Muni officials said Tuesday that passengers will be able to board at any door on any bus line as soon as next year.
Opening all the doors will speed up boarding at bus stops, and by extension, the often-late buses, said John Haley, director of operations. Muni’s on-time performance sunk to 72.9 percent last quarter, well below the voter mandated 85 percent mark.
Haley said that one study showed that boarding time was responsible for half of all bus delays on Market Street.
Of course, anyone who rides Muni knows that bus drivers already allow all-door boarding at crowded bus stops. But technically, a rider could get a ticket for not getting on through the front door, and bus drivers don’t open the back door at every stop.
Under the all-door boarding plan, riders will need to use their Clipper card or have other proof of payment to board at the back door. Clipper card readers have already been installed at each bus door, but right now signs on bus windows declare: “STOP: Enter Through Front Door Only.”
Muni Chief Ed Reiskin said he favored the new boarding plan, but cautioned that the agency would have to plan for the possibility of more fare evasion through the back door.
"The issue of how to do this with the right level of education and enforcement is the difficult part," said Reiskin. "What we don't want to do is spread the message that Muni is free now." Muni loses about $19 million each year to fare evasion.
Reiskin said the program could be implemented as soon as next year, once the transit agency determines the cost of enforcement.
Muni already allows all-door boarding on its light rail vehicles, like the N-Judah, but it has never been allowed on buses before. It would be the first transit agency in the country to allow all-door boarding on all vehicles, Haley said.
The new policy has been pushed by new SFMTA board member Joel Ramos and the San Francisco Transit Riders Union, which was formed following the draconian service cuts last year.
“It makes trips faster because riders can board through every door,” said Mario Tanev of the transit riders union. “It’s a clear win for riders and the agency.”