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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Muni Presents Hideous Numbers at Transit Hearing

Posted By on Tue, May 28, 2013 at 1:10 PM

click to enlarge Par for the course - JIM HERD

Audit: In April, Muni riders were delayed for a cumulative 19 years and eight months.

There is no metric to quantify the experience of realizing your pants are now sticky after having sat on Muni. But the agency is doing everything it can to produce sticky numbers of a different sort.

At a 1 p.m. hearing taking place this very moment during the Board of Supervisors  Land Use & Economic Development Committee, Muni officials will present the first of a series of quarterly reports on the state of the city's transit service. And while the report -- which you can read here -- is being delivered on time, there's a damn good chance your bus won't be.

This audit, undertaken at the behest of Supervisor Scott Wiener, is chock-full-o' horrifying statistics relating to time and money -- specifically, the former that riders are losing and the latter it will take to remedy the former.

To wit, since July:

  • Muni vehicles have only logged a 58.7 percent on-time performance. Perhaps worse yet, nearly 20 percent of all vehicles are showing up with "gaps" of five minutes or more than the scheduled time between buses or trains;

  • The system has had enough electric buses to meet peak weekday service only 64 percent of the time. It has had enough trains to do so only 33 percent of the time. In April, Muni only had enough trains to meet peak weekday service 9 percent of the time. That'd be two of the 22 weekdays in April;

  • There have been 216 line delays of 10 minutes or greater (and God knows how many of up to nine minutes). On any given day, an average of 181 vehicles are unavailable to carry passengers. Last month, those passengers experienced 172,195 hours of delays. So, yes, in April, Muni riders cooled their heels for a cumulative 19 years and eight months.

Hope you brought a magazine. But we haven't even gotten to the financial angle yet:

  • Muni faces a $320 million annual structural budget deficit. This includes $70 million in unaccounted-for operating needs and $260 million which would be required to keep equipment and infrastructure in a "state of good repair";

  • As of three years ago, an estimated $680 million in maintenance costs had been deferred; 

  • Maintenance meltdowns resulted in an estimated $4.2 million hit to the city economy in April, which extrapolates to some $50 million a year.

Today's hearing will ostensibly cover subjects such as how to reverse these deeply depressing numbers. Solutions contained within the documents being handed out right now at City Hall harked to many that Muni reformers have been pushing for years (these sorry numbers have also been reported in this paper for quite some time).

There's all-door boarding and transit-only lanes and better technology in scheduling and making an effort to replace archaic vehicles and maintain the buses and trains and infrastructure we keep. All of these are for the good -- but it warrants mentioning that the nascent Central Subway is currently pegged to eat $15.2 million from the agency's Operation and Maintenance budget -- and any cost overruns for the $1.6 billion endeavor will be bled from local funds that could otherwise make vehicles go or fix them up.

Let's see if anyone brings that up today.

These problems weren't caused in an afternoon and they cannot be solved in one, either. It will be interesting to see how Muni and other elements of city government react to these wretched numbers -- and how that reaction affects the data revealed in future quarterly reports.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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