One week after the restoration of an express bus line from the city’s west side to Downtown, passengers said the 1X-California Express will be key to Downtown’s recovery, but only if the city’s transit agency makes some major fixes.
“If the initiative is to rebuild Downtown, you need to have the infrastructure,” said Richmond District resident Dennis Maxson. “If you don’t build it, [workers] can’t come.”
“I see more people Downtown, I do,” said passenger Sylvia Tam. “There’s a need for this [bus], give it some time.”
The 1X-California Express—axed in the pandemic—began running as a pilot program on Feb. 21 and is the first express bus on the city’s west side to be returned to service after the 1AX, 1BX, 38AX and 38BX were all suspended during the pandemic.
Greg Perez thinks that even with offices still mostly empty, the 1X-California Express will be key in restarting Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.
“There's the waterfront, the theater, the Warriors, SFMOMA. There’s so much to do in Downtown,” Perez said.
City officials have billed the 1X-California Express as part of Downtown San Francisco’s rebirth. But while the city and passengers agree on the importance of getting people there easily, many 1X-California Express riders think that the express bus needs improvement.
Many passengers said they were excited about the restored express bus.
“I’ve been waiting for this,” Maxson said on his way to work at the Saint Anthony Foundation in the Tenderloin.
Maxson said the 1X-California Express has made his commute far less hectic—he used to take two crowded buses as well as the metro to get from the Richmond to Civic Center.
“I’d have to decompress after,” Maxson said. “With this new bus, two-thirds of it is a smooth ride.”
The 1X-California Express starts at 33rd Avenue and Geary Boulevard, it ends at Davis and Pine streets, making several stops inside the Richmond before cutting through the city’s center into Downtown SF. The bus only runs weekdays at peak commute times—three buses between 8 and 9 a.m. and three between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m.
Perez, who was riding to the Ferry Building, said that the restored 1X-California Express has shaved precious minutes off his morning commute from the Richmond District to Alameda.
The bus ride to the Ferry Building used to take nearly an hour, now it takes roughly 30 minutes, Perez said.
“It’s much quieter and less stressful because it’s fewer stops,” Perez said.
But while riders were excited about the express bus’s return, some said that in order for it to help usher in Downtown’s recovery, the 1X-California Express in its current form is not enough.
“I think if there were more buses it would be better,” Tam said. “It doesn’t really save me that much time because there’s no flexibility, it only comes once every 30 minutes. The 1AX or the 38AX would come every 10 minutes; there were options.”
“I think it leaves people out because it doesn’t come early enough,” Maxson said. “I hope it catches on and gets the ridership it needs.”
Shehryar Chaudhry said that the service should make additional stops near Pacific Heights, pointing out that the express line cuts through that area without stopping, but the 1-California is often too packed to get on by the time it gets there.
“The 1-California would be so crowded that the bus drivers weren’t even stopping,” Chaudhry said. “I know realistically there aren’t as many people Downtown, but if people are going to work Downtown, they need to be able to get to work.”
The SF Municipal Transportation Agency will examine the bus service and make adjustments as it runs. The transit agency did not respond to requests for comment.
Garrett Leahy can be reached at email@example.com