‘Twitter Express’ not worth tweeting about

The San Francisco MTA needs long-term solutions to relieve packed trains and contain runaway expenses.

One would think, then, that the addition of another Express bus would be a welcome addition by downtown commuters. Particularly one so aptly titled the “Twitter Express,” for its dedicated service to the gritty mid-Market area now famously occupied by The Other Social Network.

However, ridership on the new 83X Mid-Market Express has been less than projected during the new line’s first couple of weeks of operation. A lot less.

The Ex reports in its first two weeks of operation. This would project annual riders on the line at less than a quarter of SFMTA’s predicted quota.

Ouch.

Muni is optimistic the numbers will improve, given a steady daily increase in ridership. The jump is going to have to be into hyperspace, though, to meet the original projection of 400,000 annual riders.

At the current pace, the 83X would only transport 93,600 a year. It would need to quadruple its numbers to meet expectations.

Muni spokesman Paul Rose told the Examiner slow starts aren’t unusual for new routes:

“In launches like this, the passengers typically increase as they find out about the service.”

And true, the line has only been in operation for two weeks and only runs during morning and evening commute times, about every 15 minutes. The 10-minute route largely avoids freeway traffic by taking Brannan and 9th or Townsend and 8th.

Ridership on the 83X Twitter bus does match up well to other downtown express buses. Even with sub-par early numbers, the 83X still outperformed the 80X Gateway, the 81X Caltrain and the 82X Levi’s Plaza. All average less than 300 riders per day.

Will the 83X Mid-Market Express bus pick up enough passengers to become a long-term solution for the SFMTA? As with many things Muni, we’ll have to wait on that one.