Muni opens new one-stop-shop service center 

People looking to pay parking tickets or contest the citations in San Francisco will have to wait until Monday, when The City’s first comprehensive transportation service center opens on South Van Ness Avenue and Market Street.

Starting today, the Municipal Transportation Agency, which consists of Muni and the Department of Parking and Traffic, is closing its facility on Howard Street for four days and moving it to a new service center at 11 South Van Ness Ave., which will open next week.

People will be able to pay parking fines, schedule parking-citation hearings, have a boot removed and purchase residential parking permits, parking-meter cards and Muni maps at the new center. Monthly Fast Passes will be available at the center July 23.

"It makes this a one-stop shop," MTA spokeswoman Maggie Lynch said. "Prior to the opening of the new service center, customers would have to travel to several different locations."

Lynch said the Howard Street facility in the South of Market neighborhood near 10th Street is moving and merging with the MTA’s public-transit services to become more accessible to customers. The new building is located next to the Van Ness Avenue Metro station and is served by seven bus lines, she said. It will also have five more walk-up windows and one more hearing room than the former building.There will also be free parking.

The transit agency, which carries 700,000 weekday riders on 1,000 buses, streetcars and trolleys, has been heavily criticized in recent months for a rocky launch of The City’s newest Metro line, the T-Third, which left riders stranded and caused disjointed commutes.

Besides the new facility, the MTA has made other efforts to improve customer service and convenience. Earlier this year, The City eliminated the fee people paid when paying parking fines online and also made monthly Fast Passes available online at no extra charge. Officials also rolled back some of the service changes this week that came along with the T-Third as a result of complaints.

"They’re just upgrading and making it easier to take care of things," a security guard at the Howard Street facility said this week.

Greg Dewar, who writes the N-Judah Chronicles blog about Muni’s most popular metro line, said an all-inclusive customer-service center is welcome, but he was more concerned with Muni making it easier to buy Fast Passes in each neighborhood.

"Right now, if you don’t buy one right away, you run the risk of not getting one at all," he said.

The service center at 11 South Van Ness Ave. will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, starting next week.

New Muni line off to slow start

Although ridership on the new North Beach bus line has been light the first few days, riders, drivers and officials are confident it will be a popular option for people traveling between the busy tourist area and downtown.

On Monday, Muni launched the 20-Columbus route — which traverses Columbus Avenue from Van Ness Avenue and North Point Street to Beale and Howard streets — to partially fill the gap left after the 15-Third line was eliminated in April. The 15-Third used to carry 30,000 passengers between City College of San Francisco and Fisherman’s Wharf each weekday.

Because many people have left The City or are taking time off from work and school this week for the Fourth of July holiday, officials said it’s too early to gauge ridership numbers for the new line. A 20-Columbus driver, however, said he carried about 15 passengers during the Monday morning commute. Riders sprinkled in throughout the rest of the day.

"Sooner or later it’s going to be packed. So many people go to the Financial District. This will be a good line," said Rene Llanto, a Muni bus driver of nine years. "It will take a while, maybe a week."

On Monday, Muni workers passed out maps and information to riders along popular stops on the new route, Llanto said. Women heading to Chinatown, however, were wary of the new bus line, preferring to take the packed 30-Stockton bus to their destination. Some people eyed the buses skeptically while waiting in North Beach bus shelters for a familiar number — the routes of more than five buses touch a portion of Columbus Avenue.

Some public-transit riders, however, were ready for the new line. Earl Diskin, who lives on Lombard Street, took the new bus to downtown the first day.

"I think it’s wonderful. We need it," he said. "When they discontinued the 15, it was inconvenient. You’d have to make due with whatever is running. It’s about time."

Muni discontinued the 15-Third bus route as part of a series of controversial service changes that came when the T-Third rail line began operating seven days a week three months ago. Muni officials recently rolled back some of the changes in response to passenger complaints.

Rolling out the All-Star carpet

In preparation for the 78th Major League Baseball All-Star Game, a number of local streets will close and transit schedules will change.

STREETS TO BE CLOSED

» Today-Tues.: North lane on Howard Street (4th Street-Moscone Center) and west lane of Fourth Street (Minna Street-Howard Street)

» Today-Wed.: Around AT&T Park, Moscone West Convention Center, Pier 30 and Pier 32

» Fri.-Wed.: Terry Francois Boulevard (Mission Rock-3rd Street)

» Sat.-Tues.: 3rd Street (Berry Street-King Streets), northbound 3rd Street (Berry Street-Channel Streets), eastbound King Street (2nd Street-3rd Street)

» Sun.-Mon.: Berry and King streets (3rd Street-4th Street); Embarcadero (2nd Street-Townsend Street); northbound 3rd Street (King Street-Townsend Street); and southbound 2nd Street (Brannan Street-King Streets)

» Sun.-Tues.: Highway 280 traffic diverted onto 6th Street

» Tues.: Northbound Embarcadero (2nd Street-Townsend Street, Bryant Street-Townsend Street)

TRANSIT CHANGES

» Muni: Sun.-Tues., extra buses and six extra shuttles between Castro Station and Fourth and King streets

» Caltrain: Sun.-Tues., extra trains: one express to San Carlos, one making local stops

» BART: No changes.

» Alameda-Oakland Ferry: Mon.-Tues., direct service to McCovey Cove from Alameda Main and Jack London Square. Returns to East Bay 20 minutes after final out, no later than 11:30 p.m.

- Source: www.sfgiants.com

arocha@examiner.com


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