Some Hill Residents Unhappy with Proposed Muni Route Changes
By Heather World
After months of study and public input, the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority (SFMTA) recently released its suggested changes to the City’s public transit system, including proposals to add and eliminate Southeast San Francisco routes. If adopted, SFMTA’s Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP) would trigger the most comprehensive changes to San Francisco Municipal Railway, known as “Muni,” routes in a quarter-century.
Citing expected population and employment growth in District 10 – Dogpatch, Potrero Hill, Bayview-Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley – the TEP recommends reconfiguring service throughout the area to improve connections to downtown, San Francisco General Hospital and the 24th Street Bay Area Rapid Transit station. For example the project calls for cutting the 53-Southern Heights and the 56-Rutland. These routes would be replaced with extensions of the 12-Pacific and 45-Union/Stockton, which would take riders from Potrero Hill to downtown via Mission Bay. Rather than looping around, the Fillmore line would stay on 16th Street, ending at Third Street. The 19 would be rerouted to bypass the Hill, and the 33 would pick-up segments of the 53.
Edward Hatter, Potrero Hill Neighborhood House’s Executive Director, said the proposed connections emphasize north and south directions at the expense of east and west coverage and access to Civic Center. “They say [Hill] ridership on the 19 is not all that big, but we beg to differ,” he said. “Disadvantaged people in low-income housing have no access to the center of government.”
In Southeast San Francisco the proposed 12 could take two routes. Under Proposal 12A the line would start at Galvez Avenue and take Evans Avenue to Potrero Hill. Proposal 12B would start the line at Third Street and Palou Avenue and follow Jerrold Avenue to Potrero Hill. Under both proposals the 12 would travel through Dakota, Wisconsin, and Connecticut streets, pass through Mission Bay to Montgomery Street, and then takes riders into Pacific Heights. The line would run every seven and a half minutes north of Division Street, and every 15 minutes to and from the south.
The 45 would also run, via De Haro and Rhode Island streets, through Mission Bay and hit Powell before continuing on to Cow Hollow. Its southern portion would end at 24th and Hampshire streets, near San Francisco General Hospital. The route would run every 10 minutes, and would require installation of overhead wires for the electric trolley bus. The 9-San Bruno would be rerouted to cover the lower portion of the Hill.
In a March meeting with two SFMTA planners, Hatter and five other Hill activists insisted that the community wasn’t interested in the proposed Mission Bay connections, and preferred more Muni coverage of the 18th Street commercial strip. The activists suggested keeping the 53 line and extending its route to 3rd street to replace the loss of the 22 line without the need for the 33. They also pointed out that Hill residents have been advocating for increased under-grounding of utility wires for some time, and they’d prefer not to see new lines going up.
The SFMTA planners agreed to investigate what appeared to be low ridership on the 53, this time using sensor counters rather than relying on the farebox. Though they argued that the new routes would come within a block of the 53’s old path, the activists pointed out that Potrero’s steep hill can make even a block distance significant for the elderly and families with small children.
Muni serves roughly 668,000 people on a typical weekday, with six corridors accounting for half of its ridership: Van Ness, Geary, Stockton, Potrero/San Bruno, Third Street and California. About 60 percent of boardings occur northeast of 24th and Divisadero streets. Over the past decade the transit agency has experienced a 10 percent drop in on-time service, with less than two-thirds of Muni’s buses meeting their schedule and an average bus speed of just five miles an hour, the lowest in the nation.
In an effort to improve its performance, and in the wake of periodic hiring freezes over the past several years, in January Muni hired 22 new fare inspectors, and has started hiring more schedulers, mechanics and drivers. The most recent training course for drivers had double the number of students – 30 – than previous classes, but the agency is still short of filling 150 open positions for drivers.
Muni recently hired assistant supervisors to free-up time for supervisors to develop better relations with drivers, more closely examine absenteeism and follow-up on customer complaints. Schedulers and supervisors will soon be able to use NextMuni to track buses, with the hope that increased monitoring will lead to better service.
Muni is also advocating for preferential treatment at traffic signals, in which a transponder on a bus would communicate with traffic lights on major routes, allowing the bus to pass through before the light turns red. Some buses will be outfitted with cameras to automatically ticket double-parkers, though the cameras will not be able to issue moving violations. SFMTA is also experimenting with double-decker buses and all-door boarding. According to Kirschbaum, double-deckers have more seats – 80 as compared with 57 on a standard, non-articulated bus – and take up 30 percent less parking space.
Multiple Opportunities for Residents to Weigh-in on Proposed Muni Changes
The TEP won’t go into effect until July 2009, with additional public comment, as well as an environmental impact review, scheduled before then. To view TEP details visit www.sftep.com/docs, which provides three ways to examine the proposed changes: by the entire system, by district and by individual line. A district and individual line perspective helps clarify the reasoning behind specific proposed changes.
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