SF pivots: Costly, time-consuming Muni fix is now being done free

By Joe Eskenazi : missionlocal – excerpt

Shift astounds city supervisor: “They don’t know what the fuck is going on with their buses.”


In August, Mission Local broke the story that Muni’s New Flyer diesel-electric hybrid buses, which come with a nearly $750,000-a-pop price tag justified by their environmental bona fides, did not have a rudimentary pollution control device installed on them. These buses, Muni yard workers were dismayed to discover, were not programmed to automatically shut down after five minutes of idling, the length of time allowed by state law. Instead, they could idle indefinitely, until they ran out of fuel.

On Monday, we reported that media exposure and scrutiny by city government appears to have changed Muni’s tune. Warning stickers noting that idling a bus for more than five minutes is illegal are going up in every diesel or hybrid coach. And, in an October closed-door meeting with Supervisor Aaron Peskin and his staff, Muni transit director John Haley pledged that all of Muni’s problematic buses would be upgraded. He said this would take time, however — perhaps well into next year — and cost an estimated $1,200 a vehicle. That would put the bill for bringing the buses into compliance at several hundred thousand dollars…

This week, we learned that Muni has already begun to update the problematic buses, via WiFi technology, and is doing so for free

Reached for comment, Peskin was displeased that “bullshit numbers” had been fed to his office by Muni management, which he decried as “incompetent.”

“Sounds like they don’t know what the fuck is going on with their buses,” he continued. “It does not instill confidence that they don’t know the capabilities of their shiny new product.”… (more)

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Exclusive: Key pollution control program is disabled in SF Muni’s newest, costliest, ‘greenest’ hybrid buses

By Joe Eskenizi : missionlocal – excerpt

Broken down electric bus outside of bus barn on 16th at Folsom stopped traffic including other Munis for hours – photo by zrants

In 1987, the Board of Supervisors passed legislation urging Muni “to take certain steps to minimize air pollutant emissions,” and get workers trained “in the latest emissions reduction techniques.”

Fine words. But, in 1996, representatives from the San Francisco budget analyst’s office staked out bus yards in the wee hours, and observed Muni employees idling diesel coaches for up to four-and-a-half hours; “Pollution Menace at Muni, Audit Finds,” screamed the eventual front-page headline in the San Francisco Examiner.  That story revealed the city analysts’ grim tabulation of Muni’s dirty habit: Those idling buses needlessly discharged the equivalent amount of pollutants as 56,000 cars—every single day.

In 2013, your humble narrator staggered up to a Muni yard at 4 a.m. and documented that it was all still happening. The first rays of sunlight revealed an oily haze enveloping the yard—the byproduct of scores of buses idling for hours on end.

Idling a bus for more than five or 10 minutes, by the way, is not only wasteful and unnecessary, but is also a violation of state law

Idling buses for hours—damaging their engines, wasting money and fuel, and polluting the environment—has been a problem at Muni for decades. And, a few months ago, the phone calls started coming in: It’s still happening…

Muni has long idled its buses indefinitely, and, barring decisive action, will continue to do so indefinitely. It does so despite the explicit instructions of the manufacturer of its diesel engines, and against the recommendation of every vehicle manufacturer on God’s green earth. It does so in the face of economic, mechanical, and environmental rationales and in violation of common sense and common decency.

That may yet change. But, for now, it remains to be seen what, if anything, will inspire Muni to throw idling under the bus… (more)

SF planning first-of-its-kind laws for ‘jitney’ private bus system Chariot

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

For as long as there have been autos, private “jitney” buses have operated on San Francisco streets. Jitneys carried passengers to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, and many Muni lines today run on former private bus lines.
By the 1970s, private transit by the Bay declined. The last known historic jitney driver in San Francisco who owned a single private bus, Jess Losa, reportedly hung up his hat last year.

But those private buses have since returned to their former prominence with the aid of tech apps — like Chariot, the Ford-owned private bus company that started in San Francisco…

Now more than a century after jitneys first appeared, The City is planning new laws to regulate them, updating patchwork regulations strewn across multiple city agencies due to historical accident.

Earlier this month, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency revealed its plans for private bus services at a SFMTA Citizens Advisory Council.

Chariot is the only private bus service left in San Francisco, SFMTA staff told the council, so for now the new laws would exclusively regulate just that company — but regulations would cover any similar services that may arise in the future…

Why are jitneys treated differently from tech shuttles? They are both private commercial enterprises. Jitneys do a lot less damage to the street, take up less space and get around the narrow steep streets a lot easier than the large buses and tech vehicles. Jitneys are one option for the public to choose from to get around town.

SFMTA: Inaccurate NextBus Predictions Will Take ‘Weeks to Restore’

by Fiona Lee : hoodline – excerpt

Over the past week, SFMTA riders have been frustrated by inaccurate NextBus predictions and tracking at stops and on their apps. Many have been left to wait for a train or bus that never arrives, an issue that is still happening today.

Now, the SFMTA says that the inaccurate predictions that have been plaguing the NextMuni system, also known as NextBus, are expected to last several weeks.

“The inaccurate predictions are due to a technical issue that we’re working aggressively to resolve,” explained Paul Rose, spokesperson for the SFMTA. “At this point, we expect it will take at least a matter of weeks to restore and phase in all missing Muni predictions.”

The agency expects to have more information and provide a detailed timeline on when a fix will happen by early next week, he added…

The NextBus system is also expected to be updated in 2018 as part of a larger, comprehensive overhaul.

In the meantime, the SFMTA asks riders to check its Twitter account for the latest updates on delays. And to help riders better predict arrival times, the agency posted a frequency timetable for all Muni bus and rail lines at the end of its blog post today.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and understand how important this information is to Muni riders,” Rose said.

SFMTA spends money on tech not bus service. New union contracts are coming up. They will fight the unions but not the tech companies. Track their spending on NextBus and figure that for each million dollars they spend they could be putting another bus into service. At least that is what we were told when we asked how many buses they could have added to Mission Street instead of painting the street red.

BTW if you drive down Mission Street in the rain, or Church or any of the other painted streets, check out how hard it is to see the color at night in the rain. Let the SFMTA know whether you would prefer more buses or more paint and tech expenditures. Copy the Mayor and Supervisors on those messages.

“As someone pointed out, not everyone has a Twitter account” or a smart phone with an account that works everywhere for that matter.

 

Hoodline Highlights: Transit Riders Union Launches Ambitious ’30X30′ Muni Campaign

hoodline – excerpt

…30X30’s primary argument is that any part of San Francisco should be accessible via Muni in 30 minutes or less by the year 2030. According to the project’s preliminary website, “Muni is the slowest major urban transit system in the nation,” running at an average of 8.1 miles per hour… (more)

Before SFMTA started their efficiency programs, you used to be able to get anywhere in the city in 30 minutes or less. Before the SFMTA cut service on Valencia and other formerly well-served streets, you could get to Kaiser Hospital in less than 30 minutes from the Mission. Before SFMTA decided to slow traffic and remove parking spaces, you could get to any appointment in the city in 30 minutes or less. Before we had the invasion of the private monster shuttle buses, and out-of-town Uber and Lyft drivers, you could get anywhere in 30 minutes of less. Now, no mater how you try to get somewhere, unless you are taking BART or driving at night, you have no idea how long it may take.  Way to go SFMTA. You turned a beautiful town with a great traffic system into a nightmare for everyone. Do us all a favor, fire yourselves and let us go back to our former system that worked.

Sweeping Muni app prediction upgrade could wipe out ‘ghost bus’ problem

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

Tens of thousands of San Francisco bus riders rely on NextMuni to time their trips, but The City has acknowledged the system can suffer from inaccuracies and what some call “ghost buses.”

That’s when the stated bus arrival time on a smartphone or on one of The City’s 867 NextMuni signs, says perhaps “5 minutes” away, for instance, and then suddenly disappears — no bus, no prediction — leaving riders stranded and confused.
Now, however, Muni’s “ghost buses” are about to get ghost-busted.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is planning a $127 million overhaul of its radio systems and a new computer dispatch system, which the agency revealed in a recent small community meeting may also vastly improve its bus prediction system, known as NextMuni.

And perhaps — if NextBus is again chosen to partner with Muni in a public process — that new communication system may be coupled with an anticipated overhaul of the core NextBus service itself, which is sold by a third-party company, Cubic, to cities across the country…

The Save Muni group, including members Bob Feinbaum, Joan Wood and Gerald Cauthen, continued to pepper Walton and Stevenson with questions, revealing an intimate picture of how NextMuni would improve months before any formal announcement of such changes…(more)

Thanks to SaveMuni for uncovering the details of how Muni plans to fix the ghost bus problem. And thanks to Joe for bringing this to our attention. We hope all the “mays” will turn into “wills” at some point. Until then, we shall have to wait and see.

 

Transit director: ‘Unknown’ if Trump threat to federal funding will hurt Muni, SF streets

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

The recent win of President-elect Donald Trump has sent sanctuary cities into a scramble, with San Francisco agencies asking: Will Trump cut major funds for San Francisco?

The question gained real gravity after Trump pledged to cut funding from sanctuary cities across the U.S., who aim to shield undocumented immigrants from federal agents. Mayor Ed Lee declared last week that San Francisco would remain a sanctuary city.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin told his employees in a mass email Wednesday that threats to Muni’s funding are “unknown.”

In the email, which Reiskin sent Wednesday morning as a post-election message to his staff, he outlined potential peril. “We do receive a considerable amount of federal funds as part of our capital budget,” he wrote.

That funding comes in the form of grants disbursed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, in part, and is the basis for most all of the SFMTA’s capital projects, such as the Central Subway in Chinatown or the proposed Bus Rapid Transit routes on Geneva, Geary and Van Ness avenues… (more)

Good time to write the federal representatives and let them know how you feel about these projects. DOT contacts: TBD

L-Taraval changes head to SFMTA board

By Jerold Chinn : sfbay – excerpt

Contentious changes along Muni’s L-Taraval route could get decided Tuesday.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors on Tuesday are expected to vote on a final proposal on the L-Taraval Rapid Project.

Residents and merchants have been at odds with transit officials on proposed improvements including adding boarding islands at some stops, and removal of other stops altogether…

The original proposal had called for boarding islands at all L-Taraval transit stops that did not have them, but transit officials comprised with businesses to instead pilot a program for six months that does not remove any parking on Taraval at 26th, 30th, 32nd, 35th and 40th avenues.

Instead of transit boarding islands, a large sign will get placed to warn drivers that they must stop to allow for passengers to board and disembark trains, along with a painted white solid line in the traffic lane where vehicles must stop behind the train. Both treatments would be placed along Taraval to match the configuration of a two-car train.

Additionally, painted markings will also be present in the traffic lane to warn drivers ahead of time of transit stops ahead…

Documents from the transit agency said transit officials will work with merchants to develop an education campaign alongside working with the San Francisco Police Department on enforcement at these five transit stop locations during the evaluation of the pilot.

New flashing lights on trains when the doors open will also be part of the pilot, to bring more attention to drivers that they must stop.

The pilot changes will be installed in Fall 2016. If there is not at least a 90 percent compliance rate of drivers stopping where they are supposed to, or if there is a collision with a pedestrian and vehicle during the six-month evaluation, officials will pursue boarding islands at those five locations, SFMTA documents said…

Paula Katz, a resident in the Parkside neighborhood, started a petition to save all of the L-Taraval stops, which she has submitted to the transit agency. She said the removal of the transit stops would put a burden to riders especially for the elderly who shop at places like at Safeway on Taraval and 17th Avenue.

Early implementation

SFMTA documents show the transit agency wants to carry out specific positions of the project earlier than what was originally proposed.

Officials plant to start the transit-only lane early, with signage and painted symbols, but no red paint. Officials said they will monitor the effects of traffic flow and congestion for one year to due to concerns from the community that a loss of a travel lane would cause traffic congestion.

Painted clear zones will also be implemented early at locations where the transit agency are proposing boarding islands. Vehicles would shift to the right as if there were a boarding island present at 10 locations. Parking spots at those locations would no longer be available.

The public can still give public comment on the final proposal of the L-Taraval project at the SFMTA’s Board of Directors meeting Tuesday at 1 p.m. in room 400 of City Hall… (more)

Muni sets date to begin Van Ness BRT construction

By Jerold Chinn : sfbay – excerpt

Construction of San Francisco’s first bus rapid transit system will now start in November after transit officials said it would break ground on the project this summer.

A subcontractor dispute led to the delayed start of construction along Van Ness Avenue, said Paul Rose, spokesman for the Municipal Transportation Agency.

SFMTA documents show that The City’s Public Utilities Commission and a subcontractor chosen to do sewer and water line replacement work could not agree upon a price for the work. Instead, the Public Utilities Commission decided to bid the work out.

The SFMTA’s Board of Directors at its Aug. 16 meeting approved a contract amendment with Walsh Construction Company II, LLC, which is overseeing the construction of the project, to allow the company to begin work.

The Van Ness Improvement Corridor Project will include dedicated center-running transit lanes for Muni’s 47-Van Ness and 49-Van Ness/Mission routes that officials said will help improve reliability and reduce transit travel time for Muni riders by over 30 percent. Both routes currently serve about 45,000 riders a day.

Buses will change to low-floor buses and new station platforms will be able to accommodate riders waiting for the bus and for two buses to load and unload passengers at the same time.

Improvements such as pedestrian countdown timers, pedestrian bulb-outs and eliminating most left turns on the Van Ness Avenue corridor are also part of the project.

SFMTA documents show that primary bus rapid transit portion of the project will cost $189.5 million, which includes the cost of procuring new buses…

The total cost of all the improvements along the Van Ness Avenue corridor is $316.4 million, according to SFMTA documents. Funds for the project will come from federal grants, state funds, revenue bonds, local Proposition K funds and local funds from the Public Utilities Commission.

Officials began the bus consolidation portion of the project in June so that riders and Muni operators can get used to the changes before the opening of the bus rapid transit system in late 2019.

(more)

SFMTA approves changes to Mission Street transit improvements in response to merchant complaints

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