So the “big news” from our friends at Muni is that the agency is now on time 75% of the time. Mayor Green Gavin was quick to belch out some press releases, and naturally, the press is in full stenographer mode on this one.
There’s just one thing – the number is meaningless. First, this was after major service cuts (spun as an “overhaul”) last year, so comparing a smaller system to a larger one is comparing apples and oranges. More to the point, it doesn’t really matter if Muni is “on time” 75% of the time if the system isn’t reliable. Think of the many times you’ve tried to get home on an outbound N, only to see an endless line of empty Js and KLMs speeding by, thus ensuring the only N showing up is super crowded.
So while everyone at City Hall pats themselves on the back for a Muni well done, remember that figure when you’re stuck waiting around for an hour because of an unplanned for absence, or because something broke down. If nothing else, you can figure out the odds of when you’ll be lucky enough to be using it when it’s actually running on time.
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MUNI can pat itself on the back when I stop having to have multiple next bus links in my browser and on my phone to use the system.
When I visit NY, I figure out the subway route that works, go down to the platform and board a train within a few minutes (unless it’s between 10 pm and 6 am). That simply doesn’t work here.
I wanted to go to Noe Valley from the Castro at lunch today. I checked the next muni for the 24 and the 35. I was going to miss the next 24 and 35, because it takes me about 6 minutes to walk to the stop, and there was a 23 minute gap before the second 24 would come. The 35 only runs every half hour. It would have take the whole lunch hour to run this errand, not including any time to actually eat. I didn’t go.
What of the 25% that DIDN’T run on time? Oh, I get it, that’s OK!
Who cares about what the schedule says, what matters from the rider’s point of view is the minimum and maximum gap between arrivals.
Being 75% on-time doesn’t mean anything if that last 25% isn’t buses arriving five minutes late but is absent buses resulting in a 45-minute wait when you want to get home from work.
So, looking at the July 14th Muni Daily report,only 18 runs failed to happen, but 36 were drivers on OT. This is common recently–very expensive. Also of note 15 artic TCs short of required. The route sequencing issue is chronic, and Muni KNOWS how to fix it, they just don’t bother. Maddening!
All this discussion reminds me of 30 years ago, when I visited MuniLand and saw something that said “home” to me: 1950’s vintage GM buses from the Southern Calif. Rapid (?) Transit District. I think the story was that Muni couldn’t keep enough of its “new look” GM’s from 1969 or 70 running, so they had to rent these relics from LaLaLand. And some of these coaches had been acquired from Atlanta and Kansas City by RTD. Fun for the transit geeks, a major pain for the crews that had to keep them running. Just an historical note to remind everyone that “SNAFU” has been a term associated with Muni for a long time.
So I moved from NYC (8,000,000 people) to the quaint hamlet of San Francisco (800,000 people). All I have to say is I am so happy MUNI isn’t running MTA. Yet I’m sad MUNI is running anything. After being born and raised in a town like NYC and riding it’s public transportation system for 38 years when I came here and started riding the N and the buses it was blindingly obvious how poorly run the system here is. Which is sad because some simple changes could improve things dramatically. For example, stop making it so incredibly easy for people to skip paying the fare on the N and other street cars and to teach the bus drivers that the skinny pedal on the right is the accelerator. It makes the buses move forward rather than travel along at idling speed.