Reporters’ Notebook: En route: 28-19th Avenue often off schedule

Reporter Jerold Chinn, Multimedia Editor Monica Jensen and Social Media Editor Sarah Fidelibus rode one of the Muni bus lines that has the most trouble keeping on schedule — the 28-19th Avenue.

They documented the problems the bus faced while traveling on a recent Wednesday afternoon along the route from Fort Mason to Daly City. The bus travels for much of its route along 19th Avenue, or Highway 1, which leads to the Golden Gate Bridge to the north and Interstate 280 to the south.


Finding the slow buses

This map shows which San Francisco transit routes have the highest ridership and which adhere most closely to their schedules. Color indicates on-time performance; thickness of the lines indicates ridership.

The 1-California and 30-Stockton, traversing San Francisco’s northern flank, are high-ridership lines (green), with 80 percent or better schedule adherence.

The J-Church, K-Ingleside, T-Third, L-Taraval, and N-Judah Muni Metro lines, and the 14-Mission and 38-Geary bus lines, also have high reliability, with 70 percent or better schedule adherence (yellow).


Muni planners say speed to come from untangling messy streetscape

Transit planner calls the city’s streets and tunnels ‘a nightmare’

San Francisco transit planners say a recipe of small fixes could amount to big changes in the nation’s fifth-largest urban transit system. But without new sources of money, many of these ideas, some of which would change the way the city’s streets are configured, will remain on the drawing board.

The system is chronically slow and crowded in part because its diverse fleet of bus and rail lines operates on a rollercoaster terrain in a fully built-out urban grid. Street fairs and demonstrations, ball games and construction routinely clog major arteries, making schedules seem academic.

The Municipal Transportation Agency launched its Transit Effectiveness Project in 2006, to reconfigure the city’s streets and tunnels — where physical constraints notoriously slow basic public transit to what one Muni planner called “a nightmare.”


Muni: In elusive quest for 85% on-time performance, computers are displacing eyes on the street

Transit agency says tech will help it turn corner, but money remains tight
Multimillion-dollar vehicle-monitoring technology installed at Muni headquarters is at the heart of a new initiative aimed at solving the transit system’s never-ending performance problems.

By investing $13.6 million in the NextMuni satellite tracking system and a new 24-hour vehicle monitoring center, San Francisco transit officials promise major improvements in keeping the city’s more than 1,000 buses and trains running on schedule. Already this year, Muni Metro trains in the Market Street tunnel are speeding up, they said.

But Muni managers are still struggling with the question of how to get the most out of this new technology to increase performance at a time when budget pressures make it increasingly difficult to do that.


Drivers take the heat for discontent of Muni riders

Operators face long hours, crowded streets and a sometimes hostile ridership

Proposition G, the initiative that voters overwhelmingly approved to change pay and work rules for Muni operators, focused attention on the system’s drivers, painting them as a reason that San Francisco’s Muni transit system is notoriously slow and unreliable.
And the drivers did little to help their cause on the public relations front — rejecting cuts that other city workers agreed to, boycotting the annual Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest and threatening to strike if the measure passed.
But on the job, drivers work in a high-stress environment, with long hours and, for many drivers, few breaks.


Muni to start express bus to ease crowding on N-Judah

Muni N-Judah streetcar riders may soon get some relief during their packed morning and evening commute home. A six-month pilot project to run an express bus between Ocean Beach and the Financial District will begin on Monday. With 38,000 daily boardings, the Municipal Transportation Agency says the N-Judah is the most used and crowded of all the rail lines. Complaints have been coming in to the transit agency from passengers who are not able to board the N-Judah during peak hours, according to the agency. The six-month pilot project will operate on weekdays during peak morning and evening hours making stops between Ocean Beach and 19th Avenue and Judah Street in the morning before heading to Montgomery and Bush streets.


Arbitrator upholds rejected Muni contract; some drivers hint at strike or slowdown

 Like it or not, Muni operators must accept a labor contract they rejected last week. An independent arbitrator made her decision Monday to implement the tentative labor contract that was agreed upon by union leaders and the Municipal Transportation Agency last month. The contract includes the same terms as the previous agreement including a three-year wage freeze, the hiring of part-time drivers and changes in work rules that management says will provide a more efficient transit system. The new labor contract will save the transit agency $41 million in labor costs over the next three years, according to an agency representative. “This new contract will restore SFMTA’s ability to efficiently schedule transit services, and will reduce the cost of built-in overtime and standby pay by using part-time operators,” said the agency’s Director of Administrator, Debra Johnson in a statement.


Report: Muni chief to step down by the end of the month

The San Francisco Examiner reports that Muni Executive Director Nathaniel Ford will leave the transit agency by the end of the month. Ford has been rumored to be a candidate for a position with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, but members from the authority delayed the decision in choosing its next executive director back in March. The announcement of his departure arrives at the same time Muni operators were forced to accept a labor contract by an independent arbitrator. The Examiner reports that Ford would not leave until labor talks were finished. An unnamed Municipal Transportation Agency official told the Examiner on Wednesday that he will mostly likely step down from his position by the end of the month.


Supervisor wants to see results of new Muni contract

An arbitrator-imposed labor contract for the city’s Muni operators went into effect on Friday and is expected to save the city $41 million over the next three years. City Supervisor Scott Wiener wants the transit agency to show where those savings are coming from.
Wiener introduced a resolution at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting calling upon the transit agency’s governing board to give periodic updates on how the agency is saving money from the deal.


Challenges await new Muni chief Ed Reiskin

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors announced Thursday that the Department of Public Works Director Ed Reiskin will become the next agency’s executive director. Reiskin arrives at a crucial time in the agency where Muni’s on-time performance fell slightly to 71 percent and the relationship between the agency and its drivers is increasingly strained. 


Muni riders speak out at town hall meeting

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees public transportation in the city, faces a $53 million budget deficit for the next two years. At a meeting in the San Francisco Public Library Wednesday evening, the agency was showing off its budget plan and was getting public feedback. We follow it via Storify.


Muni chief takes aim at swollen overtime budget

City transportation director Ed Reiskin says he hopes to control Muni’s overtime spending in the next fiscal year by budgeting it at $42 million. After budgeting $32 million for this fiscal year, the actual spending is expected to reach $60 million.


Rerouted bus through heart of Mission District hurts business, neighbors say

Riders and businesses in the Mission District say the rerouting of  major Muni bus lines is causing confusion and hurting commerce. The 14-Mission, 14L-Mission and 49-Mission/Van Ness, which usually travel along Mission Street, have been rerouted to South Van Ness since the beginning of March because of a repavement and infrastructure project by the Department of Public Works and Public Utilities Commission. The project affects Mission Street between 16th and Cesar Chavez streets.


S.F. Muni paid bonuses tied to inflated on-time rate

By Zusha Elinson, Bay Citizen
Muni paid thousands of dollars in bonuses to top executives for meeting or exceeding on-time performance goals, even as the agency inflated its on-time rates by as much as 18 percent. The agency’s two previous chief executives, Michael Burns and Nathaniel Ford, received the bonuses. Both men have denied knowing about the on-time rate inflation. Ed Reiskin, the current Muni chief, does not have any performance bonuses written into his contract. Read the complete story at Bay Citizen


Regional transit panel rejects free Fast Passes for low-income S.F. youth

A pilot program to give the city’s low-income youth a free Fast Pass to ride Muni will not happen as planned. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission voted 8-7 Wednesday against giving $4 million to help Muni fund a $9 million pilot program. The commission had been debating for months on whether or not to give the Municipal Transportation Agency money for the program. The 22-month pilot program had the support of  Muni’s board of directors, but it was contingent upon getting regional transportation funds. Commissioners also rejected funding for similar public transportation programs in Santa Clara and Alameda counties.


Muni train switchbacks insult San Francisco riders, says watchdog panel

Hate it when you’re late to work because the Muni driver tells you to get off the train? You’re not the only one. San Francisco’s civil grand jury — a kind of officially sanctioned panel of city residents who report on what doesn’t work in county government — recommended on Thursday that Muni officials do away with the practice of switchbacks. That’s when riders are forced off a Muni train before it makes its usual final stop, and heads in the opposite direction to make up for lost time elsewhere. Muni downplayed the report. “We recognize that anytime you do a switchback, it has an inconvenience to the riders,” Haley said. “So we do everything we can to minimize that,” said John Haley, Muni’s director of operations.


No Story Is Too Weird for Online Journal ‘Muni Diaries’

“Muni Diaries,” an online journal, collects and shares Muni riders’ stories in its blog, podcasts and live events around San Francisco. Co-founder Eugenia Chien and producer Peter Clarke provide a glimpse of what’s happening in the world of buses, streetcars, transit stops and stations around town.