Reading the news of the last week, it’s becoming clear that a mass transit agency with an unfocused CEO, a leaderless “board,” showboaty “hearings” from overly ambitious politicos, and a Mayor who is more interested in giving away City assets to billionaires is a great way to destroy a failing agency. Worse, the response to these troubled times from Muni to the owner/riders and their elected leaders has been to take a “f*ck you” attitude, and meanwhile we keep on paying with our time, with increased fares, and with poor service.
Consider the latest “OMG WTF” moment with Muni – a faulty door that wouldn’t close while passengers were on board in the tunnel downtown. This is a serious safety issue, and if anyone had fallen out the door or something similar, Muni would have millions of dollars in lawsuits on its hands. This is in the wake of the California PUC slamming Muni for safety violations. Worse (for Muni), Supervisor Scott Weiner just happened to be riding the train (he being an Actual Muni Owner/Rider in office, unlike most) and made some observations, which were later aggressively challenged by Muni Operations chief John Haley.
If this sounds familiar, its the same new, aggressive “best defense is a good offense” PR strategy used at the hearing on unannounced turnarounds a while back, and with the PUC’s complaints. The attitude over at Muni management has gone from passive agressiveness to an up front contempt for the people who own the system, and is a new low in public sector services, even for San Francisco.
In light of this new, aggro tone, it was curious to see that Muni’s beloved, well paid managers decided that in addtion to the many well paid PR people they have in house, they had to spend another $100,000 for an outside PR firm, just to handle the media for the upcoming labor negotiations with the Muni operator’s union, Local 250-A. What…the…F*CK?
Seriously. This is SOP for not just the MTA, but for the city – put lots of people on the payroll at six figures to do “press,” and then hire more people on the outside as well. If the people in-house can’t handle the job, fire them and hire new ones, don’t spend more money on outside consultants, who have no accountability to the folks paying the bills. Or, better yet, hire me to do the job. I’ll do it for lower fees, and frankly I’d kick ass. (Sorry, but as someone who is struggling to pay the bills seeing folks get all these big government gigs, I can’t help but think I’d do as good a job, and I actually ride Muni.)
The fun keeps on coming with Muni. Management now claims that they’re going to actually use the Transit Effectiveness project they paid $3 million for (sound familiar?), but as always, they have to invent new ways to blow it. In this case, we apparently can’t implement anything until after several years of endless hearings and whatnots.
Bullsh*t. The TEP was created after several long years of hearings, meetings, and more. This thing is DONE. There is no reason for more endless talking, and spending of money on consultants and hearings and PR. It is time for the agency to create a new funding plan to implement and DO IT. I realize that getting things done isn’t the norm at the MTA, and given how aimless the agency, and the City are acting these days, I don’t expect much to happen. Basically, the MTA has known what it has had to do – its leadership has been either too incomptent or too timid to implement it.
Operators continue to do no favors for themselves – once again we have a story of an operator texting while driving, and employing Muni’s new “f*ck you!” PR strategy, told the owner/rider he was an “asshole”. Naturally he only faced a 3-day suspension for potentially killing innocent passengers. Brilliant. All on the eve of labor negotiations that matter? BRILLIANT.
Not to be outdone, TWU’s leadership got their weekly “ain’t my job” comments in, when the subject of fare evasion, as we find out once again that fare evasion is costing the agency a lot of money (gee, where have we heard this before?). And, of course, the union’s leaders chimed in with their classic “ain’t my job” response when asked why this is the case.
Really? Listen, genius, it IS your problem because the agency is facing cuts. I realize that to some Supervisors, and to certain political factions, stealing fares from the poor is considered something worth celebrating, but when people steal fares, they are in fact hurting those that can afford it the least when fares go up. Even if Muni only collected HALF of what they’re owed, they’d be doing a lot better. I guess asking people to be honest in San Francisco is asking too much, at least in some cases.
Finally, an enterprising Muni owner/rider came up with a single-serving site that’s not only funny, but has some useful information. How F*cked is Muni? popped up around the blogs a week or so ago, and it’s actually somewhat helpful. Try it out sometime.
Finally, Friend of the N Judah Chronicles, A Streetcar Named Taraval has a Muni Drinking Game that sounds rather fun. If nothing else, it’s something to do as you give your regards to the Earth’s Core during your morning commute.
It’s kinda fun while you’re commuting on your way to give your regards to the Earth’s Core.
UPDATE: If you are curious as to how Muni management views your safety, not to mention the TWU leadership, look at this coverage following up on the incident whereby a driver was illegally texting while driving. It’s to be expected that union leadership backs a bad apple who committed a crime (texting while driving is illegal, obviously) and endangered lives. What’s more shocking is that Muni management, under John Haley, initially took the driver’s word over that of the Muni owner/rider, and had to be shamed into doing something only KTVU broadcast the video.
If you have a phone that can shoot video, always try and use it to document an incident, since clearly Muni’s management doesn’t take safety seriously, and will use their new obnoxiousness to bury it, otherwise.
Shameless Appeal For the Blog: If you’ve ever considered buying a shirt, or other item from the store, now is the time to do it. We are going to be making some significant changes to the items we sell fairly soon, including the discontinuation of some, and the addition of some new designs. I’m also looking for a local vendor to start producing them so that we could offer these in local store (and at a significantly lower price than Zazzle). Buy now!
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Exhortations to SF citizens to think of themselves as “owners/riders” of Muni is stretching the nature of “ownership” a bit. I own stock in Edison International, which in turn owns Southern Calif. Edison. Sometimes I’ll read about a drunken idiot ramming an SCE pole with his car and comment something like “The nerve of that nitwit! Hitting one of MY poles!” But I say this in jest, and it’s not quite the same as a fool running into my front yard fence. San Franciscans may own Muni, just as they “own” the City Hall building, or we as Americans “own” the Capitol in Washington DC, but it’s a rather diffused and undifferentiated ownership.