Muni’s New “Twitter Bus” Opens While SFMTA Faces Yawning Budget Gap

Twitter user Joseph Cutrona posted ##https://twitter.com/PopsCutrona/status/212200799038742529##this photo## of a mostly empty "Twitter bus" on its first morning.

A new Muni line went into service today: the 83x, which runs during peak hours between downtown Caltrain and mid-Market. It’s been dubbed the “Twitter Bus” and the “Hashtag Express” by those who see its launch as part of the city’s efforts to accommodate Twitter’s move to the resurgent area.

But after a new labor agreement signed by Mayor Ed Lee last week stuck the SFMTA with a $14.6 million deficit, the agency is once again looking to make ends meet. The agreement was made after the Board of Supervisors Finance Committee passed an SFMTA budget that banked on $7 million in reduced labor costs. The union deal includes a pay raise instead.

The 83x hasn’t been indicated as a target for cuts yet, nor is it clear how much it would save the SFMTA (an agency document [PDF] about the route only says its costs will be offset by “operations and maintenance efficiencies”). However, some transit advocates have questioned whether the resources devoted to the 83x could be used more effectively.

The cuts will have to come from somewhere, and the SF Transit Riders Union is launching a “rider revolt” to urge the SFMTA Board of Directors next week to steer clear of service and maintenance cuts for Muni riders.

A list of budget cut options will be presented at next week’s board meeting. Should the 83x be the first to go, or should it stay to make it easier for new mid-Market employees to commute on transit?

Regardless, people who already rely on Muni can’t afford to pay for this unexpected budget gap. After a round of service cuts in 2010 and rapid-fire fare hikes (adult monthly passes cost $45 in 2009 and $72 today), it’s imperative that the SFMTA avoid balancing its books on the backs of transit riders.

  • SteveS

    It doesn’t really make any sense for the MTA with it’s sky-high costs to be providing point-to-point shuttle service like this. Why didn’t the mid-market BID just contract MV/Bauer’s/etc to provide commute hour shuttle service rather than lobbying for a new Muni route? I imagine the cost of doing this with free rides would be cheaper than the loss Muni will take on it even with charging a fare.

  • mikesonn

    This service should only be around for the next 8-10 years. Once they get done with the Central Subway and it’s awesome connectivity with downtown, there won’t be any need.

    Actually, come to think of it, this shuttle is a huge vote of confidence in the efficiency of the N/T lines from 4th/King to Civic Center. Way to go Muni!

  • Andy Chow

    Without this route, the transit time from Caltrain to the Civic Center area is a bit too excessive. The 10 goes to Market by 2nd St. 30/45 goes there by 3rd St. 47 by Van Ness. The N/T would take twice as long to get there.

    At least this route is providing bi-directional service. So if you want to get to Caltrain from other parts of the city, you can transfer there knowing that this shorter route should be more reliable than connecting to the 47, 30, or 45.

  • mikesonn

    I was talking tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek. There is no reason the N/T should take that long.

  • To recap, Twitter pays less taxes than everybody else, gets better Muni service than everybody else.

    The only way this makes sense is if it someone sparks a major renaissance mid-Market.

  • Anonymous

    The “Twitter bus” is distracting us from the bigger issue: we need massive reinvestment in Muni in order to bring it up to par and meet the challenge of providing fast, reliable transit all over San Francisco. Sniping at the SFMTA for expanding service isn’t the right approach. Rather, we should be agitating for a massively increased budget for them to work with. 

  • mikesonn

    Add these funds and determination from the SFMTA to the N/T lines and you not only help Twitter but you help the entire city.

  • Anonymous

    Wasn’t the payroll tax break tied to stock options? Does everyone else have stock options?

  • Tiny Tim

    Time for the big bucks techies to chip in. In 140 characters or less tell Twitter that they got a tax break; how about subsidizing a shuttle?

  • Anonymous

    Maybe we should give a new route more than one day before sentencing it to death.

  • david vartanoff

    having a functional Muni route accessing the Caltrain Station w/o a tour of the waterfront is a good thing.  Proliferation of Bauers and clones shuttles is evidence that Muni isn’t serving the market adequately.   having the “twitter bus” available to all is more useful than merely skimming the market w/o system connectivity. 

  • jry

    @de011f58b742a24dae0c13ebe86f71db:disqus , agreed, but the K/N is a “tour of the waterfront” because it stops at every single red light on the Embarcadero for a minute or more as countless single-occupancy cars cross in front of it. Give those streetcars absolute signal priority and they would move much faster. Light rail is supposed to be “high performing” public transit, not a second class citizen to private automobiles. 

    I was in LA a few weeks ago, and surprised to see the Blue Line absolutely *flies* through downtown, never waiting at a red light. Why can’t Transit-First SF do this?

  • This route overlaps pretty significantly with the Adobe/Advent & some of the Zynga private shuttles, but they all seem to be exclusive of each other.  83X could have included some of these other places, but doesn’t.  More and more piecemeal looking, maybe they can do something to coordinate and consolidate?

  • Anonymous

    Google doesn’t seem to mind paying for its own shuttle buses, I’m not sure why Twitter is getting a free ride. After all, they could easily be GONE in a few years given the whims of the advertising world, or bought by Google, Apple, a foreign government, or whatever and move away, “incentives” or not. But hey, better to do piecemeal fixes than spend the money to come up with a comprehensive plan to fix Mun—-oh wait, we did, and now ignore it and bury it in EIR crap.

    Way to go, SFMTA, way to go (slow clap).

  • Twitter is – I’m mostly guessing but it’s an educated guess – a small fraction of the employees that work near the 83x stops. If Twitter was the impetus for getting good service for all those other people, it’s sad we needed that push but we’re better off that it happened.

    Twitter won’t be moving too far away, the employee base is here. A lot of their employees worked at Google or Facebook and switched to leave the shuttles. As white and gleaming as they seem, they get stuck in traffic just like private cars and lately that is pretty often.

  • @twitter-14678929:disqus but they’re ignoring a lot of employees that are already on that route AND have shuttle buses blocking up traffic on that route.

  • Aksel Kargård Olsen

    The new companies can’t win. Maligned either if they provide their own shuttles for “privatizing transit,”, or, per the comments, if they don’t. Congestion is a good problem to have–and fix. Better done with shuttles than cars with 1 person in each.

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