Making Room on the 40 Mission. Riders ift their legs to make room for a wheelchair user on the 49 Mission bus. File photo by Janis Lewin

The city’s transit authority has put a contentious reroute of the 33-Ashbury on hold after concerned riders and riders with mobility restrictions voiced concerns that the change would limit accessibility to San Francisco General Hospital.

The 33 Ashbury/18th Street currently travels from the Richmond through the Haight, Castro, and inner Mission, finally turning down Potrero Avenue to the hospital. A proposed Muni Forward reroute keeps the 33 on 16th Street past Potrero to the Dogpatch, requiring riders traveling to the public hospital to transfer to the 9 San Bruno.

Patients and staff at SFGH, neighbors, and advocates for seniors and people with disabilities have all voiced objections to the plan to take the 33 off Potrero.

“I have transferred before, and the 9 is so crowded that when they ask people to move for a wheelchair, people get mad cause you take up a lot of space,” said transit rider Marilyn McCord, who takes the 33 to SFGH every day. “Three times I couldn’t get on. So after the third time, I said I’m never going to take the 22 and then the 9 again.”

Opponents of the route change have pointed out that Medi-Cal regulations require that medical services be offered within 10 miles or 30 minutes travel time from a patient’s residence. In compact San Francisco, the 10 mile stipulation presents no problem, but it can be hard for residents to reach their services in 30 minutes using public transportation. Travel times cited in a Department of Health report from 2012 indicated that the average bus trip to SFGH from the Richmond takes 63 minutes. From the Mission, that time is reduced to 31 minutes, and that is without making the proposed transfer to the 9 San Bruno.

Ilyse Magy, a resident of 25th and Hampshire streets, the current terminus of the 33, said that she was torn about the rerouting.

“Riding the 33, it seems like one of the most inefficient routes in the city. It does crazy loops around and seems like it takes a lot of time,” she said. But she too sees problems with the alternative. “The 9 is one of the busiest bus lines in the city and the population that needs to get to SF General isn’t necessarily going to have a smooth experience on the 9.”

What’s more, critics said, a study that showed the 33 didn’t serve any particularly high concentration of low-income or minority riders didn’t take in to account the Potrero stretch, whose riders are mostly underserved riders.

Transit authority spokesperson Robert Lyles said the agency had found upon conducting further research that there is a segment of the 33 that serves a high proportion of people who frequently go to the hospital, particularly the Potrero segment.

“We put this project on hold so we can look at what the total options are for those who ride the 33. Without the redesign, the Dogpatch is left without service,” Lyles said. “We have to figure out how to best adjust to some of the concerns that we’ve learned, as well as how to figure out the best service for the Dogpatch community.”

Under the current Muni Forward plan, the 22 line will eventually run down 16th Street and terminate at Mission Bay. Currently, it turns and serves the Dogpatch instead. The 16th Street corridor through to Mission Bay is currently served by the 55-16th Street line, which is temporary while overhead wires are installed for the 22 line. Leaving the 33 unaltered, but changing the 22 away from the Dogpatch, would leave the Dogpatch without service under the current Muni Forward plans. Rerouting the 33 would have sent it along the route left empty by the 22 reroute.

“It may be that the original redesign may stay in place, we don’t know,” Lyles said. “We just have to look at as many options as possible.”

Magy, who also is part of the transportation advocacy group San Francisco Transit Riders, said the Riders have no official stance but encourage the transit authority to consider residents’ concerns.

“We absolutely support them taking the time to fully take into account public opinion,” she said. “The 33 really is essential to a lot of communities. We’re excited that they’re stopping to take that into account.”

Lyles added that any future revisions to the plan would come with an opportunity for riders to weigh in.

“Anytime we make changes to a route, remove bus stops, add bus stops they go before our board, the board will vote on the information as it is presented to them,” he said. “Part of anything we present to the board is also open to public comment, so there is a considerable process.”

The 33 reroute opponents have also made a video sharing their concerns:

Fran Taylor, a reader and community organizer who opposes the 33 re-route, contributed research to this story.

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  1. Muni’s accusation that keeping the 33 on Potrero would leave Dogpatch riders high and dry makes us opponents of the change look callous and selfish. We have repeatedly and emphatically insisted that the solution must include continued service to current riders of the 22. This position was clear in the original text of this article, which didn’t make it into the final version:
    “Opponents of the 33 reroute ask why the 55 can’t be made permanent and used to service the streets in Dogpatch lost to the 22 when it moves to Mission Bay, thus maintaining the current level of service without unraveling the complex Muni Forward citywide plan.”

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  2. This article brings up a lot of good points. I have an idea on how to solve this 33 Ashbury dilemma. Instead of re-routing the 33, add 4-6 accordion buses to it since the 33 can get notoriously packed going through Haight/Castro/the Richmond.

    Also, simply give the 22 Fillmore 2 eastern terminals by having it keep its current terminal at 3rd and 20th sts, along with having its new terminal in Mission Bay. The 22 has more than enough ridership to support having 2 eastern terminals. The 38 Geary has 3 western terminals, hence why not give the 22 Fillmore 2 eastern terminals?

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    1. I don’t think that accordion buses would work on some of the 33’s tight turns (i.e. Market & Clayton and Haight & Ashbury). Your suggestion for the 22 having two eastern terminals seems reasonable – except for as Mission Bay grows it’ll need the equivalent of every 22 providing transit access to and from 3rd Street and 16th and UCSF.

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