Riders will start seeing new buses on San Francisco streets this week after city and transit officials unveiled Muni’s new fleet of hybrid buses near Pier 48. The 62 new biodiesel-electric hybrid buses will help replace Muni’s aging fleet of motor coaches, which have been service for more than…
Category Archives: SFMTA
Muni riders seem to be getting used to the all-door boarding policy. More and more riders are boarding the back of the buses since the implementation of the policy six months ago, which means less time waiting at bus stops during boarding times.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency says 51 percent of passengers are now boarding the back of the bus. The transit agency surveyed bus stops with at least passengers boarding. It looked at bus routes from its express/shuttle, rapid, community and local, which all showed an increase in rear door boardings.
A six-month report from the transit agency also says that dwell times at bus stops during boardings have decreased because of the increase of rear door boardings. As much as four seconds were saved per stop at bus stops with at least 10 passengers boarding. As many riders know, every second counts when it comes to getting somewhere on time.
Majority of complaints about the policy are mostly related to drivers not opening the back doors, and express riders are still not fond of the policy. Overall, complaints are down since the policy went into effect in July last year.
Muni says the fare evasion rate is down from 4.6 percent (July 2011 through Jan. 2012) to 3.5 percent (July 2012 through Jan. 2013). Muni ramped up its enforcement last year by hiring 11 transit fare inspectors to ensure riders that they will be checked for proof of payment at anytime, on any bus.
Fare inspectors handed out 40,262 citations to riders without proof of payment between July 2012 through Jan. 2013, which is an 87 percent increase (21,476 citations) between July 2011 through Jan. 2012.
The transit agency says it will perform a more comprehensive report, which will include running times for selected routes, a citation and enforcement update and a look at revenue.
Muni’s latest numbers service performance is not looking well. During the past seven months, on-time performance hovered around 60 percent, but August showed that Muni was only 57.2 percent on time.
The new figures by the Municipal Transportation Agency is part of the new performance metrics that debuted on Friday at the transit’s agency’s policy committee. Previous on-time performance figures have been questionable. The Bay Citizen reported that the transit agency had been inflating performance numbers during the past decade.
The new metric will look at on-time performance every month instead of quarterly (three months), and will include all Muni lines instead of a random sampling of Muni lines.
Muni spokesman Paul Rose said absent drivers, old Muni vehicles and an operator shortage contributed to Muni’s poor performance in the month of August. Special events such as the America’s Cup and San Francisco Giants and 49ers games were also the culprit in the low on time number. Some events were held on the same weekend, Rose said.
Unscheduled absences rose to 10.6 percent in August compared to 9.4 percent in July. John Haley, director of Muni operations, said some drivers called in sick because they were denied to take any vacation leave because of a continued operator shortage at the transit agency.
Other new performance measures that Muni officials will focus on include the bunching and gaps of Muni vehicles and percentage of on time departures from terminals.
September is not looking so great either. Rose said on-time performance for this month so far is around 58 percent.
A $19 million plan to rehabilitate 80 Muni buses is on the agenda at next week’s Municipal Transportation Agency board meeting. The contract would allow Complete Coach Works to spruce up Muni’s aging 40-foot Neoplan buses (Ex: 28-19th Avenue, 43-Masonic).
Some of the work will include replacing engines, transmissions, suspension system, radiators and brakes. Work will also be done inside and outside the Muni bus, which include a new paint scheme, destination signs and installation of new back doors.
The contractor will rehabilitate about four to eight buses at a time. It could take six to eight weeks to rehabilitate each vehicle depending on the extent of work needed on each vehicle. It could take as much as five years to upgrade all 80 Muni vehicles.
The Federal Transit Administration will provide most of the funding to rehabilitate the Muni vehicles.
The contract will also need an approval from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
You get on a Muni train headed for work in the morning, with five minutes to spare before your employer starts to dock your pay. You squeeze onto a crowded N-Judah and all seems to be going well until … the operator tells everyone to get off just before entering the Market Street tunnel so he can “switch back” on the outbound track to avoid vehicle bunching.
Muni gets points for making its trains meet a theoretical schedule. You, on the other hand, arrive late and get yelled at by your boss.
You’re not the only one who’s frustrated.
San Francisco’s civil grand jury — a kind of officially sanctioned panel of city residents who report on what doesn’t work in county government — recommended on Thursday that Muni officials do away with the practice of switchbacks. That’s when riders are forced off a Muni train before it makes its usual final stop, and heads in the opposite direction to make up for lost time elsewhere.
Muni uses switchbacks during transit delays and traffic jams to help put the whole system back on schedule. John Haley, Muni’s director of operations, said his agency approves switchbacks during non-peak times, and only if there is another vehicle coming within five minutes.
“We recognize that anytime you do a switchback, it has an inconvenience to the riders,” Haley said. “So we do everything we can to minimize that.”
The civil grand jury report said switchbacks were an inconvenience for riders. The report recommends eliminating switchbacks except for accidents, other emergencies or equipment breakdowns.
The panel surveyed other transportation agencies to find out if switching back trains was the common practice that Muni officials claimed. In a comparison that included BART and transit systems in Paris, Boston and Oakland, none used switchbacks to reduce delays except Santa Clara Valley’s. From this research, the report concluded that Muni “expresses a callous disregard for San Francisco passengers.”
Haley disputed the finding that other transit agencies did not use the practice, and disagreed with the basis for some of the comparisons. He said BART does not operate in the same high-traffic, street-level environment that Muni trains must negotiate. He also noted that Boston’s Green Line does switchbacks every day.
The civil grand jury said the transit agency should “effectively use new technology” to solve some of its most chronic problems. On a tour of Muni’s monitoring facility, panel members reported finding it understaffed, with no direct communication with vehicle operators.
Haley countered that the report made no mention of improvements now underway, including staffing changes and a new radio communications system. He added that in six week the NextMuni online prediction system will be upgraded, letting riders with smartphones know when a train is switched back.
This is not the first time Muni officials have gotten heat for the practice of switchbacks. The Board of Supervisors held hearings in 2010 and 2011 because of complaints from riders. Most came from Sunset District residents who said switchbacks came too often on the N-Judah and L-Taraval lines.
“At a time when we’re aggressively reaching out to talk about the things that we are doing and need to do more of, and what are the right kinds of things to improve the service, this report contributes nothing to that dialogue,” Haley said. He said Muni will have a formal response to the grand jury report in the coming weeks.