(Excerpts from SF Bay January 21, 2015
The SFMTA's Board says it's moving ahead with a 7% Muni service increase and other improvements designed to make it easier and more comfortable to use Muni. The 7% increase in Muni service follows a 3% increase approved last April.
Last April these programs were included the SFMTA's two-year budget last year, which also included plans for free Muni for low-income seniors and people with disabilities.
In a report presented to the SFMTA Board at its regular meeting on January 20, 2015, it was proposed that $1.8 million be used to hire new staff to clean vehicles of graffiti and tagging during FY's 2014 - 2016.
According to the report these additional operating expenses will be covered by higher revenues from transit fares, parking fees and fines and also from increased City General Fund allocations .
Muni riders will begin seeing service increases starting January 31st, including the launch of Muni’s new 55-16th Street route and increased frequency on the 44-O’Shaughnessy line.
Along with most San Franciscans, we look forward to the day when Muni is consistently providing excellent service to its patrons and would-be patrons. SaveMuni's 2015 Priorities are summarized elsewhere on this Home Page. (Additional suggestions on how to ease congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make Muni better can be found HERE).
According to the SFMTA, the rest of the new services and added features will be phased in starting this Spring and continuing during next Fall and Winter.
Previous SaveMuni Improvement Suggestions
The Benefits to San Francisco,
the Peninsula and the Region of Extending Caltrain
(Updated April 3, 2015)
Four incoming traffic lanes enter SF from the North, five from the East and eighteeen from the South. Unsurprisingly, MTC shows 280,000 cars a day, over twice as many as from the two bridges combined, as entering San Francisco from the South. According to MTC this figure is projected to rise to 310,000 cars a day by 2030.
In order for Muni to operate effectively, the amount of traffic clogging San Francisco's streets must be reduced, not allowed to increase. One effective way of doing this would be to give northbound Peninsula drivers a faster and classier way of accessing San Francisco.
This need makes, or at least should make, extending Caltrain into downtown San Francisco (DTX) without delay San Francisco's No. 1 transportation priority. Instead, the current focus seems to be on putting the squeeze on motorists buses and emergency vehicles by building obstructions into city streets and on piling new development into Mission Bay. Giving people better transportation options should come before throwing more roadblocks in the way of motorists and yielding to developers in search of real estate killings.
When Caltrain is extended into San Francisco's new Transbay Transit Center (TTC) in the heart of the Financial District it will in a 400,000 person jobs center and close to 10,000 units of new transit-oriented housing. With Caltrain operating in its lower level and when linked effectively to the Market Street subways, the TTC will directly serve 10 existing rail lines, over 40 bus lines and, eventually, California's high-speed rail system. Once Caltrain is up and running, the TTC will become one of the most important transit hubs in North America. Recognizing this way back in 1999, the people of San Francisco overwhelmingly voted for SF Proposition H which provides that:
"It shall be and is the law of the city and county that (Caltrain) ... be extended downtown to a regional .... transit station."
"To implement (this) law ... all relevant city officers and agencies shall adopt such ... ordinances and resolutions and take all other actions as necessary to effectuate the prompt extension of Caltrain downtown to said station."
"The Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, the SF Transportation Authority, and all relevant city officers and agencies shall take all appropriate actions to generate the revenue necessary to finance the Caltrain extension downtown..."
In the Ballot Handbook the Controller states in part:
"If the proposed ordinance is adopted, it would require the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, and other City officials to take all necessary action to extend CalTrain to a new downtown station..."
Until recently this voter mandate has been virtually ignored by San Francisco Officialdom. However there are now a few signs that City Government has at last begun to grasp the importance of the DTX project.
A Mello Roos District has been set up requiring property owners whose real estate values have soared based upon the incoming commuter rail service to honor their previouis agreement to pay back a portion of their gains to help pay for the Caltrain extension. Despite a spate of back-room complaining emanating from a gaggle of lobbyists and attorneys working on behalf of two huge property owners, City officials, led by Mayor Lee, refused to reduce the Mello Roos tax rate below the appropriate level. As of this date, San Francisco's government appears to be proceeding with the Mello Roos District that will ensure that the benefiting property owners pay their fair (and agreed upon) share of the cost of completing the DTX project,
It is now time to pull out all the stops and get this extension built without further delay....for the benefit of San Francisco as well as for the Peninsula and the rest of the Region. In particular it means the current efforts to slow up or deraill the Caltrain extension emanating from a wing of the SF Mayor's office stop. There is absolutely no conflict between appropriate Mission Bay development and getting Caltrain extended...unless someone were to manufacture one. We stress this point because there have been recent disturbing signs that certain elements of City Government, while paying lip service to DTX, are hell bent to derail it by throwing an assortment of half-baked Mission Bay development ideas in the way.
In line with San Francisco's adoption of Proposition H in 1999, getting Caltrain extended should be Mayor Edwin Lee's No. 1 transportation priority. If you haven't already done so, please make your favorite set of SF opinion-makers aware of the importance of get this extension built! This is one that everyone can get behind.
SaveMuni's 2015 Program
Approved: March 16, 2015
SaveMuni has been working on its 2015 program for some time. Our objective is to highlight certain key improvements that for various reasons have not received the priority and attention they deserve. The 11-point set of objectives below is not fixed in concrete and may change from time to time. Our intent is to help put the spotlight on the most important dozen or so actions needed to raise Muni and the other public transit systems operating in San Francisco to their full potential. Here's the program:
(1) Double transit ridership in San Francisco from today's 25% of all trips to 50% of all trips by 2025.
(2) Immediately make the Caltrain extension to the new Transbay Transit Center San Francisco's Number One capital funding priority.
(3) Raise Muni's on-time performance to 85 % by 2025.
(4) To increase transit speed, reliability and ridership, implement a strong, city-wide transit preferential streets program.
(5) Allocate at least 75 % of the funds to be raised by Proposition A to Muni and another 10 % to the downtown extension of Caltrain
(6) Double the Market Street tunnel's Muni Metro passenger-carrying capacity by such long overdue improvements as acquiring longer rail vehicles and/or deploying 4 and 5 car trains and modernizing the subway signaling system.
(7) Ensure that all Muni vehicles meet federal “State of Good Repair” standards at all times.
(8) Revise and improve the Muni Forward (formerly known as the Transit Effectiveness Program) by restoring comprehensive service to all neighborhoods, and by increasing weekend, evening and Owl service.
(9) Strongly oppose wasteful, single-purpose schemes such as the proposed M-Line subway into the Park Merced development and the proposed extension of the Central Subway to Fisherman's Wharf.
(10) Ensure that at no time are bicycle and other street and sidewalk improvements designed and laid out in a manner that would impede Muni vehicles, fire trucks and other first responders.
(11) Frequently remind the SFMTA that its first and most important responsibility is to operate a comprehensive public transit system that reliably serves all of San Francisco and all San Franciscans.
Roundup of Recent
Updated March 18, 2015
Not everything the SFMTA does is wrong. In fact, there are some good people on the staff trying to do good things. However this agency regularly takes actions that make no sense. Here are four current examples:
I. The Hi Tech Shuttle Buses. Where there's lots of space, shuttle buses can sometimes operate without causing much difficulty. And since a bus load of people, whether in a public transit bus or a privately-operated bus, is a bus full of potential drivers not driving, the hi tech buses often serve a useful purpose.
But in San Francisco there is not lots of space. A huge bus attempting to negotiate the narrow streets of Noe Valley or, operating on its own schedule, crowding Muni buses out of century-old Muni stops does not sit well, with either nearby residents or delayed Muni riders.
So far the reaction from the SFMTA and City Hall to this invasion by the high, blocky and blackened-window hi-tech vehicles.....that look like they belong in troop convoys.....has been mild. Hi tech buses are currently charged $3 to use a Muni stop. Guess what happens to you if you are caught with your car stopped at a Muni stop?
More on this as the situation unfolds.
II. SFMTA's Unnecessary Mission Bay Turnback Loop. Turn backs are sometimes necessary to avoid sending too many Muni vehicles to parts of the city where they are only lightly patronized. Today's Third Street Line has the capability of turning back some of its southbound LRV's at an existing turnaround loop extending from Third via 25th, Illinois and Cesar Chavez back to Third. This loop is appropriately located and has been in place and in use since 2005. However in 1998, during the height of the Mission Bay fervor, a second turnaround loop was envisioned, this time extending from Third via 18th, Illinois and 19th back to Third. As was obvious from the outset, the second turnaround, called the Mission Bay Loop, was devised for the sole and exclusive benefit and convenience of Mission Bay. As the Potrero View puts it, the idea was "first floated more than a decade ago, when Dogpatch housed a large number of partially derelict lots and former industrial buildings. Today the neighborhood is one of the City’s hottest areas, ground zero for construction of thousands of new apartments, businesses and condominiums."
In other words the second loop might have made sense in the last century. But this is this century and things have changed. Unfortunately, what seldom changes regardless of circumstances is bureaucratic momentum, once cranked up. Despite the changes, SFMTA continues to push its Mission Bay loop, despite the harm it will cause to the vibrant and growing Dogpatch neighborhood located just south of Mission Bay.
As indicated, the Third Street line already has a turnaround loop at 25th Street. Extending all T-Line trains to 25th Street or beyond would afford Dogpatch the same Muni benefits afforded to Mission Bay residents and employees. Activating the 18th Street turnaround on the other hand would cut the T-Line service to Dogpatch by at least a third.
Janet Carpinelli, Dogpatch Neighborhood Association President, summed it up well when she said: "The investment of $10 Million, the SFMTA’s estimate to construct the Loop, would be better spent on a forward thinking plan, rather than on a proposal based on 10 to 15 year old data that’s no longer relevant".
Having their pleas for a more rational approach fall on deaf ears at the SFMTA, a group of Dogpatch neighbors, backed and supported by the Dogpatch and Potrero Hill Boosters Neighborhood Associations, have instituted legal proceedings against the SFMTA. On March 3, 2015, the California Court of Appeals issued a stay preventing any construction work on the turnaround from being done until the Court has had additional time to consider the matter.
Building a second T-Line turnback loop at 18th Street is an unnecessary waste of money and makes no sense.
III. SFMTA's Nonfunctioning Bus Location System. "Next Bus" is an App with the technical ability of telling riders with cell phones exactly when their next bus will arrive. Under Next Bus the locations of buses are determined by triangulation from communications satellites. For this reason the system is capable of providing precise arrival times even if a bus is off schedule. But that's not the way the SFMTA system works. Much to the chagrin of waiting Muni riders the system now regularly "loses" buses or promises service from "phantom buses" that are in fact out of service. This puts hapless Muni riders right back where they were in the 1980's, never knowing when...or if...their buses would get there.
The SFMTA attempts to explain this away by blaming the problem on buses not leaving their terminals on time, bus diverted to other uses, bus breakdowns and "driver error". When buses are delayed or diverted it should be easy for a satellite-based communication system to keep up. As far as the so-called driver error is concerned, when the Central Computer directs a change that takes a bus out of service on a particular route it should simultaneously inform the satellite communication system, thereby eliminating the possibility of driver error. The idea that in 2015 a GPS-based communications system should be losing buses and tracking "ghost buses" that are not in service is downright antediluvian.
Over in the East Bay, AC Transit's communication App works much better. Maybe SFMTA officials take trip across the Bay and learn how AC does it.
IV. SFCTA's M-Line Mess. By far the biggest problem with the Muni Metro subway operation has long been its absurdly low, peak-period carrying capacity. It has been estimated that because of the obtuse way in which the SFMTA operates the subway, it currently carries less than half the number of peak-period riders it was designed to carry and less than a tenth the number that most modern subways carry.
One of the pre-requisites to using the subway to full advantage would be to bypass the 13-phase St. Francis Circle traffic signal system in order to smooth out K and M line service. This objective could be achieved by depressing the K-Line section between the median of Junipero Serra and the southwest end of West Portal Avenue and the M-Line section between the median of 19th Avenue and the southwest end of West Portal. Placing the two lines beneath the St. Francis Circle would cut running times by several minutes and, more importantly, significantly improve the evenness and reliability of the service on both lines.
Unfortunately, instead of addressing this obvious problem, the SFCTA....with the SFMTA in tow....has veered wildly off course by opting for a scheme, reportedly initiated by the Park Merced Developers, to bring the M-Line directly into the Park Merced development via subway. The project, which could end up costing as much $1.5 billion badly needed for projects of far greater importance, would switch the M-Line from its current protected surface operation in the median of 19th Avenue to a subway extending under 19th, then along the torn up west side of 19th, then into the Park Merced Development, then in subway along the west side of Juniper Serra, then via a bridge over Junipero Serra to Randolph Street.
The reason usually given for this scheme is that conditions at the surface M-Line stop at Holloway (opposite San Francisco State University) are crowded and unsafe which they are. The obvious fix to the Holloway Station problem would be to leave the M-Line in the median of 19th Avenue where it operates today and simply depress the Station. With this vastly cheaper arrangement, riders from both sides of 19th Avenue would have full access to the platforms via underground walkways and plenty of space within the station, thereby eliminating all conflicts between individuals rushing to catch M-Line LRV's and 19th Avenue traffic.
The SFCTA's cockamamie Park Merced Development Plan badly needs fresh thinking.
Need for Second Rail Tube
(Updated April 3, 2015)
Keeping the economies of the Central Bay Area viable will require that this matter be addressed with courage, wisdom and determination before any more time is lost. The fact that transportation officials are at last beginning to at least talk about the problem represents progress.
SF Proposition A
(updated February 22, 2015)
Heavily influenced by a massive pro-Prop A spending campaign, on November 4, 2014, the San Francisco voters approved Prop A, authorizing the sale of $500 million in transportation General Obligation bonds. Including interest, the Prop A bond issue will cost the tax payers of San Francisco over a billion dollars.
According to Matier and Ross's pie chart, most of the proceeds of Prop A are destined to be spent on items having little to do with Muni or other public transit:
Moreover, virtually none of the $500 million in Prop. A funding is currently desinted to addres San Francisco's most pressing transportation problems; namely
o positioning Muni to keep up with San Francisco's population (+34% projected by 2040) and employment growth (+ 29% projected by 2040). Source: Mayor's Transportation Task Force
o getting buses and LRV's jammed with riders out of traffic congestion
o easing the peak period crush in the Market Street subway
o extending Caltrain to the new Transbay Transit Center, therefore giving 280,000 daily Peninsula motorists a classier and less troublesome way of getting into San Francisco
o putting the SFMTA's financial house in order.
Given the vague language of Prop A, the SFMTA still has a choice. It can continue to follow the lead of the Mayor's inexperienced Transportation Task Force of 2012/13 and consequently waste much of the $500 million raised by Proposition A.
Or it can tackle the major transportation problems facing San Francisco at this time. How SF's government responds to these challenges is crucial to the future of San Francisco.
A Critique of SFMTA's TEP
(Updated November 8, 2014)
According to the colored flyers and brochures hyping Prop A, most of the money that does go to Muni will be used to implement the SFMTA's Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP). While TEP is clearly the result of significant investigation and hard work, it unfortunately fails to address many of San Francisco's most critical transportation problems. For a summary of our findings READ HERE.
SF's Transportation Task Force Misses the Mark
(Updated October 29, 2014)
Given Prop A's vague and noncomital language, about the only clue we have as to how $500 million might get spent is embodied in the Mayor's Transportation Task Force (TTF) report released in late 2013. The TTF was comprised of 46 individuals, 17 of whom were answerable to the Mayor and another 10 or more of whom represented downtown interests. Allegedly this group was going to develop a long range transportation plan for San Francisco, but things didn't turn out that way. Instead the group, only a tiny handful of whom had any discernible experience in either transportation or the problems of Muni, worked hard at spreading nice-sounding things around so as to pick up as many votes as possible. Lost in the shuffle was the attention that should have been paid to San Francisco's most critical oncoming transportation problems and what to do about them. Read more here.