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

Hotline: (415) 273-1558
board at rescuemuni.org
FOR RELEASE MAY 29, 2002, 10:30 A.M.

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

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

Muni Shows Real Improvement in Annual Survey;
Delays Cut by Half Since 1998

Rescue Muni, San Francisco's transit riders' association, announced today that the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) has once again improved its reliability. Muni earned a B grade in the 2002 Muni Riders' Survey, its best grade yet. Delays are down for the fourth straight year, with 14% of riders experiencing a delay in this year's survey; this was 3.3 percentage points better than in 2001 and just over half the number of riders delayed in 1998, the year of the infamous "Muni Meltdown."

Rescue Muni leaders gave credit to Muniís director, Michael Burns, and Muniís employees for the improvement. "Thereís no question, Muni is much better than it was just a few years ago," said Rescue Muni Survey Coordinator Collin Maslov. "Riders participating in our survey were delayed only fourteen percent of the time, earning Muni a solid B grade. At this rate, riders are delayed about one ride in seven. This isnít perfect, but itís a substantial improvement over the days when riders were late every third or fourth ride."

67 Rescue Muni volunteers tracked Muniís on-time performance throughout March 2002 by measuring the waiting time for the rides they took, and by watching vehicles go by fixed points, collecting 2,464 data points. The organization compared the waiting times to those published by Muni. The survey is the largest and most extensive independent measurement of Muni reliability.

"Service is much more consistent than it used to be," said Maslov. "In past years, we had many lines graded 'D' or 'F' for extremely poor service. This year, the vast majority of lines were graded 'B' or better, and no line was graded 'F.'"

The survey found that the best peforming lines were:

line riders delayed grade change from 2001
47-Van Ness 4% A -13%
49-VN-Mission 5% A -15%
38-Geary 6% A -27%
2-Clement 7% A- +7%
33-Ashbury 7% A- -6%

The worst performing lines were:

line riders delayed grade change from 2001
KLM subway 35% D +7% (Embarcadero to West Portal)
L-Taraval 30% D+ +2%
M-Ocean View 28% C- -1%
22-Fillmore 23% C+ -4%
10-Townsend 22% C+ N/A (New after 2001 survey)

Rescue Muni cited several factors leading to improved service quality, including Muniís increased annual budget and new equipment. "Clearly the budget increases over the last several years have made a difference," said Rescue Muni Chair Andrew Sullivan. "We've seen both an increased level of service on some lines and a reduction in missed service. In addition, the fleet replacement program is having a positive effect, particularly on diesel bus lines that used to run extremely old and unreliable coaches."

Sullivan also mentioned that decreased reliability of KLM service was at least partially attributed to the rail replacement work that was being done on K and L lines during the time survey was conducted.

Despite the significant improvement, Muni is not completely "rescued," however. Vice Chairman Daniel Murphy noted that the years of big budget increases may be over for a while. "The 2003 Muni budget is projected to be slightly less than that for 2002 - and that is with increased labor and other costs," he said. "Muni will need to manage its costs much more carefully to ensure that these improvements are not lost. At no time will unplanned service cuts or missed service be acceptable."

In addition, some improvements in service speed may have resulted from reductions in automobile traffic due to the soft economy. "We can't count on reduced traffic to help Muni every year," said Sullivan. "Fortunately, the MTA will soon have control of the Department of Parking and Traffic, and the new MTA will be able to reserve much more right-of-way for buses and streetcars to keep transit riders moving. We urge them to add as many bus lanes as possible while auto traffic is down."

Rescue Muni plans to continue its annual rider surveys, keeping an independent eye on one of San Franciscoís most important public services. "This B grade is a big improvement, but we think Muni should be able to get an A next year," said Maslov.

Rescue Muni is a transit riders' organization for San Francisco. It was founded in 1996 by Muni riders seeking to improve the systemís reliability, service, and safety, currently has about 400 members, and continues to grow rapidly. In addition to conducting the annual riders' survey, Rescue Muni serves as a citizens' watchdog group for Muni. Rescue Muni co-sponsored November 1999's Proposition E after circulating its 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 members' dues.

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Posted 5/29/02.