Want to Help MUNI Out? Don’t Call 311 – Use 511 Instead!

Ah, internets. Finally up and running at the new place, and once again it took one smart CWA worker just a few minutes to use his expertise to solve the problem (and I mean that I’m not being snarky). AT&T’s stumblebum management and customer service (outsourced to God Knows Where) of course had to drag this drama out 20+ days, but hey, we’re back online and I can finally catch up with work, etc.
Which brings me to this piece of news, courtesy of the San Francisco Appeal, our City’s newest news outlet. By doing this thing called “actual reporting of news” they found out that if you call 311 with a MUNI related question (in most cases a “when is the next bus showing up” one) MUNI gets billed $1.96 per call. Or put another way, $6.2 million a year.
Yeah. $1.96. So some operator can go on
NextMUNI and tell you what you could find out for yourself on the site.
The sad part is if you call 511, MUNI doesn’t get stuck for $1.96 in charges. Or, you could use your cell phone to dial up www.nextmuni.com. More to the point, if you call 511, you’re likely to get better information anyway, and if you really just wanna know when the next bus is showing up, most phones can use mobile web sites.
Or if you’re really desperate, call a friend with a computer and have them look it up. They’ll be doing the same thing as a 311 operator – but faster and cheaper.
Once again, these “Gavin On The Toilet” ideas, like the Culture Bus, and so on, all made for wonderful press opportunities, but ended up costing too much and providing too little. But, as BeyondChron reports that seems to be S.O.P. for our City Executive.

This entry was posted in MUNI Day To Day, MUNI/SFMTA, News & Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Want to Help MUNI Out? Don’t Call 311 – Use 511 Instead!

  1. Thanks, Gav!
    I can’t wait to ask him about this at tonight’s Long Now Foundation event. Hehehe.

  2. Eric says:

    What does this have to do with Newsom and 311? Muni had a number you could call for arrival times long before 311 was created.

  3. Greg says:

    @eric: Gavin Newsom promoted 311 as one of his pet projects no one asked for. They spent a lot of money telling people THAT was the number to call for MUNI info. The Gavin Newsom used that plus his other budget tricks to loot MUNI illegally and take money the voters said was for MUNI and spend it on pricey bureaucrats for his office.
    He also took money from the MUNI safety inspector fund to pay for a “director of climate change” who has no background in a) climate change b)meteorology c) anything related to the issue and d) just a political hire to pave over the fact he is tooling around in an SUV that gets 20 mpg and costs a fortune.
    Gavin Newsom is lying about being a “green” Mayor and the people in this city and around the state get weak-kneed when he shows up. Sadly his record is a lie and his handlers are liars who talk talk talk but the fact is Gavin Newsom is presiding over the demise of MUNI and the hand picked minions of the MTA Board he hired are going along because they are weak and do not care about San Francisco or anything but their own political careers.
    Sad, really.

  4. anonymouse says:

    I’m trying out a new theory: Californians, of the kind who voted for and love Gavin, don’t actually want to be green. That would require change, and change is painful. They just want to look green, cause that’s the cool thing for liberals to do these days, and it lets them try to out-liberal each other, by driving Priuses rather than taking transit.

  5. Greg says:

    @anonymouse: you nailed it. “Green” is just a branding for products that cost more and make people feel good. It has nothing to do with “saving the planet.” Just feel good stuff. You can drive around in a prius and think you’re really helping when in fact you’re still burning gasoline but doing so guilt free.

  6. anonymouse says:

    So how do we take back our city and state from these people? How do we make city government work to meet people’s needs, rather than cater to the fashions of the “liberal” elite? Should I run for Mayor? I’ve certainly got no shortage of ideas to improve the city, and politically I’ve got nothing to lose.

  7. Seven says:

    I recently had a conversation at work in SF with a lady who drives a Prius in from Marin. She says she read a study recently that driving a Prius is much more environmentally friendly than riding Muni. I didn’t argue the point, which was clearly that I don’t have enough money to be as green as her.

  8. Jim says:

    I think the nextbus info by phone is great. When you’re actually walking to a muni line (or in an area where you don’t want to spend all your time standing in one place and typing for whatever reason…), calling is both safer and more efficient. I don’t see a reason to stop on my end. Especially given that I wouldn’t call if Muni were dependable.
    The problem here is cost overrun on the city government side. A muni-related bureaucracy in SF is inefficient? A shock! Why are you telling your readers to stop calling? Why not pressure the city government to cut waste and costs on their end?

  9. Greg says:

    @Jim: but if you call 511 it’s the same exact info as at 311 – but also part of a region wide system that connects you with BART, AC Transit, etc.
    The problem here is that as always, San Francisco copied the superficial parts of a 311 system elsewhere, but couldn’t figure out a way to pay for it properly. And let’s face it, 2 bucks per call is a joke. These people are literally going on the same website people can access on a phone or at home – they’re not doing any real work, and again, the Mayor is using MUNI as a cash cow for other departments, not for legitimate expenses.
    311 is a joke. 511 is the real deal. Call 511 for the same info, and NOT ding muni.

  10. Jay says:

    I find calling 311 for Muni info very useless, I don’t even remember when I last used 311. I don’t know if it also costs Muni $1.96, but I find using the 311 website is easier than talking to an actual person.
    Granted, not everyone knows how to use a computer, but I much prefer the website. However, 311 is still good for those who require a landline or cell phone and those who cannot speak very well in English.
    Not Muni related, but I filed a complaint on the 311 website about an illegally painted red curb and it was handled within a week. I’m sure the message needed to be shuffled through a couple of departments, but the work was done. So I’m happy and willing to pay for a 311 works for most other city services other Muni.

  11. alex says:

    This info on 311 charging Muni is a bit incomplete. Muni pays 311 a flat rate of 3-million dollars every year to handle those inbound calls. The fact is even with 311, 511 is still receiving more inbound calls than it can handle, so essentially outsourcing some of those calls to the 311 call center, is a cheaper than 511 hiring more people, and creating the necessary infrastructure. If it wasn’t cost effective, MUNI would pull its relationship with 311. Then again, this is MUNI we are talking about.
    “More to the point, if you call 511, you’re likely to get better information anyway” Please consider than both call centers are pulling their Muni info from the same source, NextBus, so in reality it all comes down what kind of person answers the phone, not where the call is placed.
    The source of my info? I have close friends that work in both call centers. On aside note, you don’t want to know what MUNI does with our complaints.

  12. Eric says:

    I agree that Newsom is a serious douchebag, and would never got for the man.
    But that aside, the cost of 311 vs. Muni’s original number hasn’t come up in this cost analysis. It could easily be the same cost. 311 might even be a better deal for all we know.

  13. Dan Puentes says:

    I use 311 all the time to complain about the N-judah! If you noticed the N-judah is actually cooler nowadays it’s because I called a year ago to complain that they need to change their refrigerant in the system because despite being on full blast it wasn’t getting cooler on hot sweltering days. Also, I work near 19th Ave and am always missing the N because they have a stupid setup of stops where the next stop for the downtown bound after 19th is 15th ave, that’s 4 f..king blocks, there’s no way any bus stop should be that far apart. What this means is that I can’t even run to catch it? How can they fix this? Put another bus stop on 18th Ave and Judah since there’s a stop sign there anyhow or on 17th. God, why is common sense so hard for some folks? Also, I don’t like it when two or three N-judah shows up less than 5 mins apart which happened recently. That’s just a waste of efficiency and Muni wants to charge more to use their inefficient system? What a load of crap!

  14. Alex says:

    Aw Crikey. They’re not different call centers, if you go through the 511 voice prompts and ask for an operator you get redirected to 311.
    I wouldn’t go so far as to call 311 a joke. 311 handles a variety of things that 511 simply can’t. By virtue of talking to a real live person, you can find out if the bus you’re trying to catch is in service (or if the run went unfilled)… you can file complaints… you can ask them to check the NextBus map… and so-on.
    Compared to the MUNI staffers who used to respond when you called 6-SF-MUNI, the 311 staffers are far more civilized (go figure). How much did those MUNI staffers cost in the first place?
    The real value of 311, IMO, is that you don’t need to remember different numbers. Want to report a broken street light? Call 311. Want to figure out who handles commercial elevator inspections? Call 311. Want to report a drunk MUNI driver? Call 311.
    That MUNI is paying $2/call is certainly a problem, but hardly a reason to drop 311.
    Dan, if you want to make the N (or MUNI in general) more efficient, adding stops is not the way to go about it.

  15. Brian Tyler says:

    311 is a great idea gone bad. Visit http://www.switchingmodes.com if to hear about more problems with Bay Area transportation.

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