J Church Fully Restored As 3 Bus Lines Face Delays

A high number of Omicron variant infections caused a driver shortage that dashed plans to restore routes to pre-pandemic service levels.

Advocates with signs
Advocates rallied on Dec. 2, 2021, calling for SFMTA to bring back the 8AX and 8BX. Jerold Chinn/Ingleside Light

The J Church returned to its regular pre-pandemic route Saturday after the light rail line was shortened for over a year since it returned to service in December 2020.

J line passengers advocated last year for the rail line to return to servicing the downtown Muni subway as transit officials had wanted to keep the J out of the subway in an effort to have less traffic jams in the subway.

The J had been running from Balboa Park to Church Street and Duboce Avenue. Passengers had to make a transfer at Church and Market streets to connect with the subway at Church station. Critics of the transfer point said the transfer made it difficult for persons with disabilities and seniors.

While the J returned to service as planned, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency recently announced the delay of restoring other Muni routes that were planned for March and April, including routes in the Ingleside neighborhood.

The 8BX Bayshore was supposed to return next month to its pre-pandemic route on weekdays, but will now return in mid-April. Passengers on the 43 Masonic, who have been waiting for the full return of the route, will now have to wait until June before the 43 heads back into the Presidio and the Marina.

There were also plans to restore the 23 Monterey to its pre-pandemic route in March, but those plans are also on hold until tentatively in June, according to the agency.

In a presentation before the San Francisco County Transportation Authority board last week, transit officials said there was a high number of employee absences from Omicron variant infections. This caused the agency over the last two months to tweet out each morning and late afternoon the Muni routes where passengers are expected to wait longer for buses or trains.

“When you combine this, challenges that we're having with our pre-existing staffing shortages, we're really seeing a tough time for the system,” SFMTA Director of Transit Julie Kirschbaum said at the meeting.

The agency is missing approximately 20% to 25% of Muni service each day, transit officials said.

Kirschbaum added that there were also smaller operator training classes last month and this month that contributed to the delay of restoring Muni service. The agency was supposed to start 84 new trainees, but only started 54, she said.

She said she is confident that classes in March and April will be larger, but added that the agency needs time to graduate additional classes.

More information on the SFMTA’s new schedule to restore Muni service can be found on the agency’s website.

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