Service cuts looming in overhaul of transit system

The first overhaul of Muni since it was created in the 1970s will reduce or cut service to more than a dozen of The City’s least traveled routes while enhancing service along the 15-plus corridors used by the majority of riders.

On Tuesday, Mayor Gavin Newsom, noting that he will not be able to run for the office again, said he is “willing to take the heat” from disgruntled commuters in order to make Muni faster and more efficient.

“It requires dramatic changes to see dramatic improvements,” Newsom said at a news conference to unveil the proposals that resulted from The City’s Transit Effectiveness Project, an 18-month, $2 million study of how to improve the system.

Changes to The City’s public transportation system, which carries 686,000 daily passengers on roughly 80 routes, are expected to begin as early as July 2009, officials said.

The changes to the 25-year-old system would boost the speed of more popular lines serving a variety of neighborhoods, Newsom said. Service on the 47-Van Ness line, for example, would boost travel between the Van Ness corridor and the Caltrain station. The 19-Polk would become a circular downtown route.

The project also calls for increased limited service on lines such as the 14-Mission and the 5-Fulton. Limited service increases the space between bus stops, which results in decreased boarding times and faster service, since boardings currently take up about 20 percent of a bus route’s schedule, according to the Muni study.

In order to boost efficiency and the number of buses on crowded lines, Muni is weighing the elimination of less popular lines.

To fund the changes, several options are being explored by an ad-hoc Muni revenue panel, including a 25 cent increase in fares and raising taxes, Newsom said.

The City is looking at two options for the reform plan. One extends Muni into “critical areas” and increase ridership; this “enhanced” scenario would cost about $50 million. A more limited plan, according to Transit Effectiveness Project Manager Julie Kirschbaum, would make Muni so efficient that the changes would pay for themselves.

Transit critics, many of whom have participated in the Transit Effectiveness Project, expressed doubt that a sweeping change to the system would pay for itself. Andrew Sulllivan, creator of Rescue Muni, a group critical of the system’s reliability, said finding the money to take this project to the next level would be difficult.

Sullivan also noted that while he was satisfied with the resulting plan from the TEP study, he expects that problems and complaints will surface when some of the community lines are cut.

“[The TEP] thinks hard about the speed of service, which is appalling right now,” he said. “What’s really nice about the TEP is that they based this analysis on hard facts.”

bbegin@examiner.com

Muni overhaul

Increased service

» Lines J, K, L, M, N, T, 1, 5/5L, 9/9X, 14/14L, 22, 28/28L, 30, 38/38L, 47, 49/49L and 71/71L to run every 5-10 minutes during the day

» N-Judah, Muni’s busiest line, expected to run every six minutes at peak hours

» J-Church to extend to SF State, replacing M-Ocean View section

» 19-Polk to circulate downtown, connecting North Beach, Polk Street, Financial District and SoMa

» 12-Pacific to connect Potrero Hill with downtown

» 24-Divisadero to connect the Castro with the Bayview via 24th Street in the Mission</p>

» 18-46th Avenue to replace Ocean Beach section of 38-Geary

Eliminated routes (with daily ridership)

» 3-Jackson (4,216)

» 4-Sutter (1,697)

» 26-Valencia (2,944)

» 53-Southern Heights (961)

» 66-Quintara (772)

Partial reduction in service (with daily ridership)

» 2-Clement (7,113)

» 17-Parkmerced (1,348)

» 35-Eureka (734)

» 36-Teresita (1,762)

» 37-Corbett (1,789)

» 39-Coit (390)

Source: SFMTA

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