Muni more popular with tourists than residents

More tourists will likely use public transportation while in San Francisco this summer than residents, according to a new nationwide study.

The survey of 33,000 adults, conducted for the American Public Transportation Association, revealed that of those respondents traveling to San Francisco, 40 percent said they weren’t going to use a car or take a taxi to get around.

That’s more than the 33 percent of San Franciscans who said they were using mass transit as their main mode of transportation in 2005, the most recent year of available census data. The next year, according to the APTA, Muni saw a 1.7 percent decline in riders.

Joe D’Allessandro, president of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he was not surprised a higher percentage of summer tourists take Muni and other forms of local public transportation than residents.

“They probably look at Muni a little more differently. They’re not on a work schedule; they’re not taking public transportation necessarily during commute hours,” D’Allessandro said. “Frankly, tourists take rail over buses, and cable cars and the F line, rail linesor BART. Those experiences rare not quite as complicated as the buses.”

Tourism is San Francisco’s largest industry, directly supporting local hotels, restaurants, retail, entertainment and cultural attractions, but also contributing to the local economy through jobs and tax revenue.

According to newly released data from the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, The City has seen an increase in total visitor volume in recent years, with 15.8 million tourists coming into San Francisco in 2006.

Visitor spending is also up — 5.3 percent from 2005 — with estimates for all goods and services tourists purchased while in San Francisco in 2006 totaling nearly $7.8 billion.

In response to the survey data, Mayor Gavin Newsom said the system was favorable to tourists, even if not always used by residents.

“When people say about Muni, ‘You have a great public transportation system,’ I say, ‘Where are you from?’ and nine [times] out of 10, they are not from The City,” Newsom said.

Ironically, Newsom, who recently told The Examiner that Muni’s inefficiencies are partly due to the fact that each route has frequent stops, said many visitors favor the system because a stop is usually close by.

The City with the most tourists expected to use public transportation this summer — 48 percent — is New York City, according to the APTA survey. In 2005, more than 54 percent of the Big Apple’s residents used public transportation.

beslinger@examiner.com

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