Muni’s manic Monday hinders travel

If you think Giants baseball can be torture, you should try riding Muni.

The City’s light-rail system was plagued with long delays Monday, starting with a system malfunction that began around 9:45 a.m. and continued through the evening rush hour and into the night.

The meltdown marked the third time this month that the Muni transit system — which has 700,000 daily boardings — experienced problems that brought the trains to an excruciating halt. The other incidents occurred when the Giants were playing the biggest games of their season, leaving a portion of the team’s faithful desperate to find some other route to
AT&T Park.

The afternoon of Oct. 1, the day the Giants played the third-to-last game of the regular season, two Muni trains collided while trying to turn around near The Embarcadero, shutting down the system and forcing thousands of riders out of the subway and onto the streets.

Six days later, the Giants were gearing up to face the Atlanta Braves in the first game of their postseason when a contractor accidentally killed power to the entire system, causing about five hours of delays.

On Monday, the delays were even worse. Around midmorning, a signal near the Embarcadero station malfunctioned, turning every signal in the system to red and switching every train to manual mode, freezing the entire system for about
45 minutes, according to Muni spokesman Paul Rose. Outbound trains returned to automatic mode around 10:30 a.m., but inbound trains were still crawling along on manual through the evening rush hour.

Making matters even worse, a car collision occurred at Ulloa Street and West Portal Avenue at 5 p.m. Though the accident didn’t involve Muni, the vehicles managed to block trains in both directions for nearly an hour.

Muni patrons awaiting trains were nonplussed. Athena Waid spent an hour and 45 minutes traveling between Irving Street and Seventh Avenue and the Montgomery Street station — a trip that usually takes 20 minutes. She was stuck on one of at least a half-dozen trains that stopped cold at Church and Duboce streets after a signal failure shut down the system.

If that was a first-time occurrence, she might have been less frustrated.

“I’ve actually been thinking about moving to the East Bay because the commute time is the same, but more reliable,”
Waid said.



System lacks means to announce delays

There’s a decent chance you can log onto Facebook and find the location of your high school crush. But if you want to know if your Muni train is delayed, your smart phone might as well be a book.

While BART will text you about delays, and Caltrain sends out alerts, there is virtually no communication about major Muni delays. While Muni does have a Twitter feed — handle sfmta_muni — it is not meant to be a delay notification system, Muni spokesman Paul Rose said. There was no mention of delays on the feed Monday until 4:15 p.m. — more than six hours after they started. 

A little information would go a long way for Mission Bay resident Joe Jarrell. When told a reporter was writing about Muni delays, Jarrell rolled his eyes.

“What, are you writing a 12-part series?” he said.

Jarrell had been waiting for a train for 20 minutes, and was late for dinner with a friend. He said it bothers him that Muni never warns riders there’s a delay.

“Generally you’ve already paid and then you come down and see five cars are waiting to go to Embarcadero, and you have to decide, do I lose my $2 and try to walk, or just wait?” Jarrell said.

After waiting another five minutes, he decided to take the $2 loss.

— Katie Worth

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