Saturday, March 6, 2010

Save Muni

Dozens of Transit advocates and concerned citizens showed up bright an early at the Women's Building on 18th Street for the Save Muni Summit. The goal, according to the organizers, was to identify solutions to the problems that prevent Muni from meeting the transportation needs of the city of San Francisco.

Most people at the meeting came because of their involvement in one of a large number of organizations that signed on as co-sponsors of the summit. That's to be expected, but several commenters noted that the makeup of the group was not reflective of Muni's ridership. Indeed, more than one person who stood in front of the room to speak described themselves as 'lapsed Muni riders,' meaning they no longer ride the system.

The hour and a half or so of public comment was the most insightful. Commenters were encouraged to keep their statements positive and constructive, rather than to generally gripe about Muni service. I wasn't able to catch a lot of the names, but I tried to jot down as many of the ideas proposed, which you can read below:
  • Price fares with attention to access to Muni. Fare increases can surpass a threshold beyond which people stop taking Muni and revenue is lost. Suggested bundling Fast Passes with garage passes
  • Focus should be on immediate solutions, many new revenue sources won't start until halfway or more through the next fiscal year
  • The diversity of the city and of Muni's ridership should be reflected in the composition and organizing of the new group/campaign
  • 311 expenses are wasteful - calls that can go to 511 should, and 311 should cost less for the calls it does handle
  • Laying off drivers isn't productive, cuts should be made from management
  • Subsidy is necessary and unavoidable, and not a bad thing. Muni is not a business and shouldn't look at profitability as a goal. Muni is ignoring subsidies that it has already been given, such as revenue from garages and ground leases on property it owns
  • Muni has and should continue to offer different kinds of service (downtown/neighborhood/crosstown routes)
  • Stop consolidation is limiting access to Muni lines in inner, transit-dependent neighborhoods in order to speed up service to outlying neighborhoods (specific example: the 38 through the Tenderloin
  • Supervisers should be deployed around the system to manage bus bunching and schedule adherence
  • Jitneys should be considered to fill transit niches Muni can't afford to (low-ridership lines)
  • Information Technology should be used better to make the system more efficient
  • Free transfers are great and should be better advertised
  • Andrew Sullivan of Rescue Muni pointed to Muni's structural deficit, which he said is the result of declining state aid and the escalating cost of Muni operations (specifically, the driver pay floor)
  • Another Rescue Muni person said Translink could save money and that it is too hard to get. He also advocated for expanding POP
  • More peak hour bus-only lanes, and all such lanes should be camera-enforced
  • One person singled out mayor Newsom's appointee to the MTC as working against progressive priorities when the agency decides how to allocate the money it receives.
  • Another person reiterated that he thought Gavin Newsom was the problem
  • Cuts should be more equitable neighborhood-wise
  • One man wanted the group to support Sean Elsbernd's charter ammendment regarding Muni driver pay
  • Environmental arguments supporting transit can be valuable in the campaign, especially when pressuring Schwarzenegger
  • The MTA and city agencies spend a lot of money on traffic management and collision response. Every Muni rider is removed from the pool of potential accident victims and the associated costs (Fran Taylor)
  • A reasonably-priced Muni day pass would improve access for suburbanites and occasional riders, taking cars of the road and generating revenue for Muni
  • A serious audit of Muni is necessary for progress
  • Advocates need to stop Newsom's plan to suspend real estate development fees, especially the Transit Impact Development fee
  • Transit Rider Union should include bus drivers
  • Downtown and big business should pay for the service they get from Muni
  • Owl service needs to be more frequent
  • New funding is the most important thing to get for Muni. We should restore the Vehicle License Fee and find sources of revenue for operations, not just capital
  • the 1974 transportation element of the General Plan should finally be implemented
  • There should be an audit of Transit Impact Development fee to see whether it's being collected and used to meet new transit demand
  • Advocates should stop nitpicking over small amounts of money that can be saved by efficiency issues and demand a flood of funding for transit
  • The MTA Board should be elected directly because current setup has failed to remove politics from their decisions
  • Need to eliminate cheap downtown parking
  • Need to price parking better. Why is parking free on Sundays and evenings, but Muni still costs the same $2
There wasn't universal support for all of these ideas, and not all will be included in the upcoming advocacy work of the sponsoring organizations and Dave Snyder's new San Francisco Transit Riders Union. But it's clear there's an as-yet-untapped reservoir of passion on behalf of Muni riders, and quite a few good ideas toward which we can all work.

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