Senior and Disability Advocates Challenge Bus Route Change

in by

Advocates for seniors and people with disabilities are challenging the rerouting of the 33-Stanyan bus away from Potrero Avenue and San Francisco General Hospital. The activists argue that the change will cause a hardship to seniors and the disabled who have to transfer at 16th Street and Potrero Avenue to the 9-San Bruno bus to get to the hospital, which, they claim, is a “crowded, difficult line.”

“These patients are often physically incapacitated and would have trouble finding even standing room, much less a seat, on their way to medical care,” Daily Muni riders and Mission residents Fran Taylor and Iris Biblowitz wrote to members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisor through which whose districts the 33-Stanyan passes. “We understand from SFMTA that improvements to the 9/9L are planned…but we doubt that it will ever be a smooth line with spacious seating.”

A San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency official said that though some people will have to transfer, “overall service to the hospital will increase significantly,” as service on other bus lines improves and the agency adds connections. SFMTA operations planning and scheduling manager Julie Kirschbaum said the agency will be increasing the frequency of the 10-Townsend, 22-Fillmore and 33-Stanyan buses, and may extend the 19-Polk bus to SFGH. She also said SFMTA is increasing service on the 9-Rapid, which serves the same Potrero Avenue segment as the 33-Stanyan, adding a stop at SFGH.

According to Kirschbaum, SFMTA will conduct a survey this month of people who ride the 33-Stanyan to gauge the effect the change will have on them.  The survey will be fielded September 22 to 24; results should be available at the end of October. Kirschbaum didn’t say what information would prompt the agency to reconsider the rerouting. The SFMTA board approved the new course in 2014, but officials won’t implement it until the survey is completed, she said.

Alice Bierman, peer advocate program coordinator for Senior and Disability Action, said that SFMTA officials don’t understand the hardship seniors and the disabled face traveling to SFGH. The 9-San Bruno bus was packed yesterday, Bierman said. Hospital patients are in pain or not feeling well. “Why should they have to transfer?” she asked. She’s even more concerned about seniors who may have trouble getting on or off a bus.

According to Bierman, SFMTA officials are putting the needs of Mission Bay residents above the sick. If the route change is implemented, the last leg of the 33-Stanyan will replace the final leg of the 22-Fillmore to Dogpatch, and the 22-Fillmore will service Mission Bay. Consumer advocate for Senior and Disability Action Donna Willmott said in a video that it’s often the City’s poorest who rely on SFGH. She said rerouting the 33-Stanyan is emblematic of who counts in San Francisco and whose privileges are being protected at the expense of others.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 calls for an analysis of proposed transportation changes on communities of color and low-income populations. An evaluation of the proposed modifications from SFMTA’s Transit Effectiveness Project, which includes the change to the 33-Stanyan, shows 15,096 people of color and 4,261 low-income residents will be affected by the 33-Stanyan-route alteration. For both groups nine route eliminations or segment changes, including the one to the 33-Stanyan, were analyzed as a single modification.  The percentage of residents from both affected groups is below the citywide average, allowing SFMTA to make the change.

Advocates say that SFMTA isn’t required to consider how transportation changes affect seniors and people with disabilities. “This population has not been served,” Bierman said. Race and income are considered, but there’s no examination of the effect on people with disabilities. Congress passed the American with Disabilities Act a quarter century ago, “and 25 years later we still have this? That’s just not okay,” she said.