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Riders aren’t crowding onto Central Subway—that’s why commuters like it

Commuters catch the Central Subway on Jan. 27. | Sarah Wright/The Standard

On a Friday morning during rush hour, no more than a few dozen people stood waiting for trains at the new Union Square/Market Street Station, part of the $2 billion Central Subway that fully opened earlier this month. 

But to Mabel Tang, who shuttles her two young kids to and from school on it every day from her home in Civic Center, that’s the allure. 

“It has more seats,” Tang said. “I used to take the bus, but this is better.”

The Central Subway, which opened for full service on Jan. 7, hasn’t been flawless. Some riders report long waits for trains, and an overhead wire issue caused massive delays on the entire T Third line for most of the day on Thursday, rerouting riders to buses. 

But just weeks into its full weekday opening, it’s attracted a loyal band of commuters who say the new amenities, quiet cars and speedier service compared with buses have made their trips more pleasant.  

Wilma Ortega, who lives at Geary and Stockton, now takes the T line straight to work at Mission Rock instead of the bus. She said the time predictions haven’t always been accurate, but it’s never a long wait and trains will sometimes arrive unexpectedly early. 

“It’s easier now,” Ortega said.

The city’s transit agency doesn’t yet have ridership statistics by stop for the Central Subway, but reported an average of around 12,000 riders on any given weekday and 9,000 per day on weekends across the entire T Third line during the first few weeks of the new subway’s opening. 

That accounts for about 20% of the total rail system’s weekday rides and 13% of its weekend traffic. 

Michelle Lo, who lives in the East Bay and takes the train to get to work in Dogpatch, said her commute time has been cut down significantly because the train makes fewer stops than the bus she would normally take. 

And compared to her first leg spent on BART—which was so crowded earlier this week that Lo had to wait 30 minutes for a spot on a train—her journey through the Central Subway is a seamless ride. 

“I usually don’t have to wait long,” Lo said.