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Monday, April 6, 2009

The Worst SFMTA Muni Fee Hikes and Route Changes

If you haven't noticed the "NextBus" signs at most bus stops, it is telling people about the big changes that might happen to SF Muni as early as July 1, 2009. While some of their proposed ideas won't cause too much ruckus, like raising the fare of special event service and raising motorcycle parking rates, some of their other ideas are just outright nuts or are missing some important questions that needs to be answered. Just how many brain cells are the folks at the SFMTA missing?

First up, the increases in fees:
The SFMTA released a PDF document of the possible changes to paying for transit and parking services. Here's my opinions on some of the craziest ideas:
  • Charge a 50 cent fee for transfers. Are they just nuts? The bus drivers freely place the transfers on a rubber band attached to the farebox and people take them as they pay their fares. Most bus drivers don't even pay attention to the fare box and usually assume that people paid their full fare. Does this also mean when I pre-purchase a transfer for the ride back from the Giant's game that I will also pay the additional 50 cent fee, or since I just want to take one ride so I can transfer to BART (a much more reliable and trustworthy system) that I will not be charged this fee increase? Remember folks, over ten years ago, SFMTA eliminated transfers and the passengers revolted so loudly, that in six months, transfers returned.
  • One huge question: If transfers will be 50 cents, then what is OFFICIAL PROOF OF PAYMENT for passengers who don't want a TRANSFER? What will Muni issue as POP to prevent you from getting a ticket for fare evasion? This means totally restructuring the POP program and printing new POP (non-transfer) tickets and passengers who don't want a transfer now has to carry a piece of paper that really makes no sense at all. Smart people may realize that they can carry this POP receipt, board a back door of another train or bus, and get away with "proof" when a fare inspector asks for a receipt.
  • "Premium pass?" Well, they ripped-off my original idea, but why add express buses to the list as a "premium" service? BART and the Cable Cars are the true "premium" service. Plus, if I was carrying a regular (will now be known as "cheap") pass, what is the surcharge for riding the express? How about the 9X? People may just decide to enter from the rear door more often to avoid the premium charge.
  • Extend parking meters to 10PM instead of the usual 6PM. Just how much more money will it cost DPT meter maids to patrol the meters that late (including vehicle maintenance)? Plus, I don't think the meter maids union will like the idea of forcing employees to work the night shift, when they could be at home eating dinner with their family.
  • Sunday meter service? Not a bad idea for places like Irving street, but the question comes up again, how much more money will it cost for the meter maids to patrol on a Sunday? Plus, I depend on the fee-free meters on Sunday for major Japantown events due to my large amount of hours I volunteer there.
  • Increase parking garage rates. I agree that some city owned garages could use a fee hike, but I disagree with raising fees on the already expensive garages, like the garage next to the Metreon and Westfield (SF Centre).
Changes/termination/reduction in vehicle route service (this can vary, depending on which "option" they pick):
  • Cutting out the Ocean Beach branch of the 38-Geary is a really bad idea. I have a feeling that by eliminating this route, they won't increase the number of 38L-Geary Limited and 38-Geary Ft. Miley branch vehicles. Each Richmond district terminal locations are at capacity; for example, the 38L's terminal can take up to three articulated 60 ft. buses at one time, and usually if there is a fourth one, it has to illegally park next to the Seal Rock Inn. Also, if they don't increase buses to make-up for the loss, the vehicles will get even more crowded, like insane crowded.
  • Removing N-Judah service on the Embarcadero on weekends. Not bad, but does this mean a reduction in train service for the thousands of passengers leaving the baseball game and depending on Muni to get them to BART Embarcadero?
  • 66-Quintara service eliminated west of 19th avenue? Then the route will only go ten city blocks, from 9th Avenue to 19th! That's too damn short.
  • 18-46th Avenue service to follow possible eliminated 38-Geary Ocean Beach branch service is a really terrible idea. That line serves the Cliff House, and is the perfect connection for tourists to visit the Legion of Honor. Plus, the hills are so steep, the 18 is necessary for people who have disabilities or limited mobility. Also, forcing it to serve the Ocean Beach branch will make the route EVEN SLOWER (plenty of stop signs). The current 18 route is quick since it goes through traffic signals, very few stop signs, and drives on a main drag (Pt. Lobos/Geary). Hey Supervisor Eric Mar, the Richmond could really use your influential power to stop them from pulling this stunt.
  • Shutting-off community service routes at 8:30PM. Being an SFSU employee, I think the 17-Parkmerced plays an important role, especially for students and faculty who work or study late and live within the Parkmerced and University Park North communities. The route may also be helpful for the Stonestown workers who live in one of these communities nearby the SFSU campus. Plus, if Muni metro service is unreliable, the 17 supplements service to SFSU and some of the M-Ocean View routes.

Some of my proposed solutions:
I keep emphasizing these ideas, but I'll focus on the best ones that will benefit everyone the most:
  • Yes, the Culturebus service must be terminated immediately. The 5-Fulton does a decent job to serve the Culturebus stops, either nearby or just a short few minute walk.
  • I previously proposed cutting the fare inspector force. Muni will terminate 28 fare inspector positions. That's a step in the right direction. Just remember to terminate the major assholes who piss the passengers off at every moment. Calm fare inspectors work better to not agitate the already pissed-off public who ride the crappiest service in town.
  • Motorcycle meter rates must go up, they pay a super cheap rate for hours of parking, plus no short term limit of one hour.
  • If they will charge for transfers, increase the time limit to two hours. Passengers get pissed at the fare inspectors when their transfer expires when they get stuck in the tunnel due to some unfortunate incident.
  • Transfers should be FREE for passengers who ride the express buses and pay the so-called "premium" fee. AC Transit gives their Transbay passengers a free local AC bus transfer.
  • Once the economy goes back up and there's more money for Muni, will this mean the return of the cut service? What promises will SFMTA/Muni back this up with? Do we need them to sign some covenants to make this official?

And my best solution ever...
GET TRANSLINK OUT IN FULL FORCE! If they do this, they can...
  1. Reduce printing costs on passes and transfers.
  2. Faster and efficient boarding of vehicles, meaning fewer delays and more reliable service.
  3. Reduce maintenance costs on the fareboxes.
  4. Reduce cost of sorting money and change.
  5. With BART planning to be on Translink in early June, make the proposed "premium" fast pass on Translink only. Express bus boarding is even faster, and BART doesn't have to mess with demagnetized Muni passes. Then, Muni only needs to print one type of pass, meaning less waste for the retailers who sell them.
  6. Stop printing token tickets. There are very few vendors who sell them, and only one takes Commuter Checks. Each token ticket costs the same as a regular fare, so Translink e-cash can easily replace it. Plus, Commuter Checks can be electronically transferred to your Translink account, therefore releasing the leash on riding only one transit agency.
  7. With all this effciency with Translink, Muni should offer a small incentive for cash payers. Say a 5 cent discount for full cash fares, and if they plan to charge for transfers, a 25 cent discount (25 cent transfer charge). Efficiency has its rewards.
So, what can you do to tell your POV about all these damn cuts and fare hikes?
Go to an SFMTA meeting or write to them. Click here to learn more.


Anonymous said...

The 9X was extended in both ends to patch up the failwhale the T-Third caused. But I don't think the speciall Express fare increase, if there is any, which I don't think there is, would affect anyone, they'd just enter through the back. Now, truncating the N to Embarcadero is the silliest thing I've ever heard, lots of people use the N to get to Caltrain. Remember back when the T was the only route serving Caltrain? Eventually the N had to be brought back mainly due to safety reasons, and the same thing will happen if they truncate the N at Embarcadero Station.

And about Translink, are they available for people under 18 yet?

Discontinuing the community service routes are a bad idea too, even most of them serve safe neighborhoods. What is someone is coming back from a party at, say 11 PM and there's no Muni? And they get mugged?

Akit said...


Thanks for your comments.

The N is absolutely necessary, especially they are the only line on the Embarcadero running 2-car trains, the T-Third can only run 1-car.

I'm not sure about Translink for under 18, give them a call at: (877) 878-8883.

Some of the community service routes reach some of the most difficult areas, like the 36. The small buses goes into the tight and very hilly areas that no major bus line can go through.

murphstahoe said...

Caltrain ridership on weekends is close to non-existent. Shutting the N off from that route on weekends will be no big deal. If you are taking MUNI to Caltrain on the weekend you are pretty close to crazy - if you miss the train you have to wait 1 hour. During rush hour if you miss the train, the next one could be in 5 minutes, and if you are relying on MUNI to get you to a specific train, see the above point re: Crazy.

On ballgame weekends they run many extra trains and not every train coming from the Ballpark becomes an N or K.

Anonymous said...

Raising motorcycle parking rates will create a ruckus since the proposed rate is an increase of 900% over the current rates ($.10/hr to $1.00/hr). Most motorcycle spots are used as all-day parking and have 10 hour time limits. The quarter is the largest coin accepted by the meter, so I will have to carry 40 quarters ($10) to work every day in order to park my motorcycle.

Alternately, I can commute in my warm, dry car and pay "just" $12-15 a day to park. I can use my credit card for that fee. Of course, I will be adding to the congestion and using 3x more gas.

SFMTA is out of their minds.

Akit said...

Have you ever considered using one of those SFMTA parking meter cards? It sure beats carrying quarters.

If metered parking was raised to 25 cents an hour, would that be fair to you? Motorcyclists are getting away with only a dime an hour with a 10 hour limit. I pay $1.50 an hour with a max limit of one hour.

Anonymous said...

I do use the parking cards most of the time. I would end up buying a new $50 card (the largest size, currently) more than once a week. A more convenient $100 card (or $500 card?) would be a huge outlay. The difference between cars and bikes is the length of time

$0.25/hr for a motorcycle space is roughly in line with $1.50/hr for a car space. There are 6-8 motorcycle spaces per car space depending on neighborhood. $1/hr for a little motorcycle space is thievery. $6-8/hr for a car space would draw equivalent ire.

Let's not start a car vs. bike dialog. Motorcyclists aren't "getting away" with anything. $0.10-0.15/hr is the rate the city set for the meters in 2002. Motorcycles and scooters reduce traffic and parking congestion and should be charged accordingly for parking. The 1-2 hour limit on car parking is due to the demand. There simply isn't the demand for motorcycle spaces. For some reason, there is a 10hr limit, which is 2 hrs shorter than the active meter "window" (6am-6pm). The limit seems to be completely unenforced.

At $1/hour for a motorcycle space, Motorcycles will likely start sharing car spaces with cars and other bikes (at least until a law is passed to make that illegal). The result will be reduced parking for cars, more knocked over bikes and general irritation.

The SFMTA is supposed to be making the parking and traffic situation better. They are not a piggy-bank to fix the city's financial woes.

Akit said...

Hopefully Translink cards will be compatible with the meters one day. They can hold up to $300.

It's also too bad that the current parking cards have to be thrown away and there's no way to recharge them or even recycle them.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the N could run every hour to connect with Caltrain...at least there would be DECENT service to Caltrain, murphstahoe

Anonymous said...

The Saturday route change on the N Judah will save 4 runs.

Anonymous said...

I depend on my fuel efficient, less emissions spewing, small motorcycle to get to work downtown. Changing parking from roughly $10 a week to $40 a week might not affect the people who make these decisions who make $80K - $100 per year, but I make $30L and going from $40 a month to $160 is not an option for me.
It essentially equals a cut in pay.
Instead of rewarding us, like they did during the .com era when downtown was gridlocked all day, they're punishing us.
My crystal ball shows many parking meter coin slots jammed with bits of cardboard in the future.
I suppose I'll be forced on to MUNI, that's cutting bus service.
Perhaps some administrative positions should be eliminated instead. The whole institution grew fat on the revenue and now the people least able to afford to bail it out are the ones being charged.

Want to make real money? Station police on the corners of Market Street and nab the cab drivers for making illegal right turns from the cab only lane. That would be a huge cash cow.

Kyle Rice
San Francisco resident, worker, taxpayer.

eagleeyerover said...

I am of the observation & opinion that MUNI head, Nathaniel Ford, is grossly under-qualified for the job he holds. I live in a neighborhood where the buses stop at a light just outside of my window leaving those noisy, re-implemented turn signals on 20 hours a day & night. I've written several e-mails and called to complain numerous times about this only to either not get a response or I've been told that Mr. Ford absolutely refuses to talk with us, the citizens of SF who pay his salary...and he's constantly asking for more money. The idea of catching BART within city limits should piss him off. I am of the mind to demand Nathaniel Ford's resignation. MUNI was once considered one of the best public transit systems in the country, but thanks to Willie and now Ol' Gavvy and their appointments, Mr. Ford in his infinite ineptitude has wreaked absolute havoc upon MUNI. His refusal to include us, the citizens of SF in the decision making process has not and will not win him ANY supporters...Let's demand Nathaniel Ford's resignation!!!
Let's TAKE OUR CITY BACK from these ambitious transplant politicians and bureaucrats!!

Read more about MUNI and The Clear Channel Connection at fightclearchannelsf.blogspot.com

Editor said...

Speaking of asshole fare inspectors - stationing two police at the exit turnstiles to check for payment during rush hour may or may not make sense from a fiscal standpoint.

But - from a commuter standpoint, it sucks.

Yesterday I was getting off at Powell at 3:30PM, when the inspector asked for proof of payment I showed him my Translink card and told him that my FastPass was on it.

His reply?

"We'll see about that"

Then he pulls out some pocket PC, does something to my card with it and hands it back. No mention of what he saw or did with the information.

And certainly not a "thank you" or even a "go to hell."

On the other hand - I travel on AC Transit and BART several times every week... talk about professionals.

They even (gasp) treat their customers like human beings who have a choice in their transportation plans.

Imagine that.