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SaveMuni

  San Francisco's only Independent 
Transportation Think Tank
(Updated February 20, 2015)

SaveMuni is comprised of transportation professionals, neighborhood activists and Muni riders working to find common sense solutions to city transportation issues.  
        
      

To learn more about SaveMuni? READ HERE

                   SFMTA Approves 

                Muni Service Increase

(Exerpted from SF Bay January 21, 2015  


Seniors and disabled Muni riders weren’t the only ones benefiting from a better financial picture for San Francisco’s transportation agency over the next two fiscal years.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors are moving ahead with a 7% Muni service increase, additional funding for cleaning Muni vehicles and eliminating telephone and online transaction fees charged for making a citation payment to the SFMTA.

The board last April included all of these programs in its two-year budget last year, which included free Muni for low-income seniors and people with disabilities, but was contingent on how the transit agency’s financial health looked like this month.

In a report (presented to the SFMTA Board at its regular meeting on  January 20th), the transit agency said it would be able to financially support the increase in Muni service and the additional funding to hire more staff to clean Muni vehicles of graffiti and tagging.

The transit agency projects higher revenues (from) transit fares, parking fees and fines and also (from) more funds from The City because of current (improving) state of San Francisco's economy.

The 7% increase in Muni service approved Tuesday by the SFMTA Board follows a 3% increase approved last April.

Muni riders will begin seeing some of these service increases starting January 31st, including the launch of Muni’s new 55-16th Street route and increased frequency on the 44-O’Shaughnessy line. A soft launch of the new route is set for January 26th, according to SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin.

The SFMTA said the rest of Muni 'new service will be phased in starting this Spring and continuing during next Fall and Winter.

Transit officials also approved an additional $1.8 million for the SFMTA to hire additional staff to increase the cleaning intervals of Muni vehicles. Of the $1.8 million, the transit agency dedicated $600,000 through the current fiscal year and $1.2 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

The transit agency also got rid of its $2.50 transaction fee charged to people who pay their citations from the SFMTA online or by telephone, which will take effect on May 1.

Save Muni's
19 Positive Steps 
to a better Muni
              (updated January 21, 2015)             

Unlike an outlying suburban area, San Francisco is a densely built-up city requiring a highly efficient public transit system. When Muni falters, the lives of its 700,000 daily riders and 60,000 reliant small businesses are immediately impacted.  Because of excessive traffic congestion  and in-house operational and management problems, the SFMTA is currently unable to provide consistently reliable service on its 75 existing bus and rail lines. Until this changes, beleaguered Muni riders will continue to experience slow downs, gaps in service, breakdowns and frequent over-crowding. 

Needless to add, there is a need for some basic changes in the current SFMTA operation. Included are street running conditions, maintenance improvements, working rule changes and capital priority adjustments. 

Along with virtually every Muni rider, we look forward to the day when Muni is consistently providing optimal service to its patrons and would-be patrons. Here are 19 ways of getting to that point. READ HERE.


The Benefits of Extending Caltrain, to San Francisco, the Peninsula and the Region 
(Updated January 21, 2015)
Four incoming traffic lanes enter SF from the North, five from the East and eighteeen from the South.  Unsurprisingly, MTC shows 280,000 cars a day as entering SF from the South, almost 50% more than from the two bridges combined.

In order for Muni to operate effectively, the amount of traffic clogging San Francisco's streets must be reduced.  One effective way of doing this would be to give northbound Peninsula drivers a faster and classier way of accessing San Francisco.

This need makes extending Caltrain into downtown San Francisco (DTX) a very high priority project.  Squeezing out cars, buses and emergency vehicles by building obstructions into city streets is a heavy-handed and short-sighted way of cutting traffic. Giving people better transportation options should be the first choice. 

When Caltrain is extended into the heart of the Financial District, adjacent to a 400,000 person jobs center, near 10,000 units of new transit-oriented housing and linked conveniently to the  Market Street subways, San Francisco's new Transbay Transit Center (TTC) will serve a total of 8 commuter rail, subway and surface rail systems as well as 40 separate AC Transit, SamTrans, Muni and Golden Gate bus lines.  It will also eventually become the northerly terminal of California's high-speed rail system.  With Caltrain operating in its lower level San Francisco's new terminal will become one of the most important transit hubs in North America.  In 1999 the people of San Francisco voted overwhelmingly for the DTX extension.  There are hopeful recent signs that San Francisco Officialdom has now at last picked up the thread. 
A Mello Roos District is being set up to require property owners whose real estate values have soared based upon the incoming commuter rail serivice to pay back a portion of their gains to help pay for the extension.  Despite a spate of back-room complaining emanating from a gaggle of lobbyists and attorneys working on behalf of two huge property owners, City officials, led by Mayor Lee, have refused to reduce the Mello Roos tax rate below the appropriate level.  As of this date, the municipal objectives appear to be, and certainly should be:

        a.)  to establish the Mello Roos District without delay, such that benefiting property owners will begin to pay the taxes due to help complete the DTX project,      
        b.)  to avoid other actions designed to delay or impede DTX.

Getting Caltrain extended should be the first transportation choice of San Francisco County, San Mateo County and the Region.  If you haven't already done so, please make your favorite set of opinion makers aware of the importance of DTX.  This is one that everyone can get behind.    


Westbay Transportation Conflicts 
Fester for over a Decade
(updated May 31,2014)   

As indicated above, the people of San Francisco recognized the importance of extending an upgraded Caltrain into downtown San Francisco way back in 1999, when they voted overwhelmingly in favor of the extension.  Yet in the ensuing years a unaccountable lack of municipal and regional  leadership has resulted in a chaotic and largely ineffectual interplay among the affected transportation agencies along the San Francisco/Caltrain Corridor.  
Read more here.


Transbay Capacity Crunch
(updated February 15, 2015)
      

BART's ridership is projected to rise from its current level of over 400,000 riders a day to 700,000 riders a day or more by 2040. This increase is reportedly far beyond BART's transbay carrying capacity.

To delay the inevitable, BART plans to remove a substantial number of seats in order to make room for more standees and bicycles.   Despite these measures, which are certain to render the service less satisfactory for BART's riders, recent estimates are that BART will run out of transbay-carrying capacity by about 2025, at which time the lack of adequate passenger rail service between Oakland and San Francisco will begin to constrain the economies of the Central Bay area.  So far Alameda County, San Francisco County and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission have chosen to put off dealing with this oncoming crunch.  Read more here.

    From Silk Purse to Sou's Ear
(Updated January 21,  2015)

Remember when we were being told that the tunneled Central Subway would be "out-of-sight, out-of-mind"?  

That was in the Fall of 2013.  Fast forward to the Fall of 2014.                                                                     







Here's what the SF Chronicle had to say on the subject on September 29, 2014:

"It may have been the most fashionable meeting ever held at City Hall — as representatives of Neiman Marcus, Chanel, Barneys New York, Dior, Bulgari and  Arthur Beren Shoes met Wednesday with Mayor Ed Lee to tell him that the Central Subway construction was killing some of Union Square’s best-known high-end stores.

"At issue is the ongoing tearup of Stockton Street to make way for the Union Square Station and the loss of parking, deafening noise and dust from the heavy machinery that go along with it. Combine those with narrow and often unlighted walkways in front of the stores, and customers are staying away in droves.

"Lee promised a personal look at the situation, but overall the news was not encouraging...."

When asked how much longer Union Square would be torn up by the Central Subway project, the SFMTA representative ruefully acknowledged that it would affect "two winter seasons in addition to this one coming up.”  (February 15, 2015:  one down, two to go)
                                                           
Central Subway -
SF's Gravina Island Bridge 
(updated December 11, 2014)

Beginning in 2008, the SFMTA begain publicly promoting the idea of building a 1.1 mile subway from Byrant Street to the southern part of Chinatown.  In its campaign, the SFMTA systematcially used exaggeration, selective use of data and distortion of the facts to make the new subway seem as attractive as possible to an unwitting public.   

To learn more about the Central Subway READ HERE.
 
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Roundup of SFMTA Mistakes

March 5, 2015

Not everything the SFMTA does is wrong.  In fact, within the staff there are some good people who are trying to do good things.  However this agency regularly takes actions that make no sense. Here are three current examples of what happens when a bureaucracy is allowed to run amok:

I.  SFMTA plans unnecessary second T-Line turnback loop.  Turn backs are sometimes necessary to avoid sending too many Muni vehicles to parts of the city where they are only lightly patronized.  Today's Third Street Line has the capability of turning back some of its southbound LRV's at an existing turnaround loop extending from Third via 25th, Illinois and Cesar Chavez back to Third.    This loop is appropriately located and has been in place and in use since 2005.  However in 1998, during the height of the Mission Bay fervor, a second turnaround loop was envisioned, this time extending from Third via 18th, Illinois and 19th back to Third.  As was obvious from the outset, the second turnaround, called the Mission Bay Loop, was devised for the sole and exclusive benefit and convenience of Mission Bay.  As the Potrero View puts it,  the second loop proposal was "first floated more than a decade ago, when Dogpatch housed a large number of partially derelict lots and former industrial buildings. Today the neighborhood is one of the City’s hottest areas, ground zero for construction of thousands of new apartments, businesses and condominiums."   

In other words the second loop might have made sense in the last century.  But this is this century and things have changed.  What seldom if ever changes regardless of circumstances is bureaucratic momentum....once cranked up.  Despite all the changes, the focus at the SFMTA continues to be on the interests and desires of the Mission Bay developers, to the detriment of the vibrant and growing Dogpatch neighborhood located just south of Mission Bay. 

As indicated, the Third Street line already has a turnaround loop at 25th Street.  Extending all T-Line trains to 25th Street or beyond would afford Dogpatch the same Muni benefits as are to be afforded to Mission Bay residents and employees.  Activating the 18th Street turnaround on the other hand would cut the T-Line service to Dogpatch by at least a third. 

Janet Carpinelli, Dogpatch Neighborhood Association President, summed it up well when she said:  "The investment of $10 Million, the SFMTA’s estimate to construct the Loop, would be better spent on a forward thinking plan, rather than on a proposal based on 10 to 15 year old data that’s no longer relevant".

Having their pleas for a more rational approach fall on deaf ears at the SFMTA, a group of Dogpatch neighbors, backed and supported by the Dogpatch and Potrero Hill Boosters Neighborhood Associations, have instituted legal proceedings against the SFMTA.  On March 3, 2015, the California Court of Appeals issued a stay preventing any construction work on the turnaround from being done until the Court has had additional time to consider the matter.

Building a second T-Line turnback loop at 18th Street is an unnecessary waste of money and makes no sense.

II.   SFMTA's Nonfunctional Bus Location System.  "Next Bus" is an Ap with the technical ability of telling riders with cell phones exactly when their next bus will arrive.  Under Next Bus the locations of buses are determined by triangulation from communications satellites.  For this reason the system is capable of providing precise arrival times even if a bus is off schedule.  But that's not the way the SFMTA system works.  Much to the chagrin of waiting Muni riders the system now regularly "loses" buses or promises service from "phantom buses" that are in fact out of service.  This puts hapless Muni riders right back where they were in the 1980's, never knowing when...or if...their buses would get there. 

The SFMTA attempts to explain this away by blaming the problem on buses not leaving their terminals on time, bus diverted to other uses, bus breakdowns and "driver error".  When buses are delayed or diverted it should be easy for a satellite-based communication system to keep up.  As far as the so-called driver error is concerned, when the Central Computer directs a change that takes a bus out of service on a particular route it should be programmed to simultaneously inform the satellite communication system, thereby eliminating the possibility of driver error.  The idea that in 2015 a GPS-based communications system should be losing buses and tracking "ghost buses" that are not in service is downright antediluvian.  

Over in the East Bay, AC Transit's communication Ap works much better.  Maybe SFMTA officials should go across the Bay and get some instruction from their little brother. 

III.  SFCTA's M-Line Mess.   By far the biggest problem with the Market Street subway is its absurdly low, peak-period carrying capacity.  It has been estimated that because of the obtuse way in which the SFMTA operates the subway, it currently carries less than half the number of peak-period riders it was designed to carry and less than a tenth the number that most modern subways carry

One of the pre-requisites to using the subway to full advantage would be to eliminate the disruptive effects of the 13-phase St. Francis Circle traffic signal system on K and M line service.  Achieving this objective would require that the K-Line section between the median of Junipero Serra and the southwest end of West Portal Avenue, and the M-Line section between the median of 19th Avenue and the southwest end of West Portal, be depressed.  Placing the two lines beneath the St. Francis Circle would cut running times by several minutes and, more importantly, significantly improve the evenness and reliability of the service on both lines.  

Unfortunately, instead of addressing this obvious problem of long standing, the SFCTA....with the SFMTA in tow....has veered wildly off course by opting for a scheme, apparently dreamed up by the Park Merced Developers, that would bring an M-Line subway directly into their Park Merced development.  The $1.5 billion + Park Merced subway would remove the M-Line from its protected surface operation along the median of 19th Avenue in favor of tearing up the west side of 19th Avenue in order to extend subway M-Line service into Park Merced, then back to the west side of 19th and then via an elevated structure over 19th almost 400 feet long to Randolph Street.   

The reason usually given for this scheme is that conditions at the surface M-Line stop at Holloway (opposite San Francisco State University) are crowded and unsafe.  The obvious fix to the Holloway Station problem would be to leave the M-Line in the median of 19th Avenue where it operates today and simply depress the Station.  With this vastly cheaper arrangement, riders from both sides of 19th Avenue would have full access to the platforms via underground walkways, thereby eliminating all conflicts between individuals rushing to catch M-Line LRV's and 19th Avenue traffic. 

The SFCTA's cockamamie Park Merced Development Plan badly needs fresh thinking.



Need for Second Rail Tube
(Updated February 22, 2015)

It's been well known for at least 25 years that BART's transbay section was a choke point, destined to run out of people carrying-capacity sooner rather than later.  In fact conditions in the existing tube are already jammed during many hours of the day.  It is currently estimated that because of the improving economy, regional population growth and assorted BART extensions, the vital transbay section will reach its carrying-capacity limit by 2025.  That's less than 10 years away.  And yet, under the best of circumstances it would take at least 40 years to put a new passenger rail system on line.  So what does the Region do during the intervening decades?  At this point no one has a clue!  

And then there's the matter of cost.  It would reportedly cost between $25 and $35 billion to build a second subaqueous rail tube, complete with extensive new subway connections on each side of the Bay.  

Keeping the economies of the Central Bay Area viable will require that this matter be addressed with courage, wisdom and determination before any more time is lost.  The fact that transportation officials are at last beginning to take the problem seriously comes as welcome news. 

SF Proposition A 
(updated February 22, 2015)

Heavily influenced by a massive pro-Prop A spending campaign, the San Francisco voters approved Prop A on November 4, 2014. Prop A authorizes San Francisco's government to sell $500 million in transportation General Obligation bonds.  Including interest on the bonds, Prop A will cost the tax payers of San Francisco over a billion dollars. 

According to Matier and Ross's pie chart, most of the proceeds of Prop A are destined to be spent on items having little to do with Muni or other public transit: 

propapiechart.jpg (455×578)
Moreover, virtually none of the $500 million in Prop. A funding is currently allocated to addressing San Francisco's most pressing transportation problems; namely 

o  positioning Muni to keep up with San Francisco's population (+34% projected by 2040) and employment growth (+  29% projected by 2040).  Source:  Mayor's Transportation Task Force

o  getting buses and LRV's jammed with riders out of traffic congestion

o  easing the peak period crush in the Market Street subway

o  extending Caltrain to the new Transbay Transit Center, therefore giving 280,000 daily Peninsula motorists a classier and less troublesome way of getting into San Francisco     

o  putting the SFMTA's financial house in order. 

Given the vague language of Prop A, SFMTA still has a choice.  It can continue to follow the lead of the Mayor's inexperienced Transportation Task Force of 2012/13 and consequently waste much of the $500 million raised by Proposition A.


Or it can tackle the major transportation problems facing San Francisco at this time.  How SF's government responds to these challenges is crucial to the future of San Francisco.  



A Critique of SFMTA's TEP 
 (Updated November 8, 2014)

According to the colored flyers and brochures hyping Prop A, most of the money that does go to Muni will be used to implement the SFMTA's Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP). While TEP is clearly the result of significant investigation and hard work, it unfortunately fails to address many of San Francisco's most critical transportation problems.  For a summary of our findings READ HERE.              


SF's Transportation Task Force Misses Mark 
(Updated October 29, 2014)

Given Prop A's vague and noncomital language, about the only clue we have as to how $500 million might get spent is embodied in the Mayor's Transportation Task Force (TTF) report released in late 2013. The TTF was comprised of 46 individuals, 17 of whom were answerable to the Mayor and another 10 or more of whom represented downtown interests. Allegedly this group was going to develop a long range transportation plan for San Francisco, but things didn't turn out that way.   Instead the group, only a tiny handful of whom had any discernible experience in either transportation or the problems of Muni, worked hard at spreading nice-sounding things around so as to pick up as many votes as possible. Lost in the shuffle was the attention that should have been paid to San Francisco's most critical oncoming transportation problems and what to do about them.  Read more here.