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New shuttles will serve this transit-starved San Francisco neighborhood

A pedestrian waits to cross 3rd Street on Palou Avenue in the Bayview Neighborhood of San Francisco. (Photo By Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

The city has a plan to help the transit-starved Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood.

SF transit bosses want electric buses known as “dynamic shuttles,” which riders can hail to custom destinations—or “virtual bus stops”—through a mobile app or an English, Spanish and Chinese phone line.

Buses in the “Our Community, Our Shuttle” program will seat between eight and 15 riders and will operate from August 2023 to March 2026.

According to a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency map of the shuttle’s future service area, the buses would travel anywhere within the neighborhood but would connect passengers to larger transit hubs, like Muni and BART stations.

Passengers would pay a fare via Clipper, a monthly or daily transit pass, or an SFMTA Essential Trip Card.

It is unclear whether the shuttle drivers will be SFMTA employees, or whether the work will be outsourced to a third-party company.

Natalie Gee, chief of staff for Supervisor Shamann Walton, who represents Bayview-Hunters Point, said that his office has worked with the transit agency to establish the shuttle program, citing the lack of transit access from Bayview-Hunters Point to other parts of the city.

Trips could leave the neighborhood to access larger stations, such as the 24th Street Mission BART station, according to Gee.

Service hours and fares have not been determined yet. They will be decided after community input in May 2023 according to Christopher Kidd, director of the SFMTA’s Bayview Community Transportation Plan.

Pete Wilson, of the Muni drivers union Transport Workers Union Local 250A, questioned the transit agency’s move to use shuttles rather than hiring more bus drivers to serve the neighborhood. 

Monique LaSarre, executive director of health-care nonprofit Rafiki Coalition, said that Bayview-Hunters Point lacks transit options and the hilly streets hinder access for vulnerable people who live there. 

“There are massive hills going all over, and that factors into getting to the bus,” LaSarre said, who says the area has high rates of respiratory illnesses like asthma. “We have clients who need to get to therapy, and I’m having to find Lyft money for them because there’s no bus.”

The transit agency has tapped two local nonprofit job training centers, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and Young Community Developers, to recruit and train drivers for the dynamic shuttle program and refer others to commercial driving programs to put them in the pipeline to becoming Muni drivers.

Funding for the program comes from a $10.5 million grant from the California Air Resource Board’s Sustainable Transportation Equity Project.

The agency decided to add shuttles to the neighborhood instead of traditional bus lines based on findings in the February 2020 Bayview Community Based Transportation Plan, which found residents have a “keen interest” in a community shuttle that would improve access to “regional transit, community services and grocery stores.”

Garrett Leahy can be reached at