On time performance numbers sketchy?

Like many, we were unhappy to hear that the SFMTA has used accounting tricks to inflate its on-time performance numbers, as the Chronicle recently reported. This was by no means the intent of the service standards we co-authored in 1999’s Proposition E; the whole point of the standards is to give riders and Muni staff a clear and unbiased view of service reliability, so that planners and managers can effectively run the system.

Most appallingly, “Late inbound Muni trains heading to the Embarcadero Station were excluded from the calculation because ‘service in the tunnel cannot be controlled'” – even though every rider knows that inbound service in the tunnel is subject to massive delays.

However, we don’t like the approach some have taken in response, to complain that service standards should not be so strict, or should not be in the Charter. It does make sense to add better measures of headways, since that is what most riders perceive when they go to the stop, and we are encouraged that SFMTA plans to do this. But we will never support relaxing or removing service standards from the Charter or agency rules; only when San Franciscans have an honest view of the quality of Muni service will we be able to make smart decisions about how to improve it.