SFMTA announces Muni light rail system won't reopen until next year

San Francisco Muni officials announced that the light rail system will now be shut down at least until the end of the year.

This will allow workers to fix the splices that connect overhead electrical wires, a job Muni originally thought would take a few weeks.

Those splices failed last week, causing a system-wide meltdown.

"We discovered more questionable splices. We also discovered it was going to take longer to get the new material than we expected," said Jeffrey Tumlin, director of the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency.

Additionally, an employee in the transportation management center tested positive for COVID-19 and is in quarantine along with some fellow workers.

The beleaguered train system had been out of action for five months beginning in March because of the pandemic.

Then after much publicity, the trains reopened Saturday, August 22. Two days later splices in the overhead wires failed, and the system had to be shut down all over again.

"This is deeply disappointing," said San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who also chairs the SF  Transportation Authority, one of the agencies that control Muni's funding.

"The shutdown was supposed to be an opportunity to fix this once and for all. So it's mind-boggling. Deeply upsetting. And on behalf of the City I want to apologize," Peskin said.

"During most of the COVID crisis, we have been unable to do maintenance work in the subway because most of the work requires close contact. Now that we are at this stage of the health directive we are finally able to catch up on some of that past work," Tumlin said.

Muni says with ridership low during the pandemic, this was a good time to fix not only the wires, but the tracks, and possibly more.

"Another thing we are looking at as well is whether we can extend wifi and cell coverage in the subway. We are still not certain about that," Tumlin said.

Supervisor Peskin has called for a hearing on how muni's latest problems happened, and how to ensure they don't happen again.