100 First St., Suite 100, Box 365
San Francisco, CA 94105-2634

Hotline: (415) 273-1558

FOR RELEASE 3/19/1997, 9:30 A.M.

Andrew Sullivan
RESCUE Muni Survey Coordinator
(415) 673-0626

George Musser
RESCUE Muni Co-founder
(415) 203-7097

SAN FRANCISCO, March 19th - One in four riders waits longer than Muni's published service frequency, according to the results of a new survey released today by the transit riders' advocacy group RESCUE Muni.

The survey was the first ever conducted that attempted to measure the transit system's on-time performance from the perspective of the average rider. The survey gave letter grades to bus and streetcar lines based on how long their riders were forced to wait. Eight of the 23 lines in the sample received a 'D' or 'F'.

"If you commute to and from work every day, you'll be late to work or coming home every other day on average," said survey coordinator Andrew Sullivan. "If you have to transfer, you'll be late every single day."

The worst lines in the city were the 22-Fillmore bus, with 55 percent of riders waiting longer than the frequency published on Muni's street map; 1-California, with 43 percent of riders delayed; and the 19-Polk, with 42 percent of riders delayed.

"It's amazing this is tolerated in a city that thinks of itself as world-class," said RESCUE Muni co-founder George Musser.

RESCUE Muni, founded last summer, is a 225-member group of disgruntled riders who seek to make service faster, safer, more reliable, and more responsive to riders' concerns. Nearly 100 members monitored bus and streetcar lines for the first two weeks in February in the first-of-its-kind survey. They gathered data on their waiting times on 1,365 separate rides. Many returned not just with data, but also with horror stories.

"On my ride, the driver stopped the bus to go buy candy. I didn't get his ID because he wasn't wearing his coat," said RESCUE Muni member Jeff Goldblat. On another ride, Goldblat reported that he waited 51 minutes for the 3-Jackson line. The 3-Jackson is scheduled to come every 20 minutes.

The survey found that the waiting time varied enormously. Riders on the 22-Fillmore line waited anywhere from 0 to 35 minutes, even at the same time of day.

"Muni is consistently unreliable," said RESCUE Muni co-founder Ken Niemi. "I have to give myself an hour and a half to make sure I get to the theater in time for a movie. I've even stopped going to movies because I spend more time getting there than watching the film."

Some lines did well. The 27-Bryant delayed only 5 percent of its passengers, the KLM-Metro 7 percent, and the 6-Parnassus 9 percent.

Sullivan cautioned that the survey method errs on the side of Muni. "Riders reported how long they waited, which doesn't catch all late buses," he said. "Some riders are lucky and arrive at the stop just before a late bus shows up."

Muni's "Short-Range Transit Plan," released last November, found that 47 percent of vehicles are late. But this internal survey measured the interval between successive buses, rather than the delays actually experienced by riders.

"Given the different methods used in monitoring, the results are similar," Sullivan said. "Our monitors miss about half of late buses because they arrive at random times. They aren't like Muni staff, who are paid to monitor buses all day."

Niemi said that RESCUE Muni plans to survey other aspects of Muni's performance from the riders' point of view, such as the duration of rides and the accuracy of signs. He said that many of Muni's deficiencies will require extra funding, but that it first needs to make progress on the daily frustrations of riders before additional taxpayer dollars are allocated.

"Muni isn't properly funded, but Muni doesn't use its existing resources as well as it could, and it needs to improve before people will go along with giving Muni more funds," Niemi said.

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