Skip to content

Posts from the "Transit Riders Union" Category

34 Comments

TEP Update: Muni Behind on Transit Signal Priority, But the N Is Near

This post supported by

Half of San Francisco’s traffic signals were supposed to have transit priority installed by this spring, according to the ambitious schedule set out by managers of the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project two years ago. This may not come as much of a surprise, but the SFMTA isn’t quite meeting its target.

Muni TEP improvements are coming this year to the N-Judah, particularly along Irving Street in the Inner Sunset. Photo: Telesle17/Flickr

Of the 600 signals to be upgraded, the SFMTA expects to have 170 completed in the spring, according to agency spokesperson Paul Rose. Installation of those signals, which are all along the 14-Mission and 8X-Bayshore routes, began last fall, with the N-Judah next in line. The on-board equipment needed for the signals to detect the buses and trains, then turn or stay green, has been installed on the 316 vehicles stored at the Flynn and Potrero Muni yards, said Rose.

There are a couple bits of good news for Muni riders. Transit-only lane enforcement cameras are on track to be installed on every Muni bus by this spring as planned, Rose said. Transit priority signals and bus-mounted cameras “will help to give riders a more reliable ride,” said Jim Frank of the SF Transit Riders Union, which “strongly supports installation of TOLE cameras on all buses and TSP on all signals in the city.”

“Double-parked vehicles and waiting at red lights slows down the bus considerably,” said Frank. “We commend the MTA on being on track with the bus cameras and encourage them to get the TSP program completed as soon as possible.”

The next transit priority signals are set to be installed along the N-Judah, Muni’s busiest line, over the coming year. The signals are part of a package of proposed TEP upgrades for the N, which the SFMTA will explain at a community meeting Thursday in the Inner Sunset. In conjunction with those improvements, the SFMTA also plans to replace rails and other infrastructure in the Sunset Tunnel during 15 weekend closures, which will be the focus of another meeting on Wednesday in the Lower Haight.

Read more…

63 Comments

Hampered by Tunnels, Center BRT Lanes on Geary Limited to the Richmond

This post supported by

A rendering of the recommended plan for Geary BRT at 17th Avenue in the Richmond. Images: SFCTA

Correction 12/17: The next community meeting on Geary BRT is tonight, Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m. at the Main Public Library.

The latest iteration of the plan for bus rapid transit on Geary Boulevard includes center-running bus lanes only on the Richmond District segment between Arguello Boulevard and 27th Avenue — about a quarter of the street’s length. East of Arguello, where Geary’s center traffic lanes run through two tunnels designed to whisk cars past Masonic Avenue and Fillmore Street, planners say center-running transit lanes are too problematic and expensive to engineer. Instead, they propose side-running colored transit lanes all the way to downtown.

Planners from the SF County Transportation Authority maintain that their recommended plan [PDF] for Geary’s Richmond segment, previously called Alternative 3-Consolidated, will still produce significant gains for riders on Muni’s busiest bus line. Along that segment, the project is expected to cut travel times by a quarter, make the line 20 percent more reliable, and increase ridership by up to 20 percent. The current estimated cost for the project is between $225 million and $260 million.

That comes out to $35-40 million per mile, and with more than 50,000 riders every weekday already, planners say Geary BRT is worth it. “It’s a really cost-effective investment to make because people are going to start using it if we make this set of improvements,” said SFCTA planner Chester Fung.

Filling in the Fillmore underpass to raise Geary’s center lanes back to street level would cost an estimated $50 million and could add years to a project that has already been delayed extensively, planners said. Geary BRT was originally supposed to open in 2012, and the SFCTA says its current proposal could be implemented by 2018, the same year as Van Ness BRT — an improvement over the previous 2020 timeline.

“It’s not what I’d like it to be,” said Winston Parsons, a member of the Geary BRT Citizens Advisory Committee, though he said the SFCTA’s reasons for limiting the center-running lanes are “understandable.”

“I initially advocated that both tunnels be filled, but it’s simply not in this project’s budget and would drastically increase our timeline,” he said.

Read more…

45 Comments

Supes Avalos, Wiener Clash on Equitable Spending Strategies for Muni

John Avalos (left) and Scott Wiener (right). Left photo: Paul Chinn, SF Chronicle. Right photo: Dennis Hearne Photography

Supervisors John Avalos and Scott Wiener are sparring over how new revenue for transit should be spent to benefit the Muni riders who need it most.

With tax measures proposed for the 2014 ballot that could significantly increase transportation funds, Avalos introduced a charter amendment yesterday that would “require the city to prioritize investments to address existing disparities in service to low-income and transit dependent areas,” according to a statement from his office.

The Transit Equity Charter Amendment “provides a framework for how the city rebuilds transportation transit infrastructure and rebuilds transit service,” Avalos said at yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, explaining that it would also set stricter equity performance metrics and increase oversight by the SF County Transportation Authority Board, which is comprised of the supervisors. “It will help ensure that our investments are also targeted to address service deficiencies in our low-income and transit-dependent neighborhoods,” he said.

If approved, the amendment — also sponsored by Supervisors David Campos, Jane Kim, Norman Yee, and Eric Mar — would be placed on the November 2014 ballot alongside tax measures to increase funding for transportation upgrades, as recommended by Mayor Ed Lee’s Transportation 2030 Task Force, a 48-member group that has met throughout the year to develop the recommendations.

Avalos, who represents the SFCTA Board on the task force — also known as T2030 — has criticized its lack of representatives of low-income communities. It has reps from a broad range of city agencies, regional transportation agencies, and transportation advocates like SPUR, the SF Bicycle Coalition, and Walk SF, as well as labor groups. It also includes two for-profit tech companies — Google and Genentech.

Representing the Board of Supervisors on the task force along with Supervisor David Chiu is Wiener, who said the Avalos amendment will “undermine Muni service, make the system less reliable, and do nothing to achieve what we need most: to shore up the system and expand its capacity to meet the needs of our growing population.”

Read more…

1 Comment

Muni: All-Door Boarding Continues to Increase Bus Speeds, Fare Payment

Image: SFMTA

Seven months since Muni changed its policy to allow all-door boarding on all of its vehicles, the agency is reporting continued improvements in service and a drop in fare evasion.

On average, all-door boarding has saved buses up to four seconds of “dwell time” per stop, according to the SFMTA [PDF]. While that amount may sound small, the time savings add up on routes with dozens of stops. The improvement has been most pronounced on local lines, the report says.

Fare evasion, meanwhile, is down by 24 percent, according to the agency. When comparing the seven months of all-door boarding with the same months the previous year, the SFMTA says the fare evasion rate is down from 4.6 percent to 3.5 percent. The SFMTA also added 11 fare inspectors to increase enforcement with the launch of all-door boarding, bringing the total up to 53, since the new policy relies on random fare inspections rather than enforcement by Muni bus operators.

Mario Tanev, who led the all-door boarding advocacy campaign for the SF Transit Riders Union, applauded the SFMTA for implementing the policy change. “SFTRU has been a staunch advocate for all-door boarding and this report shows that when Muni puts its trust in riders, riders will return the favor,” he said. “Dwell times have gone down, and so has fare evasion.”

Tanev also noted, based on anecdotal evidence, that the change may have helped alleviate overcrowding, since riders boarding through the back door are more likely to fill up previously under-utilized space in the back, leaving more room for passengers in the front.

Read more…

10 Comments

Muni Begins to Catch Up With NextBus Delay Alerts for Riders

Muni’s chronic delays and breakdowns may be slightly easier to swallow as the transit system notifies riders using NextBus digital displays and text message alerts.

Alerts were seen for perhaps the first time on NextBus displays at Muni stops on December 3, when Muni’s entire underground metro system was shut down by a blown transformer that disrupted its train signals.

The SF Municipal Transportation Agency is “currently working with the NextBus technology to better provide real-time updates through as many modes as possible,” said agency spokesperson Paul Rose. “We will be working with this technology to determine if this is something we can use system wide.”

“This is a great win for riders,” said Rob Boden, spokesperson for the SF Transit Riders Union. “Over the years, Muni has struggled to provide customers with information about delays. Riders were often stranded at bus stops without even knowing something was wrong. This is an improvement to customer service that has been a long time coming.”

Rose pointed out that riders can also sign up for text message and email alerts about delays on specific Muni lines by creating an account on NextMuni.com and selecting “Automatic Alerts.” There, users can add “Route Watch Alerts” for any number of Muni lines.

Muni has long been behind on adopting technology to alert riders about delays. As the SF Chronicle reported last month, “Every other major transit agency in the Bay Area either has or is close to having a way to send riders e-mails or text messages when there is a major delay.”

The SFMTA is also beta testing a smartphone app called Muni+, currently available for download, which could be used for alerts. In this user’s experience, however, the app’s drawbacks, like a cluttered display, heavy battery usage and complicated navigation, made it not worth keeping. Instead, it’s been much more convenient to check arrival times using a webpage bookmark for NextMuni.com. Delays are also reported on the SFMTA’s Twitter feed, and number of third-party apps are also available for arrival times.

17 Comments

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

Twitter user Joseph Cutrona posted 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.

39 Comments

Muni to Switch to All-Door Boarding on July 1

This post supported by


Streetfilms documented the benefits of all-door boarding in March 2010.

Starting July 1, feel free to board any Muni bus by the back door, as long as you pay.

The SFMTA says it will be the first transit agency in North America to implement all-door boarding on the entire Muni system, expanding the existing policy from light rail vehicles (and cable cars) as a simple, low-cost way to speed up boardings and reduce fare evasion on its buses.

“All-door boarding will have immediate positive impacts on the system, such as speeding up the boarding process, improving service reliability, and reducing travel time,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin in a statement. ”Additionally, faster service will result in savings that can be reinvested into the system through improved frequency and increased capacity, realizing long-term, sustainable benefits our customers deserve.”

To make the transition, the SFMTA plans to hire fare inspectors, launch a media campaign to inform riders, and potentially install ticket machines at bus stops. SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said the agency has installed Clipper Card readers on back doors in preparation for the change, and more details will be presented to the agency’s Board of Directors at a later meeting.

Making the switch could speed up Muni trips substantially. Muni buses currently spend an estimated 15 to 30 percent of their time letting customers get on and off the bus. On some of the most congested lines, many passengers already board on the back illegally, either to skip the long line or to avoid paying the fare.

An all-door boarding system, also known as proof-of-payment, decriminalizes that practice while using random fare inspections to eliminate the sense of security for fare evaders who’ve made it onto the bus, thereby encouraging them to pay.

“We want to have the right level of fare inspection so that we create an expectation for anybody riding on our system that any point, they may be asked to show proof that they’ve paid for their ride,” said Reiskin at a town hall meeting this week. “We don’t want to inadvertently send the signal that Muni’s free.”

Read more…

27 Comments

Mayor Newsom to Nominate a Respected Transit Advocate to SFMTA Board

4157574590_e76703a09c_b.jpgCheryl Brinkman at a press conference earlier this year celebrating San Francisco's first new bike lane in three years. In the background is SFMTA Chief Nat Ford. Photo: sfbike
Cheryl Brinkman, one of the original organizers of Sunday Streets who has a strong history of livable streets advocacy, will be nominated today by Mayor Gavin Newsom to serve a four-year term on the SFMTA Board, filling one of two vacancies that have been left empty since May 1, Streetsblog has learned.

"Cheryl Brinkman is exactly the kind of candidate that Mayor Newsom hoped would apply," said Newsom's spokesperson, Tony Winnicker. "She has tremendous experience as a transit rider and is a transit advocate. She will bring great perspective and energy and ideas to the MTA."

The move to nominate a director with such solid credentials was roundly cheered by transit advocates, who applauded the Mayor for choosing such a laudable advocate for sustainable transportation to a board that has been dominated by loyalists who rarely break from Room 200's wishes.

While acknowledging he has a clear bias, Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich called Brinkman a transportation superhero. "She is one of the hard workers and has really worked behind the scenes to make Sunday Streets happen," he said. "I think she's going to be a great asset to the MTA."

Radulovich added that Brinkman is someone who really gets the land use and transportation connection along with the complexities of funding transportation improvements.

Brinkman, 45, is the president of the Livable City Board of Directors, and a senior product manager at McKesson Corporation. A 24-year San Francisco resident, she has logged more than a thousand volunteer hours for Sunday Streets, and in addition to Livable City, serves on the Market-Octavia Citizen Advisory Committee and is the former chair of the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee. She will resign from those positions once she is confirmed by the Board of Supervisors, which has never rejected any of the Mayor's appointments to the SFMTA Board.

Read more...
57 Comments

New Sharrows on Sutter and Post Streets Not Popular with Cyclists

Sutter-3_1.jpgA bicyclist makes her way up Sutter Street just after the evening commute. Photos by Bryan Goebel.
Pedaling up Sutter Street toward Leavenworth from his dentist's office during the height of the Wednesday evening commute, Dan Nunes is riding in the transit-only lane for his bike trip home, despite the new sharrows recently painted in the center lane to his left. There, drivers often zoom by at alarming speeds, breaking the 25 mile an hour speed limit, narrowly avoiding crashes, and treating the three-lane arterial like a highway, especially as they make the descent down the hill on Sutter just past Leavenworth.

For Nunes, and many other cyclists, riding in the center lane is not an option, even with the beckoning of the white sharrows.

"I think it's just asinine. You're trusting the car coming behind you not to hit you," he said. "It's about avoiding contact with the cars so riding in the middle lane with cabs, with tourists looking at buildings, I mean, come on."

Sutter Street cuts through several of San Francisco's densest neighborhoods and commercial districts, and along with Post Street one block south, serves as a major east-west connection for bicyclists. Those streets also serve Muni's 2-Clement and 3-Jackson, which have dedicated transit lanes that are sometimes clogged by drivers cued up to turn right.

The SFMTA recently installed the sharrows on both Sutter and Post Streets (Bicycle Route 16) as part of its Bike Plan directive to add 75 miles of new sharrows on bike routes across the city. Where Sutter and Post intersect with other bicycle routes, the sharrows have been painted in two lanes so drivers can more readily expect cyclists, and cyclists can position themselves to turn, according to the SFMTA. Plans are also in the works to paint sharrows on short sections of other streets with transit lanes, including Clay Street from Montgomery to Battery, and Stockton from Sutter to Post.

Read more...
5 Comments

Parking Tax Revenue Measure for Muni Makes Its Way to Supervisors

IMG_1249.jpgPhoto: Myleen Hollero/Orange Photography

A parking tax increase that could send $19.2 million to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency moved a step closer to the ballot Tuesday, as Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi introduced the measure before his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors.

Mirkarimi made the move at the behest of the SFMTA Board, which voted last week to request that the supervisors introduce the ballot measure on the agency's behalf. It would include a 10-percent increase in the commercial off-street parking tax -- that is, the tax on parking in commercial garages and lots -- and would also close a loophole that allows valet parking services to go untaxed.

"I think it's important in answering the question as to how we are able to generate revenue for the MTA," said Mirkarimi. "This is one consideration I would like us to seriously review. The last two years we have struggled to keep Muni running in the face of historic budget deficits."

Mirkarimi warned that the measure faces competition from other tax measures the supervisors are considering, the rest of which would not directly benefit the SFMTA. Not all of them will make it to the ballot. "I understand that a number of taxes potentially will be submitted for today," he said. "I also believe that in the menu of considerations for taxes, all may not make the final cut."

Several of the supervisors introduced a sweeping SFMTA reform ballot measure last month that would dedicate $40 million from the city's general fund to the SFMTA, but Mirkarimi and others have expressed reservations about that set-aside, so the parking tax could have a future as part of that reform measure as well.

As Streetsblog reported in March, the parking tax may be the most politically viable revenue ballot measure the SFMTA could pursue right now, and many of the city's transit advocates support it for its clear nexus between discouraging parking and increasing funding for Muni service.

Read more...