Muni makes feds’ grade 

Muni may have raised fares twice in the past year, slashed service and failed to ever hit its target on-time performance, but the transit system did meet the majority of guidelines to earn a glowing review from a federal agency.

The Federal Transit Administration evaluates the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, every three years on 24 topics that include maintenance, planning, disability access, fare prices and security. The latest audit found that the SFMTA was in accordance with the rules in 21 of 24 observed categories, nearly a
90 percent success rate.

The audit does not rate operations on a scale from poor to good. Instead, it only notes areas where an agency has deficiencies.

For maintenance, the report said the SFMTA was consistently behind schedule on completing its six-month and annual reports on a variety of inspections.

The second deficiency was in fare-price notification. As part of federal guidelines, Muni offers half-price fares for passengers who use Medicare. However, the report found that the agency did not advertise this offer on bus shelters, a federal requirement. The transit agency is scheduled to add the fare notification to bus shelters in September.

The last finding was an undisclosed fault with the SFMTA’s drug and alcohol program, but that deficiency is no longer considered a problem.

“Anytime you see an FTA audit where nearly 90 percent of the areas are approved without ‘findings’ or ‘deficiencies,’ you know that agency or organization is moving in the right direction,” SFMTA Executive Director Nathaniel Ford said.

The American Public Transportation Association, a national transit advocacy group, concurred.

“The FTA does a thorough review every three years and it’s not uncommon for transit systems to have a number of corrective actions to take,” said association spokeswoman Rose Sheridan. “It appears that Muni has a very strong, positive review.”

The review, however, does not deal with numerous topics that are of concern for riders.

In the face of multimillion-dollar deficits, the SFMTA has raised prices on its monthly Fast Pass fares twice since June 2009, and since December it has undergone two major service reorganizations, including May’s 10 percent reduction in hours. The transit agency is set to restore 5 percent of those reductions in September.

Muni did post its highest-ever on-time performance, 75 percent, in the third quarter of last fiscal year, but that’s still shy of the 85 percent goal set by voters.

Transit statistics

700,000 Daily boardings on Muni vehicles

$750 million SFMTA budget for 2010-11 fiscal year

31.9 Percent of San Francisco residents who take Muni to work

Source: SFMTA

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Will Reisman

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