With a latte from Caffe Trieste in one hand and a bus handle bar in the other, Supervisor Aaron Peskin enjoyed a mostly uneventful Muni ride from North Beach to City Hall — but he was the lucky one.
All told, three Muni routes experienced breakdowns Monday morning, causing elected officials, candidates and everyday transit riders to arrive at the Transit Week celebration at City Hall late or just barely on time.
The L-Taraval train experienced an apparent power failure before picking up Supervisor Katy Tang, forcing her and BART board candidate Janice Li to catch a different train. District 10 supervisor candidate Shamann Walton and transit supporters were aboard the T-Third line when it also broke down.
Lastly, state Sen. Scott Wiener and a bevy of transit supporters experienced a breakdown on the J-Church train route, seeing them rush to catch a BART train to make it to City Hall on time.
“I want to thank BART for getting us here this morning,” Wiener said dryly, at the press conference. He scolded Muni officials, many of whom were in attendance at the Transit Week event at City Hall, for persistent maintenance issues that effect tens of thousands of riders every day.
“I’m sorry to be blunt and direct, but we need to do better,” he said.
Monday the Transit Riders advocacy group, politicos from many offices and everyday bus and train riders gathered on City Hall’s steps to celebrate Transit Week, which also saw the Transit Riders group resurrect its “Transit Challenge.” The challenge tasks officials and riders to air their bus and train rides on social media with the hashtag #WeRideSF.
As part of the challenge, roughly half of the Board of Supervisors and other politicians rode Muni to show solidarity with The City’s roughly 360,000 transit-goers. Tang linked her bad transit experience Monday morning to the bad rides her constituents face.
“I actually have heard from a couple residents that they lost their jobs because they were late on Muni,” Tang told the crowd.
Li said she boarded the L-Taraval at 42nd Avenue intending to meet up with Tang along the line. That’s when the doors closed, opened again, and the train remained stopped.
“I heard on the PA, ‘we’re going to be here for awhile,’” Li told the San Francisco Examiner.
As she hiked down Taraval Street, she saw dozens and dozens of riders stranded. Uber and Lyft vehicles began to swarm the street, she said.
At the event, Rachel Hyden, executive director of the transit riders group, acknowledged the bumpy ride officials took just to get there.
“We criticize from a place of love, because we love Muni,” she told the crowd.
All those messages were heard by Muni and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency head honcho, Ed Reiskin, who serves as director of transportation. Reiskin stood at the event among the officials, listening to each story of transit woe.
Reiskin, who has been under fire for poor Muni performance of late, noted that all of the supervisors’ transit hiccups came on train lines, where older light-rail vehicles constructed by company Breda are breaking down more and more often.
About 68 brand new Siemens-made light rail vehicles will be on the street serving San Franciscans by the end of next year, he said, but the old Breda cars may still be in service through 2027, thanks to federal guidelines mandating the lifespan of transit vehicles.
Just this morning “I saw at least three different door issues,” on the train, he said. “Just like a car, as they get old it’s tougher to find parts, and they break down far more often.”
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