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Muni launches ‘90 day’ plan to improve citywide slowdown

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A sign indicates wait times for the 31-Balboa Muni bus at the Market and Powell bus stop on July 19, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

After a citywide Muni service slowdown that itself stretched at least 90 days, Muni officials now have a 90-day plan to reverse those woes.

Buses sat cold in Muni yards across The City from late April to late July because Muni did not have enough drivers to run them, the San Francisco Examiner found in an investigation in late July. Since then, Mayor London Breed and the riding public have called for solutions.

Tuesday at the regular meeting of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors, SFMTA Director of Transit John Haley laid out a plan.

What SFMTA ultimately needs to do is get more buses on the road, Haley said. But to do that, the agency “needs to be training all the time.”

A bottleneck in training has been pointed to as the key cause in the Muni slowdown citywide, as demand from replacement shuttles for Twin Peaks Tunnel train service and from planned service boosts spread bus drivers thin across The City.

To achieve that goal, SFMTA will increase its bus and rail training class sizes, revise its teaching methods to help minimize its training failure rate and expand hiring outreach to attract more applicants. SFMTA also wants to minimize sick leave and truancy by operators.

“We can’t have peaks and valleys” in training operators, Haley said.

In the near-term, the plan calls for improving service on the most heavily trafficked bus routes — known as “rapid” lines, like the 38R-Geary Rapid — by 5 percent, and increasing delivered service on rail lines by 3 percent.

Haley also noted transit service has seen a boost citywide since the Twin Peaks Tunnel reopened after its seismic retrofit on Aug. 25, because operators who had been driving shuttle buses were able to go back into service operating buses on other lines. Those operators are generally not trained to pilot light rail vehicles.

But more change is needed, he said. And SFMTA head Ed Reiskin, who has received public criticism from Mayor Breed over the issue, promised those changes would arrive.

“We’ve heard you, we’ve heard the public, we’ve heard the mayor and the board,” he said.

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