Muni Notes #2

  • Muni Notes #1 - The most common MUNI complaint is that after a long wait, several buses come one after another. The Problem and a solutions, other MUNI issues
  • Fix the MUNI - resources and a place to view or leave comments about the system.
  • Asphalt Nation : How the Automobile Took over America, and How We Can Take It Back, by Jane Holtz Kay [at: Amazon Books]

The state of the MUNI - September 1997

  • Riders are still not happy with the system. Irregular schedules - large gaps followed by empty buses. Packed buses. Trams breaking down. Doors which do not work. Noisy and unreliable new Italian trams. Metro closed at 10PM

  • Willie Brown is blowing it. This could be a winning issue for the mayor if he would give it some attention. It is hard to find anyone who is against MUNI running well. (as opposed to the very divisive central freeway issue) A little time from the mayor could do wonders - both to help diffuse hostility between drivers and management and to give the public the perception that he really cares about an issue which he made a big deal about during his campaign. Right now many people are cynical about the mayor - especially when he rides around in his limo and tells people that MUNI riders want "limo treatment". Willie Brown is very out of touch which the large number of people who use MUNI every day.

  • Driver Moral. Most drivers seem to be doing a good of making the best out of a difficult situation. It is stressful to be working as part of a system that gets so much criticism. Drivers need a system they can be proud to work for. Drivers need to look forward to coming to work. While accountably is important the stick approach to management might need to be reevaluated. MUNI has a long history and a reputation with many older riders of better service in the past.

  • Emilio Cruz. Mr. Cruz has been on the job for about a year and not much has visibly changed. Mr. Cruz has a valid point when he says that people are only interested in the part of the MUNI which affects them personally and have little care about the whole system. The problem Mr. Cruz faces is that people have not seen improvement and wonder whether he is doing his job. Mr. Cruz's esteem would be heightened greatly if he could deal with the very visible problem of bunching buses. This would give him (and DaMayor) some political cover while the more difficult and time consuming issues of funding, hiring, maintenance, and planning for the transit future of the city are addressed.

  • SPUR and the separate Agency proposal. SPUR should be commended for attempting to start a public dialogue about MUNI problems and solutions. Recognizing problems is a healthy first step. Unfortunately, SPURS proposed solutions are more divisive than unifying. While trying to build a stable financial base for MUNI is good step, proposing fare increases and a separate board of directors not accountable to the mayor or city supervisors is potentially destructive to the vision of quality public transportation in the city. SPUR needs to continue, but should look more broadly at the benefits of MUNI as part of the overall transportation system in the city as well as the management and information structure within MUNI that keeps it from functioning as well as it could. The question of whether the MUNI could be well managed under the present structure has not been adequately addressed.

  • Information Systems. Probably the biggest hole in MUNI. MUNI does not even know how well or poorly it is performing. It is still trying to run the system with 1930 style information and control system. A GPS based system could provide realtime information about where and on which routes there are gaps in service. Knowing the problems is a required first step in finding solutions. Hiring more supervisors appears to be a costly step back to the 1930's approach. San Francisco has the opportunity of using its proximity to Silicon Valley to enhance it's reputation for using technology for innovative management of public services.

  • Transit Advocacy. People are frustrated but have not organized effectively to pressure the city's political establishment. Rescue MUNI is trying, but is perceived by some as too tied into the agenda of SPUR. Other groups such as the Senior Action Network have MUNI related activities. Right now there is no effective, grassroots organization which has effectively harnessed rider frustration into an effective advocacy block.


MUNI Notes #2 - 30 September, 1997