Wednesday, June 17, 2009

San Francisco's Phantom Rail Network

If you've never checked out the link list in the sidebar of this blog, please stop what you're doing and visit SF Cityscape. In addition to some cool photos, they have some remarkable and beautifully drawn fantasy maps of Bay Area transit.

The latest addition is called "San Francisco Main Lines" (PDF | GIF). The map shows all of SF's rail lines (BART, Muni, Caltrain) in addition to every Muni bus line that runs with headways of 10 minutes or less on weekdays. The idea being that if you know the bus is going to arrive at your stop less than 10 minutes after you do, most people don't feel the need to check schedules.

These bus lines are the workhorses of Muni's fleet; ridership on these lines constitutes a majority of Muni's ~700,000 daily trips. Many of the lines shown in this map suffer from chronic overcrowding and delays (I'm looking at you, 14-Mission!) and poor performance on these lines has a disproportionate effect on riders' opinions of Muni overall.

The TEP describes some ways to shift resources away from more gently-used lines and toward these lines in an effort to get the most out of your $1.50 $2.00. That's a good thing given a fixed and/or shrinking budget, which is the reality in the short term. But these bus routes need far more resources than this shell game can provide. For SF to realize its Transit First policy, the SFMTA will need to finally end the habit of underfunding Muni.

Muni enjoys a level of ridership unparalleled for a city its size. 700,000 trips per day in a city of less than 800,000 is borderline miraculous. But increasing ridership is limited by the level of access to Muni and the capacity of its network. There are some parts of town with damnably poor access to Muni, but what's really been missing from the city as a whole is a robust rapid transit network. If we want to build one, this map shows where to start.

I'd like to go into more detail on some specifics later, but I feel very strongly that we should build such a network. What's more, any new rapid network should run in addition to current service. Swapping the 15-Third for the T did not result in increased ridership for a long list of reasons. But lost in most discussions of those reasons is the fact that the T as built and currently run is not capable of carrying more passengers than the 15 was. That mistake should seem obvious if our goal is to increase transit ridership over time. I would like to increase Muni service - not maintain it zero-sum - so that we can increase Muni ridership.

No comments: