Delivering Chase Center Service
Opening night of the new Chase Center Arena on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. Photo: SFMTA Archive
Tuesday night, the Dave Matthews Band wowed concert goers at Chase Center while, down the street at Oracle Park, the San Francisco Giants won the first of two home games against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
This was the third night of a stunning opening of events and transit service at the Chase Center. We are grateful for all of the participants and our customers who were our eyes on the streets calling out our successes and where we could do better.
All city leaders, starting with Mayor London Breed, are ensuring that the city keeps moving and that we focus on our Equity lines, based on the Muni Service Equity Strategy.
In spite of media commentators and others expressing skepticism about the city’s ability to manage these types of “dual events,” this critical test of city’s Mission Bay transportation plan went off without a hitch.
With a maximum capacity of 18,000 seats at Chase and another 40,000 at Oracle, getting event patrons out of their cars and into transit, bicycles and other sustainable modes of travel is vital to making sure transportation works for everyone in our city.
The Golden State Warriors set out to make Chase Center the country’s most transit friendly arena. With the free Muni service they are providing for event patrons, a new and conveniently located Muni Metro T Line stop in front of the arena, special event bus shuttles (78X and 79X) to help event-goers connect to BART and a proactive marketing campaign to encouraging ridership, public transit is proving to be the best way to get to Chase Center. After the first week, Muni ridership numbers are exceeding all expectations.
And yet, providing this supplemental service is not without its challenges for Muni.
Operator Shortage Response
Every day, approximately 1,500 Muni operators are providing transit service on our city streets. The supplemental bus service for Chase Center accounts for only 11 of these operators, less than one percent.
Muni planned to cover these runs with operators who sign up for voluntary overtime and the Warriors agreed to pay for this overtime. Unfortunately, so far, this has not yielded enough volunteers to cover the additional service. As a result, 11 operators who might otherwise have been assigned to cover absences across the city were deployed to operate the 78X and 79X service. At no time were Muni buses diverted from existing service on any lines.
Muni’s ongoing shortage of transit operators has been widely publicized. Last July, Muni service delivery (the percentage of scheduled service hours that are actually delivered) dropped to a four-year year low of 90.6 percent.
When fully staffed, Muni will have approximately 20 percent more operators on call to cover vacations, illnesses or other absences. Currently, we have a fraction of that. The result is that some buses don’t make it onto the streets. What this means for our customers is longer than expected wait times and a more crowded bus once it does arrive.
Ensuring Equitable Transit Service
Providing accessible, high-quality public transit service for all San Franciscans is one of the agency’s top priorities.
Going forward, Muni is making a firm commitment to ensure that service generally and service specifically on the Muni Equity lines is not impacted by Chase Center event service. Muni’s taking proactive steps to market this overtime opportunity to operators. This will ensure that we are maximizing service delivery, especially on those lines serving communities of concern, while still being able to provide critical event service that benefits mobility for everyone across the city.
The Good News
Muni is making steady progress in recruiting and training new transit operators, including 41 who will graduate from training this Friday. With 200 new operators brought onboard since the beginning of the year and more to come in the next few months, Muni is currently delivering more than 96 percent of its scheduled service. As more transit operators enter service, that percentage will improve to the 98.5 percent level mandated by the City Charter and providing additional service for Chase Center and other special events will be easier to manage.
As we await the graduation of our newest class of transit operators, Muni is offering free transit service between 5 p.m. and midnight on all 38/38R Geary, 8/8AX/8BX Bayshore and 19 Polk lines Thursday, Sept. 12 and Friday, Sept. 13. These are all Equity service lines that we are committed to ensuring continuous service.