Last Year Made It Clear: Muni is Back, and Better

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Thursday, February 1, 2024

Image features a Muni bus driving down the new red bus rapid transit lane near street sculptures.

On an average weekday last year, 433,000 people rode Muni. They know something those who aren’t riding Muni don’t: it’s faster and more reliable than it’s been in years. 

We wanted to look back at the last year of Muni ridership to share how – with limited resources – we’re making targeted investments to improve our service and your experience as a customer. As a result, our ridership is growing. 

People took 142 million trips on Muni in 2023, a 25% increase from 2022 

Chart showing total boardings in millions for Muni, between years 2021 and 2023. Boardings increased each year, with 142 million trips in 2023.

Since the pandemic, we’re more nimble in how we plan and provide Muni service. After decades of focusing on downtown commutes, today we focus on connecting neighborhoods. We can’t add service without more funding. But we can still make improvements – and we are. We’re pinpointing the exact times lines are crowded and refining our service schedules to address it.

Before the pandemic, we looked at crowding data in two-hour windows. Today, our transit planners do it in 15-minute increments. The outcome is a better experience for our customers, whether you’re riding Muni to school, work, parks or any of the destinations that make our city so vibrant.  

We ended the year with a 71% ridership recovery rate compared to 2019. 

Line chart shows total ridership recovery on Muni is 71%, with 86% on weekends and 68% on weekdays.

Our 75 miles of transit lanes and Quick Build projects are speeding up buses and trains. Our transit operators now have real time information about how close they are to the bus in front of them. With this, they work to keep vehicles evenly spaced and shorten wait times. They have also all completed customer service training to help visitors and locals alike navigate our system and our city. 

We increased our shelter cleanings by 50% last year. Our car cleaners and custodians raised our cleaning standard for Covid and have kept it up ever since. Our mechanics have dramatically improved our fleet management by embracing preventative maintenance, using data to fix things before they break.  

The teams that maintain our subway are more efficient and effective, using Fix It Weeks to do hundreds of hours of extra maintenance. Thanks to their work and our new Muni Metro fleet, subway service is more reliable than it’s been in decades: 

  • Major subway delays have fallen 76% since 2019, and short delays are down 89% 

  • Across all our vehicles, the distance between mechanical failures is up 10% since 2022 

  • Headway adherence – evenly spaced buses and trains – is up 6% since 2022 

But if you haven’t ridden transit lately, you’re not alone. Downtown commute trips were once the backbone of Muni’s ridership. They continue to lag with a shift to remote work, and downtown’s recovery has been slower than we hoped. Transit agencies across the region and world are facing these challenges, and Muni is meeting them head-on. The SFMTA has been a national leader in adapting our service to changing ridership patterns. We are working to ensure you can continue to count on Muni – and our ridership shows it. 

Nearly half of all transit rides in the entire Bay Area were on Muni  

Charts shows 2023 passenger trips across Bay Area transit agencies. Nearly half of all transit rides in the region were on Muni.

We’re seeing the greatest ridership growth where we’ve made the biggest investments in reliability and travel times. Thanks to Muni Forward improvements, ridership on the 14R Mission Rapid is up to 106% of 2019 levels on weekdays and 117% on weekends. It’s one of five lines now exceeding their pre-pandemic ridership, along with the 22 Fillmore.  

The 22 Fillmore has more riders today than before the pandemic

A graph depicting the increased ridership numbers of the 22 Fillmore line in San Francisco.

Our growing ridership reflects our commitment to delivering an excellent customer experience – from our shelters to our stations, from our vehicles to our service planning. We can see this not just in how many people are riding Muni, but how people feel about it. 

  • Two-thirds of respondents (66%) rated Muni service as “good” or “excellent” in our most recent rider survey. That’s a 9-point increase from 2021. 

  • 71% of Muni riders approve of the job the SFMTA is doing, according to our 2023 community survey

Muni is back, and it’s better. So, if you haven’t boarded a bus or taken a train lately, here’s what you’ve been missing:  

  • Shorter waits and faster trips 

  • Better neighborhood connections 

  • Cleaner and better shelters 

  • Serious improvements in overall service reliability and rider satisfaction 

We know Muni isn’t perfect, and we’re committed to keep improving. We’re trying new things, learning from them, and always working to serve you better with the limited resources we have. And if we can secure more resources, we can keep Muni growing and improving for years to come.