Muni Reports Highest Ever On-Time Performance in Early 2010

myleen_image_small.jpgPhoto: Myleen Hollero/Orange Photography.

Despite the difficult economic times and the large service cuts last December and again in May this year, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) announced that Muni had achieved its best quarterly on-time performance rate ever, or 75 percent, from January through March, 2010.

According to the SFMTA, the December 2009 service cuts and related
running time adjustments contributed to the increase in on-time performance. Service cuts on some lines were essentially neutralized because the SFMTA simultaneously enhanced service on other lines, as informed by the Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP).

The 75 percent rate does not include
the 10 percent across the board service reductions instituted on May 8th. While the SFMTA Board could restore half of those May 8th cuts in September, the impact of those system wide cuts could be felt with the quarterly report from April through June, 2010.

Despite these realities, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and SFMTA brass were quite happy to have good news related to Muni.

"In the face of the most difficult budget crunch in generations, Muni
managed to hit a high water mark for on-time performance," Mayor
Newsom said in a statement. "We won’t stop working to improve Muni until we restore
100 percent of service and achieve even better on-time numbers, but this
piece of good news is welcome."

"The service changes we made in December were
informed by the Transit Effectiveness Project and represent
recommendations and input from various members of our community," said
Tom Nolan, SFMTA Board Chairman.

According to the SFMTA, the data suggests
that increasing frequency and running time changes may have had a
positive impact on performance.

For instance, the SFMTA reported average on-time performance for lines
and routes with increased frequency and/or running time changes was
77.2 percent, while the average on-time performance for lines without
these improvements was 71 percent. This performance rate for the third quarter of FY 2010 follows 73 percent and 72 percent OTP rates for the first and second quarters of the fiscal year respectively.  This is the highest OTP percentage recorded at the SFMTA.

To achieve these results, each line is randomly sampled and monitored at
a minimum of 10 days covering both weekday and weekends. The lines are
monitored by traffic checkers using hand-held devices which are compared
to a database used to calculate the quarterly results.

Gabriel Metcalf, Executive Director for the urban policy think tank SPUR and a lead sponsor of a Muni reform ballot measure, was encouraged by the news and said it was indicative of a longer process of improving the system.

"With all of the funding worries that Muni has, it’s good to take a step
back to celebrate just how much progress Muni has made over the past 5
years," he said. "The investments we have made and especially the Transit
Effectiveness Project are the reasons for the on-time improvement."

Not everyone took the news well, however. Dave Snyder, the Executive Director of the San Francisco Transit Riders Union, said the agency was still far below its own performance targets.

"To celebrate being on time 3 out of 4 times shows how backwards public
transit is in this country, and how our leaders don’t take it seriously
enough," he said. "They manage nearly perfect on time percentage in Zurich with a
system that’s entirely on the surface, and San Francisco voters required
the MTA to be on time 85 percent of the time."

hard to get excited about this," he added.

Andrew Sullivan of Rescue Muni also pointed to the need to go well beyond 75 percent for one quarter.

"The MTA should be congratulated for this
progress," he said. "However, 11 years after Prop E, SFMTA still needs to get to
85 percent as specified in the charter. This is why the TEP still needs to be
expanded, including more transit only lanes and express service."

Even SFMTA CEO Nat Ford agreed in part the sentiment expressed by Snyder and Sullivan. "While I am proud of the work we are doing to improve our customers’ riding experience, we have a ways to go until we reach our voter-mandated [on-time performance] goal of 85 percent," he said.

  • EJ

    The 26-Valencia hasn’t been late even once since December.

  • Nick

    You could probably make a good deal of money selling “I Miss the 26” t-shirts.

    On topic, the MTA seems to be heavily into data collection. Did ridership increase or decrease in the same time frame? And have the amount of Fast Passes sold increased or decreased since they raised fares?

  • Brandon

    When on time means 45 minutes to go across the city, you can still count me out.

  • Brian

    Yay – 75%! You got a C!!! There is still a loooooong way to go. Neither the Mayor nor Muni should be proud of a C grade. Two trains should be allowed to load/unload at once on the same platform, especially during rush hour when passengers are going primarily one direction. All Muni managers should ride during rush hour to experience their “service”. And, station managers, other drivers and transit security officers should NEVER talk to drivers who have a full train waiting to go to work or home. And these are just the obvious potential improvements for the main lines under Market Street.

  • Awesome! I’m sure that my boss would also be thrilled if I were only late to work 1/4 of the time.

    I can still *walk* from the Powell street station to 4th and King faster than I can get there on the N or the T. When “on time” performance is slower than walking we have a major problem.

  • patrick

    It’s pretty sad when failing a decade plus old directive of the city residents by a wide margin is considered a success.

  • Nick, I too have been wondering about FastPass sales these days. Anecdotally, I know several people who stopped purchasing them this year, but I’ve never seen any data released on FP sales–ever.

  • I’ll chime in and say that I have been wondering also. Maybe streetsblog can look into this if enough of us are wondering. I’d like to see historical data of sales vs price point (single ride price vs FP price).

    An increase in the cost of the FP along with 10% service cuts makes me believe that sales dropped considerably. Using the fast pass for things other then commuting is what makes it worth while. If off peak service is reduced, then why buy the pass?

    SFResident, if you are going from Powell to 4th/King, the N/T is your worse option. The 30/45 weren’t bad until the CS construction forced them to take a detour over to 5th. It was only suppose to last a month, but I get the feeling that detour is still happening.

  • EL

    Brian – 2 trains should NEVER be allowed to board/unload passengers at once on the same platform. First, some platforms are simply not long enough to handle 4 cars. Second, you don’t know where to stand on the platform for the train you want so you’d have a lot of riders scrambling on a crowded platform from one end to the other, possibly tripping and falling into the trackway. Right now, the doors always open in the same place, so everyone on the crowded platform is stationary.

  • @Mike: Yeah, I always get off at Powell and take the bus or walk (depending on how long nextbus says the transfer will take). With construction and both the 30 and the 45 stopping every single damn block it does take about the same amount of time. Which is entirely unacceptable.

    The other big problem is that the route is not at all obvious – any casual visitor to the city or anybody who doesn’t take MUNI all the time will probably follow the obvious route and stay on the N until it reaches the ballpark/4th king. It is agonizingly slow and I’m sure that it keeps potential transit riders off muni.

  • Completely agree. And add to it that the N isn’t running beyond Embarcadero on the weekends means that Caltrain is cut off from GG Park and all those museums – a true shame for trying to bring peninsula people into that area on anything other then a car. But like you said, maybe it’s best they don’t ride that stretch since it is a complete joke.

  • GoGregorio

    It doesn’t so much matter to me if my bus follows a schedule, just that it has its proper frequency. I don’t care if my lrv arrives at the station at 8:12, like it’s scheduled. All that matters to me is that it runs every 15 minutes, and gives me an average wait time of 7.5 minutes, like it’s scheduled.

  • @SFResident – protip – get off at Van Ness and take the 47 if nextbus says one is coming any time soon. The trip through the backwaters of SoMa is actually pretty fast – especially if you are doing it before things really pick up at the Hall of Justice.

  • Why is this being scored by people with stopwatches when every Muni vehicle has a GPS receiver? If I can find how they define on time, I will start posting on time stats for every line, every day.

  • If anyone else is looking for it, the on-time standard is at

    “1. On-time performance: at least 85 percent of vehicles must run on-time, where a vehicle is considered on-time if it is no more than one minute early or four minutes late as measured against a published schedule that includes time points; and

    “2. Service delivery: 98.5 percent of scheduled service hours must be delivered, and at least 98.5 percent of scheduled vehicles must begin service at the scheduled time.”

    It’s still really unclear to me whether a missed run is considered late or whether it isn’t included in the calculation at all and what it counts as when a run is on time at some of its stops but not others. But at least as far as I can tell Muni schedules at least now list exact times for each run instead of “every 15 to 20 minutes until” types of specifications.

  • Sean H

    On-time is considered under 3 minutes (sometimes 5) and no more than 1 minute early. I’d rather see the % of missed runs, as that messes up the frequencies. MUNI’s archaic work rules have a lot to do with this.

  • Dave

    Regarding the monthly pass sales, I’d love to see the translink card work like (I think) the oyster card works in London. That is, you just buy the card, link it to your account, and the system calculates how to give you the lowest fare: at a certain point in the day or month or week, it stops deducting fares because you’ve already paid for a pass for the period.

    Then folks would know: just use the pass, err, the clipper card, it’s always cheapest.

    I’m dreaming here, I know, but that same pass should work for the parking meters so the drivers know they always have a transit pass should they deign to try transit sometimes. (Not to mention the benefit that some of us transit riders would gain by always having a parking meter card for those few times we rent or use a shared car.)

  • it will never be on time with the 1000s passenger coming on board taking their time to paid on the buses and train good ex n judah at UCSF Carl and COLE the train on the street being block by garbage truc recylcles delyveries pedestrian you are dreaming to seee you muni on time specialy with the useless auto train system does anybody knows how much money this bureucratic system is loosing on delays everyday


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