Reader Mail – More Trauma and Drama on the N-Judah Line

Our once-Mighty N is being reduced to a bad joke, shared by those who rely on it for their commute, their livelihood, or just about any reason one might need to get from Point A to Point B. MUNI management offers double-talk at best, and, more often, outright lies. This has to stop!
Today we feature two letters from Loyal Readers, one from Eve Batey, an editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and another reader who had similar problems with the N recently. We thank both for their comments and concerns!

Dear Mr Ford-
Eve Batey, here. You might remember me from the interview I did with you for this time last year. Now I’m an editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and Matt Baume has taken over the Muni beat for SFist.
I’m writing to you over my concern with the N Judah, which seems to be more and more frequently ending its run at 19th Avenue. Over the course of this past week, I have been on 5 (five) N Judahs that have reached this premature conclusion without warning — most recently
tonight, when the N I was on at 12:30 or so ejected its passengers, with the driver informing us that another train would be there to pick us up in “2 or 3 minutes.”
Each of the five times this week that the N Judah has ended its run at 19th Avenue, I have walked all the way home to my apartment at 43rd and Irving without seeing another outbound N, putting to lie any “2 or 3 minutes” assertion an N driver might make. Tonight was no exception. While the other abortive rides this week were earlier in the evening — 8 or 9 PM — having to walk home after midnight was a whole new low for me. Mr Ford, there aren’t a lot of cabs in the Sunset. One’s options are to wait for an N, or to walk. Imagine the women you know, family or close friends. Would you want them walking home, alone, at 12:30 at night? So why is that acceptable for any of the passengers of the transit organization you oversee?

For that matter, why is any unannounced, premature conclusion to a line acceptable? Every night this week I have paid full fare to ride the N Judah home, and every night I have walked from 19th to 43rd. Can you imagine paying for an incomplete product or service, and being happy about it? Again, I ask you, then why is this service acceptable for the organization you oversee?
While I cannot speak for every other rider of Muni, I will say this — at this point, all we ask for is a little candor. If Muni cannot adequately serve the Sunset, please tell the residents of this neighborhood so, so that we can make alternative plans to get around the city. If Muni intentionally chooses not to ensure reliable service to this neighborhood (and what else must we think when our drivers inform us “it’s not me, dispatch just called me back in” as my driver did on Wednesday night), please let us know. But I cannot — I will not — continue to support a transit organization that not only fails to deliver on the fare I pay, but actively puts riders in peril by dumping them on the street in the middle of the night.
I apologize in advance if I sound strident, or shrill. But I work hard, Mr Ford, and I want to make it home in a timely and safe fashion. I understand that accidents and unexpected issues arise —
but that’s not what we’re talking about in this case. We’re talking about trains that have “Ocean Beach” as their destination on them when one gets on them at Powell, and drivers that suddenly announce that we need to disembark when we arrive at 19th. That is no accident.
All I am asking is that if Muni cannot do its best to be that timely and safe mode of transport to the Outer Sunset, that you sack up and admit it. That’s the least you can do.
Eve Batey
CC: Supervisor Ed Jew
CC: The N Judah Chronicles

Editor’s Note: Ms. Batey reports that Supervisor Ed Jew, who was CC’d on this note, actaully contacted her today regarding her concerns!
Reader “Muha The Frog” writes:

I’ve been subscribed to the N-Judah Chronicles for a little while now, and I guessed it’s time to share my tales of N-Woe.
Yesterday, at about 4:00, when the N-Judah supposedly runs every 8 minutes, I was at the N-Judah outbound stop at 19th avenue. I was headed to a pet shop on 31st. I called my “trusty” 511 Arrival Times phone, which told me that there would be trains in 14 and 16 minutes (they like being bunched up).
I decided to start walking to 31st avenue. On the way, I saw the strangest thing–a bus was running on the N-Judah Tracks. This bus was completely full. Furthermore, it had no sign to tell anyone what bus it was. upon approaching the bus, I heard it say multiple times, “N-Judah. To Duboce and Church.” Is this supposed to be some kind of joke? Is Muni going to replace our Light Rail Lines with buses now?
I finally reached my pet shop by walking, without the “14 minutes” train in sight. Talking to the employees, many of whom take the N-Judah, I discovered that their tales were even worse. One man often has to WALK from 31st to 9th without a single N passing him.
On the way back, I called my “Trusty” 511 phone, which told me that a train was coming in 1 minute. It was actually closer to 5 minutes, but at least it came at all.
Gee, N service beyond 19th avenue is becoming worse and worse…

As an aside, when I brought up these concerns to Ken McDonald, the COO of MUNI at a meeting of the Citizen’s Advisory Council for MUNI, all I got was an icy stare. The guy literally could not even say “I am sorry to hear that” or some sort of acknowledgment that this isn’t an abstract – these screw ups are causing real life problems for taxpaying, law-abiding citizens of Our City.
Maybe we need to elect the board of the MTA directly, instead of hoping the Mayor at the time of the appointments has his or her head in the game to appoint people that are tough enough to force some changes. There’s an old saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. Years of do-nothing, don’t-care, not-my-job, lazy-employee nonsense got us into this mess. What is to suggest that more of the same will get us out?

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4 Responses to Reader Mail – More Trauma and Drama on the N-Judah Line

  1. Yes to direct election or anything along those lines that would bring greater accountability.

  2. Mike says:

    Geez, this is more serious than I thought. I am appalled at people being dumped out after midnight with no second train in sight.
    I don’t think it even matters that cab service is poor. Unless cab drivers start accepting MUNI transfers, you paid MUNI to take you to Ocean Beach, you should be taken to Ocean Beach.
    Short-tripping is one thing when there is bunching, but it is quite another when there is no train in sight to take you the rest of the way.
    We need to refuse to offboard when this happens. Make the police come, if necessary.
    Be respectful, but firm. The destination sign said “Ocean Beach”. I am not leaving this train until I get safe transportation to Ocean Beach.

  3. John says:

    The premature turnarounds have been happening for a few weeks now, since they first started testing the T line. It astonishes me that the media (i.e. Chronicle) isn’t all over this demanding answers.
    I have experienced the 19th and Judah turnaround several times personally, and it is a major inconvenience. Walking home at midnight is a real bummer, and I share your pain.
    But what about the elderly and handicapped that are being dropped off at 19th and Judah late at night? This is not just an inconvenience for them. It is morally wrong.
    Where is the accountability?

  4. Na says:

    This is utterly unacceptable. I see dozens of half empty “T” cars in the middle of the day, going up and down the MUNI Market St. corridor. That’s where your N Judah has gone – to pump up the illusion that there are enough cars for the T line. They obviously don’t give a damn about the N Judah. Can you get your supervisor involved? The whole new T line has been a disaster from day one. I used to ride the K out to City but I now take BART and walk the extra blocks because I got tired of taking over an hour to get to class and always being late.

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