Where’s Gavin?

wheresgavinsticker2Good question, indeed. More broadly, where’s the leadership on Muni, outside of Supervisor Chiu and a few others?

This nugget arrived in our inbox today. It’s basically a contest for any of us to enter. Snap a photo of Gavin Newsom riding a non-cable-car Muni vehicle, and this group, Where’s Gavin, will buy your next (and the last $45) Fast Pass:

Dear Sir or Madam,

As riders of the San Francisco Municipal Railway (buses and trains), we were very disappointed that Mayor Newsom decided to push through a Muni budget that will cut routes and balance the budget on the backs of transit riders instead of making everyone share the burden.  We don’t think that Gavin actually gets it on transit or gets on transit, contrary to the comment in the Chronicle that said he goes incognito.  We’d like him to ride more, perhaps to get a feeling for what riders go through even on days when the budget hasn’t been cut.  As kind of a push to get him to take more transit, incognito or otherwise we started this page.  It’s basically a contest: be the first to get a picture of Mayor Newsom on Muni incognito (other than a cable car) and we’ll buy that person’s fast pass for the month after they win.  We think its a pretty good incentive, especially in these tough economic times.  We’re also going to buy some beers for everyone else that brings in a photo at the end of the run.  We hope you can help us in our quest.

Where’s Gavin?

PS: We wish to remain anonymous as long as Gavin remains incognito on Muni vehicles

So dust off your cellphone’s lens and keep your eyes peeled. This type of mysterious-beast sighting could net you a sweet prize. We’ll keep our ears to the ground and report back when there’s a winner.


  • Chris

    I’m quite fond of the budget cut and I take MUNI/BART everyday! What are you some kind of socialist making everyone share your/my burden? Why should someone that doesn’t take mass transit pay for it?

    I’ll still keep and eye out for Gavin-and congratulate him on doing his part to remedy a turbulent time.

    • @Chris: Thanks for the comment. I don’t totally share any political persuasion, and I don’t belong to any party. But I am something close to a socialist, in that I believe there are certain necessities that all of society should pitch in to provide for those who cannot afford it, thanks to the inherit inbalances wrought by our capitalistic system (and I don’t use capitalist pejoratively, as is the fashion in this town). I have a little extra money to pay in taxes to help provide health care, mass transit, food, clothing, shelter, senior care, disability, unemployment, job-training, etc., etc. for others who might not be able to afford it themselves. So yes, I guess I am “some kind of socialist.”

      I also don’t pretend to have all the answers to what I see as a very tragic situation with the MTA budget. I don’t care about this issue from my perspective. I can afford the increases. It’s not about me. It’s about what I view as a lack of leadership on the issue. Our mayor hasn’t been present to do the job of leading the city since at least his re-election, if not before. And I voted for the guy, truth be told. These problems didn’t appear overnight. Those public officials we’ve charged with dealing with these matters dropped the ball on this one. Good ideas were out there. Concessions and compromises were offered. But in the end, many parts of this budget are terrible.

  • It’s very frustrating to have fares go up so much, and at the same time Muni takes away the nice Fast Pass perk of being able to take BART in the city for free. I don’t think Fast Passes should be raised twice… Especially because those of us who use Fast Passes have ALREADY been paying for other people for years.
    But my frustration is tempered by the fact that I truly believe this was not an easy decision for the Board of Supervisors. Plus I can’t wait to see if anyone wins the Where’s Gavin contest.

    • @Rachel I, too, admire (if that’s the right word) the difficulty in getting to any sort of agreement. And lord knows I couldn’t do the work of creating and negotiating a colossal budget like this. I just wish the cuts and fare hikes weren’t so drastic. Pie-in-the-sky? Maybe. Just wish some better compromise could’ve been hashed out. I really feel it’s now incumbent upon the operators and other Muni employees to step it up. Yes, they’ll be under greater pressure. But retreating from that pressure and offering even more shoddy service would be an utter tragedy.

  • According to the Chronicle he wears a baseball cap on Muni to stay incognito. Hmm. Not a very good disguise. I’m onto you, Mr. Mayor.

  • Well put, Jeff.
    I definitely feel uneasy about the drastic fare hikes. Even though a fifty cent raise for a regular transfer isn’t a lot, $1.50 looks much better than $2.00. I bet they lose tourist dollars, but who knows how many…

  • Rachael

    (A different Rachael)

    I don’t actually think the fare hike is that crazy: $2 for essentially 90 minutes of travel (as many transfers as you need, even a return trip if it’s short enough) is still very cheap compared to many other cities. Yes, there needs to be some way to balance that for people with low and fixed incomes but it’s really not that outrageous, comparatively.

    Some of the service cuts are really outrageous (e.g. cutting the 26-Valencia bus that is used far more often than the 39-Coit bus which is used so infrequently it costs $8 per passanger to run — see http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=6876).

    The most outrageous part to my mind is it feels like many city departments when they found their budgets in trouble exported much of their problem to the MTA (more than half of MTA’s deficit is apparently work orders) and then when the MTA went to balance all that, the only people who are paying substantially to balance it are MUNI riders. No significant parking fee increases, no suggestion of trying to do a toll or other congestion pricing in the city. No attempt to change route efficiency (e.g. by actually keeping cars out of bus / rail only lanes). No attempt to see if there is any way to save on personnel (that is, the many levels of highly paid management in MUNI, even if only token cuts). Let’s just cut service and increase fares. Basically, there doesn’t seem to be any “everyone is going to hurt to get this done” attitude.

    I’m probably exaggerating a bit, but that’s what it feels like. And knowing that only very few of those “in charge” actually ride buses regularly doesn’t help.

    • @Rachael: I agree with a lot of what you’ve said, but I do take issue with one item: The decision to kill the 26-Valencia. I live along the route, and besides the obvious redundancy with the 14/49, in my seven years in the Mission, I’ve probably never seen more than five people on a 26 at any given time. I’ve only used the bus when it happens to arrive for me. The few times early on when I tried to plan for its arrival, I served a hefty plate full of FAIL. RIP 26. You won’t be missed.

  • Rachael

    jeff- I only meant it as the comparison to a line that is obviously even *less* travelled (and apparently the TEP recommended be discontinued anyway). Basically to point out that there choices weren’t exactly strictly on lines that cost a lot and don’t have much ridership ….

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