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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Is the Muni CultureBus really necessary?

Many local bloggers and a KPIX are noting that the San Francisco "CultureBus" (a.k.a. 74X) is the laughing joke of Muni.

KPIX reports that only 200 passengers a day are riding the bus, thereby the average number is about five per vehicle per route. Plus, it costs over a million dollars a year to run the route.

So with such poor ridership, why should we San Franciscians foot the bill for such a useless Muni line? Surely, the idea of an express bus that can zoom you from Golden Gate Park to Civic Center and Union Square is a nice idea, but the tourists don't know about it, and the locals hate it.

Before the CultureBus started, operators of the local tour agencies of San Francisco (such as Gray Line) argued in front of the SFMTA board that the program undercuts the tourism industry because the CultureBus is a taxpayer subsidized program that's literally a tour bus/shuttle service to all the major museums. Many tour agencies in S.F. offer shuttle services to MULTIPLE locations around San Francisco and have buses that are at least half-full, even on the "value" tourist season here in our beloved city.

Here's why I believe the CultureBus program should be cut:
  • The fare is $7, the same fare offered on express buses to Candlestick Park for 49ers games. But the transfer provides unlimited rides on the CultureBus and other Muni lines, excluding the Cable Car. Many locals call the $7 fare a serious rip-off for CultureBus, but $7 for the Candlestick express is a good deal and travels a LONG distance. The CultureBus travels less than five miles.
  • The fare for Fast Pass and Passport Holders is an additional $3. What kind of crap is that? Fast Passes are allowed on Cable Cars, so what the hell is wrong with the CultureBus?
  • The service does not cover the Legion of Honor and the Zoo. This means, you will suffer a long and horrible ride on the ever packed 38-Limited, the loud L-Taraval, and the stop-and-go 18-46th Avenue.
  • Muni is suffering through a budget shortfall, that CultureBus money could be used to add buses to operate on the heavily used 38-Limited line.
Muni could save the program and make it profitable if they do the following changes:
  • Promote the program.
  • Reduce the fare to the regular $1.50 price. Or offer it at a lower charge (such as $3) to keep the commuters off the bus, and focus it on locals and tourists who wants to visit the museums via an express bus.
  • Accept the Fast Pass, Muni Passport, and the tourist's CityPass with NO surcharge.
  • Accept the BART to Muni transfer for a 25 cent discount.
  • Work with the major museums to create a discounted "superpass" that offers unlimited admission for a set number of days, and includes free transit service on all vehicles, including CultureBus. (The "New York Pass" program is an excellent example, if you hate a museum, at least you didn't waste $30, and can just visit another one, all on a timed card, but there's no free transit option on there).
  • Extend out into the other major attractions including the Zoo and the Legion of Honor. Heck, they could run a second route starting from the Academy of Sciences/De Young, and drive off to Legion, and continue on Great Highway to the Zoo. I think the locals would love this route because they don't have to suffer the slow ride on the 38-Limited, and the stop-and-go ride on the 18-46th Avenue route. Just a buck fifty extra? I'd pay that.
(Photo is from CultureBus website, since Muni is a public government agency, it is public domain).


Anonymous said...

well put, Akit. neither Plug2 nor myself have ever seen one person on that line, ever. it has been a long-running joke b/t us since the program launched.

Whole Wheat Toast said...

I agree with plug1, I've seen no one on the route. It's a rip-off, and even if it were free, I wouldn't ride it. Just get rid of the damn line already! But I did remember hearing something on Yelp that the operator told the passengers that it was $7 one-way, even though the fare is $7 round-trip.

They should extend it to the zoo, but then the trip would take too long. And they should cover the exploratorium too. At least it's cheaper than riding the double-deckers.

Whole Wheat Toast said...

they should do something like this: