Hooray! We’re Number…..6? ORLY?

Earlier today I spoke with Mike Sugerman of KPIX News for a report this evening about a recent “list” posted by US News and World Report that ranked various transit agencies and apparently San Francsico came in 6th. Apparently this is a reason to celebrate! USA USA! We’re Number Six!
As I indicated to Mr. Sugerman, however, if you do any ranking of major agencies, Muni and SF will always rank in the top 10-ish no matter what, simply because of the sheer number of people who ride it every day. The US News rankings, however were a bit odd – Portland ranked higher than SF, but serves fewer people in a far less dense area, for example. They also compared the speed of BART to DC Metro – but that doesn’t account for the fact that BART has so many far-flung suburban stations with low ridership – whereas DC Metro, despite IT’S problems, does a better job of serving the Greater DC area than BART does in some regards. And, if you compare things like “operating cost per mile,” well, Muni ranks VERY high in that regard.
I think it’s more important to rank Muni in terms of how it’s actually serving the owner/riders of San Francisco, which by any measure, has been a mish-mash of stitched together budget games, and has chosen to ignore the $3 million Transit Effectiveness Project (except when to justify cuts). The TEP provided a blueprint to build a system – it was up to the SF MTA Board and the politicians at city hall to find a way to pay for it. But when you have an MTA Chair like Tom Nolan who says “family trumps a transit first policy” (if by family you mean a handful of wealthy people whose nannies can’t use Muni because it’s not working right), you can’t really expect the bumbling politicians to do any better.

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2 Responses to Hooray! We’re Number…..6? ORLY?

  1. Brian says:

    Yes, the rankings are silly. Philadelphia and Chicago are absent from the list, for example. Philadelphia’s Center City Commuter Connection did something in the 80s that SF can’t seem to even fathom starting today (the extension of Caltrain to Market Street).
    But hey, at least Muni reliably derails near the Castro station. Thanks for that this morning, guys.

  2. Bob Davis says:

    Trying to compare transit systems isn’t quite “apples vs. oranges”, but it’s close. Part of the problem is that most people, if given a choice, would rather be conveyed to their destinations by a chauffeur-driven limo. Transit is at best a compromise (few or many stops? rail or bus? Hub & spoke or gridiron?). Here in Southern California, our LA Metro gets high rankings in some surveys, but many of the people who actually ride it thinks it sucks. Part of the problem is that the term “bus” is short for “omnibus”–in Latin it means “for all”, and unfortunately “all” includes a lot of loonies, losers and loudmouths. I have half-seriously suggested that Metro import some of the Singapore constabulary, to enforce civilized behavior: “Sit down, shut up, and act properly!”, or expect a sound thrashing with the bamboo cane!

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