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or, better yet, give him a job."
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New Muni Service Cuts in May - Akit Reminds Muni how they Failed Before

I'm a pretty well informed citizen of San Francisco. I read the news from various sources and keep up-to-date on my tweets; it's sad to see that our public transit agency wants to take a step backward in the wrong direction to hurt not just their customers, but send their overall reputation further down the grave that we call the "Central Subway."

I've heard word that there was a last minute long shot appeal to see if an environmental review was necessary to give the "10%" cut in services on Muni, yet I had a gut feeling that it wasn't going to go well; I was right, the board kicked it to the curb with a 7-4 vote.

What makes me even more frustrated is just how soon the "10%" cuts will actually happen. SF Weekly claims it will start May 1st, and the SF Gate's City Insider says May 8th; but regardless of what date it may be, May will be the worst in Muni's history.

How can Muni decide to take drastic cuts with so little notice? Does less than 17 days notice actually give Muni the balls to pull off a massive PR campaign to inform the public of their beloved transit service going to make drastic cuts?

Let me refresh Muni's memory on some blog entries that gained major attention for FAILURE TO PROVIDE AMPLE NOTICE:
  1. When Muni announced their so-called 10% cuts at their board meeting, they specifically targeted the 18-46th Avenue in a showboat attempt to say that service will be reduced from 20 minutes to a whopping 30 minutes mid-day, evenings, and weekends. I wrote a very serious in-depth analysis on why it was not fair to discriminate the 18-46th Avenue with 33% cuts while others are getting less than 10%.
  2. The most recent cuts happened on December 5, 2009, and I reported on November 24th that Muni has not made an effort to provide new published bus/train schedules in a timely manner and online planning programs were also not ready. This story alone spread like wildfire and it really caught Muni's attention very quickly.
  3. On November 26th, two days after I reported the failure of map planning programs, Google Maps was ready.
  4. On December 1st, just a few days away from the major changes, 511's online trip planner program was updated with Muni's changes, but there was no time schedules posted.
  5. I also gave a brutal punishing to Muni for failure to provide ample notice of an adult pass hike that was scheduled for January 1st. On November 5, 2009, I argued it was not fair to give such late notice of a pass hike because it would affect people who need to update their payroll deduction for their commuter benefits program. Just few days later (November 8th), I caught Muni in the act of updating their website about the pass hike.
This is a serious warning to Muni management, do not make service cuts without giving the public ample notice. One month's notice is barely acceptable, but with only 17 days left until the new month, that's not enough time to publish a new schedule, and not enough time for the techies at Google and 511 to input the new data into their trip planning program.

You've already screwed-up December 5th's cuts, so why should be trust you to get the time schedules and trip planning software updates in a timely manner? This is especially true for me, the 18-46th Avenue passenger whose going to have to get the worst punishment while others who ride major lines may not even notice much of a difference.

Here's an additional posting showing evidence of Muni's PR failure: The PGA golf tournament at Harding Park where Muni only gave the public one day's notice of major bus re-routes for the 18-46th Avenue and (the former) 88-BART Shuttle. And even then, I did all the research and posted it faster than 511's alerts page.


Empowered Follower said...

I have to thank you for your blog. I manage the commuter benefits for the company I work for, and I don't even bother subscribing anywhere else for my local public transportation info. You have it all... and my employees *were* set up for the Fast Pass hike. All thanks to you!!!

Akit said...

It's my pleasure. Thanks for reading my blog!

Anonymous said...

This is a problem endemic with Muni's management/pr staff. Employees themselves are also in the dark about service changes/disruptions.

When I interned with their Community Relations department, I experienced firsthand this disregard for the public and their own employees.

As an intern, I would put up the laminated Muni Alert signs you'd see when there was a major service change or disruption (special events, marathons, parades, etc.)
When the 15-line was phased out, I put up alert signs informing the public and got a lot of flack from the public. They knew nothing about it. Apparently, Muni had hired an outside firm (don't recall the name) to handle some of the public outreach for the opening of the T-line and the phasing out of the 15-line.

There was a monthly employee newsletter, but my interaction with Muni operators led me to believe that a good number of them did not even read it. I remember putting up alerts for the SF Marathon, informing the public about re-routes, etc. A bus driver who saw the alert said she did not know about the marathon or the re-route.

As for the scheduling problems, Muni purchased some special (ie. very expensive) software called Trapeze. As far as I know, no one at Muni knew how to use it and that is why they had not published any timetables in a number of years, which I believe is mandated by law (Prop. E).

In their defense, the Community Relations and Marketing departments were somewhat understaffed and very, very low-tech. I’m surprised they even have a Twitter account.

Staffing circa 2006-07

Community Relations had 1 manager, 3 ft employees, 1 pt employee and 1 intern. The Marketing dept. had even fewer people – 1 manager, 3 ft employees (including 1 graphic designer, and 1 webmaster).

Al said...

Well MUNI did CUT the service it was just posted TODAY (4/16/10). It was not what they posted on the website it's even worst. Some of the lines that I take will end at 9:30 p.m.

I think we ALL should WRITE to the DEPT of Transportation to have MUNI's Federal Funding Taken away. What good does it do if you cant even use it.

Akit said...

I just noticed the frequency changes too.