The time is now to fix Muni


EDITORIAL San Franciscans love to bash Muni, but this city would be a gridlocked nightmare without it. Despite its many flaws, Muni does a pretty good job at getting people around the city, particularly for a system that has been plagued by chronic underfunding and which is at capacity during peak hours.

Yet in a growing city that has ambitions to grow even faster — pushed by regional motivators such as Plan Bay Area and pulled by the grand designs of powerful capitalists and their neoliberal political enablers — Muni is well on the way to earning all the scorn that critics can heap on it and becoming the self-fulfilling prophecy of dystopian dysfunction.

Into this critical moment comes the city's Transit Effectiveness Project and its promise to reduce travel times by 20 percent on busy corridors and to improve reliability and service to underserved areas such as the Excelsior. The TEP's 793-page environmental impact report dropped on the city with a barely noticed thud last month, and it will be the subject of an informational hearing at the Planning Commission this week (Thu/15) and a series of community hearings in the weeks that follow, with public comments due into the Planning Department by Sept. 17.

So now is the time to get serious about addressing long-simmering conflicts between the Muni's needs and the desires of private automobile drivers, which are often in conflict on roadways where they're forced to share space. And on a deeper level, this city must resolve the conflict between the need to substantially increase investment in vital public infrastructure and the destructive fantasies of anti-government ideologues who want a functional city but don't want to pay for it or be inconvenienced.

Only then can we really delve into the devilish details of the TEP, with tough-to-resolve conflicts between reducing stops to speed service and the needs of the elderly and disabled, whether to limit cycling in certain stretches, how to slow traffic and limit parking without triggering motorist backlash, and how to quickly expand capacity again after you've improved the system and encouraged more people to use it.

But these are solvable problems if San Franciscans of all stripes acknowledge the realities of a growing city with a finite capacity to accommodate cars and an infinite need to improve Muni and the safety of pedestrians, laudable goals of the TEP and its new EIR, which is designed to smooth the way for many transit improvement projects to come.

We won't get there by pandering to people who are pissed off about efforts to regulate street parking in their neighborhoods (and we certainly won't get there if certain supervisors now making rumblings about taking parking regulation back from the SFMTA get their way). It's time to truly become the transit-first city we claim to be, and that process starts now.



Muni hasn't done a "pretty job" since the cheerful Llandor Associates livery was dumped in favor of the graffitti resistant silver and red of the Willie Brown era: search and replace with "pretty good job."

If the TEP is suggests the need to limit cycling in certain stretches -- or to slow private traffic and limit parking for the purpose of making MUNI seem better than it is -- then "devilish" is a perfect description.

I cruise at 25 mph on my road bike, and can achieve speeds well in excess of that. What exactly would be your rationale for banning me from any city streets?

As for reducing the number of MUNI stops to speed service, that should absolutely be done*. The needs of the elderly and disabled have long been overly weighted due to their outsized political muscle.

It is great to the extent that society can practically -- *practically* -- accommodate the needs of these groups, but when the system is debilitated from serving the needs of the vast majority of its potential customers in doing so, such accommodations are simply an excuse to continue MUNI's "controlled flight into terrain."

*also eliminate about 20% of the city's stop signs to speed MUNI service.

Posted by lillipublican on Aug. 14, 2013 @ 9:03 am

I like the part where you start off being dickish about a typo in the article and in your very next paragraph have a typo

Posted by Guest on Aug. 14, 2013 @ 9:24 am

my friendly report of your error. If this forum provided commenters the ability to edit their posts on par with what the SFBG editorialists have, then it would have been fixed before you ever read it.

Posted by lillipublicans on Aug. 14, 2013 @ 9:37 am

I appreciate readers catching my typos. I've now corrected this one, and I can assure you it wasn't us at the Guardian pointing out yours. Mistakes happen and typos shouldn't diminish the points that are being made. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Posted by steven on Aug. 14, 2013 @ 10:07 am

and I made another doozy when I assumed the response to my comment was from the Guardian editor. Sorry; another case where an opportunity to edit a comment within five minutes after posting it would have been used to good effect.

Posted by lillipublicans on Aug. 15, 2013 @ 11:03 am

TEP has little to do with the conflict between cars and MUNI. We can implement it without addressing this conflict, whatever that means. (Actually we know what that would mean: more meetings, discussion, charrettes, outreach, committees, etc.)

To implement TEP, all we need is a mayor with a spine who's willing to spend political capital to push it through. Gavin Newsom never did it. Maybe Ed Lee will grow a spine, but don't count on it.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 15, 2013 @ 10:29 am

You cannot get there from here, because it is the employee costs, rigid working practices and union aggression that is corrupting Muni from the inside.

The real solution is to tear up the contracts, fire any worker that won't sign new contracts and then build up from there.

Failing that, strip Muni down to the parts that work - streetcars and the main commute routes like the 9, 14, 30 and 38 - and then privatize the other routes using private jitney services.

The best transit in SF is BART, and that says it all really.

Posted by anon on Aug. 15, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

The MTA fish rots from the top.

Posted by anon on Aug. 15, 2013 @ 5:38 pm

the management cannot really manage, even if they were the best transit managers on the planet.

The problem is fundamentally one of an out-of-control cost base, and the only solution to that is make significant cuts.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 7:32 pm

1. Realize that the basic problem of MUNI is a management problem.

2. Drivers and mechanics and most others who work for the system want to work for an organization that they can be proud of and feel that their contributions are useful and appreciated. No one wants to work for an organization that is constantly being trashed as incompetent.

3. So what is wrong? My sense is that the basic problem is old style top down dictatorial management is at the heart of what is not working at MUNI. Most MUNI drivers I see are trying to do a good job in what must be a very difficult environment driving large buses in a congested city. The maintenance people from what I hear are frustrated and would love to work where they feel supported. Something needs to give because a lot of money is spent, a lot of people are unhappy and things are basically not working. This combined with SFMTA’s complete lack of interest in running a quality transit system.

We also need to face the idea that the SFMTA is basically not doing the job it was created to do and has been hijacked by a few people who have a vision of the city where public transit no longer works and the only way to travel is by bicycle – we need a more balanced approach where the priority should be affordable quality public transit, bicycle friendly streets and appropriate use of private vehicles.

What do MUNI workers think – would love to offer more constructive feedback. We need good ideas and need to name names about who is doing their job and who is not.

Posted by Richard on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 5:48 pm

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Also from this author

  • Guardian endorsements

    Campos for Assembly, Yes on Props. B and 42, re-elect Gov. Jerry Brown — our recommendations for the June 2014 primary election

  • The future of Piers 30-32

  • Hold BART accountable for deaths