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Riders Give Muni Good Marks

The latest SFMTA survey shows current riders are responding to improvements. However, it doesn't seem to account for the dissatisfaction of lost riders

Image: SFMTA

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

Muni riders gave high marks to San Francisco's bus and light rail service in SFMTA's most recent customer survey. From an SFMTA post touting the results:

Muni received its highest customer rating in over 20 years. The survey found that 72 percent of Muni riders rated service as good or excellent, an increase from 66 percent last year and the highest rating since annual customer surveys started in 2001.  

This improvement comes as the on ridership on key Muni lines has surpassed 2019 levels. The Muni Rapid bus lines reached 116 percent of pre-COVID ridership. The Muni Rapid Network  prioritizes reliability and frequency on our City’s busiest transit corridors. The SFMTA increased service across the system prior to the pandemic and recently expanded connections to the Bayview, Mission Bay, and the Presidio.   

"The recent high ratings for Muni validate what we already know—smart planning and transit-first infrastructure improvements work. The recent rollout of red transit-only lanes has helped speed up service on key lines, and riders are noticing," wrote the San Francisco Transit Rider's Dylan Fabris in an email to Streetsblog.

"This is great to see," Seamless Bay Area's Adina Levin told Streetsblog. "It's a recognition by customers of the good work that Muni has been doing to make the transit experience faster, more reliable, cleaner, and safer."

More on the change in satisfaction over the past year, from SFMTA's release: 

  • Frequency of Service: 63% excellent/good up from 51% in 2022 
  • Reliability/On-time Performance: 60% excellent/good up from 47% in 2022 
  • Accurate Arrival Estimates: 64% excellent/good up from 49% in 2022 
  • Trip Time: 69% excellent/good up from 64% in 2022 

The results were based on 553 interviews with Muni riders conducted in English, Spanish, and Chinese. It should be noted that these are top-line results. The detailed breakdowns will be released in July, according to SFMTA.

Of course, the devil will be in those proverbial details. As this chart shows from the agency's 2021 study, Muni has had many ups and downs over the past couple of decades.

Results up to 2021 of Muni customer satisfaction

And it's worth noting in its topline data SFMTA cherry picks the Muni Rapid Network and "key Muni lines" when it talks about ridership increases. Overall ridership, while edging back up, is still well below pre-pandemic levels. As a result, it's hard to say anything truly definitive about a customer survey based on current riders, since the most dissatisfied customers may have simply gone away.

A look at ridership numbers, before and after the pandemic

From Streetsblog's view, of course any improvement in customer satisfaction is good news. One hopes this will start a consistent trend of raising the bar for reliability across all of the Bay Area's transit agencies. For that to happen though, the region still desperately needs an effective network manager with a large, consistently funded purse. That's the only way to make sure good, customer-service based performance is the norm every year. And it's probably the best way to get riders back who left after the pandemic.

Either way, the survey results remain "a clear positive sign about the value of investing in preventing a fiscal cliff, maintaining service, and improving service, which can set up a virtuous cycle with community confidence supporting those investments," added Levin.

For more on Muni performance improvements, check out the S.F. Transit Rider's post.

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