Bay Area mass transit systems prepare for gradual ridership increases as restrictions ease

San Francisco leaders are preparing to reopen as many as 95% of the city's retail businesses for curbside pickup and delivery. That means that mass transit is ramping up and preparing to get people moving.

Eight weeks after San Francisco and much of the Bay Area shut down, preparations are underway to reopen businesses as early as Monday for delivery and curbside service.   

That means people coming to and from work, and customers moving about to start buying.

Transit agencies are preparing. "I think rider confidence and communication are the key for our future success," said BART Board Vice President Mark Foley.

BART said it is not anticipating a major increase in riders right away, but the agency is already working on plans to reach out to riders, to find out what they'd like to see as they begin to ride again.

BART riders can expect changes as they re-enter the stations, with face masks required and social distancing. BART board Vice President Foley said in the past, safety has meant dealing with crime.

Now cleanliness has been added to that definition. "I think that we need to ensure we are doing all we can to make sure that BART is as safe as it can be," said Foley. "And, that riders feel confident.

That's what will get them out of their cars and and back to BART."

San Francisco Muni is also predicting a gradual increase in readership.

Starting Saturday, the 8-Bayshore, 14R Mission Rapid, 22-Fillmore, 38R-Geary Rapid, 49-Van Ness/Mission, N-Judah and T-Third bus lines will all run more frequently, while the 9R-San Bruno Rapid line will be restored next Monday and will run from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

Face masks will also be required to ride, and the agency is working closely with the Department of Public Health to determine which lines to reopen.

"We've been really focused on the data to see where our riders are," said Erica Kato from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. "And so over the last couple of weeks we have been incrementally adding Muni service to make sure they do have the appropriate social distancing when they do have to use our service."

SFMTA said it has always cleaned buses and light rail vehicles, but now has new practices in place to keep them as clean as possible.

Latest SFMTA COVID-19 developments and response

The agency said it is still asking riders to limit their trips, and operators are limiting the number of people allowed on board buses and light rail vehicles. That may mean longer wait times.

"A bus may come and pass you by because there are simply too many people on board," said Kato. "So, if you do have to take Muni, allow yourself a little extra time because you may not get on that first bus you see."

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is anticipating many people will opt to drive instead of taking transit. A recent study found that if commuters stick to their own vehicles it will mean longer commutes for all of the divers.

Bay City News contributed to this story