Transit Supporters Seek Solutions at Save Muni Summit

IMG_1629.jpgPhotos: Michael Rhodes

About 100 transit supporters gathered for a summit at the Women’s Building this morning to discuss Muni’s future, settle on issues that have broad support, and build a movement to lobby for a better Municipal Railway.

Many of the solutions that were popular with participants today have been widely discussed before, and some are moving forward, but there has not been the political will or funding to make them all happen. The newly formed San Francisco Transit Riders Union hopes to change that by taking ideas that most Muni riders support and building political momentum around campaigns to implement them.

We’ll take a more in-depth look at today’s Muni Summit on Monday, but for those who couldn’t make it, here are some of the ideas that were endorsed by most participants.

  • Build bus rapid transit on Geary and Van Ness
  • Switch to a proof-of-payment system on buses, with all-door boarding
  • Exert political force to get transit preferential streets implemented
  • Push for small incremental improvements that could be tested immediately, like new transit-only lanes
  • Focus on headway adherence rather than schedule adherence
  • Create a cheaper day pass that’s valid on all vehicles except the cable cars
  • Enforce parking meters on Sundays and possibly evenings
  • Increase meter and parking garage rates downtown and eliminate discount all-day parking
  • Increase the residential parking permit fee
  • Implement congestion pricing (this had mixed support, with some participants concerned about feasibility, equity and economic impacts)
  • Increase the vehicle license fee
  • Reduce work orders
  • Improve the accuracy of NextBus displays
  • Look at cost saving measures proposed by the various MTA unions and involve Muni drivers in the conversation on how to improve Muni
  • Enforce payment but don’t overly criminalize fare evaders who can’t afford to pay
  • Make sure Muni informational pamphlets are available in multiple languages
  • Reach out to people who were missing from today’s meeting, especially people of color and younger people

  • Matt

    “Enforce payment but don’t overly criminalize fare evaders who can’t afford to pay”

    I’m not sure what “overly criminalize” means. Fare evaders shouldn’t go to jail, but they should pay a hefty fine–especially if Muni switches to a “proof of payment” system on buses. Such a system would result in a drastically higher rate of fare evasion. The only way for Muni to recoup that expense (and deter evaders) is to levy a major fine on anyone who is actually caught evading their fare. Imagine if the fine for evading your fare was $500 or maybe 10 hours of community service. Would you really take the chance? Those who can’t afford to pay should get a discounted pass, not a exemption from the law.

    Otherwise, I’m onboard with all the suggestions!

  • JohnB


    A lot of the people I see who are obviously evading fares (and yes, you can often tell) are kids or homeless folks. Good luck getting $500 off them. I prefer the exact opposite – pay or show proof as you enter. Some drivers will call to the front anyone who gets on at the center doors. I am all in favor of that. No fare, no ride.

    And how many extra Muni “enforcers” would we need to implement a full POP system on the buses? Right now I only see them on the streetcars.

    I also didn’t like the idea of consulting the MTA unions for their ideas. They are the source of much of the problems with Muni. Asking them for their ideas is like asking felons how we can improve police practices.

    Reach out to “people of color”? Well, always put race in any discussion and nobody can say no. But really, we ended segregation on buses 50 years ago. No need to re-introduce race back into transit now. Whatever Muni’s problems are, they’re not problems of racism, and the solutions are not race-based.

    Other than that, the suggestions from this “Summit” were just the same old ideas put forward by the same 100 people who always show up, and always want everyone else to pay for but themselves. The problem with events like this is that the people who show up are transit activists and are extreme by the standards of most folks in SF.

  • Joseph

    “Look at cost saving measures proposed by the various MTA unions and involve Muni drivers in the conversation on how to improve Muni”

    Well, I don’t consider myself anti-labor but that’s a soft statement. We need some hard-nosed action with respect to work rules and a system of accountability (at ALL levels of organization) to be paramount within Muni. I’m fine with paying greater than market rates for labor if the workforce performs. Otherwise we can throw all the money in the world at Muni but nothing will change.

  • Andy Chow

    Senator Leland Yee was there and watched a portion of the event.

    Some of the suggestions are contradictory, but many others are obvious. Despite some disagreements, I think what frustrates advocates the most is that Muni hasn’t done a lot of small stuff that don’t cost much (if at all) but help make the system more efficient.

    Institution of no cable-car day pass, common bus stop signage, automated announcements to ask riders to move to the back of the bus, system map onboard buses, common way to open the bus exit door are the little things.

    The issues about jitneys and shuttles were briefly discussed. I think that some people have a misunderstanding of what role jitneys and shuttles should play. Some said that shuttles compete with Muni (and that shuttle riders could pay Muni instead), but I don’t agree. I see all those options are complementary to Muni, and be able to function in ways that Muni can’t (Muni can’t do everything, as demonstrated by the CultureBus failure). Because of that, I think it should be encouraged as long as it doesn’t impact Muni’s operation. Muni buses are already too crowded anyway. If these modes could reduce excess demand for transit, it would help the rest of people who need to rely on Muni. The “revenue” from the shuttle riders aren’t significant since it would cost Muni more to run extra service for these riders.

  • JohnB,

    You also trot out the same old talking points. How are those notes written on your hand? “Tax cuts” “Lift spirits” etc etc.

    It isn’t the same 100 people because my wife and I were there. We don’t attend the public MTA hearings because we have jobs (contrary to your belief that all MUNI riders are unemployed drains on society).

    I believe you pick and choose which public services best suit yours needs and which don’t and then that forms your argument for funding – which is fine. But as a city of less then 49 sq mi our public space is VERY limited, and as it stands right now one of the greatest uses of that public space is private car ownership. I argue that if you want to own a car, then pay your fair share. You are against a bus running at 20% capacity, well I’m against a car parking on a street for 2% of what it should cost annually.

    Also, this isn’t just about revenue, it is about the greatest public good done by an action. The bus provides a service to not only the riders, but the other drivers on the road by removing likely congestion. Also, the city will have cleaner air, have to fix the roads less often, and not have to provide more parking (taking away valuable real-estate for homes and businesses.

    You happen to reside in a wonderful right-of-center utopia where you can have your cake and eat it too. Well, there are 800,000 people that live here and this all has to work somehow. MUNI provides a crucial service to an already crowded city by allowing people to traverse with relative ease. If you’d prefer everyone to be in their cars, you’d be on here complaining about how you can’t get to work because the traffic is so bad. And funding transit through outsides sources is the same way roads get funded through outside sources. Roads don’t pave themselves, and gas isn’t $2.50/gal because God has ordained it to be so.

    And there needs to be a discussion among the most passionate (your 100 people that you seem to despise for fighting for something important to them) of MUNI riders to figure out a way to get the rest of the riding base motivated enough, loud enough, and active enough to save the system we all depend on – whether by choice or by necessity.

    I know you are probably getting a kick out of being “a voice for the silent majority” of San Francisco, but if that “silent majority” had to deal with every person on MUNI driving, they’d be paying whatever taxes necessary to get those people back onto the buses.

    I debated even responding to you, your last couple posts have been pretty lacking in substance and were mostly baiting, because I don’t think we’ll find a common ground any time soon. But to put down brainstorming (the system is broke by your own admission) is counter-productive. Let people share ideas, that is how solutions are born. Also, allowing the drivers (who are now criminal in your book, hyperbole anyone?) to enter into the discussion is necessary. As much as you may hate them, they are part of the puzzle that needs to be solved, hopefully sooner then later. To ignore them is to treat them without dignity and respect, no matter your personal feelings towards their contracts etc.

    You are entitled to your opinions, and you do bring a view that isn’t often stated in this forum which is sometimes (emphasis) refreshing, but to just stand on your soap box and talk down people who legitimately care for the system and the city isn’t going to produce results it’ll only enrage. And all that’ll lead to is a stalemate – both in the board room and on the streets.

  • MG

    Pretty much every bus on Stockton through Chinatown already functions like an all-door boarding system anyway.

  • BCon

    To mikesonn: Thank you… you always leave the best comments… and pretty much say what I would want to say, so it saves me the trouble.

    But I’m really excited about the summit that happened today, so I’ll add my 2 cents:

    I was actually riding the 47 Van Ness today, and heard a woman tell a man that she just came from the Muni meeting. Since, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend, I asked her how it went, and she said it went well and that there were a lot of great ideas.

    I love most the ideas above, especially kick starting BRT and changing the whole system to a POP system to allow all-door boarding on buses as well as streetcars. However if that was done, I think we’d need to hire quite a few more fare inspectors that operate on a rotating schedule and regularly rotating routes (on buses and streetcars), so that people never know when or where they’ll turn up. There would also have to be a steep penalty for fare evasion, and if someone can’t afford the citation, maybe they could do community service as someone suggested. For it to be especially effective, we’d also have to replace pretty much all the buses with ones that are more like the new AC Transit Van Hool buses used in the East Bay (low floor throughout, 3 doors on regular buses, 4 on articulated buses). Of course the MTA doesn’t have that kind of capital money right now, but to run a truly efficient system, it might be wise for them to seek money for such things, rather than seeking money for things like the Central Subway.

    And we really must be looking at ALL salaries at Muni. Yes, work rules for drivers need to change, and bad drivers need to be held accountable and/or fired, but we MUST include management in the discussion. Are they doing their jobs effectively? Do we really need to pay the head of the MTA over $300k a year and many of the managers below him over $200k a year, when in cities like Chicago, the head of their transit system makes under $200k a year and, from what I’ve heard, runs a much more efficient system? I really hope the proposed management audit of the MTA goes through, and I’m curious what it may find.

    I’m also very encouraged by the last MTA board meeting, where they seemed to finally wake up (at least partially) to the outrage that has been expressed and the strong desire by this community to make things better. This budget crisis may turn out to be a blessing in disguise and just what we needed to finally start the path to eventually having a world class transit system. Maybe one day, locals will be praising Muni as a shining example of local pride, rather than another example of “The City That Can’t”.

  • jerry cauthen

    I think Andy Chow hit the nail on the head when he noted that what frustrates people most is the MTA’s failure to do the small things that could improve Muni efficiency at relatively low cost.

    As others have indicated, many worthwhile ideas were discussed during today’s Save Muni Summit. Ideas aren’t the problem. Good ideas abound. In fact there are literally hundreds of creative ways of improving Muni being discussed in San Francisco at this time. These ideas are coming from Muni drivers, riders, neighbor activists, transportation experts, columnists and others.

    The challenge is getting San Francisco’s government to recognize the need to reverse the Muni “death spiral” before it’s too late, and then to set up the special team required to get the job done. Getting Muni up to standard won’t happen overnight and it won’t happen because of weighty reports or fobbing the problem off on consultants. What’s need is a permanent team within the SFMTA comprised of carefully selected staff members, drivers, riders and others, all dedicated to looking closely at Muni’s 70 existing routes. The mission of this team would be to identify the many factors dragging down the quality of the service and then acting with vigor and persistence to eliminate them one by one.

  • Sam Francisco

    I can’t believe what haters you all are. A kid or a homeless person rides a bus for free, depriving humanity of 2 bucks (or less if it’s a youth) and you want to throw the book at them and charge them a whopping 500 bucks. An AIG or Goldman Sachs executive writes himself a bonus of tens of millions of dollars in looted money and people like you put his picture on the cover of Business Week and call him a hero.

    You all have some pretty messed up priorities. I think if we audited some of you, these hateful statements about the poor wouldn’t be flowing so freely. What do you do to get all the money that makes you so morally high-and-mighty and ready to pin the scarlet letter of fare evasion on some victim of this free market holocaust?


  • Cut number of Muni mangerment Reduce the number of people making over $150,000

  • It is critical that any organization embrace all segments of the population to bring the best to the table. For some reason the outreach done in this case did not reach the advocates that really matter that are people of color.

    From reading the reports – we have the same people – saying the same things. Except this time around they have put our past suggestions in order – which is good.

    It is critical first that we evaluate the performance of our Mayor, Nathaniel Ford the Director of the MTA, the other top Managers that make over $200,000. Does MTA really need a Chief of Staff? Why not start at the top – with a ten percent cut in pay?

    If this movement is driven by the same folks that do not bother to embrace the key segments of the population – this movement will fall by the way side.

    We could have easily chosen a central place and encouraged our youth to attend these meetings? It is time we encourage families to come to these meetings and not cater them to single individuals that see MTA and its operations – in a total different way.

    Now we have a couple of groups on FACEBOOK, then some blogs, making things all the more complicated. Perhaps, this aspect linked to outreach and sound planning with UNITY – could be discussed at the next forum.

    On the TV I saw the President of an advocacy group – mostly aged folks that do not really represent San Francisco – make some comments that were not true. I also see the same individuals that pander to Mayor Gavin Newsom have infiltrated all levels of this organization.

    The constituents at large in San Francisco have been hoodwinked by Gavin Newsom, Nathaniel Ford, and some neighborhood groups that have a hidden agenda.

    In years to come the MUNI system that we knew before will be no more. Simply because the leadership that was in place in before, the work ethics, has vanished. Greed and corrupt has substituted the best values practiced before.

    We, the constituents have permitted MUNI and the MTA to waste millions. In fact the entire system does not belong to us – in the sense that other countries own the entire system – and it is the only way MTA can get write off. This aspect has not been discussed at all. Asset Management and our fiscal responsibility.

    This group should contact the Federal Government to audit the system and the unfair practices imposed of the Physically Challenged our Elders. The group must focus on the people as much as it does the operations and MUNI’s pathetic delivery system.

    This is just a beginning and we can come out with genuine solutions – only, if we reach out to all the constituents that make up San Francisco.

    Francisco Da Costa
    Environmental Justice Advocacy

  • JohnB


    I think you made some illuminating points there, although perhaps not quite in the way you intended.

    I’ll accept that it was (at least partly) a different 100 folks than the 100 that showed up a few days earlier. And indeed it was me that made the point that a weekday meeting means that the “silent majority” that work regular hours cannot attend, thus skewing the emphasis.

    But judging by the similar ideas that came out yesterday, it was the same KIND of people who showed up. And you give it away yourself when you describe those who showed up as “passionate people fighting for what they believe in”. I’m all for passion and commitment too, but the fact remains that those who are “passionate” about Muni tend to all pro-Muni. The people that drive everywhere don’t show up at a meeting about something they don’t use.

    So the result is still skewed. Note how there was no effective opposition to tax hikes and parking fee increases? Notice how nobody advocated Muni cuts or fare increases? Or that nobody suggest taking on the unions head-on? All are important ideas too but you wouldn’t know it from that meeting.

    And I suspect if I had showed up with those ideas, I would have gotten a frosty reception. Just like you accused me of “baiting” here, just for suggesting some alternative viewpoints.

    But perhaps the mistake is mine. I only stumbled upon this site the other day, while googling something. And it’s clear it is less an objective debating forum for transportation in SF, and more a locale for people who are pro-Muni, pro-bike and (for the most part) anti-car.

    And that’s fine as long as the casual observer, or the MTA officers, or the BofS, or the Mayor, do not mistake this blog or yesterday’s meeting as the “voice of the people”. It’s the voice of the activists. It’s rather like asking 100 ardent Giants fans which is the best baseball team in the U.S.

    Private vehicles are crucial. I have two because I need two. I park one in my garage and one in my driveway. there is no “hidden cost” to the City of my parking. The road is there whether I use it or not. Whereas buses and crew have to be paid for even if they run at 20% or 0% capacity.

    I think we need a balanced solution to spread the load as wdely as possible i.e. fare hikes, service cuts, union concessions, parking hikes, some higher taxes. Everyone should pay. It shouldn’t just be a “tax the rich” and “punish the driver” solution.

    And paradoxically, I might almost argue that prospective tax hikes are better, because then at least that silent majority finally get to decide at the ballot box, rather than a group of harried executives and 100 “passionate” transit activists in a smoke-filled room.

  • Andy Chow

    You wasn’t there and therefore you don’t know. Don’t complain about other people not listening to you when you decided not to come for whatever reason.

    I don’t have kids and I don’t attend school board meetings, but I don’t believe that the schools should be systematically defunded. Whatever your “slient majority” you talk about, the most important is the election results. SF voters, which include those who drive, do not support auto-centric policies.

    Regarding taxes, not all taxing options are available fit the city government, and that those available could also impact the low income groups. Transit advocates are not ignorant of that.

    What most people agree with is that Muni needs to be more functional in various areas. Funding is a part of that issue. Some riders have ideas but are not familiar with the political/legal structure that make things possible. What that summit help accomplish is to connect the riders frustrated with the system with those who are familiar with the system, develop an achievable strategy, and make things happen.

  • JohnB


    Yes, I wasn’t there. But I can reasonably infer the crowd from the “ideas”. And I recognize at least one well-known bike activist from the photograph. This wasn’t a focus group of 100 SF voters chosen at random.

    I have no issue with it being a meeting for transit activists as long as the authorities recognize that, listen to pothers as well, and temper the “Summit” conclusions with that in mind.

    I’m arguing that we employ all the solutions I listed, so that no one group bears the burden of Muni’s financial failure. I agree we need Muni. I don’t agree we need duplicate routes like 5/21 or 12/27. I don’t agree that Muni drivers have to be the second highest paid in the nation. I don’t agree that little old ladies who own their own home but never go anywhere should have to subsidize Muni more than they already do.

    Auto’s are critical to SF. In our zeal to embrace mass transit, let’s not forget that for many, Muni quite simply doesn’t work and can’t work.

  • Abe

    Get rid of fares altogether.

    Muni doesn’t make any revenue from fares. They cost as much to collect as they bring in. Fares only serve to limit the number of people riding transit. Remove the fares and watch ridership numbers soar. When an undeniable majority of San Franciscans use Muni regularly the political resistance to funding transit will vanish.

    Then let’s cut all subsidies to the private automobile infrastructure & make it so that private autos actually have to become self-sufficient (paying for road/highway maintenance, full price of gas, street parking, etc.). See how they like having their system killed by a thousand cuts.

  • Jim Chi

    Noticeably absent is any mention of the issues of seniors or people with disabilities. In many cases do not have the option of not taking the bus. In my opinion they should be on the forefront, and in the front seats. I applaud the formation of a Transit Riders Union and would likely join, if only to push the concerns of seniors and pwds. It is critical however that the leadership of this isn’t made up of just WABYs (White, Able Bodied Yuppies)! Feel free to use that good people.

    In the meantime I will consider the formation of a “Back Door Users Union” (BDUU)and I think efforts to demonize poor people who sneak in while this group overlooks the top heavy salaries and waste in the administration is despicable.

    Transit is a right.

  • JohnB, it’s worth remembering that this was a meeting of advocates to discuss advocacy efforts. This was not a UN summit. The group present can be thought of as an interest group, and there is room for groups with other interests as well. If you care about this issue I strongly recommend joining or forming a group that represents your interests.

    But I’ll believe your claims of the silent majority when I see evidence of it. As Mr. Chow said, there’s a string of election results that show broad support for Muni, so if your group of bashful car drivers exists, it doesn’t appear that they are indeed a majority

  • Nick

    I think the group missed one crucial point: Encourage a spirit of self-examiniation from within the MTA.

    Meaning… they should have come up with this list on their own. They have a CEO, an organizational structure, and loads of money. They shouldn’t need Dave Snyder or anyone else to tell them what to do (we love you Dave). Why the MTA isn’t hugely successful is beyond me.

    And if history is any guide, this summit is reminescent of the 1997 Bike Plan meetings. It’s 2010 and those reccomendations have not yet been implemented.

  • JohnB: I have no issue with it being a meeting for transit activists as long as the authorities recognize that, listen to pothers as well, and temper the “Summit” conclusions with that in mind.

    Worth noting, however, is that the summit was conceived, organized, and populated by very knowledgeable transit professionals, who have worked at Muni/MTA or in the field generally, in some cases for decades. That sort of experience and historical knowledge is invaluable if we expect to make progress without cyclically repeating past mistakes. And that’s also something that our “authorities” and decisionmakers should recognize, particularly the relative newcomers may still have more to learn.

  • JohnB


    Being an “expert” is all well and good as long as it doesn’t cloud your judgment. For instance, most of the experts on the Giants baseball team are probably Giants fans. Fans of other teams wouldn’t know as much about the Giants. So would I ask those “experts” whether the Giants are a great team? Or whether Baseball is a better game than chess? You’d get an expertly argued but hopelessly biased result.

    When we pick juries for trials, we don’t pick 12 subject matter experts but rather 12 ordinary citizens.

    Again, in elections, you don’t need qualifications to vote. We give everyone the same vote, whether “expert” or not.

    The fact is that most of these “experts” on Muni are also great fans and supporters of Muni. So you get passion along with your knowledge. But you won’t get neutrality or objectivity. For example, remember the picture at the previous meeting of an “expert” holding up a “Tax the Rich” placard?

    Muni issues are not so complex or academically difficult to understand that the opinions of most casual users and local residents are somehow rendered invalid.

    I think Josh above had it right. This was more a case of management meeting with an advocacy or lobbying group. They take their views into account but they also know that as well as these 100 “experts”, there were also 799,900 other residents who weren’t there.

    If I were the head of Muni, I’d solicit some opinion polls and/or focus groups to get a broader range of opinions and a sense of what the majority of “non experts” also want. It’s at least possible that many people don’t want to “tax the rich” or give bikes priority over delivery trucks.

  • jsb

    I’m glad to see this happen. I went to five different organizations and a number of hearings in spring 1988 to find people with whom to oppose a Muni fare hike (The Muni Coalition, which I had joined in 1982, had died in the interim). I couldn’t find one person with whom to organize an effort, and thus just spoke out at hearings.

    I hope there are groups like this in every city in the country, and that you can reach out to other places to take this idea viral.

  • Andy Chow

    Comparing Muni with baseball is just not accurate. The transit experts and advocates that came to that event have experience with transit all over the country if not all over the world. Different experts have their own opinions.

    We have people of different opinions represented. Some want more fare enforcements, and some don’t. Some believe that there should be more underground rail lines to speed up service, and that many of us remind them that it is too expensive to do.

    Voters are pretty much clear that they want results (better transit), but don’t expect all the voters to come up with a workable plan to deliver the results. Transit advocates are no different than tax planners and lawyers.

  • JohnB,

    Of course it was an advocacy meeting, I never disputed that. All I was suggesting is that advocacy, when informed by invaluable expertise and practical experience, may be well-positioned to bring an especially compelling perspective to the table. This is a nascent effort, so it is too soon yet to tell what may come of it.

    Just because someone is “nonexpert” doesn’t mean that person is a wholly neutral, objective observer without an opinion. Far from it: “experts” and “nonexperts” alike are entitled to hold, and actually do hold, opinions — possibly “judgment-clouding” opinions, or possibly not. As such, anyone’s judgment may be either clouded or not-clouded, regardless of level of expertise. Similarly, the fact that someone advocates for a cause does not clearly imply that his/her judgment is clouded. Nor is it true that advocates are foreclosed from understanding or sympathizing with any point of view contrary to their own. The choice of perspective may be the result of objective personal deliberation. And one’s position may also evolve over time as one has new experiences, is exposed to new ideas, and has further time to reflect.

    Conflating expertise and advocacy with clouded judgment seems to me to be a sweeping generalization that isn’t all that illuminating. Instead of condemning experts and advocates generally, it’s far more productive to examine each independent substantive proposal for what it is, at face value, and determine what connection it has, if any, to the facts at hand.

    By the way, there were “experts,” “nonexperts,” and everyone in-between, at the Muni summit. There was also a rather wide range of opinion, which you might’ve noticed had you attended. You will no doubt be pleased to learn that there was, in fact, vigorous debate and disagreement at the table I happened to join.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you that transit policy is not rocket science, and I believe — deeply — that public participation is not just desirable, but critical to the process. I would appreciate your not putting words in my mouth that imply the contrary.

    But there is a false dichotomy: just because something isn’t rocket science doesn’t mean that there aren’t subtleties to be teased out. There will always be finer points of detail on which reasonable people will disagree, even while they are in agreement on the larger vision. Expertise and experience can be very helpful to explicate those differences, to educate, to draw connections, and to move toward a resolution. Considering different angles is also helpful for similar reasons. Moving forward, it’s worthwhile to draw upon all these resources.

  • patrick

    @JohnB, you need to provide more support for many of the comments you make, for example, exactly what is the silent majority you speak of? I’ve responded to a number of your claims below.

    “I only stumbled upon this site the other day, while googling something. And it’s clear it is less an objective debating forum for transportation in SF, and more a locale for people who are pro-Muni, pro-bike…”

    That is generally true, but that doesn’t mean we are not open to comments from people with other views, but since you are in the minority you need to come with some evidence to support your position.

    “… and (for the most part) anti-car”

    I think that statement is in part true, and in part false. I think many of us think cars are useful tools, but that they are being used for purposes they are not suited for (such as commuting to work) and being overused and being treated in a fetishistic manner in our society.

    “Private vehicles are crucial…”

    see above, private vehicles are not crucial.

    “… I have two because I need two.”

    I doubt that is the case. Many people think they need a car, when in fact they only want a car. If it’s true for you need a car, then explain why that’s the case.

    “The road is there whether I use it or not. Whereas buses and crew have to be paid for even if they run at 20% or 0% capacity.”

    The road is not free, the road is mostly unused most of the time (the only time a road is fully used is during rush hour, and even then most roads are nowhere near fully used).

    “I think we need a balanced solution to spread the load as wdely as possible i.e. fare hikes, service cuts, union concessions, parking hikes, some higher taxes.”

    The thing is that Muni riders have already made huge contributions: fares have doubled over the last 10 years, and got up 33% in the last year, while at the same time service has been repeatedly cut. How much have meter rates gone up? Or licensing fees, or gas taxes, or residential parking rates? I’ll be the first to agree that management & the union need to make concessions, but riders have already done their part.

    “I don’t agree we need duplicate routes like 5/21 or 12/27.”

    If those bus lines are redundant, then wouldn’t the roads those bus lines run on also be redundant? That’s just one of the many examples where auto oriented people think that others (bus riders, cyclists, pedestrians) should get less consider than drivers. Would you be willing to alternate roads exclusively for private auto use & bus use (just to clarify, I mean 1 road is for cars only, then next road over is for bus only & of course bikes can go everywhere)?

    “I don’t agree that little old ladies who own their own home but never go anywhere should have to subsidize Muni more than they already do.”

    You seem to be forgetting that that same little old lady who owns her own home but never goes anywhere is also paying for roads that they don’t use, but at least they will never have to worry about their bus pass being taken away, unlike their drivers license.

    “Auto’s are critical to SF.”

    Autos are absolutely not critical to SF, and for probably 95% of the population, completely optional.

    “In our zeal to embrace mass transit, let’s not forget that for many, Muni quite simply doesn’t work and can’t work.”

    You need to support such a claim, particularly the idea that it “can’t work”.

  • mikesonn

    @ transbay & Patrick –

    I’m out of town so thank you for your comments. JohnB, you ideas and opinions are more then welcome here. That’s why I thanked you for them because they do provide an insight we don’t often see. However, Patrick is right in asking you to back up your many statements. And when I mentioned baiting, when you respond to me you usually don’t have the hyberbole that you do in general statements, ie comparing TWU to felons. There are a million other analogies that could have been used but I feel you choose this one with purpose.

    But I agree with you that we need all voices at the table so please continue to communicate with us. Just take an extra few minutes, and we are all guilty of this, to expand upon your ideas and statements. Then we won’t have to read between lines on both sides.

    Also, sorry for mistakes, typing on this thing can be a pain. Hope SF is treated you all well this past weekend.

  • I was going to comment on the “don’t over-criminalize” and was pleased to see that, right away, someone had addressed it on the board. I agree that by no means should they go to jail, but a set, and relatively hefty fine should be attributed. It’s a shame to see people jumping fares, and I usually don’t agree with deterrent based punishments, but in this case it seems appropriate.

  • JohnB


    Too much for me to comment on here and now, but I just wanted to counter one point. When you said that there was plenty of disagreement at the “Summit”, I feel sure you are correct. Sometimes it is advocates of a narrow cause that fight most bitterly with each other over goals and tactics.

    However, what I meant was that the conclusions contained none of these proposals that I would have liked to seen in there, implying that there was little disagreement on the following i.e.

    1) Muni employee concessions
    2) Service Cuts and layoffs

    Trying to fix Muni without fixing their bloated cost structure and rigid work practices is like re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic, and expecting it not to sink.

    To my mind, it is not private car drivers who are the “enemy” but the unsustainable work contracts. So why are they off the table, seemingly? The Unions are the ultimate advocacy group. Why can’t we touch them?

  • Andy Chow

    Since you weren’t at the summit there were quite a few that support management cuts and the proposal to take off the wage from the charter. If you think that nobody wants employee concessions, you’re wrong. What was avoided is to blame a single individual or group for having this crisis.

    No one wants service cuts. That’s the whole point of the summit, because it is the often the easiest thing to do in a budget crisis, but there are many ways to prevent or reduce cuts if there’s a will.

  • JohnB


    I’m glad that employee wage cuts were discussed although I wasn’t referring only to “management”. At the management level you want the top people so salaries have to be competitive with what private industry would pay. I’m talking more about the operators and ancillary staff.

    And still, staff pay cuts were NOT on the final list of “ideas”, indicating that got nixed by the majority.

    I don’t want to see huge service cuts either. But I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me why the 27 and 9, running parallel one black apart, can’t be merged?

    Ditto for the 12 and 21, 2 blocks apart?

    Those two examples are off the top of my head, and I’m not even that familiar with most bus routes. I’m sure I could find other examples if I invested some time.

    Point is – cuts shouldn’t be off the table if you’re going to the voters with cap in hand.

    And while I’m willing to vote for bond measures that provide new and better transport, e.g. Central Subway and High-Speed Rail to LA, I struggle with voting for a bond issue whose sole purpose is preserving the status quo, thereby enabling the current uncompetitive work contracts and everything else that people complain about.

  • patrick


    While I agree that there are some redundancies in the system, your examples are not particularly good.

    As far as 12 & 21, I think you must have made a typo, as those lines only come within 1 block of each other for about 3 blocks at most (basically on and around market st). Perhaps you mean the 21 & the 5? Even with those 2 lines, they are 2 blocks apart for 6 blocks. The 21 route has also been changed, it used to go to 8th Ave, but I believe now only goes to Stanyan.

    As for 9 & 27, again, are you sure you put the right lines? They don’t run parallel 1 block apart at any point, although the do both run on 11th street, but that’s only for 1 block. If you look at the map they also clearly server completely different areas. Perhaps the maps I’m looking at are incorrect, but they are the maps provided by muni.

    Now, how do you define a line as being redundant? It seems your hypothesis is that if they are parallel & 2 blocks apart, they are redundant. But I don’t agree, if they are full (as 21 is every day) then mere proximity is insufficient to claim redundancy. Do you say that 2 parallel streets are redundant?

    Although I disagree with your definition of redundancy, I definitely agree there are inefficiencies (some very significant) in muni’s network, but I believe it’s more with the proximity of stops, than the lines. Most lines stop on every block, which is in most areas completely unnecessary. Muni could probably eliminate 30% of it’s stop without affecting many people significantly, and that would have the benefit of speeding service for everybody. This would also mean drivers could make more runs in the same amount of time, saving costs.

    I’ll agree with you that the union needs to make concessions. Personally I don’t care about the salary too much, I am concerned with the work rules that reward absenteeism and the union’s resistance to part time drivers during rush hour, both of which make muni extremely difficult to operate effectively. If the union does not make the necessary concessions I will most certainly vote in favor of eliminating their guaranteed salary, as that seems the only way to make them renegotiate on the work rules.

    I also feel that muni management is doing a very bad job. I agree that the top management needs to get a competitive salary, although I don’t think we are currently getting our money’s worth there.

  • “And while I’m willing to vote for bond measures that provide new and better transport, e.g. Central Subway”

    OK, now I really know I don’t have to take you seriously.

  • James Chionsini

    Here is a good perspective to make sure is included.

    Disability Perspective: Chron, SPUR, and SFBG – Alliance Based on Bias?
    by Bob Planthold‚ Mar. 08‚ 2010

  • JohnB

    John Murphy

    OK, you’re going to have to educate me here. Well, obviously you don’t have to. But what is the problem with the new streetcar line, especially since it serves the most economically active parts of the City? Which links CalTrain to every other major transit line? And connects SOMA, Financial District, Union Square and beyond?

    I’ll admit I don’t know the details of it. And I can probably guess it is behind schedule and over-budget.

    But at least it’s a new service – something I can see investing in.

    And, IMO, the streetcars are the most efficient and pleasant service that Muni provides.

    Help me out here.

  • @JohnB writes…

    “OK, you’re going to have to educate me here. Well, obviously you don’t have to. But what is the problem with the new streetcar line, especially since it serves the most economically active parts of the City? Which links CalTrain to every other major transit line?”

    shortly after he writes…

    “And while I’m willing to vote for bond measures that provide new and better transport, e.g. Central Subway and High-Speed Rail to LA”

    Of course, if both of those projects happen, the CalTrain station moves from it’s current location to the TransBay Terminal, rendering the “connection” obsolete 😉

  • patrick

    JohnB, the Central Subway is one of those highly contested topics amongst the regulars here on streetsblog. I personally favor it, but I think the majority on this blog oppose it. There are definitely legitemate reasons to be against it.

    Here are some of the reasons I’ve seen to be against it:

    1) Cost, I think about ~1.5 Billion total (with possibility for further cost overruns going forward)
    2) There are some significant design flaws:
    a) deep stations, which add cost to the project & time to get to the train once built
    b) since the stations are so deep & expensive, they will only support 2 car trains, not 3 car, limiting capacity on the line.
    c) I think there are others, but don’t remember
    3) Ridership, IIRC the ridership is not expected to increase much from what it already is on the buses, so why spend so much money?
    4) Since as far as I know there are no operationally profitable muni runs, it will only contribute to future operational deficits.
    5) There are other alternatives that could provide as good an improvement (at least for the next decade or two) for much less money.
    6) There may be other reasons, but I don’t remember.

    The reason I particularly favor it are:
    1) I believe most of the money is coming from federal sources, and since SF is a net contributor I favor things that get us some of our money back
    2) I believe the ridership numbers will actually be better than projected, that area is so over capacity I believe there are a lot of trips not made that are not accounted for in the study, plus, the T-line will have higher ridership, I ride that line, and many of the riders are going to Chinatown, the CS will shorten their trip time, thus more will ride the T.
    3) Although it’s not an ideal project, it’s an OK project.
    4) Has the possibility of being expanded into North Beach

    Some may disagree with my analysis, but that’s the way I see it.

  • JohnB


    Thanks for the info. Seems the flaws in it are flaws of detail and implementation, rather than of principle. And of course I was talking about the PRINCIPLE of voting for a bond measure for new investment, rather than to maintain the status quo. And so I stand by my statement.

    And yes, like you, I continue to believe that it’s a good idea especially since this is Federal money that would otherwise go elsewhere.

    John Murphy,

    You missed by point, I suspect deliberately. Patrick gave some good responses that you might care to read. My point remains, notwithstanding the implementation options and difficulties, that I’m happier to vote bond measures that invest than bond measures that subsidize and give nothing new.


  • @JohnB – I came up with a snarky point because I didn’t feel like typing “Let me Google that for you”. You can find the arguments all over the web, including by my authorship.

    Regards Patrick’s statement – if the Feds gave us 1.5 billion to build a bonfire with, we’d question the wisdom of it. Certainly some of this money ends up in the pockets of workers, and some even in the pockets of local companies, but we’re getting poor value. We have the SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE from our district – seems to me Pelosi could win some major points by saying “Hey, my district was slated to get all this money for a project with a low ROI, so we’re willing to cancel the project in return for being allowed to use the money less wastefully”.

  • JohnB


    Yeah, I apologize for misquoting the bus numbers from memory and wrongly.

    What I meant was that the Potrero and Bryant buses both run from downtown through SOMA and along those 2 streets just one block apart. If it was correct to nix the Valencia bus for being one block from the Mission bus, how is this different?

    And bear in mind there is another similar routing from downtown through SOMA and along Folsom. Surely we don’t need 4 parallel bus routes in the 5 blocks between Mission and Potrero (even though, yeah, they’re kinda long blocks).

    My other example was the Fulton and Hayes services, parallel, then they thread through the Civic Center and then both run along Market Street.

    Again, I think there is also a parallel service along Turk too (31?).

    And yes, I think the stops should be spread out more too. A stop every block is a luxury we can’t afford.

    Goes back to my point days ago. Let’s focus on a smaller number of high density routes if we really want Muni to be fiscally viable.


    Your apology for being snarky is accepted.

  • patrick

    JohnB, I can’t speak for the Potrero & Bryant lines, but I live on Hayes, and know the 21-Hayes & 5-Fulton lines very well. Both of those lines, although running parallel 2-3 blocks apart are over capacity during rush hour. I rode the 21 to work every day for about a year and a half, and there was not a single commute where it was not standing room only, and I commuted near the end of rush hour (I got on the bus at about 9:30am).

    I live near Masonic which is not too far from the beginning of the route , and I was often the last person to get a seat, and also often did not get a seat at all. There were many times the bus got so full the driver didn’t stop unless somebody wanted to get off the line. I’ve seen times when there were 10 people or more waiting to get on and the bus didn’t even stop, for several stops in a row. The 21 is also quite busy during off-peak and on weekends, although nowhere near as busy as during commute hours.

    I never rode the 5 to work, but often rode it home when I didn’t feel like waiting for the 21, and it’s pretty much the same story, over capacity, and frequently skipped stops due to no space.

    I think the issue is how you define redundancy. An observer looking at a map seeing two lines running right next to each other says, what a waste. But if both routes are completely used, the only way to consolidate would be to run twice as many buses on the same line (meaning every 5 minutes, since both buses run every 10 minutes during peak), but once you get to about 10 minute headways, it’s better to run parallel service as you provide easier access to a greater number of people. If either of the routes were not at capacity, I would agree that there is redundancy, and consolidation can occur. This, I believe, is exactly what happened on Valencia, the route on Valencia was underutilized as the lines on Mission were much more frequent so it was faster to walk the extra block and take the next Mission bus. There are probably a couple other routes that could be consolidated, but I don’t know which ones specifically.

  • patrick

    Oh, I forgot, I believe the underlying point you are making is that there are some simple things that can be done with muni to make it run much more efficiently, and I certainly agree with that, as do many others on this blog, I just don’t think there’s a big problem with redundant lines.

    Some things that could be done at little to no cost are:

    1) Stop consolidation
    2) Enforcement of existing bus only lanes
    3) More changes like forced right turns on market street (which had significant benefits to buses, bikes & pedestrians, with minimal traffic impacts)
    4) Traffic signal preference (this is a system where buses & trains can keep a light green for a few extra seconds to make the light, these devices already exist in a number of places, but to my knowledge are not being used)
    5) Rear door boarding, this is more controversial as fare evasion becomes easier and it would probably require more fare inspectors, but it definitely would speed boarding, especially on the busiest lines.

    If all of those were implemented I think we would see significant improvements in muni, and they are pretty much all free, or at least very inexpensive, to implement.

  • No Free Parking

    San Francisco is wise to make profitable every possible parking spot. To be fair, however,

    Meters should be placed in front of every private vehicle of City employees who now park

    for free on City property when they come to work. To me, this plan is merely the proper

    extension of the policy to make parked cars in San Francisco a cash cow.

    All revenue from this pan would go to MUNI.

  • patrick

    While I am in full agreement with market rate parking throughout the city, and although I would be perfectly happy with it going to muni, I’m also fine if the revenue goes elsewhere, there are plenty of other worthy causes, such as streetscape improvements, park improvements, even paving the roads (which benefits transit riders & cyclists as well as drivers). I would be happy with almost any purpose other than subsidizing driving.

  • Maria

    I was at Saturday’s Summmit and I want to correct an error on your report — not all of us present endorsed the BRT. One morning panelist was a big fan of BRT, but the whole group did not endorse BRT. I find it interesting that “transit advocates” are attacking the Central Subway, but don’t have similar issues with the BRT.

  • Rick

    I wonder if Muni can install waist height turnstiles ( 3 arm ) at the rear door/s of their buses, which would allow passengers to disembark normally, but also allow entry through the back door/s, only if they use translink cards, transfer tickets, or any other form of proof of payment.

    There are electrically controlled turnstiles that allow reverse rotation, if given a signal. Otherwise it just functions like a regular turnstile that only allows single directional rotation.

    This might reduce the dwell or boarding time, and improve fare collection.

    Just voicing an idea. Might not even work…


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