For Muni to be a reliable transit system consistently used by commuters, travel times need to be significantly reduced -- a point emphasized by the agency’s executive director.
Detailing the cure is the easy part; figuring out how to accomplish that task is something else.
As part of its long-range vision, Muni has laid out ambitious goals along its major transit corridors, with the plan calling for the travel times of some routes to be cut in half. For example, it currently takes 40 to 50 minutes to travel between Ocean Beach and downtown San Francisco. Muni wants to reduce it to 25 minutes. Similarly, getting from The Embarcadero to the Bayview district takes 40 to 50 minutes. The goal for that route also is 25 minutes.
Ed Reiskin, head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, conceded that the goals are lofty and something to strive for in the next 50 years. But he said its important for the agency to begin considering these initiatives now, before population growth in the Bay Area overwhelms Muni and makes it completely unattractive for passengers. The Bay Area is expected to expand from 7 million residents to 9 million by 2040, and The City will see major growth in previously sparse areas such as Mission Bay and the central waterfront along Third Street.
“If we’re going to accommodate the growth that is going to come to The City in a way that enables Muni to carry passengers effectively, we need to achieve these reductions in travel times,” said Reiskin.
While he didn’t have many specifics on the agency’s long-term transit vision, Reiskin did cite improvements that must be made to reduce travel times.
Increasing transit-only lanes is a must, as is introducing more bus-rapid transit lines—heavy-duty vehicles that benefit from traffic signals timed to prioritize their routes. Both of those recommendations come from Muni’s Transit Effectiveness Project, a review of the system that was carried out in 2008.
Reiskin also said it is crucial for the agency to integrate more of its fare programs with BART, Caltrain and other Bay Area transit agencies.
“If we’re going to work on moving people around the region, passengers shouldn’t be penalized for leaving our system,” said Reiskin.
Financing the agency’s ambitious long-term goals will not be easy, considering that it’s already dealing with a $70 million structural deficit, but Reiskin said it must be done.
“I don’t think we have the luxury of a choice,” said Reiskin. “We need to improve the state of good repair on our current system, but we can’t bury our head in the sand about the future of the agency. We have to start planning now to make up for the decades of underinvestment in Muni.”
Today, the agency’s board of directors will discuss the long-term transit vision.