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Muni Approval Drops

A Muni bus carries passengers along Market Street
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A Muni bus carries passengers along Market Street
 
Only 52 percent rate San Francisco transit service as excellent or good

A transportation agency survey found that fewer customers approve of the San Francisco Municipal Railway's service than when the survey was last conducted in 2007, according to a report released by the agency Tuesday.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Executive Director Nathaniel Ford joined the agency's board of directors at its meeting Tuesday to discuss the "State of the SFMTA" report, which also outlines the future of the agency and its recent accomplishments.

The survey showed that 52 percent of customers rate Muni service as excellent or good, down from 55 percent when the survey was last taken in 2007.

"I would've liked it to be much higher," Ford said, but with a major service change and two fare increases in the past three years, "It could've been worse."

During his presentation of the report to the board, Ford said that with local sales tax revenues in decline and other sources of SFMTA revenue susceptible to market fluctuations, "We need to seek out more stable funding sources."

He cited ideas such as congestion pricing and variable parking prices in more parts of the city as ways to add revenue.

"Without these, we will not be able to close critical funding gaps" to pay for projects such as the Central Subway Project, he said. The Muni extension is slated to open in 2018.

Each of the board directors addressed the report and expressed how they would like to see Muni service improved.

A couple of the directors addressed a part of the presentation that featured two pyramid charts, one of which represented "conventional urban transportation planning" with cars making up a majority of the pyramid, and another that represented "sustainable urban transportation planning" in which solo car trips were not included at all.

"I'm not sure this would be widely supported in the city," Board Chairman Tom Nolan said.

Director Malcolm Heinicke said, "It almost sends a message of hostility or indifference to motorists," who still make up two-thirds of trips in the city each day.

Director Bruce Oka, a disabled rights advocate who is himself in a wheelchair, said he is seeing "more of the wheelchair users being passed by vehicle after vehicle" due to a lack of space.

Director Cameron Beach said he was concerned about tour buses and employee shuttles being employed by private businesses that frequently "compete with us for space at the curb" and are siphoning away potential revenue from the agency.

Despite the board voicing concerns about current service and Muni's viability in the coming years and decades, Ford and the board members pointed to stats in the report that detail some of the agency's accomplishments in the face of the economic recession.

According to the report, collisions involving Muni vehicles were down in fiscal year 2009 compared to fiscal 2008. Muni's systemwide on-time performance reached 75 percent, its highest level in 10 years.

The agency also finally began making improvements to the bicycle network around San Francisco in the past year when a court injunction against the bike plan was lifted.

SFMTA also implemented a pilot program in which motorists traveling east on Market Street were required to turn right at 10th Street and at Sixth Street. That program has led to three times as many bicyclists riding on the street as motorists on an average weekday, Ford said.

He said he hoped the report spawned more discussions of the future of Muni.

"We have to start wrestling with the long-term vision" of the agency, he said.

SFMTA is also inviting customers to join the discussion by completing a survey that can be found here.

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