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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Serious Thoughts of Why SF Muni has Gone Down the Drain

I was born and raised in San Francisco. I remember riding Muni as a little kid with my late grandmother when the bus fare was just 85 cents for adults, 15 cents for seniors, and just a quarter for the kids. Back then, riding Muni was civilized, people respected each other, the buses were kept clean, and was usually on-time.

But being that I have lived in this city for over twenty years, I have seen a big shift with this public transit agency.

I feel this started about ten years back, Muni was starting on a landslide that they could never truly recover from. I felt this started with the infamous "Muni Meltdown" when the metro system's new automated train system failed miserably, the buses started doing no-shows and illegally skipping stops, and public opinion for the system was going down the drain faster than the P.R. people could fix.

But after all these years, have they recovered? Absolutely not. Things have been much worse. We have graffiti that is impossible to fully erase from inside the buses, the new metro trains break down frequently, passengers hate the fare inspectors, they are dirtier than before, and back door boarding is frequent on the major bus lines.

What happened to the decency when riding public transit? I still remember as a kid that nobody ever entered the back door, especially in areas like Chinatown, now notorious for passengers trying to get in and evade paying their fare. Why do people feel they have an obligation or right to enter the back doors of a transit vehicle when it is clearly not allowed?

I feel that back door boarding was too difficult on Muni with their older generation of buses. The back doors of the past were narrow enough to only let one person exit, or for the two passenger width exits, only one door on your side would open if you stood on the sensor pad; making it pointless to attempt to illegally enter the bus. Today's Muni buses now open both doors upon activating the back door, and it gives an opportunity for passengers to exit one lane while others illegally enter through the other. If Muni wants to buy new buses, they need to use the one door exit measure or be like the current hybrid fleet that has a door that's only wide enough for one passenger to exit at a time.

Interestingly, the most respectable people I find who ride Muni are the peak-hour express bus passengers. At Davis/Pine, they all make neat lines at the stops, everyone enters through the front door, doesn't graffiti or eat food, and keeps cell phone usage to a bare minimum.

Lastly, it never seems fair that the people who obey the rules and policies of Muni gets stiffed with higher fares and cuts to bus lines.


Bess said...

The back door looking issue is systemwide. Unfortunately I do think this has to do with inconsistently on other muni lines (ie you can get on the second cars of the L, N, etc. without having to squeeze through the front... inevitably at the front someone is trying to shove on or what not and being generally inconsiderate). It's created a culture of people getting on transit as fast as they can because god knows it goes to slow when it's moving.

Then on the other hand people totally trash the muni and pick fights. I consider this a huge breakdown and failure on municipal services in the city, how do we in SF have such a huge staff running the city but it totally underperforms its services compared to its counterparts in NY, LA, Chicago, Boston, DC, etc who run on less motion and staff in proportion to their populations? It's shameful that my only goal right now is to move as close to work as I can so I can walk and ride my bike and not have to put up with muni.

annie said...

Sometimes, there is plenty of room in the back of the bus, but people won't move from the front. Thus, you have to climb on through the back doors. See: 38/38L Geary in the morning...I have a pass, and have no problem with myself climbing on the back of the bus if I see space, lest I risk not getting to work even close to on time.

However, in the past few weeks, I have seen drivers not open the back doors at all, causing people to miss their stops because they won't let them off (apparently the drivers can't hear when the whole bus is yelling, "back door.")

I've also seen a fare jumper stick his arm through the closed doors, touch the sensors, and open it up. It's a no-win situation.

Anonymous said...

Gone down the drain? Muni has ALWAYS had problems, big problems. At least since I moved here in my early 20's -- that is nearly 40 years ago. Rude, horrible riders -- frequent missed runs -- riders crowding at the front when there is space in the back -- etc.

No nostalgia for the "good old days" here!