What’s On Your Muni Wish List?
Photo by Troy Holden
If you had a few million dollars to spend on Muni, what would be on your wish list?
I can name a couple of things that we often talk about on Muni Diaries: on-time buses, safer drivers, and an improved Nextbus system. But that only scratches the surface of issues for Muni riders.
I know there is a significant segment of the transit-riding community that this blog will probably never reach because these riders have no computer access at home. They don’t have the luxury of sitting down to browse around the internet.
I was prompted this morning by the KALW radio program Your Call. Today’s show asks what should be done with the $495 million federal stimulus funding allocated for Bay Area transit agencies and road projects.
One of the show’s guests, Guillermo Mayer (a lawyer with the Bay Area’s Public Advocates), said transit agencies pay more attention to “choice riders” — people who choose to ride the bus. So the focus has been “How do we get more people to ride the bus?” rather than “How do we better serve people who have no choice but to ride the bus?”
Proposals like better buses and airport links are aimed at attracting a wealthier base of choice riders. But what are some proposed features that would actually benefit the working class?
There is an initiative to make the Lifeline Fast Pass more accessible to low-income riders (the Lifeline Fast Pass fare is staying the same while other Fast Pass rates are going up).
So, what is on your Muni wish list? And what do you think should be on this wish list so that it can serve everyone who rides the bus, including low-income riders?
Photo by WHAT I’M SEEING from the Muni Photos Flickr pool
This is a great question, and relevant to today’s Chronicle story reporting Muni’s on-time performance hike. According to the article, Muni’s quarterly on-time rate has increased to 72.7%, a 3.5-point improvement.
I bring this up because on-time performance is my number one want on the wish list. However, I usually judge performance by the Nextbus predictions rather than the posted bus schedule. Still, keeping the buses evenly and timely spaced is a huge issue. The other day for example, I texted Nextbus and received predictions for the 43-Masonic in 8 and 43 minutes. This was at 9:30 p.m., and I was still in class. I ended up leaving class three minutes early just to avoid the potential 40-plus-minute wait time.
So, yeah, on-time performance is essential.
My god, where to begin?
As Jenny noted, starting with the issue of reliability would be nice. Besides pushing for on-time performance, that would mean focusing on maintenance, of vehicles, power lines, bus shelters, etc. I’m still unclear as to who funds the NextBus marquees, but more of those, and more-functional ones, would be wonderful, too.
If any money can go toward implementing TEP, I say go for it. It’s not perfect, but it’s sure to improve on things that work while eliminating some that don’t. Perhaps a scaled-back TEP is in order, but getting that work done, just the plan alone, could take months and end up costing more money than it’s worth.
Funding for either BRT on Geary and Van Ness, or a full-fledged effort to bring light-rail to one or both (I know, I know, massive protests and arm-flailing will ensue at the mere mention of construction on either thoroughfare) would be great long-term problem-solving solutions.
And how about a pay cut at the top to pay for even more of these programs? I’m just sayin’.
My needs are more rider-specific.
1. More frequent buses, especially those that get overcrowded during commute time. I’m talking about when you can barely hold on to the silver railing overhead with one hand while standing on your tip toes and then, 30 minutes later, have to huff and puff to actually get off at your stop. This request also includes less overcrowding. Is it necessary? Really?
2. Cleaner buses. No graffiti, no beer spilled all over the back seats, no obnoxious smells that then catch onto your clothes and follow you everywhere.
3. A better way of handling the back door. Letting crowds of people spill on the back door instead of paying their fare defeats the system and regular paying riders’ morale.
Bee, I definitely agree with all of them – I would say your three are also my top needs. And we definitely need a better way of handling the back door. It is just ridiculous how many people cheat the fare, but at the same time, often you have to yell “back door!” to even get off the bus!
About the back door thing… I most always will board at the back door instead of the front. Why? Because if I’m waiting at the front door for it to open I usually have three tiny Asian/Russian women swoop in and cut in front of me, even though I was clearly the first one to approach the door. I’ve had this happen to me when boarding an almost empty bus. I always buy a monthly pass so I’m not cheating the fare. I’m in my early twenties so I don’t mind not having a seat and having to stand for the duration of the ride down Geary, it’s just ridiculous how competitive people get about boarding a city bus. I’d rather avoid getting angry and hop on in the back.
But KB, not everyone buys a fast pass. I’d bet money that most of the older Asian women who board the 30 and 45 at 3rd and Market don’t have a fast pass, and rarely every pay their fare. Same things with the younger professionals who hop on my 21 every morning at Hayes and Baker. They might have a pass, but many brag, as they cram into the back of the bus, that they never have to pay because of the backdoor rush.
I had something happen yesterday that reminded me of a simple truth: It wouldn’t cost Muni a dime to provide more-reliable service.
This story is in no way unique, but I was on my way to the first stop of the 47 in the CalTrain depot direction. NextBus told me four minutes (plenty of time) because that’s what the Muni schedule said. However, I saw the bus take off at least three minutes early. Then, of course, the bus scheduled to go next simply never left.
Having drivers be bound to at least start their routes on time, not early, not late, would increase on-time rate and general reliability. And that wouldn’t require any stimulus money. Only a simple sense of responsibility.