Public transit had a daily presence in Robin Pam’s pre-pandemic life. The San Francisco resident rode BART trains downtown for work and boarded Muni buses in the afternoons to pick her toddler up from preschool.
But after March 2020, Muni service was cut to historic lows, including Pam’s go-to line, the 23-Monterey. With transit options diminishing, she turned to the seldom-used e-bike that she bought months before the first shelter-in-place orders.
Now, two years into the pandemic, biking has become the primary mode of transportation for Pam and her family of four. The 23-Monterey has since returned, albeit under a shortened route that runs less frequently, but Pam still opts to bike every day — with no signs of that changing anytime soon.
“I think it’s going to be a permanent change in how we get around,” Pam said.
Today, Muni and BART remain essential for the hundreds of thousands of riders who use the transit services each day. But, as the pandemic enters its third year, there remain just as many lapsed transit riders, like Pam, who either are riding transit less frequently or not at all.
Remote work and shifting habits are influencing many of these lapsed riders’ routines. So are delayed restorations in transit service. But, for many lapsed riders, their perceptions of what it was like riding transit in 2019 — when many felt BART and Muni weren’t clean enough or safe enough to ride — have endured, exacerbating the challenges of boarding train cars or buses to move throughout the region at a time when more and more people are driving.