(Cindy Chew/2006 S.F. Examiner)

(Cindy Chew/2006 S.F. Examiner)

A year in public transit: Muni’s triumphs, woes, and bike controversy in The City

For the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, 2015 was a year of one of Muni’s grandest service expansions.

It also saw the public crying out for transit projects meant to save lives.

SFMTA’s Muni Forward launched in April, creating the most expansive increase in transit service since the Market Street underground rail, SFMTA Director of Transit Operations John Haley told the San Francisco Examiner at the time.

More than 700,000 riders across The City saw increased service on 27 routes. The agency also renamed all “limited” bus lines to “rapid.”

Those reroutes also left some small neighborhoods behind, however, like transit riders on the south side of Lake Merced who saw commutes increase by an hour.

Reflecting on the year’s ups and downs, SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose wrote, “Our top priority will always be the safety of San Francisco’s transportation network.”

He noted SFMTA completed 24 “Vision Zero” pedestrian safety projects ahead of schedule, and plans to complete six additional projects by February 2016.

Despite these continuing efforts, the year’s deadly collisions began in March, when an auto struck and killed 87-year-old Alfred Yee on a section of Geary Boulevard slated for safety upgrades by SFMTA. In May, a Muni train struck and killed 12-year-old Andrew Wu, also on a street slated for safety upgrades.

As of Dec. 14, there were 20 pedestrian deaths in collisions in 2015.

Two cable car operators were struck by vehicles and critically injured while on the job, stories the Examiner first reported in July. SFMTA then handed out handheld stop signs, yellow jackets to operators and increased traffic enforcement near cable cars.

Bikes dominated news this year when SFPD Captain John Sanford began a “crackdown” on bicyclists near the Panhandle in June. Cyclists protested in August, which led to the new Bike Yield Stop Law, courtesy of Supervisor John Avalos.

By year’s end the infamous “Google Buses,” properly called the Commuter Shuttle Program, became permanently regulated by the SFMTA, despite two legal challenges.

Public outcry prevented Muni power lines from being torn down for the Super Bowl City festival, after the Examiner first reported the proposal.

SFMTA launched two new transit lines this year: a new historic streetcar line, the E-Embarcadero, in July, and the 55-16th Street in January.

Late in the year SFMTA announced its buses will switch to from biodiesel to renewable diesel fuel. Since 2010 Muni reduced greenhouse gas emissions in its fleet by 19 percent, according to SFMTA.

In September, Muni’s competition, the private bus company Leap Transit, filed for bankruptcy. All the artisan coffee in the world couldn’t save them.

And the capper for the year is in the category of not-your-usual Muni controversy. Sululagi Palega, an SFMTA employee, in August was implicated in allegedly selling guns to undercover FBI agents.

“Enjoy the candy,” Palega told FBI agents as he allegedly handed a See’s Candy bag with a .45-caliber revolver inside to the agent, in the transcript of the recording from the FBI.

Palega has not been charged. bikesMuniSan Francisco Bicycle CoalitionSFMTATransit

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