P.O. Box 190966
San Francisco, CA 94119-0966

Hotline: (415) 273-1558
board at rescuemuni.org

FOR RELEASE 4/8/1998, 9:30 A.M.

Andrew Sullivan
RESCUE MUNI Survey Coordinator
(415) 673-0626
[email protected]

Daniel Murphy
RESCUE MUNI Steering Committee
(415) 665-4074
[email protected]

SAN FRANCISCO, 4/8/98 – The Municipal Railway’s recent reforms have not improved on-time performance, while the Muni Metro has become even less reliable in the last year, according to the survey released today by the transit riders’ advocacy group RESCUE MUNI.

This independent survey, now in its second year, attempts to measure the transit system’s on-time performance from the perspective of the average rider. 147 volunteers monitored their Muni lines for the first two weeks in February, tracking over 3,000 vehicles. The survey gave letter grades to bus and streetcar lines based on how long riders were forced to wait. 10 of the 36 lines in the sample, including all major above-ground Muni Metro lines, received a ‘D’ or ‘F’. Muni as a whole was rated ‘C’, with 28 percent of riders experiencing a delay, slightly more than in 1997.

“If you ride the Muni Metro to work, you’ll be late almost every day,” said survey coordinator Andrew Sullivan. “If you take the bus, you’ll be late every other day.”

Streetcar lines performing particularly badly were the L-Taraval, J-Church, N-Judah, and K-Ingleside, all rated ‘F’ with at least 41 percent of riders waiting longer than the frequency advertised on Muni’s street map. The Metro as a whole was rated ‘D’, with 35 percent of riders delayed, significantly more riders than in the 1997 survey, when it was rated ‘C’. During the evening rush hour, 57 percent of Metro riders were forced to wait. Many riders also spoke of long delays in the tunnel to Embarcadero, with some short rides taking as long as 60 minutes.
“No wonder people drive to work, even when they live on the streetcar line,” said RESCUE MUNI member Joan Downey, who sat for 40 minutes on an N-Judah car stuck in the tunnel. “If you need to get somewhere on time, the Metro is useless at rush hour.”

For bus riders, Muni appears not to have improved since last year. As was the case in 1997, most bus lines were graded ‘C’, with riders delayed between 20 and 30 percent of the time. Overall, 28 percent of express riders, 27 percent of trolley coach (electric bus) riders, and 23 percent of diesel motorcoach riders were delayed. Particularly troublesome lines included the 14-Mission, one of the city’s most-traveled lines, and the 41-Union, both graded ‘F’.

Some lines showed signs of improvement, however. Last year’s worst performers, the 1-California and 22-Fillmore, were both graded ‘C’ this year. Most improved was the F-Market historic streetcar, graded ‘D’ in 1997 and ‘B’ in 1998. Two lines, the 2-Clement and 44-O’Shaughnessy, received a grade of ‘A’ with fewer than 10 percent of riders delayed.

Many participants reported a positive experience with Muni customer service, commenting that Muni operators and staff were more courteous than they had been in the past. “My driver was very nice - he called out all the stops and other bus routes,” reported participant Gene Hwang. “Even though I don’t always get to work on time, it is nice to be treated professionally.”

The survey results raise important questions about the effectiveness of Mayor Brown’s renewed focus on Muni and the reforms of Muni Director Emilio Cruz. The results for some bus lines and the historic streetcars suggest that the Mayor’s emphasis on traffic control may be making a difference, particularly on lines like the 1-California and 30-Stockton that experience delays due to gridlock. But the Muni Metro’s disappointing results suggest that San Francisco’s multimillion-dollar investment in new streetcars, tracks, and the Advanced Train Control System have yet to make a difference and may even be making matters worse.

“Of course, the E-Embarcadero did fine,” said Sullivan, noting that the newly opened Muni Metro extension was graded ‘B’. “But hardly anyone took it.”

RESCUE MUNI, A Transit Riders’ Association for San Francisco, is an organization of concerned riders who seek to make service faster, safer, more reliable, and more responsive to riders’ needs. Founded in 1996, it now has more than 250 members throughout the city.


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