Streetfilms: Making Muni Faster and More Reliable by Speeding Up Boarding

Some of the most important changes for Muni are also the simplest
ones.

That’s the message of a five-part Streetfilms series on ways to
speed up and enhance Muni service that we’ll be presenting in the coming
weeks, and it’s certainly true of the first film, on speeding up
boarding, which we’re presenting today. The film was shot and edited by Streetfilms’ John Hamilton.

The most immediate thing Muni could do to speed up boarding on its buses is switch to a system called proof-of-payment, which allows riders who have a monthly Fast Pass, a transfer, or a TransLink card to board through any door on the bus. Instead of showing the driver proof-of-payment, passengers just hold on to their transfer, and fare inspectors randomly board vehicles to check for payment. That’s already how it works on Muni’s light rail vehicles when they run on the street, where it has led to faster boarding times and lower fare evasion rates.

In fact, the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA), which operates Muni, is already studying the idea and hopes to move forward with it eventually, according to Julie Kirschbaum, project manager for the MTA’s Transit Effectiveness Project. Kirschbaum explains the idea in the film, and we also hear from SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf, Livable City’s Tom Radulovich, and San Francisco Transit Riders Union organizer Dave Snyder.

Switching to proof-of-payment and all-door boarding isn’t the only way to speed up boarding: moving to low-floor buses is a big part of the long-term solution, and the film looks at it as well.

The great thing about moving to all-door boarding is Muni could do it almost immediately. Now it’s up to riders and policymakers to get excited about the idea and
make it happen.

  • david vartanoff

    Muni could start by activating the Translink readers at the rear doors which are currently out of service.

  • Richard Rothman

    I use translink and I used it on the back of the N lines. MUNI should offer a discount for riders who use translink. I have autload this is great.

  • It would be nice if Muni installed bus/train stop pre pay machines at places where the dwell time for a bus to board passengers is quite long. Examples: Geary and Powell, Pier 39 outbound for F-Market, and Ferry Building inbound for F-Market.

  • MG

    Maybe it’s just me, but I have never seen a fare inspector on a Muni bus before. I’ve frequently seen them on the F-line and in the subway stations, but never on a bus.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    It drives me nuts when some self-appointed vigilantes who read a few two many Nevius columns try to keep fast pass holders from boarding the rear door. I see this on the 38 frequently. Just let them board!

  • Joseph

    Prepay machines should also be located at boarding islands along market in addition to those locations. The effectiveness of machines will come down to maintenance, which is not Muni’s best attribute. To avoid confusion, all major stops should have clear signs outlining POP on muni and itemizing exactly how one can pay.

  • Nick

    So in a 8 hour shift, drivers are only moving for four of those hours? That seems like a pretty sweet deal. Would they have an incentive to resist these changes as it would require 6-7 hours of driving a day?

  • @Joseph They need to find more reliable machines. Those vending machines BART uses look really reliable. The lowest bidder doesn’t always provide the best ones. The decade old ones at SF State and Stonestown platforms are the same ones that were used to pay for Cable Car tickets back in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

  • Adam Hartzell

    Of the many productive things to say about this, let me add that I like how it works with the efforts people make to speed things up rather than working against those efforts. Yes, there are people who board from the back w/o paying, but it is true that a lot of people board from the back w/ fast passes or legitimate transfers to speed things along. Forcing people to get on in the front, which takes longer and creates a front bus bottleneck, just exacerbates frustrations people already have with MUNI. So I like how it works with efforts folks are already engaging in to speed things up rather than seeing those efforts as ‘all bad’ and needing to be stopped.

  • Sprague

    As has already been mentioned at streetsblog, vehicle operators in many European cities do not check or even collect fares. Every streetcar in Vienna is equipped with ticket vending machines which are located just behind the driver. Buses in Vienna used to have such machines, too, but this was discontinued because the buses’ movements caused these machines to be out of service more often. (Now the bus drivers collect fares.) Since fares (tickets) sold onboard transit vehicles are about 25% more expensive, most riders buy their tickets from vending machines (at all subway and train stations) and at tobacco shops/newsstands ahead of time (these tickets must then be validated upon boarding), or they use passes. By the way, I sure hope that the SFMTA management reads streetsblog, too!

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