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Survey: When Muni riders miss a bus, they turn to Uber and Lyft

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People wait for an inbound train at Forest Hill Station in San Francisco, Calif. Tuesday, June 6, 2017. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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When Muni riders miss their bus or train, they most often default to Uber or Lyft instead.

That’s according to a survey of Muni riders conducted for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency by survey firm Corey, Canapary & Galanis Research between June and August.

The researchers spoke to more than 500 San Franciscans who have used Muni in the past six months, according to a summary of the survey, with a 4 percent margin of error.

The finding counters an oft-told narrative by ride-hail companies that their service takes cars off the road. Though some studies have found that to be true, this Muni survey points to some transit riders hailing an Uber instead of hopping on a bus.

Muni’s ridership survey annually flags riders’ feelings about transit, from their method of payment (31 percent load their Clipper cards with cash), to how willing they are to walk a longer distance to their stop in order to gain a quicker bus ride (about 57 percent) and the overall satisfaction with Muni’s service (6 percent say it’s excellent, 54 percent say it’s good).

Though that last statistic stayed mostly constant in the past three years, the number of people who said they would take Uber or Lyft if their bus or train didn’t show up grew significantly.

This year, 34 percent said they would take Uber or Lyft if Muni was not available for a trip, compared to 29 percent last year.

About 17 percent said they would drive instead, versus 14 percent last year; 8 percent said they would “get a ride;” 7 percent said they would not make the trip at all and 9 percent said they would take a taxi (which is consistent with last year’s survey).

Far fewer people said they would take BART as an alternative. Just 5 percent would take BART instead of Muni this year, compared to last year’s 12 percent. About 17 percent said they would walk if Muni wasn’t available this year, compared to 21 percent last year.

The findings of the survey are consistent with the findings of the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies, which released a study on Oct. 11 that found Uber and Lyft trips were replacing some public transit trips.

“Although we found that ride-hailing can be complementary to transit and reduce vehicle ownership for a small portion of individuals, we found that (overall) these services currently facilitate a shift away from more sustainable modes towards low occupancy vehicles in major cities,” Regina Clewlow, a researcher affiliated with UC Davis and lead author of the report, said in a statement.

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