, he stops in the middle of the next block and lets us out. #fuck2020 #putmorebussesonthestreet

Is *waving hands frantically* the new “back door”?

As San Francisco (again, fingers crossed) continues to do a good job at keeping Covid under control, more public transit service with precautions is looking more and more likely. I, for one, recently rode Muni for the first time in seven months—a 7, in fact.

But, you’re the expert. Tell us what you’re seeing out there in the wild, for our collective online journal. Email us at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com. If you’re feeling more short-form or casual, tag us @munidiaries on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter.

Pic by Ariel Dovas on Flickr

7 comments

  • Scott

    This kind of thing is why I will not ride Muni again until the pandemic is over. It’s entirely predictable and, IMO, running more busses isn’t going to solve fundamental issues or make me feel safe. One of the foundational problems with Muni is that riders behave badly, it’s hard to stop them and the permissive and passive-aggressive culture of SF means no one enforces any rules or tells public assholes off (like New Yorkers are more likely to do).

    In normal times, overcrowding is a nuisance. Now its a potential danger to a larger degree. In normal times, people hacking up a lung means you may get a cold or the flu or a treatable infection, but now it may mean Covid-19. People coughing, urinating, spitting, yelling and shouting into phones are “people problems” that have always existed on muni as nuisances but now mean possibly more than a nuisance.

    In a normal place such as a grocery store, you can move away or leave when someone starts behaving badly, but you don’t have the option on muni. Even if the reduced capacity is enforced, you really can’t get away. If only 5% of the population riding Muni behaves badly (not masking properly or any other disgusting or unhealthy behavior), you’ll still be on the bus with a least one or a few problem people and in a bad situation that is impossible to get away from.

    I feel especially bad for Muni drivers and decent people who are forced to take Muni as their only option because the stakes went up and the possible results of the bad passenger behavior escalated with covid-19.

    I don’t think there are ways to stop bad behavior completely, but SF really doesn’t try and any attempts to enforce rules of public behavior are seen as “discrimination” by the homeless-industrial complex and others.

    I guess I’m privileged, but I’ll take a car, Uber, Lyft, Taxi, bike or walk before getting on another Muni vehicle before the pandemic is over. There are just too many people in SF who feel above following rules or that are too mentally ill or have other problems and won’t be safe to be around.

    The problems shouldn’t exist for anyone and anyone should be able to take transit safely. However, that world doesn’t exist and Muni will never be safe during a pandemic. I’m fortunate enough to have other options. I feel bad for others who don’t, but I need to take care of my own health first by never riding Muni during the pandemic. I’m sorry others don’t have a better option for their own health and safety than Muni right now.

  • David

    MUNI seriously needs to revisit their current routes. I live on Fulton St, a 24 hour #5 line from the Transbay Terminal to Ocean Beach.
    From 10pm on any given night, the busses are empty, incoming and outgoing. Not one passenger and a criminally waste of taxpayers money pounding along for easily 5 or more hours until there is a warm body other than a driver.
    Perhaps there are riders in the metro area back and forth to Van Ness, but a majority of the line is empty afterwards.
    MUNI is still on “Core” transportation. And still many unemployed, social distancing and headed into the winter of a killer pandemic that also has residual health complications.
    Until lifestyles are safely on the uptick, please MUNI, save some money and get practical. Crime is not only prevalent ON MUNI, but MUNI is actively contributing TO criminal extortion in managing the department.

  • If muni had kept the subways running we wouldn’t have this problem as the general public would be spaced out more. Yet even with a city just under a million muni can’t or won’t get their act together. Other major cities across the nation with far larger populations kept their subways running. Some say it’s due to covid outbreaks with the employees. Saying the general public is at fault. However I see every day muni employees speaking to each other in small or large groups without masks on. So muni has created it’s own problem now and the general public is suffering for it. Hope this gets resolved soon before winter sets in. Or many more cases will occur due to over crowding.

  • Max Flores

    As a muni operator for many years of service to the great city of San Francisco I’m very concern about my life and the factors around our job the environment around us is totally different from what it was before and also for the riders who have any other choice to get around things are different now muni try to make it easier for the riders to get to work or just to take care of your errands on a regular basis but even if they are saying the muni is only for essential traveling only and if you don’t have a real reason to be using the bus for essential traveling they are asking the public to cooperate with this issue but the problem is that the public in this city is a very difficult sensitive hot issue very rude and sick people come and use the service not only homeless are a problem for the riders and drivers alike but also rude and disgusting behavior from the public is a very scary thing to everyone who ride n drive this buses believe

  • Lisa Whitney

    I begin by thanking you, MUNI, for being here. Public transportation is imperative, necessary, & should not be expected to be unpleasant or- whoa!- dangerous. (Although, even in the best of times, one never knows!) Rating my 30yrs of experience w/ MUNI drivers: 92% ☺️. Good ones are great! Regular ones: nice & regular. But man! the sucky jerkwad jagholes reeeally test my temper. Example: c’mon man. You KNOW yer driving, accelerating, braking & stopping herky-jerky. U are being erratic dangerous infuriating. I have noticed this driving behavior increase during the past 3mos, unfortunately. As to bus capacity: DropOffOnly??? Really? So the next gets to be real crowded? Suck. & #14 & #9 should ALWAYS be long busses, excepting 11pm-7am. I am SUPER pleased our requests/ opinions were listened to & all Market St busses now open their doors when @ an island. That alone relieves so.much.tension… U don’t even know. So in closing ~ always: things could be better, things could be worse. Thanks to Those that Care 🌻

  • Mitch

    They’re back! For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, fare checkers come on the bus I was riding yesterday (10/31/20).

    • Jm

      According to the MUNI article in SFGATE, November is a ‘warning/education’ period. Then MUNI goes in to ‘citation phase’. Drivers will return to front door entry, and lowering the kneeling step for seniors, disabled and me with a wheelie loaded with my 2 weeks of groceries. The ONLY adventure outdoors l have taken since the Panicdemic began.

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