Some Crowding and Confusion, but Muni Service Changes Mostly Smooth

IMG_0777.jpgAn MTA "transit ambassador" offers assistance to a rider at Valencia and Cesar Chavez Streets this morning. Photo: Michael Rhodes

It wasn’t without grumbling, but commuters this morning made it through the biggest changes to Muni’s bus network in over 30 years, and the MTA wasn’t sent scrambling to fix any huge problems.

Calls to 311 have spiked by 40 percent since the service changes took place Saturday, according to the Examiner, but the MTA reports that riders are mostly calling for information about the changes, not to complain. So far, there’s no indication of major issues, but given that the MTA saved virtually nothing from the changes – the $3.2 million was all from driver schedule efficiencies, since total service hours weren’t reduced – riders are certainly entitled to evaluate the changes as a revision that should improve overall service, not degrade it.

The recently-deceased 26-Valencia, one of several routes that were cut, has inspired a great deal of nostalgia among its former riders, many of whom admit they took the line rarely. For the most part, though, the first Monday without a 26 line in over a century has been without incident. Standing at the corner of Valencia and Cesar Chavez Street, a Muni "transit ambassador" who had been out on bicycle along the route of the former line all morning said he’d spotted only a few people who appeared to be waiting for the 26. Everyone else, he said, was aware of the change, and he was mostly kept busy by instructing passengers on new ways to reach their destinations.

A man from Detroit told the transit ambassador, who didn’t want to be identified, that walking even an extra block from Valencia to Mission could be a hardship for less mobile transit riders, but also expressed shock that buses in San Francisco stop on nearly every block, slowing down service. Other riders said they recognized the abundance of transit alternatives, and the 26’s low frequency made it an understandable candidate for cancellation. Still, some said they preferred it to the Mission Street lines because of its less-crowded buses.

Ironically, the addition of a new line, the 9L-San Bruno Limited, seemed to cause more confusion than the scrapping of the 26-Valencia and other lines. The 9L, which runs weekdays and had its first run today, mostly traces the same route as the existing 9-San Bruno but with fewer stops and faster service

One bus driver said he’d encountered some kinks in his first day driving it.

"It ain’t good at all," said the driver, who didn’t give his name. Riders were "not feeling it at all," he reported, as some were still figuring out whether they could take the limited service bus or would be better served by the local. Overfull 9s passed some riders up, he said. Another driver who’d just completed his first run on the 9L said he hadn’t seen any problems, however. Service is just as frequent on the 9 local in the morning as ever, so riders may simply be adjusting to the changes. The 9L service originated from the MTA’s outreach during the Transit Effectiveness Project. Its popularity with riders will be a partial referendum on some of the TEP’s recommendations, including running buses with fewer stops.

The MTA has continued to report that things have gone smoothly since the service changes went into effect on Saturday, through today’s morning commute. "I certainly didn’t intend to suggest that any added service we’re putting on crowded lines is going to mean there’s no crowds. Muni’s a crowded system," said MTA spokesperson Judson True.

But, he added, "I don’t know of any particular bunching issues or anything."

There were several reports on Twitter of slow N-Judah service this morning, prompting some riders to wonder whether the service changes were at fault. "Wondering whether the Muni service changes are responsible for this insanely slow N that’s making me miss my transfer," wrote Twitter user Whiney Commuter. True said the issue was entirely unrelated, however, since the service changes don’t affect weekday rail service.

The Mayor trumpeted the service changes as an important modernization of the system in an Examiner op-ed piece today. More painful cuts could be on the table, however, as the MTA faces a mid-year budget gap. Mayor Newsom continues to oppose extending parking meter hours to help close the gap, so he could be the face of future service cuts.

How was your first day commuting post-service changes? Were you on the right or the wrong end of efficiency? Let us know in the comments section below.

  • Some of the 14L stops were shuffled around. Instead of stopping at 18th and 22nd streets in the Inner Mission, it now just stops at 20th St. Unfortunately this means I no longer have a 14L stop where I live. I’m really happy about the increased frequency and service hours, but I have to walk further for it. However, I still haven’t seen a 14L pass up 18th St. since Saturday. So, I wonder how many people waiting at 20th St. get passed up even though they are at the correct stop.

  • SF MTA say that NextMuni was giving incorrect information is a little like saying the dog ate their homework. When I’m figuring out whether or not to wait for a MUNI vehicle or just walk, I rely on NextMuni. On Saturday, the N-Judah service ceased going south of Embarcadero, leaving Rincon Hill, South Beach, and Mission Bay/Caltrain folks to rely on the T-Third. Well, a T-Third scheduled to run every 12-13 minutes during Noon-ish on Saturday was reported by NextMuni to be next arriving in 30 minutes or so … that was inbound both when I went to Powell Station from the Harrison/Folsom stop (on an outbound T-Third which, as NextMuni predicted, came 7 minutes after I arrived luckily) and when I finished my shopping in Union Square and was ready to head back to Rincon Hill, there was another 30 some minute wait according to NextMuni for the next T-Third Metro (again, supposedly scheduled to run every 12-13 minutes.

    While I took the variance of T-Thirds at 2-3 times the scheduled frequencies well and just decided to ride my bike to Mission Bay Branch Library on 4th at Berry later in the afternoon Saturday, I’m thinkin’ some of my neighbors are probably going say screw it and get into their car … after all, they don’t pay out the nose rents/mortgages to live downtown to squander minutes of their lives, kinda defeats the purpose of living downtown, ya know?

    Personally, I’ll probably cease buying Fast Passes … TransLink will do it for me since there is no longer any MUNI service running through the residential core of Rincon Hill between Folsom and Harrison east of 2nd Street.

    If it was just a NextMuni glitch, fine .. fix NextMuni. However, if the T-Third was actually running every 30 minutes in the middle of the day Saturday, I hope SF MTA thinks about restarting N-Judah service past Embarcadero on the weekends. I know the folks in SF MTA haven’t gotten this clue yet, but there are about 4,000 people living in Rincon HIll’s buildings along Harrison and Folsom from 2nd Street east to the water these days … maybe with all of the property tax dollars we contribute, we can get that proposed 11-Downtown bus line and a 2-way Folsom STreet for it to run along sooner rather than later.

  • Every time the new, extended 10 bus rolls down my street, I smile. I know not everyone was so lucky, but I love the new bus routes!

  • My wife ended up walking from Polk, over Russian Hill, to North Beach yesterday because the 45 was no where in sight. Not once during her walk did a 45 pass her.

    I also want to comment on the N during the weekends. A lot of people come up on Caltrain and use the N to get to Golden Gate park and the museums located there. Now we are asking the, to take the infrequent T and then transfer to the N line? I understand they are trying to cut the end off the N to increase turn around, but the stretch from EMB to Caltrain is all dedicated ROW, I can’t see it really taking that much extra time (save for the horrible intersection that is 4th and King.

  • natt

    I am extremely displeased that they discontinued the 20 completely AND made changes so that the 10 is no longer leaving from Russian Hill to the Financial District. Many of us in the area commute to work downtown every day, and for them to just completely wipe out two buses at once is absolutely ridiculous. I had to take the 30 to Chinatown and then take a cab to work because I was already late.

    It will be much faster for me to walk to work every day from now on rather than rely on MUNI. When I called to complain and request a refund for my fastpass and was told that they don’t do that. I am so outraged… there has to be something we can do.

  • The 20 is also hitting my wife pretty hard. Only direct connection from North Beach, Russian Hill (Union St areas) to the FiDi. Natt, my wife walks and loves it, but you probably have an extra 5-10 blocks on her. But my advice to you is to never depends on the 30/45, and I stress NEVER. I’ve given up on taking it to the Caltrain as I just ride my bike now and it takes half the time. But today I had to take the bus and I missed my train and was 45 min late to work.

  • The commute from Noe Valley to Caltrain on the 48 is at least 5 minutes faster, despite the turn from 25th onto Wisconsin being very difficult for the buses – I think they need to remove a parking spot or two at that intersection.

    As it always seems, the (affluent) Caltrain commuters got a better deal, the (poor) elementary school students who now have to walk a couple of steep blocks up Wisconsin did not. They’re young, they can handle it, I guess.

  • and how much does muni have to pay for 311 calls, which we all know to be worthless since the 311 operators are just looking up stuff on the NextMuni and MTA websites…whereas if they called 511 at least Muni wouldn’t be paying 2 bucks a call for someone to go Google stuff…

  • But 311 is the only thing Gavin has accomplished.

  • ZA

    I just want to be sure that GoogleMaps has already updated its route information.

  • Andy Chow

    Perhaps you could lobby the MTA and Golden Gate Transit to allow open door service in SF. There are lots of Golden Gate Transit buses that run on Beach and North Point streets between the bridge and financial district.

  • Stefan

    The Good: the 10 now ends/starts at 25th and hampshire – just like the 33! More easy-to-time bus rides for me, more business for the palestinian immigrants who run the corner store right there.

    The Bad: the 9L Really. Needs. To. Stop. At. SFGH. As it is, the folks coming from the TL and back to the hospital could really use a stop at 21st or 22nd St. Many disabled and elderly folks from the TL, Vis Valley, Portola, Sunnydale, Vis Valley and Crocker Amazon go to the clinics there via the 9. It crazy that there’s no stop and I feel a bit guilty that I missed this snafu when I reviewed the service changes months ago. It seems like half the 9’s are now 9Ls – so for all those folks going to the hospital who can’t walk the 5 blocks to and from the clinics from 16th or 24th this is a definite decrease in service.

    And of course there’s the otherwise healthy-ish folks going for their morning dose. I’d much rather deal with the slow down of an additional stop to make it easier for them to stay clean.

    The Confusing: I think i’ve forgotten how to get around town without Routesy (iPhone app) – but it’s not updated with the new lines. Since I ride muni and bike for work, I was slowed up a couple times monday and tuesday while I fiddled on my phone, expecting it to solve my transportation conundrums. The good news is google maps seems to be all updated.

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