Muni consistently shows up late, misses scheduled stops and runs overly jampacked buses and trains, according to a voter-mandated review of the struggling transit system that showed it has failed to meet performance goals during the last several years.
A recently released report detailing the findings of the review highlights Muni’s poor performance over the years, one that has put the Municipal Transportation Agency under tough scrutiny by city officials and the public. San Francisco voters passed Proposition E in November 1999, requiring a report every two years on whether Muni is living up to its expected performance standards.
The report comes before a Board of Supervisors committee today as city officials are examining a potential major system overhaul to cure the agency of its annual budget deficits, decreased ridership and poor service marks.
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The report looked at a time period in which Muni was under different management. Nathaniel Ford was named MTA chief in December 2005. Since then, the MTA has taken steps to improve service, such as implementing a pilot program for the J-Church line. Extra resources were allotted to try to increase its on-time performance of 62 percent to at least 85 percent. A similar program was implemented last year for the 1-California line, which resulted in an on-time performance increase from 81 percent to 88 percent.
MTA is also awaiting the results of the 18-month Transit Effectiveness Project, the first comprehensive look at how to improve the transportation system in more than two decades.
Muni’s buses, trolleys, light-rail vehicles and cable cars are supposed to arrive on time at least 85 percent of time, but regularly fell well short of that goal, the report found. Vehicles are on time if they are no more than four minutes late or one minute early.
"Despite many different initiatives, Muni has had difficulty maintaining on-time performance in excess of about 70 percent," according to the report drafted by Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates. Muni service — motor coaches, trolleys, light-rail vehicles and cable cars — were on time just 70.7 percent of the time in fiscal year 2005, which declined to 69.2 percent for fiscal year 2006, according to the report.
As Muni struggles to be on time, its ridership has decreased over the years. Muni’s ridership was at 225.7 million during fiscal year 2000 but by fiscal year 2005 Muni saw 216.9 million riders.
"We’ve done a lot of studies on Muni and the studies show that the people who don’t ride it who live in San Francisco don’t ride it because it’s not reliable and it’s not fast enough," City Controller Ed Harrington told The Examiner earlier this month.
Muni has also failed to deliver on the number of scheduled hours during the last six years, falling a few percentage points below the goal of ensuring 98.50 percent of the scheduled service hours are fulfilled.
When Muni does arrive on time, the ride may not be so comfortable. No more than 85 percent of the total seating and standing area is supposed to be occupied, but many of the rides are apparently jampacked.
In fiscal year 2002, 30 percent of Muni routes exceeded crowding levels. Crowding levels decreased to 13 percent of the routes in fiscal year 2003, but increased to 29 percent of the routes during the first nine months of fiscal year 2006, according to the report.