It may not be a surprise that San Francisco residents want to see quicker and more reliable Muni service. But the clear message sent by riders is significant, since it comes as a result of the first major study the transit agency has embarked on in 25 years to improve its service.
In May, Muni began an 18-month study, called the Transit Effectiveness Project, to evaluate how it can improve service, eliminate a budget shortfall and lay the framework for growth in the next five to seven years. On Monday, the agency held a town hall meeting with riders to present early findings of the study and to hear where riders would like the agency to go.
“[The study] is to take a top-to-bottom look at our route structure, our infrastructure [and] to see what it would take to speed the system up and attract more riders,” Municipal Transportation Agency Executive Director Nathaniel Ford said.
Muni’s route structure was originally designed in 1979 to provide access to most of The City with no more than one transfer. Over the years the agency has expanded and it now has about 80 lines and 5,000 stops.
One of the major issues facing Muni that the study will explore is the agency’s growing deficit. Ford said the agency would not explore the possibility of raising fares to help eliminate the ballooning shortfall, which is predicted to be $50 million next fiscal year. Instead Muni will begin to crack down on fare evaders as a starting point and continue to explore other options, according to Ford.
“We are looking to tighten our belts and see where we should be getting money, like fare evasion,” he said.
The agency is expected to have 47 fare inspectors in place by next April, according to Ford. For riders, the reliability of Muni’s buses and trains has been the biggest concern, according to agency customers at Monday’s meeting. Ford said the agency is planning to reinvest inequipment and examine its infrastructure, which will improve both the reliability and speed of the service. Riders may begin to see recommendations of the study affect some of their lines as early as May, according to Ford.