Muni’s reduced holiday schedule could become a template for the future.
With ridership historically low in late December, Muni started service later and ran certain bus lines less frequently. Although projected to save $350,000, the $275,000 actually saved was enough for the agency to consider doing it again.
Muni delivered 97.5 percent of its scheduled service — a 3 percent improvement over 2011 — and rider complaints didn’t materialize, Director of Transit John Haley said.
He estimated that ridership was 30 to 40 percent below normal, proving that the service reduction made sense.
He said downtown express service could have been scaled back more, which would have saved more.
“From the results we’ve seen, there is clearly more opportunities for similar service modifications in the future,” he said.
The agency is already eyeing the last week of March, when public schools are on spring break. Haley said summer, when ridership is typically low, is another opportunity.
Ideally, Muni could make the modified changes a regular, formatted part of its annual service schedule, Haley said. Transit agencies across the country use similar changes, he said.
Cutting down on service periodically throughout the year is likely to draw complaints from passengers. For the holiday week, there were complaints about the lack of service in southeastern neighborhoods and along Mission Street and Polk Street, said Ben Kaufman, a spokesman for passenger advocacy group the Transit Riders Union.
Kaufman said any future service changes should come with more significant public outreach.
Ron Austin, a spokesman for the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni operators, questioned the agency’s ability to meaningfully transfer lessons learned from the holiday week to other times of the year.
“The difference between spring break and Christmas break is night and day,” Austin said.