Invest in transportation connections

May 23, 2023

Increasing reliable transit service, protected bike lanes, and safer streets and sidewalks will bring more people to and through Downtown.

“Market Street is the transit backbone of Downtown” by SFMTA

Strategy

A key factor of Downtown’s competitiveness is its geography and role at the center of the city and the region’s transportation network, enabling access by millions. Maintaining and increasing access by every mode of transportation will be fundamental to sustaining this unique advantage. As the region grows and the economy evolves, continuing investments in reliable high-quality transit service, safe sidewalks and streets and bicycle infrastructure will preserve San Francisco’s draw into the future. 

The City has begun to advance a series of initiatives and will launch additional programs that support this strategy: 

  • Make it easy for workers, residents and visitors to travel Downtown with improved Muni connections.  
  • Provide faster trips to Downtown with ongoing Muni Forward improvements on key lines.
  • Work with City and regional partners to bring high-speed rail to the Salesforce Transit Center.
  • Pursue new strategies to ensure long-term financial stability for Muni. 
  • Ensure biking is safe and convenient with a more connected and protected Downtown bike network.  
  • Strategically deploy traffic control officers to keep traffic moving Downtown
  • Make Muni a more attractive option with cellular service in the Metro.
  • Launch additional fare pass programs to boost Muni ridership.

 

Initiatives
 

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Improved Muni connections Downtown

Extensive transportation connections to San Francisco’s neighborhoods and the entire Bay Area have always been a pillar of Downtown’s economic success by making it easier for workers, businesses, residents and visitors to gather here than anywhere else in the region. The City recognizes the need to maintain and improve these connections to ensure our economic future.  

  • Following the major disruptions to transit service caused by the pandemic, the SFMTA has restored most pre-pandemic bus and rail service to Downtown and recently opened two of the most transformative Muni system upgrades in decades. This includes the Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service on the crucial north-south 49 Van Ness/Mission line and the Central Subway service on the new T Third line connecting Sunnyvale to Chinatown, with stops at Union Square and in SoMa.   

  • The SFMTA is partnering with Golden Gate Transit (GG Transit) to connect Cow Hollow and the Marina to Downtown while the 41 Union and 30X Marina lines remain temporarily suspended via GG Transit Routes 101, 130 and 150 that run from Lombard Street to the Salesforce Transit Center. The SFMTA maintains shared Golden Gate Transit stops on these lines, while the new Van Ness BRT service has cut down travel times on this corridor by several minutes. Local riders will simply need to tag off at their last GG Transit stop so they’re only charged for the length of their trip.  

  • In February 2023, the SFMTA began piloting a 1X California Express line from the Outer Richmond to the Financial District, similar to the former 1AX and 1BX California express lines. The pilot service has proved popular and has contributed to a modest reduction in crowding on the 1 California.  The agency will be modifying the pilot in response to ongoing performance and rider feedback. 

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Faster trips Downtown with Muni Forward

Rapid, reliable transit service is essential to Downtown’s economic viability and vibrancy and the City will continue improving service in 2023 through its Muni Forward program.  

  • Muni's main transit lines are faster and more reliable than they have been in decades thanks to recent infrastructure improvements such as red transit lanes, bus bulbs and smart traffic signals. These investments have significantly boosted travel times on key transit lines in recent years, making service up to 20% faster on the 38 Geary, up to 35% faster on the 49 Van Ness/Mission, and up to 11% faster on the 1 California line. 

  • The SFMTA will continue these improvements in 2023 by completing additional Muni Forward projects on key corridors that connect riders to Downtown, including the 14/14R Mission, 27 Bryant, and 38/38R Geary that will ensure that these lines run more quickly and efficiently. 

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The Portal: bringing high-speed rail Downtown

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority’s (TJPA) six-level Salesforce Transit Center – which opened in 2018 – features a 5-acre rooftop park, regional bus terminal, restaurants, cafes, gym and other businesses. The Center, which has revitalized the East Cut neighborhood and become a Downtown landmark, will be essential to providing effective regional service as transit ridership returns.  

  • The City is working to ensure the Transit Center opens to California High-Speed Rail service within a decade, which will cement the facility as a world-class transportation hub with direct access to and from the entire state.  

  • In 2023, the City will continue working with regional partners and the TJPA to ensure that the project to extend the existing Caltrain railway from the 4th and King station in SoMa, known as the Portal, meets federal grant deadlines and leverages critical federal infrastructure investments. 

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Long-Term financial stability for Muni

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed major challenges to our public transit system, significantly lowering ridership and associated fare revenues that the SFMTA relies on to operate the City’s fleet of buses and trains.   

  • While ridership on neighborhood routes has returned to close to pre-pandemic levels, ridership remains significantly lower on Downtown routes, contributing to a projected operating budget deficit for Muni in the years ahead.  

  • The SFMTA is committed to doing everything possible to keep service running, including collaborating with other Bay Area transit agencies to ask the state for “bridge” funding to transit operators and exploring options to establish a new source of long-term funding for transit operations. 

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A more connected, protected downtown bike network

Biking is one of the most efficient and sustainable ways to travel through dense areas and the SFMTA is committed to making it convenient and safe to get to Downtown on bikes and scooters, and will continue to expand the Downtown bike network. 

  • Following the launch of Car-Free Market Street in 2020, private cars are now diverted away from Market between Steuart and Van Ness, making it easier and safer for people to cycle along Downtown’s main transportation artery. 

  • During the pandemic, the SFMTA completed an enhanced bike network in SoMa, with protected bike lanes now on Beale, 2nd, 5th, 7th, 8th, Folsom, Howard and Townsend Streets. More recently, the agency added a two-way protected bikeway along the Embarcadero between Mission and Broadway Streets in front of the Ferry Building. 

  • As of May 2023, the agency has added protected bike lanes to Battery and Sansome Streets between Market and Broadway Streets and is creating additional bikeway connections on Sutter, Beale and 3rd Streets.

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Keeping traffic moving downtown

As businesses reopen, some of our Downtown streets have seen a return of pre-pandemic traffic and congestion, creating delays for drivers. Keeping traffic flowing on Market and other key streets will be essential to inviting workers and residents back to Downtown.   

  • The SFMTA has worked over recent years to improve the safety and reliability of taking transit, biking and walking Downtown to make it easier to visit without a car. Still, many residents and workers will continue to travel Downtown by car, and the resulting traffic must be proactively managed to ensure that Downtown remains accessible from across the city and region for everyone.   

  • The SFMTA deploys Parking Control Officers (PCOs) at strategic intersections along Market and approaching streets to direct traffic and ensure that traffic bottlenecks on streets that cross Market do not impede Downtown travel. Current deployments include Bush and Battery, Battery and Market, 1st and Mission, and 1st and Harrison. As traffic patterns change, the SFMTA will adjust to ensure smooth and safe traffic flow during peak hours.

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Cellular service in the Metro

A fast, reliable transit ride to Downtown is even more attractive to riders when cellular service is available during their trip. 

  • The SFMTA is partnering with BART to install commercial cellular services in the Muni Metro tunnel on Market Street and the Central Subway tunnel, expanding on previous efforts that made public wi-fi available in Market Street Muni stations as well as throughout the Central Subway. The partnership with BART will give riders full cellular and data service at subway platforms as well as on the train. 

  • Cellular service went live in the Central Subway in January 2023 and the installation in the Muni Metro tunnel is scheduled to be completed in early 2024. 
     

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Boost transit ridership with fare passes

  • In 2023, SFMTA will launch new fare pass programs that respond to the needs of customers and encourage riders to choose Muni. 

  • Bay Area transit operators, in partnership with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), launched Bay Pass, a new fare pass pilot program to encourage more people to choose transit. This program provides unlimited free travel on all transit agencies to eligible residents who use the Clipper card. Operators are seeking to partner with employers to expand this program as an employee benefit. 

  • To boost ridership on the California Cable Car Line, the SFMTA will pilot a special one-day unlimited pass that will offer unlimited travel on the California Cable Car. The California Line Day Pass will make it more attractive to use transit on San Francisco's iconic hills between the Financial District, Chinatown, Nob Hill and Polk Street. 

  • These efforts will build on the SFMTA’s existing suite of fare pass and discount programs, including free rides to people over 65 and under 19 years of age and discounted or free passes for people with limited incomes or who are experiencing homelessness. 

 

See other economic recovery strategies

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