A Transit Ridersí Association for San Francisco

Box 190966, SF, CA 94119 ï 415/273-1558 ï www.rescuemuni.org

Remarks of Vice Chair Daniel Murphy
(SF County Transportation Authority, 3/5/01)

Good morning, commissioners.

My name is Daniel Murphy. Iím the vice chair of Rescue Muni, the transit ridersí association for San Francisco. I represented Rescue Muni in the negotiations that led to President Ammianoís proposal, and I am asking you to support that proposal today.

President Ammiano did a terrific job of mediating negotiations and we greatly appreciate his efforts to bring about a reasonable, workable policy here. We also appreciate his efforts to include Muni riders in the negotiations.

The top complaint of Muni riders is reliability. If the bus isnít there, it doesnít matter if itís clean, it doesnít matter if the driver is friendly, it doesnít matter if you get a seat. Youíre late to work, again.

But thereís some good news. Muni has become more reliable over the past several years. This is documented both by Muniís internal monitoring and Rescue Muniís independent annual rider survey.

We believe fleet replacement is a major factor in these service improvements. You cannot get good service from old, unreliable equipment. Many of Muniís diesel buses are years and years overdue for replacement.

Rescue Muni believes that purchasing the diesel buses is essential to keeping the gains in reliability and continuing to meet the service standards set forth in Proposition E. When we helped negotiate Proposition E, our service standards assumed that fleet replacement would continue at a reasonable pace.

It will take 3 1/2 yearsñat bestñfor Muni to acquire buses other than those in the Neoplan option. Thatís too long to keep old, dirty, unreliable buses on the street.

Purchasing the diesel buses is best for public health. Why? Because you canít measure the public health impact of a bus purchase based solely on what comes out of the tailpipe.

When Muni service became less reliable in the 1990ís, ridership fell. Many people who ride Muni own or have access to cars, unlike other transit agencies, like Los Angelesí, which cater mostly to people too poor to afford any other mode of transportation. Many of the riders lost by Muni got into their cars. When Muni service improved, ridership went up. Presumably, some of that gain was recovered from private vehicles.

If Muni service were to decline again, many riders would get back in their cars, producing more pollution, endangering pedestrians, worsening traffic congestion, and making working class people poorer by increasing their transportation costs.

We also believe there are risks in Muni jumping head-first into new fuel technology. While CNG buses have been used successfully by some transit agencies, these agencies often bear little or no resemblance to Muni. No other agency must negotiate San Franciscoís steep hills and make stops every couple of blocks and operate with such high passenger loads and operate very frequent service almost around the clock.

For these reasons, Muni should be allowed the time it needs to complete a pilot project in whatever new fuel technologies are to be used here.

In New York City, a transit agency that resembles San Franciscoís more than most, CNG buses have proven to be significantly less reliable than diesel. In a July 2000 presentation, Dana Lowell of NYCTís R&D division said that CNG buses are only 50-75% as reliable as diesel buses.

Thatís unacceptable.

Riders in New York agree. The New York City Transit Riders Council released a carefully researched and documented white paper last year arguing against CNG conversion and questioning the emissions benefits of such vehicles.

While Rescue Muni firmly believes that purchasing all 175 diesel buses would be best for both service and air quality, we will support the compromise proposal put forth by President Ammiano. It provides 95 badly-needed diesel buses right away and allows for a pilot program by which CNG and Diesel-Electric Hybrid buses can be compared and tested in Muniís unique operating environment.

The proposal also pushes for electrification of Muni lines. Rescue Muni strongly supports electrification, which provides better service and less noise.

We hope that each of you will join Muni, Rescue Muni, and environmentalists in building community support in your respective districts for electrification. Electrification offers a zero-emission option with proven technology that we know works in this city.

The proposal provides the bare minimum of diesel buses needed to keep up progress on service standards and it allows for Muni to move forward responsibly into alternative fuel technologies. Under the terms negotiated in President Ammianoís office, Muni commits to pilot programs in three low-pollution fuel technologies, including fuel cell.

Perhaps Muni should have started sooner with an exploration of alternative fuels. But thatís water under the bridge now. Muni riders should not be punished for any oversights of managers who arenít here anymore.

Muni has new management today, and Proposition E has been in effect for only a year. When Mr. Burns arrived, I donít have to remind you that Muni was in total meltdown.

Rescue Muni has not always agreed with Muni management. We are Muniís most frequent and vociferous critics.

But they are right about this.

We need these buses.

We need them now.

Do not un-Rescue Muni.

Thank you, commissioners, for hearing us out.

And thank you, President Ammiano, for bringing about this very reasonable compromise.