One Month Into All-Door Boarding, Muni Reports Some Lines Moving Faster

A preliminary report on the impact of all-door boarding on five Muni routes in July shows drops in dwell times -- the period buses spend at stops -- and a shift toward rear-door boarding. Image: SFMTA

One month after the SF Municipal Transportation Agency switched to system-wide all-door boarding, an early report from the agency shows some significant increases in bus speeds.

On five Muni lines, the time buses spent at stops dropped by as much as 16 percent in July compared to June, according to a presentation [PDF] prepared for the SFMTA Board’s Policy and Governance Committee meeting this week. The most drastic change in “dwell times” were reported on the 1-California line and its rush-hour express companion, the 1AX, which saw decreases of 14 and 16 percent, respectively. The 1AX also saw by far the largest shift in passengers using the back door instead of the front door, with a 1,200 percent increase.

With paid passengers now able to board through the back door, the amount of time the 1AX spends stopped has reportedly dropped by 16 percent. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/13949492@N02/3343685460/in/photostream/##Tom Prete/Flickr##

The other lines reviewed — the 49-Van Ness, the 14-Mission, and the 38-Geary — saw more modest drops in dwell time. The 49, at the low end of the spectrum, only saw a decrease of roughly 1 percent. One possible explanation is that back-door boarding was already common on those lines before the policy change, compared to the 1-California.

Reducing the amount of time that buses devote to passenger boarding was the main reason behind Muni’s switch to all-door boarding, as SF buses have historically spent as much as 30 percent of their runs at stops.

The change is also expected to reduce fare evasion by implementing a proof-of-payment system, which uses random fare inspections to enforce payment. The system has been successful on Muni’s light rail lines for more than a decade. However, it’s unclear if the ten additional fare inspectors hired by Muni (bringing the total up to 60) are enough to effectively eliminate the sense of security for fare evaders who make it onboard.

The SFMTA presentation says the agency is measuring changes in fare revenue, but the only data available yet are from passenger complaints. Of the 58 complaints “attributed to all-door boarding,” the presentation says, 9 percent were about a perceived increase in fare evasion.

The most common complaint category, at 64 percent, was regarding Muni operators not opening back doors to allow boarding. The other major categories were “operators closing doors on passengers” and “express rider complaints about the policy,” each comprising 10 percent of complaints.

More details may become available when the report is presented to the committee on Friday.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll be interested to see the full report to understand how they’re calculating the % change in rear door boarding. Perhaps they compared 7/1 and 7/31 numbers? Or did they actually log a small number of people in June who broke the previous rules by boarding at the rear but who also tagged a card when doing so? In any case, I’ll be more interested to see a revised chart that compares July 12 with January 13 for a longer-term trend. And seriously, the drivers need to start opening the back doors at every stop!

  • Guest

    While the “dwell time” improvement is promising, what is glaringly missing is data regarding “route running time”.

  • Running time is indeed the only truly important metric since it both directly affects passengers (trips take less time!) and saves Muni money.

    Looking instead at drop in dwell times is misleading because for express routes the reduction in dwell time is not going to make as much of a difference because there are relatively few stops. So Muni, show is the important data!

  • Dwell time is an important metric too, especially on the express routes.  People are more annoyed by time spent stopped compared to an equivalent amount of time spent moving.

  • Of course there’s a drastic improvement for the 1AX line, all the Richmond District commute express lines prior to July 1st boarded the front doors only.  All the commuters never boarded the rear doors, and that’s because nobody ever exited the bus until it was on the other side of the city.

  • Ted King

     I agree that the drivers should open all doors at the major stops (transfer points and limited stops). But why put additional wear and tear on the mid- and rear-door mechanisms when no-one is boarding or alighting through them ? All riders should be looking for the lit-up push buttons (LRV’s) or the silver disks (buses). Then if the doors are unlocked and armed the switches can be activated to open the doors.

    P.S. People should be grabbing the air-bar handrail when boarding the LRV’s. That tells the door controller to NOT close the door. It doesn’t always work but it’s a lot quieter than tripping the safety switch in the door gasket.

  • Anonymous

    Ted: Wait, there are *buttons* to open the rear doors on the outside of buses? I’ve never noticed these. I’ll keep my eye out next time. That sounds super handy.

  • Kevin

    I too am interested in the details on how the % drop was calculated. I’m sure we all remember the articles on “Muni minute” in regards to calculating time percentage.

  • Ted King

    The picture on this page has two visible push buttons. One is in the dent near the right, rear door. The other is to the left of the aft double dour. Both buttons have a white sticker below them with instructions for use. Per the SFMTA [ …/cms/mcust/newcust.htm ] : “There’s a lighted white button on either side of the doors. Push it to make the doors open.
    The picture on this page has the silver disk just to the left of the built-in ladder.

    I hope the above helps.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the pic, Ted. I’ve used the buttons on LRVs; I thought you were saying there were similar buttons on buses. Maybe in the next round of new buses that Muni buys?

  • Ted King

    The picture on this page has the silver disk just to the left of the built-in ladder.

    My previous post had two links but the comment mangler ate the white space between them so a person’s eye might miss the second one. The attached image of a trolley bus (#49 per the caption) is from the SFGate.com article.

  • Mario Tanev

    My understanding is that not all buses have such buttons, and that Muni has decided not to enable those buttons for passenger use. Their guidelines to the drivers instruct them to open all doors always so pressing those buttons should be unnecessary.

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