A Transit Riders' Association for San Francisco
P.O. Box 190966
San Francisco, CA 94119-0966

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

Andrew Sullivan
Chair, Steering Committee / Chief Spokesperson
(415) 673-0626
>[email protected]

Daniel Murphy
Vice-Chair, Steering Committee
(415) 665-4074
[email protected]

Muni Improves to a B-minus in Rescue Muni Survey;
But System Still Has a Long Way to Go

Muni, San Franciscoís troubled mass transit system, earned a B-minus in the 2000 Rescue Muni Ridersí Survey, the first time the system has rated higher than a C in the four-year history of the study. The survey measures system reliability and waiting times. Rescue Muni leaders credited new equipment, better supervision, and more accountability for the improvement, as well as Muniís elimination of "miss-outs," a policy change demanded by Rescue Muni in last yearís ballot measure negotiations.

"Itís great to see that Muni is getting a little better," said Rescue Muni chair Andrew Sullivan, "but it still has a long way to go. We found that riders were delayed on 19% of all trips, which is 5.6% less than last year. That means a rider who rides a single line to work and back will, on average, experience a delay more often than one day in three. A rider who transfers once each way will be late almost three days a week. But this is a big improvement over our first survey, which found that transferring passengers were late almost every day."

74 Rescue Muni volunteers tracked Muniís on-time performance by measuring waiting times at stops. The organization compared the waiting times to those published by Muni. The survey is the largest and most extensive independent measurement of Muni reliability.

"Improvement was distributed pretty evenly in the system; most lines got a little bit better, and most lines got a ĎB-minusí or better," said Daniel Murphy, the organizationís vice chair. "This is the first survey in which improvement was relatively even; in past surveys, itís been scattered improvement and decline. But too many lines still rate ĎDí or ĎF.í Muni still isnít a very reliable way to get from place to place, though these results give us reason to hope things are slowly getting better."

The survey found that the best peforming lines were:

line riders delayed grade
K-Ingleside 4% A
9-San Bruno 5% A
28-19th Avenue 8% A-
33-Ashbury 8% A-
44-OíShaughnessy 10% B+

The worst performing lines were:

line riders delayed grade
L-Taraval 28% C-
42-Downtown Loop 30% D+
14-Mission 32% D+
30-Stockton 50% F
38-Geary 52% F

"The 38-Geary was our worst-performing line," Sullivan noted. "We think this underscores the importance of building light rail down Geary, and completing it this decade. The way to improve our two worst performing lines, the 38-Geary and the 30-Stockton, is to focus on lower-cost surface rail plans. We are skeptical of expensive Big Dig-style plans for underground tunnels, including the so-called Central Subway."

The K-Ingleside, which was singled out as the most reliable, was by far the most improved line in the system. Just two years ago it was graded ĎFí with 41% of passengers delayed; this year it got an ĎAí with just 4% of passengers delayed.

Why did Muni service improve? "Itís a combination of factors," Murphy said. "Itís new equipment, better street supervision, and more accountability." During negotiations last year which led to November 1999ís Proposition E, Rescue Muni insisted that "miss-outs," which allow Muni employees to miss work without calling in, be eliminated. "That probably made a big difference. Not just because Muni employees had to show up to work, but because it sends a message about whatís expected within the organization."

Not everything came up roses. Crowding on Muni did not improve since last year; the organization found that about one-eighth of all vehicles were crush-loaded, the same fraction as last year. The organization also expressed concern about performance on major corridors. "The 14-Mission is still once of the worst lines in the city, despite a 15% improvement," Sullivan said. "With all the talk about adding service South of Market, we hope Muni will focus some efforts on improving the reliability of the lines we already have." Sullivan also noted that the 42-Downtown Loop, which serves South of Market, performed very poorly.

Rescue Muni plans to continue its annual rider surveys, tracking the progress of Muniís new management as part of the voter-created independent Municipal Transportation Agency. "Next year will be the first test for the new MTA," Murphy said. "We will be watching them very closely."

"Muni worked hard for its B-minus, but we think they can get an ĎA,í" Sullivan said. "For people who can choose between driving and mass transit, itís hard to convince them to use Muni if they donít feel service is truly reliable."

Rescue Muni is a transit ridersí organization for customers of Muni. It was founded in 1996 by Muni riders seeking to improve the systemís reliability, service, and safety, currently has about 600 members, and continues to grow rapidly. In addition to their annual ridersí survey, Rescue Muni serves as a citizensí watchdog group for Muni. Rescue Muni co-sponsored November 1999ís Proposition E after circulating their own charter amendment earlier that year and participating in City Hall negotiations. Rescue Muni is an independent, nonpartisan group run entirely by volunteers and supported solely by its membersí dues.

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Posted 5/23/00.