How to save Muni



Editors note: In this week's paper, we offered a series of proposals for discussion at the community congress Aug. 14th and 15th. Here's one that we couldn't fit:

By Jerry Cauthen

San Francisco is a transit-first city, yet its bus system is perennially in crisis. Everyone knows Muni needs fixing—but how do we do it in a way that honors the needs of both drivers and riders, while deepening San Francisco’s commitment to sustainability and transit innovation? How do we maintain and improve service when Muni and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency face deep budget deficits and service cuts on a regular basis?

Here are a few priorities that Muni advocates have identified:

1. The discussion around MUNI must include everyone--motorists, Muni drivers and riders, neighborhood groups, business people, labor groups, low-income people, communities of color, seniors, youth and the disabled. 

2. Muni drivers should be encouraged and empowered to take an active part in the discussion.  In order to creatively address Muni’s operating problems, we must tap into the knowledge and experience of those on the front lines driving our buses.

Accountability, reasonable work rules and good performance are essential. While changes to the current work rules and practices deserve consideration, it must be recognized that Muni drivers have difficult jobs and important responsibilities that warrant good pay and proper respect—from both Muni riders and SFMTA Management.

3. An outside financial audit of the SFMTA should commence immediately.  The audit should include an analysis of how overtime is assigned, how other departments assess Muni for services, and how developer transit assessment fees and other revenues for Muni are assessed and collected. 

4. There’s been no management audit of the SFMTA since 1996.  Such an audit is long overdue, and should be performed as soon as possible.
Some other recommendations discussed at a Muni summit this spring:

A) Improving the flow of Muni Vehicles.  In September 2009, SFMTA Executive Director Nathaniel Ford supported the idea of conducting test programs to improve the flow of transit vehicles on congested streets such as Stockton Street and Columbus Avenue.  To date, there has been no follow through on this promise.  Action on this should proceed at once.

B) Priority for Light Rail Vehicles.  We must take steps to prevent trucks, automobiles, bicycles and pedestrians from slowing down light rail vehicles.  This would include pre-empted signals, signals in place of stop lights and traffic barriers, and eliminating the queues of automobiles that block the flow of light rail vehicles.  Similar steps would help facilitate the flow of buses: eliminating parking lanes on certain streets, limiting deliveries to off-peak hours and creating special parking zones for trucks.

C) Improved Customer Service. Buses will run faster and more smoothly with greater emphasis on getting riders to the back of the bus.  This would involve stationing rear door loaders to sell and collect tickets during peak commute periods. Conveniently located ticket vending machines would help speed up the loading process and allow passengers to pay fares with either credit cards or cash.
Funding and Costs

We all know that Muni must be adequately funded and efficiently run – but how?

To boost Muni use and revenues, the city can:

Work with large and small employers, apartment owners, residential developers and Municipal permitting authorities to provide incentives for people to use Muni Fast Passes and/or TransLink. 
Create a moderately priced all-day pass, and a higher cost day pass also valid on ferries and commuter bus services. Along major commercial corridors, businesses and employers who benefit from Muni should help subsidize the system -- for instance, through progressive impact taxes.

Increase parking meter fees/hours/days and garage taxing rates as appropriate.  Eliminate parking exemptions, discounted all-day parking (except for neighborhood protected parking) and all other special parking privileges.

These are just some of our ideas.  We invite you to attend the Community Congress to continue this important dialogue and draft your own recommendations on transit issues. 


None of this can happen until the Mayor wants it to happen.

The nonprofits selfishly and shortsightedly nixed the MTA Charter Amendment in order to preserve their sliver of funding and to advance a few paltry revenue measures last month.

There is enough corruption in the major departments, MTA, SFPD, Rec and Park and DPW that, if governed openly, would easily pay for more social services.

Until progressives have the spine to address structural corruption, including nonprofit corruption, then the claim that progressives offer up any meaningful alternative remains unsubstantiated.

We spent 8 months going over MTA reform in depth greater than any show congress could hope to. But the people who are holding this congress are the ones who put their own selfishness first, and went down like the $3 whores they are when Newsom threatened their city funding.

The TWU is simply a zombie union, unable to articulate a coherent position on much of anything. At some point, we can wait no longer for them to get their act together.

What the nonprofiteers are trying to say now is "no, really, this time we DO have your back."


Posted by Guest on Aug. 13, 2010 @ 8:54 am

Duh. Make "Downtown" pay it's share.

Posted by Guest Patrick Monk on Aug. 13, 2010 @ 9:32 am

For what it was worth, I sent a brutal email to David Chiu for his latest sell-out. I wish the Guardian would challenge people like him instead of Newsom.

Posted by Matt Stewart on Aug. 13, 2010 @ 9:51 am

I have often heard the term "Downtown", who is that, I want names, if we are to make them pay, we need names!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 13, 2010 @ 10:58 am

I also want names. I dont respond to those unable to identify themselves.

Posted by Guest Patrick Monk on Aug. 13, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

I would also like to know these names.

Posted by Eddie on Aug. 13, 2010 @ 3:13 pm

hmmm, now which 'eddie' would that be.

Posted by Guest Patrick Monk on Aug. 13, 2010 @ 4:16 pm

hmmm. now which 'eddie' would that be.

Posted by Guest Patrick Monk on Aug. 13, 2010 @ 4:23 pm

Actually, Patrick Monk, do list some names, or can't you?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 13, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

Muni's main problem is that drivers are under intense pressure to follow poorly designed schedules, causing them to drive recklessly, causing overwhelming liability costs.

Safety should be the #1 concern and muni drivers should be trusted to follow their routes safely. Bonuses should be for driving safe, not for speeding.

Posted by Guest Sand walker on Aug. 13, 2010 @ 9:37 pm

you are absolouteley right the schedules are are so tight that the drivers have to drive fast to keep the schedule which makes it unsafe, and they put ontime performance as a way to measure, which makes it unsafe.

Posted by Guestrich on Aug. 16, 2010 @ 7:37 pm

MONK = F.O.S. :-)

Posted by Guest on Aug. 13, 2010 @ 9:45 pm

To all G.L.U.Gs.
I didnt know what F.O.S. was.
I checked the Dictionary of Acronyms and these are a few examples that caught my eye; From Outer Space; Friend Of the Sea; French Onion Soup; Funky Old Soul.
I then checked the Urban Dictionary and found; Full Of Shit. I assume that was your meaning.
F.Y.I. I just formulated G.L.U.G. = Gutless Lazy Uninformed Guests.
In an attempt to save you and your fellow Triple N's (Nameless Nattering Numbskulls) further embarrassment; (It is better to say nothing and appear ignorant rather than open your mouth and remove all doubt); I offer the following advice that may help you start educating yourself. "Making Downtown Pay" is an option that has been proposed for decades, as a 40+ year resident of SF I am very familiar with it's history. It is a simple, sustainable, elegant and egalitarian solution. Unfortunately very few 'progressives' have had the courage to fight for it's implementation as it means confronting the power, money, influence and vested interests of "Downtown". Doing so could jeopardise their access to the financial backing of "Downtown" and the "Pacific Heights Mafia" upon whom they depend as they try to slither further up the sleazy slope of political patronage and privilege.
If you have the intellectual curiosity, capacity and committment to inform yourself, rather than depending upon the work and words of others, you may want to start with a couple of articles on this site; "Muni Workers and Common Sense" (I have a very brief comment there); "Downtown Tax For Free Buses". There are numerous other postings all over the web if you take the time to look. Be my guest.
I dont have time to spend trying to educate L.I.D.Ds.
In closing I suggest you either W.U or S.T.F.U.
Go Giants.

Posted by Guest Patrick Monk on Aug. 14, 2010 @ 7:18 am

Muni needs to be restructured from top to bottom. That can be done by privatizing it.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 14, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

Who the fuck is "downtown"?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 14, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

Making downtown pay is a progressive platitude with no meaning. by this logic we should levy a parcel tax on everyone in the mission because that's where all the crime and fare evasion is which costs muni millions.

once again progressives have nothing to say about muni. they are useless and too busy passing symbolic bullshit. and the guardian does not cover muni well, or usually at all. they are too busy sniffing their farts and writing on behalf of political parties. fuck you all

Posted by DoneWithProgsandBG on Aug. 14, 2010 @ 4:06 pm

Was going to comment but then realised the previous two comments were from Triple N; G.L.U.G's.

Posted by Guest Patrick Monk on Aug. 14, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

oops, mea culpa; thought that hitting 'reply' would restrict my response to viewing only by this particular Triple N; G.L.U.G.

Posted by Guest Patrick Monk on Aug. 14, 2010 @ 7:25 pm

Ha, ha, ha, ha,ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,

Posted by Guest on Aug. 15, 2010 @ 12:32 am

Still waiting on those names, i mean, who will sign the check, when we may Downtown pay?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 16, 2010 @ 10:07 am

Did you bother to do any of your own legwork and follow up on the leads I gave you, I doubt it. All hat and no cattle. Add: Bierman; Shorenstein; BOMA; Prop O - 1994.
I'm done here with these GLUG's.

Posted by Guest Patrick Monk on Aug. 16, 2010 @ 4:16 pm

You idiots have EXACTLY the transit system you deserve. You all seem perplexed that throwing gobs of money at drivers year after year, with no threat of losing their jobs for failing to perform to even the lowest standard, has failed to produce anything other than a bunch of rude, lazy layabouts and indolent loafers. Congratulations.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2010 @ 12:35 am