Calls For Greater 311, MTA Efficiency

Next_Muni.jpgFrom rick via Flickr

While the list of budget problems facing the MTA is long, Supervisor Bevan Dufty believes he can save them a few million just by changing the way they do customer service.

In a special hearing on work orders to the MTA yesterday, Dufty proposed that the MTA come up with a solution to reduce the costs of 311 calls from the public seeking information for the arrival of the next bus.  311 bills MTA on average $1.96 for every call and bus schedule calls account for 41 percent of total calls to 311 (total MTA-related calls account for 63 percent of all call volume at 311), despite the existence of automated NextMuni timetables already on 311, on over 750 bus shelters, and online through and

At Dufty’s request, the MTA itemized total costs of using 311 to provide customers with information that could be transmitted automatically and determined that they could save $4.5 million if 311 no longer manually assisted schedule requests. 

In an interview, MTA Executive Director Natthaniel Ford said that the agency would work with the Board of Supervisors and the public to streamline the system and cut down on the cost of providing bus schedules.  He also noted that call volumes to 311 were higher than they had initially anticipated.  He denied that the agency doles out work order money without good cause. 

I wouldn’t say it’s a rubberstamping of it but it’s clearly a situation where there are increased levels of work that we have identified and at the same time these other departments are suffering through budget cuts and challenges and they’re trying to make sure that whatever services they’re providing for the MTA that we’re adequately reimbursing them for it. Is it a perfect system? No system is perfect.

In a document presented to the public at the hearing, the MTA suggested that the agency could work with 311 to provide much more information automatically through, but argued that it shouldn’t rush to abandon manual assistance completely until customers have had time to adjust to the changes (PDF).  They also agreed they could do a better job of advertising the services to the riding public:

From a customer service perspective, the SFMTA would make an investment in “stickering” existing shelters and stops with “511 Stop IDs” (and simple instructions) to facilitate the transition from 311 to 511 for departure prediction assistance.  This one-time cost would be an extremely small percentage of the annual cost of departure prediction assistance via 311.  Not only would this improvement ease the move to 511, it would significantly improve the level of service at a number of stops throughout the city that are not currently equipped with NextMuni display signs.

311 Deputy Director Andrew Maimoni said his agency was doing the job that MTA had asked it to do in the first place and that if MTA decided to change how it wanted its service, they would comply.  "We take guidance from the MTA.  If MTA decides that they want us to do it another way, they will tell us.  The initial agreement was to take over passenger service calls from MTA’s former passenger service desk.  This is what was advertised."

Maimoni also noted that unlike the former passenger service desk at MTA, 311 provides the information to the public around the clock and in many languages.  He said they were always open to evaluating the options and working with Supervisor Dufty and the MTA to arrive at a solution that worked for everyone. 

"We’re here to do the work that the city asks us to do," he said.


MTA To Get Greater Management Role Over SFPD’s Traffic Company

Flickr photo: Thomas Hawk According to a "fact sheet" (PDF) released by the Mayor’s office Friday, "new operational improvements and efficiencies" have been identified that will amount to $3.5 million in cost savings for the MTA, including giving MTA Executive Director Nat Ford more power over the SFPD’s Traffic Company. The plan, first reported in […]

Supes Committee Votes to Recommend Rejection of MTA Budget

Supervisor David Campos with BOS Prez David Chiu and Supervisor Bevan Dufty in background at yesterday’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting. Photos by Bryan Goebel. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee voted 4-1, with Supervisor Carmen Chu dissenting, to recommend the rejection of the MTA’s $778 million budget following a marathon […]

Supervisor Dufty Blasts SFPD Over MTA Work Orders

Supervisor Bevan Dufty, armed with numbers and documents he obtained detailing MTA work orders from other city departments, scolded two members of the San Francisco Police Department’s top brass Wednesday, calling the department’s raid on Muni’s budget "excessive" and "unbelievable." Dufty called the hearing before the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee to examine […]

Gav For Guv Short On Transportation Essentials

Newsom extolling the glories of EVs, from mayorgavinnewsom via Flickr So Gav made it official yesterday that he’s running for Guv by tweeting it to his more than 283,000 followers, announcing it on Facebook, and even running a strange pseudo-article with a lot of donate hyperlinks in the Huffington Post, all of which made a […]

San Francisco and Washington DC Announce Adoption of Open311 Platform

A typical request on SeeClickFix, which will now be routed to San Francisco’s 311 center and automatically added to the customer relationship management (CRM) system. The trend of local governments embracing data transparency and opening their vast sets of information to the public takes a huge leap forward today with the announcement that San Francisco […]