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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Sucky MUNI Probably As Good As It'll Get — an SF Weekly analysis

Posted By on Wed, Dec 5, 2007 at 8:18 AM


By Benjamin Wachs

The Examiner’s front page yesterday gives MUNI’s on-time arrival stats, according to the Transit Effectiveness Project. And yes – the news is disappointing for those who want a voter mandated on-time arrival stat of 85%.

But, it bears asking: what do voters actually know about transit? How realistic are their expectations? When they say, “Get to 85%, you slackers!” is it the equivalent of “Clean your room?” or is it more like “Colonize Mars!”

Federally collected “on-time” stats don't exist, however. Every transit system in the country defines and calculates their own, meaning an muni-to-muni comparison isn’t really possible.

Is “on-time” within 1 minute of schedule? Within 5 minutes? Should buses and rail have a different definition?

These are valid questions, but they’re also easy ways for transit systems to dodge the question and not be held accountable. So, fuck that: here's the on-time stats for America's major city transit systems (as provided by the systems themselves).

Chicago Buses: 80.6% on time

Los Angeles Buses: 63.77% on-time

New York Buses: 77% on-time

Indianapolis Buses: 87% on-time

When you compare that to San Francisco’s average of 70.8% this year, we’re not at the top, no … but we’re not at the bottom, either, and only Indy makes 85% on-time.

And, not to suggest any disrespect to the fine people of the IndyGo transit system, but, Indianapolis has a lot easier than any of these other cities traffic wise. There city is a reasonable size for the number of people it contains, there are no major bridges, no toll roads to slow up traffic … you can actually get places in your car. It’s great.

Bottom line: we’re not doing so badly. We can expect those numbers to climb once Prop A kicks into effect, but it won’t be a huge bump. Barring a major transit overhaul or a significant change in SF road and traffic conditions, we’re pretty close to “as good as it gets” for MUNI already.

You can expect fewer meltdowns, better service, and moderately improved performance, but you can’t expect miracles.

(ed. note: No word yet on expecting less beatings and stabbings.)

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David Downs


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