Muni’s Ten Percent Reduction Takes Effect: How Was Your Commute?

IMG_2026.jpgRain didn’t exactly make the 10 percent service frequency reduction more pleasant. Photos: Michael Rhodes

Today is the first workday test of the Muni system after a ten percent overall reduction in service frequency went into effect on Saturday. The scene on this rainy Monday didn’t look all that different from a typical Muni commute: the buses were crowded and the waits were occasionally longer than they should be, but for the most part, people made it to their destination — if not on time.

Complicating matters, Muni had a problem with its Automatic Train Control System (ATCS) that disrupted service on the J-Church and N-Judah for part of the morning, mixing up service cut confusion with run-of-the-mill mishap.

Aside from that, many of the riders Streetsblog spoke with this morning said they hadn’t noticed a big change. But when Julia Brashares, who was waiting for the 33-Stanyan at 18th and Castro, started thinking about it, the extra-long wait for the bus this morning started to seem like it could be related to the service cuts.

She normally waits about seven to twelve minutes for the 33, and feels she has pretty good luck catching Muni in a reasonable amount of time. But today, she arrived to find a NextBus prediction of 22 minutes. With an appointment to make before she headed to work, the extra wait was especially a drag.

It might be something she’ll have to get used to. The revised service schedule calls for the 33 to operate at 20 minute frequencies in the morning, versus 15 minutes before the service changes.

On the other hand, Brashares said she already bikes for about half her trips, and the recent service cuts just might prompt her to do so even more. The rain today made that a less attractive option, but she said the trip certainly would have been faster by bike. Even with the service cuts, driving more isn’t in the cards for Brashares, who doesn’t own a car, but occasionally uses City CarShare.

She’s planning to follow the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency budget process more closely now. "I think it’s a quality of life issue," she said, lamenting the transit cuts.

IMG_2015.jpgOne Muni Metro rider said she felt "somewhat protected" from the cuts since she mostly rides Muni trains, not buses.

Traveling inbound on the L-Taraval, Debbie W. said she’d heard about the service cuts, but wasn’t sure how they’d affect her most-traveled lines, the K, L, and M. Since she mostly rides the Muni Metro system, boarding at West Portal station, she feels "somewhat protected" from the cuts, which she hasn’t noticed yet.

But she does occasionally take bus lines near West Portal, so the service frequency reduction might mean more driving for her. As for her commute to work in the Tenderloin, she’s not ready to pay for parking in a garage every day, and says Muni would have to cut service a lot further — "perhaps if it were one train an hour" — before she’d ditch public transit.

Heading the other way through the Twin Peaks tunnel, a Muni operator who hadn’t yet started his shift today said he’s been watching the service changes this morning, and observed them while riding the N-Judah to a friend’s house this weekend. Compared to typical conditions, he called the trains "not too crowded."

"It doesn’t feel different," he said, preparing to start the 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. "twilight" shift. He’s been on the job for 23 years, and said service has gradually improved in his time at Muni.

"It’s getting better through the years, and more reliable," he said.

In general, the train lines weren’t as severely impacted as some of the lower-frequency bus lines, some of which saw headways get longer by ten minutes or more in the new service schedule. The SFMTA adopted the service cuts to help cover a mid-year budget deficit, and recently voted to extend them into the next fiscal year, a decision that still need to be approved or rejected by the Board of Supervisors.

In the Twitter sphere, dozens of Muni riders posted their frustration with the delays this morning, mostly due to the J-Church and N-Judah train issues. "Shockingly the #muni is broken again. #surprise #imgettingabike," tweeted one.

IMG_2028.jpgSome Muni riders are contemplating riding their bike for more trips in light of the service cuts.

Out on Stockton Street, where 30-Stockton and 45-Union/Stockton buses are actually scheduled to run at the same frequency as before — they’ll turn around and head back to Stockton when they get to less heavily used portions of the line — the midday rush looked as packed as ever, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Of course, a lot of Muni riders may still be realizing that the slightly longer wait today was part of the service cuts, not just a usual hiccup in the system. SFMTA spokesperson Kristen Holland said she’s get back with Muni’s own
evaluation of the first weekday after the cuts later today.

If you rode on a Muni bus or train today, did you wait longer than usual or find it more crowded? Did you decide to simply take your bike (or car) instead, despite the rain? Let us know in the comments sections below how the first full day of service cuts are treating you. Be sure to check in after the evening commute as well!

  • I gave up on the 30/45 long ago. The MTA just feels the need to put another nail in the coffin every couple of months. Just nervous now to work on my bike because if I mess up then I have to deal with MUNI.

  • It’s lovely for those who can bike to have that option and smugly rub said choice over Muni in our faces. Some people, however, can’t make the switch. So while it’s awesome for you cool kids to ride your bikes and say FU Muni, not everyone has that option so just keep the smugness down a little mmmkay?

  • Greg, I fight hard for MUNI. Come on now. I know your shtick is to be all holier than thou, but point it in the right direction. We are car free and depend heavily on MUNI for nearly all our trips outside of my commute. I bike on my commute because I take caltrain and can’t afford a fail every other day.

  • Greg – come on! Mike isn’t constantly harping on parking meter extensions because he loves his bike so much… but if you want to pick on people who ride bikes because they’ve given up on MUNI, you are barking up the wrong tree. Why aren’t you barking at the likes of JohnB who says “I don’t really care if MUNI works, I’ll drive my BMW and park it in my garage and the spot my employer gives to me, mmmmkay?”

  • John, funny I used “holier than thou” and you came to my defense. Haha.

  • Haha, after one comment of Mike just mentioning his bike, you come out with that comment Greg? Sheesh… who are you even getting so defensive against?

    And for the record, as primarily a bike user, I still use Muni when it rains, when going out with bike-less friends, and for other reasons.

  • Nick

    I noticed a possible scandal related to NextBus signs. I’m used to seeing them broadcast the arrivals in real time (6 minutes, 23 minutes).

    They appeared to be altered to reflect “MUNI time.” They said (12 minutes, 32 minutes EXACTLY for busses that had 20 minute headways). Occasionally there would be a one minute variation.

    This happened across a few different lines. For the record, I checked these while walking by so I don’t know if MUNI drivers were breaking their all-time record for on-time performance or the system was rigged.

  • Nick – it depends on where you are boarding. At the beginning of the line there is no GPS to look at, so it shows the scheduled time. Once the buses are in flight stops down the line go from GPS data.

    At least that’s the best I can figure.

  • Eh, I don’t want this to become about Greg. I can totally see his point about leaving MUNI by the wayside, but the article was about how the cuts will effect my commute. I said it doesn’t because I bike. That doesn’t mean I have bailed on MUNI. But if I need to state my credentials, I will.

    However, I will not apologize for being a young white male that commutes via bike. Would you prefer I was behind the wheel of a car? Crowding onto a packed bus? Not living in San Francisco? It’s like I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I care deeply about this city and I’m fighting just as hard as anyone to make it as livable and vibrant as possible.

    It’s a reality that many of us will be relying on MUNI less and less (at least to get to work) and we all should hope and pray that the bike is the first option that many people turn to. If we start berating people for choosing the bike as their mode-shift, then we’ll all lose when more and more head to their cars.

  • Alex

    @Nick The NextBus signs anywhere along any route are primarily influenced by the schedule. The ones at Taraval and 46th (yes, close to the end, I know) indicated that MUNI was operating as usual (HAH) but that predictions might be off. That’s rich, considering that even in the middle of the line you’ll see NB signs count down the arrival of phantom vehicles.

    @mikesonn Or, you know, WALKING or living in the same county that you work in.

    I’m not going to fault you for giving up on public transit. I can in no way imagine being able to keep a job with a rigid schedule if I were to use MUNI to commute to/from work. No way no how.

    But car or no, commuting all the way down the peninsula is just feeding into the problem of suburban sprawl.

  • The reality is, there’s no way to depend completely on one mode and not encounter real transportation troubles. We need Muni no matter how much one may want to depend on their bike. It’s probably the most basic, vital necessity of allowing car-freedom – because not even many people want to bike in the rain, and even bikes go out of commission, and it’s necessary to carry a larger item on Muni, and sometimes you get sick, and sometimes you want to take transit trips with others, and sometimes you might just not feel like riding your bike or walking.

    If you think about it – transit, walking, and biking all depend heavily on one another. Even driving benefits from reduced traffic congestion… (yet no transportation mode benefits from more driving.)

  • Alex, my wife works downtown and walks. I’ve been looking for a job in the city since we moved here. I could work for the City and County of San Francisco, but I’m sure you’d rip into me for that too.

  • @Alex,
    How is reverse commuting from the city contributing to suburban sprawl? Or if it is, how is it at all a major contributor behind land-use/zoning laws for decades that have perpetuated sprawl far more than a few people in SF who love their city but have good jobs on the peninsula, especially when they commute by bike and train?

    @mikesonn, if you worked for SF Health instead of San Mateo, I don’t think anyone would rip on you. You’re doing the Lawd’s work, Sonn!

  • To expand on my commute, since I all of a sudden have to validate myself to some of you, I go from city center to city center. I work in downtown Redwood City. I walk/bike two blocks from the train station here.

    Also, I walk much more then I bike or take MUNI. My wife walks to work and we walk to the gym, grocery store, and restaurants. I walk to my community meetings as I’m a board member of North Beach Neighbors and a general member of Telegraph Hill Dwellers. I’m also involved in SaveMUNI.com and will hopefully be working with the Columbus street scape plan in the near future. You should really be directing your anger at a different person.

    @Matthew – Amen, Brother Roth.

  • Adam Hartzell

    As for how the cuts have impacted my commute, I used to take the 33 at Arguello/Geary to 16th/Potrero and walk to work for 10 blocks or so, but now the 33 comes just ever so slightly later. So I can’t depend on it to get me to work on time. (I used to be able to read a whole chapter on the bus before work, plus getting to see the gorgeous view of the city at the 33’s infamous turn, but no longer. Sigh.) So I’m back on the 38 (or 38L, whichever comes first; I have to get to work too early for the 38BX). It’s only been 2 days so far, but I’ve noticed the 38 is too packed by that stop, whereas, before I could always find a seat. And my transfer bus, the 19, is no longer an option once I get off the 38, so I walk to my job in SOMA now, thankful I’m a scary looking guy so no one bothers me.

    Otherwise, I haven’t had to adjust my sleep schedule too much. It’s just now I can’t read as much on the bus. Instead, I get more time with podcasts and more exercise as I walk a much longer stretch to work. So I can accommodate these changes, but I feel for my fellow citizens who live further out or who aren’t as mobile as me, so hoping we can make improvements to public transit like we have our wonderful public library system.

  • Ugh, thought I was logged in, but guess i wasn’t.

  • JohnB

    Interesting comments. Seems for the most part, the consensus is that people havent noticed much effect from a 10% cut.

    Maybe SFMTA actually did a decent job of axing the least-used services so that the net effect is far less than 10%. I hope so anyway.

    Or maybe Muni was so bad before, that the further deterioration is mot discernible

    But if this relatively benign reaction continues, it would appear to deflate any argument to raise taxes or fees simply to restore what few are missing anyway.

    While if it is true what Gavin said about CA stealing a quarter of a billion in transit funds, then it seems clear where such new funds should come from.

  • “And my transfer bus, the 19, is no longer an option once I get off the 38, so I walk to my job in SOMA now, thankful I’m a scary looking guy so no one bothers me.” – Ugh, This syntactical mess is why I mostly stopped making comments while at work. What I meant to say here was – “And my transfer bus, the 19, is no longer an option once I get off the 38 because the service cuts have effected my ability to snag that bus w/in enough time to get me to work, so I now walk the rest of the way to my job in SOMA. Thankfully I’m a scary looking guy so no one bothers me.’

  • patrick

    JohnB, how about this: planning to go downtown this weekend and forgot about the schedule change. Checked NB for nb assuming normal schedule only to find the gap had changed and the next bus was too late so had to take a cab. More cost to me, less revenue & ridership for Muni.

    By the way, if people are opting out of Muni, that is major for all of us, that means more traffic for drivers, and more expense for non-drivers, it’s certainly not a reason to keep the cuts, it’s a reason to restore the original service.

  • ZA

    I know I’m super-lucky to be able to bike over a few hills to a job downtown and back again, every day, no matter the weather. I really hope MUNI doesn’t deterioriate for those who *really need* it.

    I have to confess, when the weather is really bad, I do turn to mass transit, and BART remains the better option in almost all cases.

  • Fran Taylor

    Commuters may not have commented yet because they’re still on their way home. This focus on peak commute time service ignores the fact that two of San Francisco’s biggest industries — tourism (hotels) and healthcare (hospitals) — run 24/7, not 9 to 5. The riders really being screwed by this latest round of cuts have off-hours shifts or may be retired or unemployed and trying to get to a medical appointment, job interview, etc, in the middle of the day.

    And we can expect a parade of the same people who screamed the loudest that No One Would Go Anywhere on Weeknights or Sundays! if parking meters were enforced to dismiss the effects of these Muni cuts on riders who may wish to travel during those times. From boo-hoo-hoo to pooh-pooh in one easy lesson. Words fail me. No wait, there’s one: hypocrisy.

  • Btw, Greg, just wanted to throw this in: thought you should know I was really turned off from reading your blog by your general attitude in the Streetsblog comments… I actually read it before I became familiar with you on here.

  • Alex

    @mikesonn I’d feel more pity than anything else. Kudos to your wife.

  • Kinda don’t want or need your kudos. We are making the best decisions we can for our current situation, and not owning a car and walking/biking/MUNI is the answer.

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