SFMTA Moves Closer to a System Wide All-Door Boarding Policy

Photo: ##http://orangephotography.com/##Myleen Hollero/Orange Photography##

SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin told the agency’s board of directors yesterday that the earliest Muni could implement a system wide all-door boarding system would be sometime in the first half of next year.

For years, transit advocates have been encouraging the agency to extend its all-door boarding policy on the city’s light-rail fleet to all Muni buses to speed up service and save the agency money. It’s one of the many relatively simple solutions that have been talked about to make Muni faster and more reliable.

“Muni spends a whopping 20 percent of its time simply boarding passengers,” said Mario Tanev of the San Francisco Transit Riders Union (TRU). “If riders could legally board at all doors, travel times would be shorter.”

At the request of SFMTA Director Joél Ramos, Transit Director John Haley presented this report on all-door boarding [pdf] at the SFMTA Board meeting. It points out the benefits, including reduced travel times across the system, a more convenient boarding experience for the rider and it would help prevent fare conflicts between operators and riders.

“Most importantly for riders, it’s quicker trips. We can all shorten those travel times. That’s really important,” said Robert Boden of the TRU. “It saves dollars. When a bus is waiting in traffic, that is not only lost money for the agency, it is also poor service for the customers. It’s amazing that you can actually speed up service with quicker trips and also save the agency money.”

To implement the policy successfully, Haley said the agency would need to figure out the initial capital and operating costs, make sure the system has enough ticket machines, fare inspectors and reliable Clipper card readers. The agency would also launch a “comprehensive public campaign” to inform riders of the new policy.

One thing the agency wants to make sure it doesn’t do “is send the message that Muni is free now,” Reiskin told the directors. “The issue of how to do this with the right level of education and enforcement is the difficult part.”

Ramos said the agency can no longer afford to wait to implement the policy. The time to do it is now, he and other transit advocates stressed.

“It feels like we’re just burning money,” Ramos said. “I don’t think we have the luxury to delay this anymore than we have to. We’re constantly being burdened with shortcomings in terms of meeting our budget and attracting and increasing more revenues. This is one way that I feel we can save so much more money.”

SFMTA Citizen Advisory Committee Chair Dan Murphy told directors that all-door boarding should be implemented system wide, instead of on a piecemeal basis, and Haley agreed. Many riders, he said, are already confused by the policy, which allows them to board through any door on light-rail vehicles, but not buses.

“We hope if we go forward with all-door boarding that we do this in a system wide roll out so that everybody in San Francisco can understand what’s going on, what’s expected,” he said.

Haley said Muni would be the first transit system in North America to implement a system wide all-door boarding policy.

At yesterday’s meeting, directors also approved a $2 million contract with Turnstone Contracting to conduct “implementation consulting services” on the Transit Effectiveness Project.

  • I don’t disagree with all-door boarding (although at least some attention/enforcement will have to be paid to fare evaders), but what happened to the TEP stop consolidations?  That is surely another huge piece of speeding up transit times.

  • mikesonn

    Or ticketing double-parking. Or ticketing bus stop violations. Or enforcing bus only lanes. Or ticketing those that “block the box.”

    All-door is a nice first step, but this better be the first in a series of measures that could easily speed up Muni. All low hanging fruit, the time is now!

  • This is anecdotal, but at least on the 2-door buses (the 22-Fillmore is my main line), the current de facto all-door boarding doesn’t seem to speed anything up. If anything, it takes more time to get off the bus because entering passengers bunch up and try to get on before everyone has exited (meanwhile, able-bodied people are exiting at the front, jamming up entering passengers).
    If we do go to official all-door boarding, I’d at least recommend new decals at the rear door(s) that say “Let Exiting Passengers Get the *@#& Off First”, or something equivalent 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely correct. I take the 44 to the BART station sometimes, and the throngs of people who try to jam onto the bus via the back door make it almost impossible to get off the stupid bus. It’s as if these folks think if they don’t get on that particular 44, they will be left behind after the Rapture. It’s especially fun if I’m taking BART to the airport and have luggage.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t take any rider’s union seriously when they refer to Muni’s owners & riders as “customers.” The MTA is owned by us, and is supposed to be run for our benefit, not that of some bureaucrats or politicians who act like it’s their personal possession to fool around with.

  • Mario Tanev

    San Francisco Transit Riders Union wholeheartedly supports and has supported all-door boarding.

    Read our position for why all-door boarding is great here:

    Please email all-door-boarding@sftru.org if you want to help us make it a reality.

  • Mario Tanev


    That is petty. We’re a rider-based and rider-oriented organization and we’re advocating all-door boarding because of its benefits to riders – nobody else (and if it helps Muni, it is only because that in turn helps riders). Perhaps we can avoid calling riders “customers”, but I think it’s pretty unfair to generalize about our organization from one usage of that word.

    Even then, the word “customer” is not inappropriate – riders are both owners and customers. At the point of use, the rider is a customer. At the point of deciding how this organization should be run, the rider is an owner. The distinction is very clear when you think about a rider who doesn’t pay their fare – they can’t just claim they are an owner hence don’t have to pay. That’s like telling police they can’t arrest you just because you are paying taxes that pay their salary. In addition, a lot of axioms about customer relations apply to Muni: customers need to be treated well, and Muni may lose customers (but not lose owners) if they are not satisfied with the service.

    Anyway, a lot of us read and follow your writing and I hope we’ll have a chance to work on something together in the future.

  • Mario Tanev

    On light-rail vehicles most people wait for other riders to exit before boarding. Perhaps it’s the culture of prohibition on back-door boarding that is creating an incentive to board as quickly as possible, so as not to be noticed by the driver or so that the doors don’t close too early, disrespecting riders that are exiting the bus.

    Changing the rear-door message to advice to let passengers exit first, as you said, should help as well.

  • Anonymous

     Mario: I was being a LITTLE sarcastic. However, the reason why I’m against using the term customer is because it is part of a bigger problem in American civics-  the idea that government should be “run like a business” when in fact government isn’t a business at all. Yes, it can be run better, but the nature of many gov’t services are not profitable at all, or if they are, they are at the expense of the citizen. (ever seen a for profit prison?)

    The main problem at the MTA for years has been a divorcing of daily reality from the endless consultants, statistics, and whatnots that those in charge use to make decisions. I’m hopeful that will change under Ed Reisikin, since he relies on a non-car lifestyle like many of us do, but for now, the MTA needs to be reminded that the whole reason Muni was created nearly 100 years ago was to put the people first.

  • Nosebob

    Stop optimization triggers CEQA. Every stop has a constituent.


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