Tuesday, January 29, 2008

SF Muni So Terrible That Making It Free Would Destroy It

This from today's SF Gate: a study commissioned by the mayor's office to see how making the San Francisco Muni system free might work has concluded that since the whole system is teetering on the verge of collapse as it is, making it free would probably cause every bus to explode in unison. One might have thought, in the traffic-strangled Bay Area, that increasing Muni ridership might be a priority. Nope. Feel the power:

If [a 50% ridership increase] happened to Muni, which now provides nearly 700,000 trips on an average day, the annual operating and maintenance costs would rise by nearly $69 million. ...In addition, the city would have to add an estimated 267 buses and streetcars to its fleet of about 1,000 at a cost of approximately $537 million. New storage and maintenance yards also would be needed to accommodate the new vehicles. Muni also would have to figure out how to run more streetcars through the tunnels. The consultants warned of bottlenecks and added delays. The system already has problems running on schedule. Muni currently needs an estimated $100 million to $150 million more a year to make the significant service improvements voters demanded in 1999 but have yet to see. Even if the money were available, it would take five to 10 years to purchase the new equipment and expand the maintenance capacity.

Also, the fare boxes house evil miniature demons, with whom Muni reached a delicate detente in the mid-80s; any disruption of the demons could cause multi-dimensional time vortexes and/or mysterious plagues.

Ahem. So tell us, City Controller, don't we want to attract new riders?

City Controller Ed Harrington, a veteran City Hall fiscal watchdog who also chairs a special mayor's panel looking at ways to stabilize Muni's finances, said the notion of free Muni should be shelved because it likely would attract hundreds of thousands of new riders and prove detrimental.

He then unveiled Muni's new "Discouraging Ridership in the New Millenium" program, which will feature off-putting advertisements in bus shelters, increasing the pumped-in urine smells in subway stations, and a new slogan, "Muni: We'll Pay You to Take a Cab Instead."

Argh. Where's the Bay Area on that "worst traffic" list, are we still #2? Jeez, even LA is making huge strides in public transit: can anyone explain to me why San Francisco can't get its act together?


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