By Joe Eskenazi : sfweekly – excerpt
LaVonda Atkinson, the cost engineer for the Central Subway project, this year filed a complaint with the city’s whistle-blower program alleging serious lapses in accounting procedures and unethical behavior on the $1.578 billion project. Among her more disturbing charges reported to SF Weekly:
- A Muni official, in writing, acknowledges plugging a “make-up #” into a federally reported document in order to maintain the desired total budget: a “make-up #” $30 million off from the data within that very document and $43 million greater than the prior month’s reported total.
- Atkinson claims she was instructed to override computer formulas and manually reduce cost variances to zero — obscuring millions of dollars of month-to-month reassignments of budgets and expenditures, often on projects completed as long ago as 2010. As such, budgets are retroactively altered to match actual expenditures, and then the alterations themselves are hidden by zeroing them out.
- There is a $40 million gap between the figure Muni reports to the city controller and what it reports to the Federal Transit Administration regarding its spending on preliminary engineering.
- A $17.1 million computer program purchased, explicitly, for budgeting the Central Subway project is going unused — in favor of Microsoft Excel…
An overrun delayed is not an overrun denied. The reckoning will come.
It turns out there’s a name for this practice: Transit expert and accountant Tom Rubin dubs it “the William Tell school of budgeting.” Rubin, the former CFO of AC Transit and the Southern California Rapid Transit District and a longtime Central Subway skeptic, scoured documents supplied to SF Weekly by Atkinson and came away with the following assessment of Muni’s financial planning for the massive project: “They fire the arrow at the barn and then draw the bull’s-eye around where it hits.”…
…By March, even the feds were aware that this multi-billion dollar transit endeavor was being budgeted on Microsoft Excel — the same program used to tabulate rent and groceries in apartments throughout San Francisco…
In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment…. (more)
This can’t help the reputation of San Francisco’s most controversial agency and disliked agency. This allegations may also affect legal issues winding their way through the courts. Stay tuned…
Covering Their Tracks: The Central Subway Project Buries Millions in a Deep Dark Place Muni Instructs Employees How to Contact Whistle-Blower Program Following SF Weekly Story on Muni Whistle-Blower
by Aaron Bialick : sf.streetsblog – excerpt
Service changes to 15 Muni lines are headed to the SFMTA Board of Directors for approval on Friday as part of the Transit Effectiveness Project. The proposals were revised through input at community meetings and approved by the board’s Policy and Governance Committee (PAG) last Friday. Many were fine-tuned largely to appease complaints from riders who would have to walk, at most, a few more blocks for more streamlined routes…
If you can’t make the City Hall board meeting on Friday at 8 a.m., you can weigh in on the proposals by emailing the SFMTA Board secretary at Roberta.Boomer@sfmta.com. Here’s the list of proposed line changes from an SFMTA email: …
By Joe Eskenazi : sfweekly – excerpt
Running a slow transit service quickly racks up costs. You have to deploy that many more vehicles to carry the same number of fare-paying passengers as a faster-moving service. And Muni is the slowest transit service in all North America.
That slowness may end up costing Muni even more, according to a 2012 class-action suit wending its way through federal court with Muni-like speed, brought by some 233 drivers representing more than 2,000 of their brethren.
The agency, allege aggrieved drivers Darryl Stitt, Tony Grandberry, and Hedy Griffin — lead plaintiffs for a cast of thousands — pays operators based upon “a predetermined amount of driving time.” Passengers and drivers alike are aware, however, that Muni’s schedules rarely match Muni’s reality. The operators claim they’re not being compensated for inevitable divergences from on-paper timetables.
This inevitability is baked in, claim the plaintiffs: Muni “has a practice of designing its routes in a manner that makes it impossible for Operators to stay on schedule.”
The drivers also claim they’re being shortchanged for the time they spend performing post-driving inspections; time spent traveling from one bus or train to another when switching runs; or time spent heading from the bus or train depot to wherever they parked their cars.
Drivers hoping to put in for unscheduled overtime face a new set of challenges. “The unscheduled overtime card is so confusing that [a Muni management] representative could not explain parts of it,” claims the suit. When asked, during deposition, why that card contained six rows, the manager replied, “I — honestly, I don’t know the answer to that question.”…
Neither Muni nor plaintiffs’ attorney Steven Tidrick would comment regarding ongoinglitigation. Several of the hundreds of drivers who signed up to allow Tidrick to be their standard-bearer told SF Weekly the numbers they’re hearing bandied about constitute “real serious money.”… (more)
Jessica Kwong : sfexaminer – excerpt
A new report from the City Controller’s Office compares Muni service with systems in San Jose, Seattle, and elsewhere.
Muni vehicles travel at a slower average speed and have higher operating costs, despite having lower fares than transit services in 10 metropolitan areas, a recently released report has found.
The “benchmarking” report from the San Francisco controller’s office released Thursday compares the performances and costs of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency light-rail, bus and trolley bus services with cities including San Jose, Seattle, Houston, Dallas and Minneapolis.
Data included the average speed and number of passengers served per mile in each of the systems; the reported indicated Muni vehicles travel at a slower average rate.
“Each time the bus stops to board or alight passengers, it experiences a delay, which reduced the average speed of the bus,” the report states. “This effect likely contributes to SFMTA’s lower average speeds.”… (more)
By Jerold Chinn : sfbay – excerpt
The idea to increase the Muni F-Market & Wharves historic streetcars fare by as much $6 has derailed.
Since the plan was first introduced a possible revenue generator at a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board meeting last month, it has received negative feedback from riders and city supervisors. SFMTA board members were also not a fan of the idea.
Ed Reiskin, director of transportation, said at a SFMTA meeting Friday: “I don’t plan on advancing that recommendation.”… (more)
Tomorrow (Friday, March 14, 2014) there will be a special meeting of the SFMTA Board. The meeting will be in Room 400 City Hall, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Meeting Agenda
Item 9 (which follows the Director’s and CAC reports) is for general public comment on MTA matters.
Item 12 will be a status report on the ever-changing Transit Effectiveness Project. Good opportunity for those with TEP ideas to impart….
Item 13 (the main event) will be a presentation and discussion of the MTA’s FY 2015/16 Operating Budget followed by a discussion of its FY 2015/16 Capital Budget.
Muni’s capital budget problems have been compounded by the failure of Mayor Lee and his transportation task force (TTF) to adequately address Muni’s long range problems. For those who don’t have hours to spend waiting, Item 9 would give you an opportunity to speak relatively early in the meeting.
Please come and speak up.
Jerry Cauthen, for SaveMuni
by Aaron Bialick : sfstreetsblog - excerpt
Sidewalk widenings on Irving Street in the Inner Sunset, proposed by the SFMTA to make it safer and easier for tens of thousands of commuters to board the N-Judah, have been cut down in size to a fraction of the original proposals due to neighborhood complaints about losing car parking and protests from the SF Fire Department.
Who said the SFMTA is not listening? Keep those letters and comments coming to the SFMTA, Supervisors and media. Your voices are being heard as evidenced by the changes to the TEP so far. If you think the SFMTA is doing a lousy job of managing traffic and parking, let everyone know.
Muni is considering proposed service and route changes as a part of the Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP). Developed with extensive analysis and community input, the TEP proposals will modernize Muni for its 700,000 daily passengers.
Over the past six weeks, we have conducted extensive outeach and held numerous community meetings about the various TEP service change proposals. Based on the feedback we received, we have revised the service change proposals for the following routes:
Also due to community input and further analysis, we will not be pursuing any route changes for the following routes at this time:
To provide input or learn more, attend a community meeting. Visit tellmuni.com to give feedback and sign up for updates. In March, the SFMTA Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed service changes and all community input received.
For more information about upcoming meetings, take a look at the Muni Needs Your Input flyer.
For more information, check back on this page, call 415-701-4599, or email email@example.com. Information on all proposed service changes will be available at all meetings and can be viewed at the Main Library reference desk.
Contact: Sean Kennedy, TEP Planning Manager, (415) 701-4599, email firstname.lastname@example.org
by Jessica Kwong : sfexaminer – excerpt
San Francisco’s transit agency announced today that it is officially moving forward with the purchase of 60 new electric trolley buses, the first phase in replacing the aging fleet over the next few years.
The buses being retired were in service for more than two decades and accounted for 40 percent of systemwide delays, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
Considered the backbone of Muni, the vehicles carry 200,000 riders daily on 14 lines, including 1-California, 5-Fulton, 14-Mission and 30-Stockton, which alone transports 32,000 passengers per day. More than 300 trolley buses, which operate greenhouse gas-free, are due for replacement.
“By investing in new, high-performing, quiet and green electric trolley vehicles, we are able to provide better options for moving around The City,” SFMTA Transportation Director Ed Reiskin said in a statement… (more)