Muni Presents Hideous Numbers at Transit Hearing

Categories: Public Transit
Oily bus.jpg
Jim Herd
Par for the course
Audit: In April, Muni riders were delayed for a cumulative 19 years and eight months.

There is no metric to quantify the experience of realizing your pants are now sticky after having sat on Muni. But the agency is doing everything it can to produce sticky numbers of a different sort.

At a 1 p.m. hearing taking place this very moment during the Board of Supervisors  Land Use & Economic Development Committee, Muni officials will present the first of a series of quarterly reports on the state of the city's transit service. And while the report -- which you can read here -- is being delivered on time, there's a damn good chance your bus won't be.

This audit, undertaken at the behest of Supervisor Scott Wiener, is chock-full-o' horrifying statistics relating to time and money -- specifically, the former that riders are losing and the latter it will take to remedy the former.

To wit, since July:

  • Muni vehicles have only logged a 58.7 percent on-time performance. Perhaps worse yet, nearly 20 percent of all vehicles are showing up with "gaps" of five minutes or more than the scheduled time between buses or trains;

  • The system has had enough electric buses to meet peak weekday service only 64 percent of the time. It has had enough trains to do so only 33 percent of the time. In April, Muni only had enough trains to meet peak weekday service 9 percent of the time. That'd be two of the 22 weekdays in April;

  • There have been 216 line delays of 10 minutes or greater (and God knows how many of up to nine minutes). On any given day, an average of 181 vehicles are unavailable to carry passengers. Last month, those passengers experienced 172,195 hours of delays. So, yes, in April, Muni riders cooled their heels for a cumulative 19 years and eight months.

Hope you brought a magazine. But we haven't even gotten to the financial angle yet:

  • Muni faces a $320 million annual structural budget deficit. This includes $70 million in unaccounted-for operating needs and $260 million which would be required to keep equipment and infrastructure in a "state of good repair";

  • As of three years ago, an estimated $680 million in maintenance costs had been deferred; 

  • Maintenance meltdowns resulted in an estimated $4.2 million hit to the city economy in April, which extrapolates to some $50 million a year.

Today's hearing will ostensibly cover subjects such as how to reverse these deeply depressing numbers. Solutions contained within the documents being handed out right now at City Hall harked to many that Muni reformers have been pushing for years (these sorry numbers have also been reported in this paper for quite some time).

There's all-door boarding and transit-only lanes and better technology in scheduling and making an effort to replace archaic vehicles and maintain the buses and trains and infrastructure we keep. All of these are for the good -- but it warrants mentioning that the nascent Central Subway is currently pegged to eat $15.2 million from the agency's Operation and Maintenance budget -- and any cost overruns for the $1.6 billion endeavor will be bled from local funds that could otherwise make vehicles go or fix them up.

Let's see if anyone brings that up today.

These problems weren't caused in an afternoon and they cannot be solved in one, either. It will be interesting to see how Muni and other elements of city government react to these wretched numbers -- and how that reaction affects the data revealed in future quarterly reports.


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15 comments
nortonsf
nortonsf

We need an ELECTED San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

elizabethfrantes
elizabethfrantes

Ban all city cars for everyone, including the mayor.  End all free parking, free passes of any kind for City employees at all levels.  We'd save a fortune and they'd have to live by the rules they impose on us. 

SFer
SFer

There's much to do, but two ideas that will make timely service more realistic are to:

1) Remove excess bus stops. A stop every block or two is unnecessary and slows down transit. Space them out better and save time! I know it will inconvenience some, but slow transit inconveniences everyone.

2) Remove unnecessary lines and remove some of the electric trolley wires. Clearly there are not enough resources to cover all the existing lines - and I doubt there ever will be. Take out some lines that are relatively lightly used and focus on the "trunk" lines along Mission, Geary, etc. Also, the electric lines are just more infrastructure for taxpayers to maintain and the buses needed for them are specialized. Better to have more of the same type of buses which gives Muni more flexibility across its system.

joaqu1n
joaqu1n

To be completely honest, MUNI isn't that bad. I live in the Parkside area and haven't had a car for the past two years. Despite being in what some may consider to be an underserved transit area, I have few problems with MUNI. 

Wake up on time, leave 10 minutes early. If MUNI is running a little late, you'll be on time. If MUNI manages to pick you up on time, hey, you're early, get a coffee and and a paper. 

sfthen
sfthen

If Wiener was really concerned about Muni he'd get the numbers for how much sfmta has been budgeted annually for the past 20-or-30 years and then ask where that money went.  Muni is *not* underfunded, it is abysmally directed.

Here's one from before Wiener moved here, but organized by one of his predecessors:

"Snubbing Mayor Jordan to his face, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has decided to keep work rules for Muni drivers that the mayor says cost taxpayers $10 million a year and make for bad bus service.  Making a rare public appearance in the supervisors' chambers, Jordan asked the board Monday to extend negotiations between The City and the Transport Workers Union over the issue of work rules for 30 days past Friday's deadline to make changes this year.

"But the board - in a move orchestratedby Supervisor TomAmmiano and backed by the TWU - referred the matter to committee for a public hearing at a later date, effectively killing any chance to extend negotiations.  Ammiano's maneuver also allowed the board to avoid voting on the issue."

Muni will get more money and the service will get worse.  The two go hand-in-hand.

asdfasdf
asdfasdf

Scofflaws are irrelevant to the efficient operation of Muni for the majority of riders. Just make the bus show up on time, get people on board, get the bus moving, and you'll be much farther ahead of the game than if you hold up everyone checking transfers and Clipper transactions. Muni probably would come out with more fare revenue from increased ridership than from fines, too.

asdfasdf
asdfasdf

That's not a report, that's a Powerpoint presentation. Don't they have a real report that's understandable to someone not at the meeting?

sfdudely
sfdudely

We need grade-level boarding on all Muni vehicles. And also, to increase fines on turnstile jumpers. And to have more rider audits with ticket checkers on buses. Sue scofflaws in civil court if they fail to pay their fines and send them to jail. 

塞繆塞繆
塞繆塞繆

I seen a guy driver sleeping and woke up late for his pick up time and he left right before his bus changer out of order so he can speed up and pic up people due to his falling asleep, called muni they just took note an that's it!

Reina Mira
Reina Mira

Muni sucks! That's all! Sometimes I will walk for 20 minutes and no bus, early in the morning, where at least 3 different buses share the same bus stops. Ridiculous! And what about those drivers who always skip the first couple of stops so they can take more minutes on their breaks?

tedwalker
tedwalker

It always starts at the top,  in an atmosphere that has little regard for public monies.  California has been invaded by privateers that raid and plunder public coffers.

Robert la Bohème
Robert la Bohème

I tried Muni again after years. It messed up (again), of course. Disaster. So next time I'll know to "walk more" instead of to choose "fewer transfers." In fact, I ended up walking halfway across town before a bus ever came. Ridiculous.

sfdudely
sfdudely

@asdfasdf If you kept the non-paying stinkbombs from boarding, more people would feel comfortable riding Muni (without fear of getting "sticky pants," catching some disease, getting robbed, or harassed). 

They do it all over the world without holding up the flow of public transit. Just send auditors onto buses with authority to write $500 tickets to anyone who doesn't have a valid ticket.

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