All systems go for Muni – or at least improved

This may be cold comfort if you are reading this while stuck on a stalled train, but Muni has actually had dramatically fewer delays in the past six weeks than it did before.

September and October were disastrous months for Muni, a period in which light-rail vehicles stalled hundreds of times in The City’s subway tunnels. But Muni leadership said they now have a handle on the persistent breakdowns that were plaguing the system then, and service has been much improved.

“It’s too early to say whether we’ve conquered the problems, but right now, we’re seeing a dramatic drop in the lengthy delays we were having,” Muni Chief Operations Officer John Haley said.

The agency has made efforts to ameliorate some of its most tenacious problems, including software issues, signal malfunctions and broken sander hoses.

Haley said the agency has had the most success fixing software glitches, which were preventing operators from transitioning from manual to automatic controls when trains left the streets and descended into subway tunnels. The switch failures slowed down the entire system. In September, there were 385 instances in which that switch was not made, but in the first two weeks of December, it only happened 56 times. If that pace keeps up for the rest of the month, it would represent a 71 percent reduction in the failure rate from September.

Regular J-Church rider Deanna Hernandez, who has relied on Muni for transportation for close to 40 years, said she has not had many problems lately with delays — or at least no more than usual.

“There’s still always delays, and the right train never comes when you want it to, but I haven’t noticed too many breakdowns or trip-ups, especially in the morning, when they’re usually really bad,” Hernandez said.

But if there have been service improvements, they have been lost on N-Judah rider Jon Hartmann. However, he admitted that he does not really expect much from the oft-maligned public transit system — and even has a begrudging affection for it.

“I think maybe I have a bit of Stockholm syndrome, but I’ve learned to accept it the way it is,” he said.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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