Muni’s Financial Woes Put Plans for Rapid 29-Bus Line on Hold

By Thomas K. Pendergast

Muni’s plan for adding “rapid” service to the 29-Sunset bus route is now in financial limbo, as the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) struggles with revenue shortfalls plus requests to bring back other lines eliminated during the pandemic.

The 29-line is one of the longest in the City, starting from the Bayview and running along Ocean Avenue in the south, with service to San Francisco City College. Then it turns northbound up to San Francisco State University and Stonestown Galleria before winding up onto Sunset Boulevard and past A.P. Giannini Middle School, St. Ignatius Preparatory High School, across Golden Gate Park and ending near Baker Beach. Along the way it connects to several major roadways, including Sloat Boulevard, Lincoln Way, Fulton Street and Geary Boulevard.

It served an estimated average of 20,000 riders every weekday before the pandemic, but now it is down to about 14,200 on weekdays.

The “rapid” service would skip less-popular stops along the way, thus hopefully reducing transit times between the stops that are more in demand.

Competing with this plan, however, are other requests to bring back certain lines, express services and rapid lines for other routes, all funded by a reduced budget thanks to revenues still recovering from the COVID-19 shutdown that severely impacted commuter trips to and from the downtown area.

At the same time, pandemic funding from the federal government is ending, adding even more pressure to make spending every dollar the agency has count.

“Revenue is down across all sources, but especially transit fares and the General Fund,” said the agency’s Public Information Officer Stephen Chun. “If we continue along our current path, we’ll have a $130 million deficit in fiscal year 2025, starting in July 2024.

“To get a sense of the size of this deficit, it is the equivalent of more than 20 Muni lines. We’re fighting as hard as we can for additional resources. But, right now, we are going to have to pause on adding more Muni service until we have a better understanding of how we’re going to address the financial situation. Currently we are only able to make small service changes to address overcrowding.”

One possibility now under consideration, according to the agency’s planning documents, is to go to the voters with a ballot measure to fund more buses.

“Our goal is to implement a 29-R only if additional revenue were available; we would want to launch the 29-R without impacting existing services,” Chun said. “Increased revenue would be needed, but we don’t yet have any details on when or how that funding would be pursued. There is no implementation at this time and a 29-R Sunset Rapid requires new, long-term, sustainable revenue to plan and put in place.”

Chun said the proposed 29-Rapid route has not been designed yet, so currently they do not have a timeline for its implementation.

The Muni 29-Sunset line is one of the longest bus lines in the City, going from the Bayview to Baker Beach. Photo by Thomas K. Pendergast.

In the meantime, however, they will recommend improvements to the existing route this summer.

A “quick-build” alternative to the current route design is planned for later this year. This would include aligning stops from the near side to the far side of intersections, transit signal priority (giving special treatment to buses by adjusting the timing of a given traffic signal’s red and green cycles to reduce their time waiting at red lights) and building bus-bulbs boarding ramps to make the buses faster when picking up and dropping off passengers.

Michael Chen, chair of the Citizen’s Advisory Council, said they heard concerns from seniors and people with disabilities about another proposal to “consolidate” some of the stops along the way.

“Currently on Sunset Boulevard, most of the stops are spaced about every one or two blocks, and those are avenue blocks so they’re fairly large,” he said. “SFMTA’s best practice is to space those stops every 1,360 feet, or about every quarter mile, about two avenue blocks. So, this would match the same spacing as the 28-19th Avenue (route) on 19th Avenue.”

SFMTA Board Director Manny Yekutiel, however, responded that it was difficult to please everyone.

“This agency is going to need to be thinking about efficiencies in the next few years,” Yekutiel said. “Ultimately, this is a public agency that needs to do things. And some of those things people are not going to like and it’s going to divide folks. There’s always going to be chunks of people that don’t like what we decide to do because it affects everyone.”

6 replies »

  1. I have a question. I don’t know if it’s a reasonable one at this time, but it involves the quality of bus riding for people with bad backs. Some of us can’t sit sideways in bus transportation – we have to sit with back support. Many buses have no forward-facing seats at all in their front section, the majority have two facing forward and a minority have 4 or 5 facing forward. The latter are the best of all for giving the public more sitting options. Is there any possibility of considering putting some more forward-facing seats in the buses or is this too bad a time financially to consider putting more forward-facing seats in? Someone like me simply can’t sit sideways so I have to sit forwards in sideways seating! And it involves constant negotiation with other passengers to sit as I need to sit, ie facing forwards.


  2. Can’t help but wonder why the SFMTA decided to drop this bus route while they insist on forcing center bike lanes on Valencia and parking removal on Geary. It seems like the bus line is more popular and less controversial. That tells us something about the SFMTA Board and their priorities.


  3. One reason for the shortfall to the SFMTA budget is all the parking meter revenue that’s been lost due to the removal of hundreds of metered parking spots. Also, there would be more money for MUNI if the MTA quit spending it on all the traffic diversion infrastructure they keep installing that make driving hazardous.


  4. Oh, super! So the SFMTA board feels indifferent towards a very obvious need for red-carpet laning the crap out of this city to make the buses run better (speeding up the damn bus means you spend less on extra coaches and drivers), but wants to spend time debating and unanimously voting in the world’s stupidest bike-lane design on Valencia. Cool, glad we have gotten our priorities straight guys.


  5. Hi my name is Elsa like to no when will the 14X mission bus return to service and L travel return street car and when will the 54 Felton return to midnight if there is any update please get back to us thank you


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