Are More Service Cuts the Last Straw For a Public Fed Up With Muni?

tax_the_rich.jpgPhoto: blarfiejandro

Widespread outrage at the MTA Board, so visibly on display at today’s meeting on Muni service cuts and fare increases, appears to be driving a growing surge of organizing that transit supporters hope might finally create a sustained movement with the potential to pressure the MTA into developing long-term fixes for Muni.

Most members of the public testifying at the meeting today were livid about the MTA’s approach to the budget, illustrated by loud outbursts from speakers and thunderous applause by the more than 200 people who filled the overflow South Light Court at City Hall.

Long-time Muni organizers and transit wonks were hopeful the momentum that helped turn out so many people would continue beyond today.

"I’m thrilled. I think it’s word of mouth, it’s gotten around," said Sue Vaughan, a member of the MTA Citizens’ Advisory Council and an organizer with Transit Not Traffic. "It’s got a life of its own and it’s gaining momentum."

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who roamed the overflow room and spoke with a number of people who gave public testimony, was awed by the turnout. "I’m incredibly impressed about the volume of people that have come out. They’re well organized, and their passion is right on and felt by many of us."

"As far as I’m concerned, you’ve got a mini-movement that’s not going to fade away."

An abundance of different groups were represented at the meeting, including advocates for improved transit, affordable housing, people with disabilities, youth, seniors, and more, as well as plenty of unaffiliated Muni riders who were deeply concerned about the MTA’s proposals for balancing its budget.

Some of the testimony took on a distinctly populist tone: A number of people were angry with the recent hiring of John J. Haley as Director of Transit at a salary of more than $225,000, even as Muni operators are being asked to give concessions.

"We’re saying, ‘Chop from the top,’" said the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition’s Frank Lara. "The problem is, this is mismanagement from these administrators. If they want to start criticizing over [operator] salaries then they should start with themselves."

Beatriz Herrera, an advocate with People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), agreed that management at the MTA was creating a long-term problem that would exacerbate deficits.

"They should look at themselves before they start picking on the elderly and disability groups and people of color," said Herrera. "Working class communities here in San Francisco who ride the bus every day, who work and drive the bus every day, who clean the buses" were the people who make "mobility possible in the city," she said.

Amid Public Frustration, SPUR Presents Alternative Budget

Anticipating the need to present viable long-term solutions for Muni riders to support — beyond simply cutting MTA Executive Director Nat Ford’s salary — SPUR brought out a budget plan of its own today.

Though the Board didn’t have time to thoroughly analyze an alternative budget proposal presented at the meeting by SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf, the long list of measures in SPUR’s proposal promised to fix the budget without service cuts or labor concessions [PDF].

"The message is that they have options," said Metcalf, who believes that if the MTA made some of the politically difficult decisions proposed by SPUR, they would run a surplus over the next two years, rather than the projected $100 million shortfall. "Our expectation is that some of these will go away, will prove politically infeasible, but they could reject a bunch of these and still balance the budget."

Along with proposals to stop paying work orders to the SFPD and redirecting 311 calls to 511 — measures estimated to save the agency nearly $18 million annually — SPUR also highlighted numerous glaring deficiencies in the MTA’s handling of the parking assets it controls, which would generate more than $20 million annually.

According to SPUR’s alternative budget, the MTA doesn’t enforce an existing garage pricing ordinance that prohibits daily and early bird rates; the agency could enhance its existing garage ordinance citywide; it should enforce parking violations around City Hall and the Department of Justice; and it should extend metering to Sundays and add new meters around City Hall and MTA controlled facilities.

MTA’s Judson True hadn’t had the time to thoroughly analyze the proposals and said they would be taken to Chief Financial Officer Sonali Bose for further review, but acknowledged that "the people at SPUR have years and years of looking at Muni budgets and I think there are good ideas in there."

Metcalf shared the exasperation of many who gave public testimony, though he focused on the MTA Board, which he said was failing at its mandate to develop solutions like the proposals he put together. "What you do is ask staff to bring you proposals that are good," said Metcalf, who spent two months preparing the SPUR report. "That’s the most minimal interpretation of your job as a Board member. You ask staff to bring you options that do the trick."

"Muni effects people’s lives in a very immediate way every single day," added Metcalf. "When Muni doesn’t work, San Francisco doesn’t work."

Michael Rhodes contributed reporting for this story.

  • John C.

    The SPUR plan is very reasonable. How can we get the MTA board to actually implement this?

  • Jared

  • Glen

    Raise the student rates! They can pay for the huge amount of damage done to the trains and buses with the tagging game that they love to play

  • Nick

    Despite how broken this city is, there has always been a huge movement towards civic responsibility. The City is so resistant to change that all this potential for free labor is lost. We’re essentially saying if you want to build parkways and panhandle type gardens across the city, there is a pool of volunteer-run labor that will maintain them.

    This is indicative of a bigger problem. The city increasingly needs advocacy groups to ensure they do the basic functions of their job correctly. The people at the MTA couldn’t come up with SPUR’s alternative plan on their own? The SFBC has to tell them to put a bike symbol inside a bike box?

    And stop telling us we’re a “Transit First City” and then cut service and raise fares while leaving parking alone. Just stop lying to us already.

  • Some good points Nick.

    I was getting so mad with the meeting on Friday when the directors (mostly Oka) kept saying that they had to make cuts because “there are no more rocks to look under.” Really? None? How can they sit up there with a straight face as more then a hundred people spoke to the point that parking meters still have not been touched. And another thing that really gets me is that the SFMTA plans their budgets with hopeful revenue sources (i.e. parking meters) being implemented. When those revenue sources don’t come through, the cuts are always worse then they could have been.

    I’m not surprised that “Transit First” is just a talking point, if the ones signing the campaign checks haven’t signed onto it, then why should the politicos? Especially when none of them depend on MUNI for transportation. Yeah, riding MUNI can be upsetting when you are late to dinner, but it is crushing when you are late to work 3 out of 5 days a week.

  • david vartanoff

    Some rocks for Oka–SELL ALL SF City staff cars outside fire/police. Tell Building Inspectors, and all the rest to ride Muni. I want to be a fly on the wall when the unionised City worker who has waited 45 min for the every 12 min bus confronts the driver. Seriously, start w/ Gavin baby’s SUV and get rid of every vehicle not needed for either emergency or freight hauling(pickups for DPW for ex). Obliterate parking for City employees and make them ALL ride Muni or walk or take cabs–but NO PARKING and that includes Muni workers. !Rent out the city parking spaces at market rate w/ ALL proceeds dedicated to Muni. Maybe, just maybe if the Supes actually used Muni for more than a few photo ops…

  • John

    The “more than 100 people who spoke up to the point that parking meters still have not been touched” were no doubt mostly people who don’t have cars.

    And of course people who own cars are more likely to be significantly employed and so less able to get to a meeting at 9am on a work day.

    That’s the problem with most of these meetings – they are mostly populated by “the usual suspects” plus a lot of under-employed people who are statistically more likely to have the time, inclination and motivation to show up.

    Muni’s problems are based on their bloated cost structure. Hitting up people who never use Muni to pay for unsustainable pay, health and pension benefits is not a viable long-term strategy for the silent majority who are not professional activists but who do provide the vast majority of the tax base for SF.

  • John, I take personal offense to your comment! “And of course people who own cars are more likely to be significantly employed.” I’m employed so I couldn’t be at that meeting, but that doesn’t mean I own a car. While I agree the meeting times bring out the usual suspects, I take serious offense to thinking that MUNI riders are only lowly unemployed mooches on the system.

    This city could serve your lofty ideal of a San Franciscan if everyone who moved here didn’t treat it like a suburb and need to bring their car with them. Yes, some parts of the city are hard to serve by MUNI, but there are MANY neighborhoods that people choose to have cars when MUNI/walking/biking could easily serve all their transportation needs. Then those very cars clog up our roads (those roads being public space, not a paved route for your private automobile) making MUNI run even slower.

    I would like to see the some numbers on the emails that were sent in to the SFMTA. I sent several to Newsom, the board, the BOS, and a number of other public officials telling them that I am a car-free citizen of one of the most walkable cities in the US, if not the world. Maybe I also need to start including that I’m gainfully employed and not some bottom feeder as John believes is the case of all MUNI activists.

  • Gabriela


    Since you think that operators are no good, we will see how far you will get with that statement… Muni started passing out pink slips, so complaining about delays, no bus showing up etc will get you nowhere. Muni already doesn’t have enough drivers to cover all the runs in the city, and they will lay off about 200 drivers? Be ready to wait at the bus stop for much longer now.

    Most people keep talking garbage about drivers but don’t realize they put up with so much bull…. They deserve every penny. Abusive riders think their shit doesn’t stink,we will see about that. Start driving your car since muni operators are so bad!

    How dare anyone thinks that it’s ok to post operators earnings! Try to be in their position, would you like to have your salary smashed in newspaper? Didn’t think so. As much as public has a right to have their opinion, their is a limit. Where is the protection of drivers? People will be really mad when muni charter will be changed and drivers will strike, it will surely messed up the whole city. You want changes? Start with the management because one must wonder where is all the money going but surely not in operators pockets.

  • John


    I hope Muni operators do strike, because then they can all be fired and the taxpayers of this city will be off the hook for their insanely generous contracts, salaries, overtime, healthcare and pensions.

    And we could rehire on new union-free contracts on a basis that will actually be sustainable for years and decades ahead, which clearly Muni is currently not.

    I’d also like to see more private alternatives. Many corporations already do this as they don’t want their staff relying on Muni to get to work, with all the ttendant delays, filth and risk of crime. Hell, even UCSF doesn’t trust Muni and has probably the second largest bus fleet in the City.

    Mike, there is a clear correlation between muni riders and lower-paid jobs. And between people driving vehicles downtown and higher-paid jobs. “Tax the rich”, the placard laughably held aloft by the elderly gentleman pictured in the article, will always play well in a room full of people who don’t need to work on a Friday morning. But 200 people with a agenda is not a mandate; it’s a dog and pony show.

  • Gabriela

    I guess you must be one of those people that ride buses and think it’s a limo, with all the bells and whistles. Get a grip, you pay $2! You live in one of the most expensive city and think that $2 is too expensive?
    Unless you have a paper proving the insanely generous contracts, salaries, overtime, healthcare and pensions, don’t even talk. The only overtime they get is when they work over 8 hours a day which is every time they drive. And generous contracts? Really?
    Do you get an one hour lunch? Sure you do but they don’t. They barely have 5 minutes at the end of they run, and many times they can’t even stop to use the restroom. You tell me what’s wrong with this picture.
    And the reason why Newsom didn’t want to extend meters is because he lives in Pacific Heights with all the rich people. That would surely hurt his image!

  • John


    We can agree to differ on what is essentially a left/right divide.

    But the idea that you can endlessly milk the productive parts of the city economy to subsidize services that you admit, at $2 a pop, are too cheap, is a form of socialism that would play better in Cuba than Castro.

    I’d like to see Muni stripped down to what is actually cost-effective and sustainable. Maybe just the major routes into downtown.

    And then a series of private jitney cabs like you see in some other US cities and almost anywhere in Mexico to cover the unprofitable, low density routes.

    Either that or privatize the whole system as they have done in various European cities.

    And, if you really believe that $2 is too cheap, why don’t you donate the difference between that and the fare you think should apply, and donate it to the operators benevolent fund?

  • Gabriela


    nowhere in my writing I said that $2 is cheap but don’t expect miracles.
    I am not going to argue with you because obviously we have two different opinions. You must be reading too much about muni without finding what the truth is, like benevolent funds?
    I think you live in a wrong city with all the proposals you are suggesting… Time to move on.

  • david vartanoff

    John, Gabriela and all. First off, If everyone who could just drove SF would strangle in both gridlock and car fumes. So, even if YOU don’t want to use transit, it is to your car driving advantage to keep the 375k riders out of their cars. Second, even if the streets COULD handle the extra cars, where exactly would you park all the cars downtown? Which office towers should become parking towers to store all those cars?

    Now as to the drivers and the tough job, yes, as a regular rider, I certainly see many instances of frustrating, annoying rider and auto driver behavior. Last I looked you have to apply for the job, so if you had no idea what you were getting into, leave. There ARE others willing to take the job. As to salary data, it is a public record, it comes with the territory. There are enough examples of Muni employees who both perform well and manage to be friendly that there is no reason to put up with the bad apples who give the majority a bad name. And yes having read both the MOU and the rule book. it IS an overly generous deal.

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  • “And of course people who own cars are more likely to be significantly employed and so less able to get to a meeting at 9am on a work day.”

    Which is why there are so many goddamn “Trendy Google Professionals” living in the city screwing up traffic with their shuttle buses that the parking meter mafia is trying to get rid of – despite the fact that their non car-ownership is freeing up on-street parking for those oh-so-employed people with cars.

  • i love when idiots use the “s” word as if it means anything. the word is socialism. more fud from political know-nothings trying to start flame wars. the word is a leftover of the cold war and, at this stage in the game, doesn’t mean anything as there are only a handful of anachronistic countries on the planet who identify themselves as such. not that americans have any idea what socialism is anyways, but that’s another story.

    anyway, the word has as much meaning as “regime change” ever did. it is endlessly attached to things that republitards find distasteful. in this argument latched onto public transportation.

    the thing that is always so much fun about this is that while these rejects complain about “socialism” and having to pay taxes for things they don’t like, everybody else has to pay taxes to the big bad evil government for things they don’t like either, like john’s beloved “free”ways and his gas subsidies and shit that makes his privileged little ass be able to drive from point a to point b for nothing on our dime and not even bat an eyelid, while we have to shell out $2 to ride muni and on top of that, pay taxes for both muni and his freeways.

    so here’s the smallest violin in the world for you, john. it’s playing it’s sad song just for you!

  • Alex

    @Gabriela Not having enough drivers does not equal all the drivers that the MTA has are good drivers. In fact, I suspect being desperate for drivers lowers the standards.

    Buy a car? Did that. As I’ve explained to my district supervisor, if it’s going to take me an hour to get pretty much anywhere in the city via public transit… I’ll find a more efficient, reliable means of getting around. It takes me less time to drive to Daly City BART, and take BART downtown than it would to catch one of the trains running downtown. Two hour commutes got old, quick.

    You can wave your hands all you want about how horrible the contract is. But, face it, the contract is up on[1] for all to read. If the TWU won’t compromise like every other interested party (riders, other unions, and management)… don’t expect a lot of sympathy. If you would like to discuss overtime and work rules consider:

    – Section 15.6: Expert Operator Premium ($0.50/hr per paragraph 176)
    – Section 16.6: Fall-back Policy (LRV drivers get 12-17 minute fallbacks)
    – Section 17.2: If no lunch is scheduled, driver gets 20 minutes pay
    – Section 17.4: Drivers get paid to go to court (regarding accidents)
    – Section 17.6: Drivers get paid to fill out accident reports
    – Section 18.2: Drivers qualify for RDO pay (1.5x) even if they work less than 40 hours a week
    – Article 20: Drivers get paid jury duty (name one other job that offers this)
    – Section 23.5: It takes 3 AWOLs in 8 months to qualify for termination. Combine that with the number of personal days allowed, and you’ve got at least 9 days a year.
    – Section 29.4: Drivers are not required to pay union dues
    – Paragraph 420: Drivers in rehab will get their normal pay (MTA will make up the difference between disability insurance and their normal pay).
    – Section 33.8: The MTA will not use the GPS stuff in the vehicles for discipline (ouch, there goes any chance of getting speeding tickets, or getting popped for taking the bus to the liquor store)
    – Bonuses for showing up to work(!) p72, up to one week’s pay
    – Section 11.3: Number of part-time operators (thus making it more expensive to provide more efficient express service)
    – Section 11.6: Work Restrictions – part-time drivers cannot fill in for sick drivers or drivers on vacation (hello extra overtime)

    I’m sure there are more items that are potentially offensive to some, but ya know what, there are a lot of perks there that most private sector jobs simply wouldn’t offer.


  • Jared

    Yea let’s privatize MUNI along with all the other public goods in SF (the idea of paying to go to the library kinda sounds cool). I figure that will at least render this blog useless and all those ‘dog-and-pony’ show meetings where rich people get attacked by angry “workers”, since, well, there’s no need for a public forum or dicussion when a corporation runs something. You can call a 1-800 number or write a letter or just hope and wait for the free market to add a new bus route in your neighborhood or fill a pot hole or two. Long live the free market! Down with unions! Stop MUNI operators from oppressing us!

  • Katherine Roberts

    In response to all the comments that only slackers show up to these MTA meetings, because all the “real people” are off working — well, there’s an easy solution to that, and one (if I wanted to be conspiratorial) that I might even suspect the MTA is avoiding on purpose: why not hold these all-important policy meetings at a time and day when everyone can attend, whether they are a working stiff, a retiree with lots of time on their hands, on someone just coming from their food stamps appointment? In other words, why not hold these meetings starting at 6 p.m. on a weekday or on weekends? Because the MTA Board doesn’t WANT a whole lot of people to show up, so they try and limit public comment as much as possible, that’s why. It’s already so annoying to them that they have to listen to us go on and on for 3 minutes before they can turn around and do whatever the heck they were going to do anyway, whether anybody showed up or not. So they schedule the meeting at 9 a.m. on a weekday, and then sit back and watch us savage each other over whether anybody who came to the meeting had a job or not.

    My two cents.

  • Jared

    It’s good to know argumentum ad hominem are not allowed on this site because we sure know argumentum ad classis are ok.

  • Jared

    As per comment number 3 – “students” should pay for the fare increases? Now that is a constructive contribution to this conversation. I’ll one up you – I think teachers should have to pay for the fare increases as well. All university students and all teachers should pay extra taxes to compensate for the fare increases since they really don’t contribute to society anyways.

  • Fran Taylor

    Drivers as a group do earn more money than transit users. What’s false is the assumption that people who make more money have more value to society. Does a Wall Street banker contribute more than a farmworker? When’s the last time you ate a derivative? Far from the popular view of the poor as parasites, it’s the wealthy who disproportionately suck up more of the resources common to us all. This certainly holds true for car commuters versus transit users. Walk past all the parking lots taking up space downtown. You won’t see one Muni bus filling up those lots.

  • @Bryan, you are right and I appologize for getting so upset. Like I’ve said before, why does it feel like I’m doing something wrong for living car-free. And then to pour salt on the wound, we live in a city that touts itself as being “Transit First.” I’ll do better to keep it in check in the future.

  • Thebe

    I, for one, am relieved that youth passes will stay the same price — for now, at least. Right now my family of three pays $135 a month for fast passes. We don’t own a car, depending on City Car Share.

    The thing is, we find ourselves using a City Car Share car more and more because running errands and getting to appointments takes hours by Muni. It took me nearly an hour (one way) to get my son to his pediatrician’s appointment last November. Last month I took out a car and it took 15 minutes one way. As our City Car Share bill inches up, we’re approaching the tipping point financially and will probably buy a car this fall.

    Meanwhile, Muni fares keep rising. If they keep climbing and we have a car, we’ll stop buying fast passes and drive downtown to work. Is that what San Francisco wants? We’ve lived in this city for three years without a car, not an easy thing to do with a young child. But enough is enough.

  • John

    Bryan, Thanks for your timely intervention

    Mike, Thanks for the apology.

    I realize there was confusion as my original post seems to have caused a fissure with two different subsequent tracks.

    Re the meeting, I was simply trying to defuse some of the more exaggerated hyperbole around the fact that a couple of hundred people turned up to a meeting. As others have noted, weekday daytime meetings will have a biased attendance. And there is a core “rent-a-mob” that will turn up for any City Hall meeting or protest, whether it’s about Iraq, Rent Control or Bike Lanes. They usually speak with one voice and it typically isn’t the voice of the silent majority.

    So I think the Muni Board were right to largely disregard the public comments. However, I am no fan of the Muni Board either, although I don’t think the BofS nominating them will make anything better. It will just make the Board more political.

    Muni has been a mess for as long as I’ve been in SF and it is getting worse. The solution has to be a business solution. If the operators won’t make meaningful concessions, I’d propose the following steps:

    1) Sell any surplus assets and real estate, leasing them back if needed.
    2) Dispose of any non-core services and assets
    3) Outsource maintenance, accounting, marketing, anything non-core
    4) Focus on the main arterial routes; the ones that get folks to work e.g. 38, 14, 9 etc. Cut or cancel other lines and services
    5) Introduce new labor contracts, citing Force Majeure as necessary.
    6) Make muni self-financing; no cross-funding from parking, which should also be self-funding.
    7) Introduce private operators on smaller routes.

    In other words, treat muni like any other failing enterprise; cut it to the point of viability and provide alternatives and competition.

    “Transit First” does not mean “Transit Only”.

  • @John, MUNI has over 700,000 one way trips a day. That hardly makes the car driving portion of this city the “silent majority”. However, I have a feeling the MTA keeps the meetings at the early time to more easily dismiss any comment (either way) and push through their agenda.

    Also, if your line of thinking crosses all gov’t enterprises, I’m sure you’d be more then willing to see the roads privatized as well. Those pesky potholes would be filled instantly. However, you may have to pay tolls – hope that is ok. And not to mention highways, those are huge drains on the state coffers. Privatize those too cause only then will the free market be able to cut the waste that is Caltrans and replace it with something lean and efficient.

    This is kind of fun. Let’s take a look at parking in the city because I thought you would agree that it is way under-priced. Residential permitting should be privatized and brought up to a price more conducive to a profit. Yes, $76 covers the cost of issuing the permit so $100, let’s say, should give a nice little cushion to the bottom line. Oh wait, there is a HUGE demand for parking permits, well then, maybe they should be $200 or $250 because off street parking is still $300 in most neighborhoods.

    Pretty much, things are provided as a service for the public good. I know that somewhere in our history as a nation, the commons got the raw end of the deal, but that doesn’t mean that we can completely ignore the spaces that we all share.

    And to suggest that MUNI should only be a service for people working in the downtown core, is to ignore the fact that many (not just a vocal minority) people use MUNI as a means of transportation at all times of the day and to all areas of the city. And yes, it is subsidized, but so are roads, gas, cars, and pretty much all of suburban infrastructure. You may think that has nothing to do with San Francisco, but those far-flung suburbs in the central valley are bankrupting themselves and the state which is putting much more pressure on urban cores to finance them.

    And I still do take offense to your comment about only low wage citizens using MUNI. I’m hard working, decently paid, educated, and very involved in the community. I do not own a car and am proud of it. I see our city as a place where one can live without the socially imposed cost of car-ownership to be a productive citizen. Also, I take that money that would be sent to far-away enterprises (car manufactures, oil cartels, rubber industry, etc) and spend it at local restaurants, shops, stores, and keep that money floating around in the city.

  • “Make muni self-financing; no cross-funding from parking, which should also be self-funding.”

    Are you suggesting that the only money that can be used to repave the asphalt over parking spaces – citywide – can come from meters and tickets? This while still paying for PCO’s, meter maintainance, etc…

    Bring on the $1000 parking tickets.

  • John

    John Murphy,

    I’m suggesting that parking and transit are not particularly related. And should be managed as stand-alone entities.

    And that there is no reason why the City should have a monopoly on either. There is room for private parking lots and private buses too.

    And that City enterprises should largely be self-funding. If you want to subsidize them then go to the voters and ask for the money.

    And to Mike, I wasn’t suggesting privatizing everything. But rather let private contractors run buses on lightly-used routes where it is clearly not economical to run large buses using union drivers with inflated labor contracts.

    Identify the core transit services e.g. streetcars, major bus lines etc. And contract out functions and services to the private sector. Even the iconic red double-decker London buses have been largely privatized and run alongside competitors. So why not here?

    The City should be doing as little as possible, as well as possible, and on a sound fiscal footing. We should help them get focused and financially viable. Radical maybe, but it is clear that the other ideas have all been tried and failed. So why keep doing the same thing?

  • @John, once again disagree with you. Parking and transit are very much so connected. If parking is heavily subsidized (which it is currently) then it skews driving to be cheaper then it truly is. “Free” parking is not really free, and we can get into that whole discussion if you don’t believe me.

    Also, the more parking we build, the further apart things become. This makes places less walkable, less tolerable on a bus, and more likely to be car centric.

  • Transit is a public good. It should not be expected to be self-funding. Civilized, well-run cities the world over subsidize transit because it makes the lives of everyone in the city better. The money doesn’t have to come from parking meters–the funds could come just from the general budget–but it is immensely short-sighted and foolish for car drivers to object to funding public transit with the argument that it doesn’t directly benefit them. (I also challenge “the clear correlation between Muni riders and low income jobs.” Check out the 1 California line to see the absurdity of this thesis. At my husband’s office downtown, no one, no matter their salary, drives to work.)

    I only take Muni once or twice a week (I prefer to ride my bike, and half of all my trips are by car.) But even so, it is clear to me, as I drive my car, that if all the transit riders were also in cars, I would never get anywhere in this city. So as a car driver, I know that it is entirely in my best interest that Muni replaces over 600,000 car trips a day. As someone who enjoys breathing non-polluted air, I also value the absence of nasty tailpipe emissions from those 600,000 prevented car trips. And as someone who would like to not see billions of people die and half of all species go extinct over the next three decades, I know it is vital that Muni continues to replace those 600,000 car trips so that climate change does not accelerate even more quickly than it already is.

    As much as I love our city’s museums and parks, Muni is more important. As much as I think our environmental programs are valuable, Muni is more important. As much as I am glad San Francisco offers health care to low income folks, Muni is more important. And as much as I respond to the call that Muni drivers deserve a fair wage, the current union contract clearly hampers the effectiveness of MUNI. I will take the greater social good of effective transit any day over protecting a small group of people’s perks and privileges unheard of in the private sector.

    For those car drivers still indignant at having to subsidize transit (while being oblivious to how roads, cars and gas are subsidized) the Peak Oil clock is ticking. US oil discoveries peaked in 1930. US oil production peaked in 1970. World oil discoveries peaked in 1965. World oil production peaked in 2008. World oil reserves are now being depleted at a rate of 6% a year. US demand is falling, but Chinese and Indian demand is increasing. A descending supply curve must hit a rising demand curve at some point. When it does, the internal combustion engine that carts our three thousand pound cars about will become a relic in a museum, and we will all be grateful for any public transit we manage to keep afloat in this difficult budgetary crisis.

  • Jared

    “And to Mike, I wasn’t suggesting privatizing everything. But rather let private contractors run buses on lightly-used routes where it is clearly not economical to run large buses using union drivers with inflated labor contracts.”

    Let me get this straight – what you’re saying is have an affordable option for the city’s affluent who are going downtown and everyone else, especially the low-income population, should be left to the whims of “free market” when it comes to transport? That’s awful convenient. Now John – who exactly does one complain to when you can’t afford the fees for riding privatized transport?

  • Jared

    “And yes, it is subsidized, but so are roads, gas, cars, and pretty much all of suburban infrastructure. You may think that has nothing to do with San Francisco, but those far-flung suburbs in the central valley are bankrupting themselves and the state which is putting much more pressure on urban cores to finance them.”

    Yes, Mike but gas and cars and suburbs are things that the white middle and upper class like so those things should not be subjected to the “free market.” All good free marketeers know that the market should only be unleashed upon the working class and poor, but it when it comes to bank bailouts, Wall St. firms, coporations paying taxes, pretty much the entire military-industrial complex, the vicissitudes of international trade, etc. state subsidies and state socialism are the name of the game.

  • So there are drivers at the MARCH AGAINST MUNI with signs saying “We’re all in this together”.

    Let us posit that not all the drivers suck.

    Let us posit that the drivers are on our side – in general.

    Let us posit that there are some shitty drivers that the riders loathe.

    Should not the “good” drivers also loathe these shitty drivers and want to kick them out? Since they are on our side, and all???

  • @John, did you stop down there? I give you a lot of credit. I don’t think I could stand to be around that much stupidity. Plus, I got off the train at 5 so I would have missed the start and all those amazing rallying cries.

  • John


    No I wasn’t saying Muni for the rich and private jitney’s for the poor.

    I was saying Muni for the major arterial routes and jitneys for the low-use routes including routes not currently served at all.

    I gave examples of the 9 and 14 which traverse some of the poorest parts of town.

    While the folks in Pacific Heights would probably be willing to pay extra not to have to share their bus with half of ChinaTown.

  • If Pacific Heights residents don’t want to “share their bus with half of Chinatown” then I suggest the fine communities of Walnut Creek or Los Gatos. One of the amazing and wonderful things about San Francisco is all the different walks of life you get to encounter on a daily basis. I’m not one for telling people to love it or leave it, but if you’d prefer to spend some extra money to avoid a certain demographic then what’s the point of even living here? The status of living in a chic city? Not to mention the fact that comment is overtly racist.

    And I was asking John Murphy if he stopped at the “March against MUNI” not the other John. Forgot we had two Johns going in this conversation.

  • John


    No need to play the race card. That’s a cheap shot.

    Lots of people avoid Muni for lots of reasons. I don’t think it’s racist to take a cab or BART rather than take bus lines like the 9 and 14 that can be crowded, dirty and sometimes dangerous.

    Nor is a possible market for a fast, premium bus with guaranteed seats, wi-fi, newspapers, coffee an exercise in bigotry.

    We need as many viable alternatives as possible i.e. A smaller, viable MUNI, BART, private carriers, Cabs, private cars, bikes and walking.

    IOW, competition.

  • It wasn’t a cheap shot if what you said smacked of racism. Your restated argument about avoiding bus lines because they are crowded, dirty and dangerous is much different then saying people would like to avoid riding with Chinatown.

    Anyway, I can agree that MUNI should be a bit leaner, but our means differ. I think providing bus-only lanes, signal priority, and adjusting the distance between stops would greatly speed and improve MUNI. And by speeding it up, you need fewer buses and drivers to provide better, more reliable service.

  • Mike

    @miksonn, LOL on Los Gatos. They pretty much drove VTA out because the buses were too ugly for their downtown.

    It sounds good on paper to have MUNI provide buses on major routes, and have some sort of private service for the less-used routes, but we live in one city and I don’t see how we can separate the service in that way. Some lightly used routes have heavy portions which connect to the major feeder routes, and then relatively few passengers at the ends of the route. We just have to deal with it. We need to make the transit system viable without trying to make each individual bus run break even.

    Just as an example, the N-Judah certainly brings in lots of fares; we need to accept that the 37-Corbett brings in considerably less in fare revenue, (huge crowds in commute hours, less so off-peak). That 37, however, provides the only way for people living on some of those steep hills to get down to Market St and/or Carl Street to connect to the street cars.

  • “Nor is a possible market for a fast, premium bus with guaranteed seats, wi-fi, newspapers, coffee an exercise in bigotry.”

    Bauer tried, and failed. Turns out Caltrain is much faster, roomier, reliable (there are more fatalities on 101 than on Caltrain tracks), has a bathroom, you can get data on your iPhone, newspapers and coffee at the station.

  • I may have spoke too soon re:Bauer. The lines are still going, but with a lot of tinkering.

  • JohnB


    I meant the congestion and crowds like when the 30 Marina bus drags through China Town.

    Even Muni seems to agree, putting on a “premium” 30X at times. Although even that gets a bad rap:—30x-marina-express-san-francisco

  • Andy Chow

    The upside for Bauers is that it saves people from making a trip from home to Caltrain and from Caltrain to the office. Many employers offer shuttles between the train and the office, but the biggest turn off is the trip from home to the Caltrain. Bikes make Caltrain more accessible but then Caltrain can only takes so many bikes. The downside is the Bauers only offers limited trips.

    Bigotry isn’t an issue, because there’s already the most bigoted transportation mode out there, which has existed for decades, which is called the automobiles. Knowing that how much harm auto ownership is to the city, can the city develop a solution for those who could own a car and provide them with a transportation option less awful than Muni, if Muni can’t be changed into something less awful.

    By the way, Caltrain and BART are both less awful than Muni, but they cost billions to build. If I were one of the owner of those double deck excursion buses in SF, I would consider running them for commute trips.

  • @Andy Chow I am not talking about Bauer shuttles for specific companies. That’s a defined market – Google runs tons of shuttles, they have a large employee base, so they can have more buses with fewer in-city stops and only 1 endpoint stop.

    Bauer decided to try to capture some Caltrain customers with shuttles. But they picked up at the Ferry Building and Caltrain. At that point, you might as well take Caltrain, unless the Bauer bus is dropping you off at your office specifically. But if Bauer drops you off at your office, it isn’t dropping the other guy off at his office. Or if they have many stops, it becomes more painful than Caltrain/shuttle.

    Answer: More capacity for bikes on Caltrain. How else are people going to get to Caltrain? MUNI? The 48 runs from my front door to 22nd St Caltrain and I’ve taken it 3 times in 2 years. 13 minutes on bike give or take 90 seconds. 30 minutes on MUNI give or take an 40 minutes. And if I miss Caltrain by 1 minute, it costs me an hour (missing employee shuttle on other end).

  • Andy – in case there is confusion as to the part of Bauer I refer to…

  • Yo SPUR!

    Anyone else underwhelmed by SPUR’s not-so-well researched proposals? Seems about 1/2 of the SPUR proposals are pie-in-the-sky:

    10M/year revenue from selling blue placards? Not something the city can do – it would have to be done by the state DMV which administers disabled placards, and is prohibited by state law.

    5.5M/year savings by re-route 311 calls to 511? This has already been done – when you call 311 the 1st menu option you get is for Muni (press 1), and the then the menu directs customers to call 511 for departure times.

    3M/year savings by implementing Translink? This is already planned – seems like double-counting to include this as projected savings.

    1.7M/year revenue by adding 1000 new metered spaces? The public process to add meters means this savings wouldn’t occur for another few years.

    1.3M/year savings by reducing City Attorney work order? Is this realistic or just pulled out of thin air?

    10M/year savings from layoffs/furloughs/overtime reduction? Who do they propose laying off – what would the impacts be to Muni service, what other projects would suffer?

    1.5M/year savings from “schedule realingment”? Huh?

  • Andy Chow

    The Wi-drive was exactly what I was talking about. The buses no longer start at the Ferry but rather on Van Ness. Bauers can change route easily without the kind of process that public agencies make because of legal/union restrictions.

    I don’t have an issue for bikes except the long dwell time for loading/unloading bikes.


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