Mayor Newsom, SFMTA Announce More Muni Service Restorations

IMG_0065.jpgThe SFMTA says F-Line historic service will be better integrated into the schedule to increase headway efficiency. Photo: Myleen Hollero/Orange Photography.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced today that Muni will restore 61 percent of the service it cut in May, or about 178,781 service hours, after identifying about $15 million in funding sources and "operational savings," which involves scaling back stand-by hours, or non-driving time, for operators.

"The good news today is Muni riders will experience more frequent and reliable service starting on September 4th," Newsom said in a statement, which was released after he made the announcement on KCBS radio. "This represents real progress towards our shared goal of fully restoring Muni service by this time next year."

Early last month, the SFMTA Board voted to restore half of the 10 percent service cut it implemented in May. Since then, the Mayor’s Office and the SFMTA said they identified additional funding sources from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. In addition, the SFMTA will initiate some "service efficiency" changes that would result in about $900,000 in savings. That allowed them to tack on 11.1 percent in additional restorations, and make today’s announcement.

At the SFMTA Board meeting today Transit Director John Haley explained the changes in a presentation (PDF) titled "Service Restoration Plan." He said one of the agency’s priorities was to make sure they could restore service while effectively managing it. He acknowledged that a lot of pieces need to fall in place to make the restoration a success.

"Over the last several months when it comes to schedules and service
levels we’ve all become masters of the two minute drill. We are on a
very tight and unforgiving schedule to get this to a successful level of
execution on the 4th of September," he said, adding that for the first time in six months new operators are being trained and the agency recently implemented a new absentee policy that will help them better manage the day to day workforce.

IMG_1434.jpgSFMTA Transit Director John Haley gives his presentation to the SFMTA Board of Directors. Photos: Bryan Goebel.

Regarding a cut in stand-by hours for operators, Haley said: "All we’ve done is trade off being off work and on pay status to being on work and in a vehicle. And we were able to do that through more effective and efficient scheduling and able to add some of the tighter headways back."

Although Haley said it was important to keep the operators union "involved and engaged," leaders of TWU Local 250-A said the Mayor’s announcement caught them by surprise. Acting TWU President Rafael Cabrera was informed by Streetsblog of the news, and said he would have a fuller response once he had time to review it.

"They’re trying to fix Muni but they’re fixing it the wrong way. They’ve got to look at the deficiencies from the top to the bottom. Don’t start from the bottom to the top," said Cabrera, referring to the Mayor and Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, whose initiative to reform the way Muni operators are paid is on the November ballot.

Cabrera said the list of new schedules was presented to them by the SFMTA during an 11am meeting but the Mayor made the announcement just after 9am, and he was not told there would be any announcement.

"If you met with me at 11 o’clock and you had the Mayor speaking at 9 o’clock, that’s a miscommunication there. Something is wrong there," Cabrera said. 

"Our biggest problem with the SFMTA is the politicians negotiating our contract in the media," said TWU’s Michael Postell.

SFMTA Executive Director Nat Ford told Streetsblog that if the union doesn’t agree to the 232 hours in reduced monthly stand-by time the agency would force them to adhere to the schedules.

"If they do not agree to do it we have the ability as management to impose a forced sign-up where we actually go through, by seniority, and sign those work programs to the operators. We began that process the last go around but we’ve never done a total forced sign-up," he said.

The Mayor’s Office said the reduction in stand-by hours would reduce the number of drivers needed by 20 operators. 

Here are the other changes announced today:

  • The restorations include the addition of seven trolley coaches and two LRVs back into the system.
  • An average of 504 additional daily weekday service hours, 499 Saturday hours, and 421 Sunday hours.
  • Restored Owl Service to every 30 minutes
Restored night end times for Community
  • Routes 
Restored night end times for many Local/Rapid Routes 

  • Restored light rail vehicle (LRV) service 

  • Added capacity back to 13 weekday routes and three Saturday/Sunday routes
Restored evening or night frequency on nine routes
F-Line historic service better integrated into schedule to increase headway efficiency

The Mayor’s press release stressed that his office would work with Supervisor David Chiu, who announced a deal last week with Newsom instead of a Charter amendment, and the Controller’s Office to identify the additional $6 to 7 million in "additional efficiency savings and revenues" that would be required to restore all of the service cuts. 

IMG_1443.jpgTWU President Rafael Cabrera and his union colleague Michael Postell read the Mayor’s press release, which took them by surprise.
  • Jacob Wang

    Where can we find more details? The MTA website is so hard to navigate in this area.

  • While I agree on Cabrera’s “top-to-bottom” notion, it seems amazing that it took until now to reduce stand-by hours, a.k.a. getting our second-highest-paid drivers to do their job.

  • @Jacob: I posted as many details as I could in the story. The Mayor’s press release, and Haley’s Power Point are about as good as it gets in terms of information so far. We’ll keep following up in the coming days/weeks.

  • Nick

    I view these service restorations as a result of political survivability rather than as an adherence to our transit-first policy.

    Taking the subway home just now, there was a lot of outrage from normally non-political riders. One young lady said “they cut service but raise fares.” Another said “every day it’s something. Last thursday I had to wait a full hour for a train.”

    The MTA can not handle the rush hour crunch. I had 10 full trains pass me by until one showed up that I could squeeze onto (30 minute extra wait). Anyone who wants to do a story on it, just watch the scene at Civic Center Station around 5PM at night. Lots of frustration there.

  • patrick


    you are exactly right.At best I read this as politicians strategically cut the 10% earlier so they could act as if they are working hard to restore the cuts right before the election, or worse, they just thought they could get away with it and have finally come to realize it’s a keg of gunpowder and dynamite with a lit fuse and they are doing whatever last ditch efforts they can to keep it from exploding in their faces.

  • It’s pure diversion: how many press conferences has city hall done now about “restoring service”? I guess they’re hoping everyone will forget that the level of service they’re “restoring” was already awful and had riders up in arms, so maybe if we do a massive cut but then restore it back to awful everyone will suddenly think awful is the new good!

    Real efforts at reform would never hold up 2008-2009 levels of service as any kind of target.

  • Sean H

    Its funny that they need to make sure they can handle the ‘increased’ service, when it was what they were already running before.

  • Alex

    Let’s say that by some “miracle” the MTA restores 100% of the service they just cut. We’d still be stuck with many lines that have seen annual service cuts for the past five or six years, like the lightly used 28-19th Ave.

    @Steve Keep in mind, that strategy works brilliantly for the oil companies, so why not the MTA?

    @Nick it’s been that way for years, and it’s only getting worse. After that ‘accident’ at West Portal, the MTA tried to placate the NTSB by not double berthing, and in doing so they’ve introduced significant (~6-10 minute) outbound delays during peak hours. Let’s not forget that the drivers run these beasts manually on the streets. Of course, it’s easier to address the ‘problem’ and not the root causes (such as why a morbidly obese driver was considered healthy enough to drive a 50-100 ton vehicle… would the FAA let that guy fly a plane? I doubt it).

    In any case, what happened to Irwin Lum?


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