What if BART ran Muni?

Photo by Andrionni Ribo

Last week, a thought occurred to us: What if the agency that runs BART took its turn running Muni? It’s not necessarily a new question, but it’s a fun thought experiment nonetheless.

Would BART make Muni better? Worse? The same? Would running San Francisco’s buses, metro trains, streetcars, and cable cars actually make BART worse?

Here’s the mixed bag of what some of you had to say (responding to the question over at @munidiaries):

  • “all for it. Especially if they bring the BART robot voice to MUNI bus announcements.” @jcsnotes
  • “what would be better is if we had a comprehensive Bay Area wide transit system instead of a dozen transit fiefdoms” @biohzrd
  • “anything would be better than Muni running muni.” @Jynx69637
  • “cons: very noisy underground & wouldnt run 24/7. Pros: much much faster” @Medium_Matt
  • “it’d be harder to get pee off the cushioned seats” @CrusaderMaximus
  • “if muni could be a closed system with its own right of ways… This is like comparing apples to a shitstorm.” @cripsahoy
  • “you would have shorter buses during commute hours for no apparent reason” @bellacantare
  • “likely the better of two evils. I’m convinced mta is ran by a chimp who’s addicted to meth.” @richardsondh

What do you think? What if BART ran Muni?


  • Dexter Wong

    I don’t know if BART would want to run Muni. It seems content to run its trains and leave buses to other agencies. Years ago there were BART Express Buses in the East Bay that were run by other companies for BART. These were eventually turned over to local transit agencies. When you have one agency to run all local transit then it has to be organized to handle everything (and if it isn’t) then something suffers. Big transit agencies are often organized in divisions that handle one type of transit. BART was never set up like that, so would take some work to get things operating in that form.

  • david vartanoff

    Every few years the one mega agency v local control question surfaces. One might well look at Wash DC for experience. Metro took over the bus service from the private sector and operates a very similar to BART subway — no overnight service, distance based fares(including rush hour surcharges), inadequately short trains, long headways between trains in off hours…
    Bus service under Metro has been so bad that Montgomery County, and some jurisdictions in VA have had to create their own agencies to actually serve riders. Even within DC there is now a “Circulator” run by the DC Gov’t rather than Metro and soon a streetcar.
    From a different perspective, one might wonder how BART could correct decades of dysfunctional culture at Muni without a knock down drag out fight w/ TWU and whether the suburbanites would care whether buses actually ran in neighborhoods they have no interest in ever driving to.

    • Dexter Wong

      I would agree with you, in many city-suburb areas I read about, the suburbanites have no interest in funding service in areas they wouldn’t set foot in. (And the locals have no control over how to run their own system.)

  • BART and Muni doesn’t match. One is still expanding, the other is simple day to day operation!

  • I, for one, would prefer a mega agency.

    Caltrain and BART both seem to do as well as they can at their specific tasks. The local agencies are generally . . . at best, meh.

    Do BART and Caltrain connect well? How about BART/Caltrain connecting to the various buses? Let the various parts of the systems run their affairs locally but understand that they report to a higher authority, and thus they must effectively mesh together.

    We need mass transit that reaches effectively from Marin to the Southern tracts of Santa Clara County and throughout the East Bay. What we have is two incomplete, incompatible train systems, a motley assortment of local buses and slow light rail lines, and an ever growing fleet of private mass transit operated by employers who find it was easier to work with Bauer than with multiple government agencies.

    Muni is satisfactory if you never intend to leave San Francisco, and BART or Caltrain are fine if they’re going where you want to go, but if you ever wanted to commute from, say, The Sunset to Palo Alto, you’ll need to buy a car.

    • Dexter Wong

      Perhaps if it was set up like a New York MTA or an MBTA, but not like a DC Metro. A regional transit agency has to take into account the needs of all its users, not just commuters, and balance its services based on its resources or some group gets shortchanged.

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