Muni’s public ranking dropped sharply in a new city survey released Monday. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Muni gets low grade in citywide survey

City study finds sharp drop in residents’ confidence in transit agency

Muni scored lower than any other San Francisco agency in a city survey of residents released Monday.

While it didn’t outright flunk, The City’s transit agency was graded just a “C +,” while other city services including police, parks, public infrastructure and 311 were graded at least a “B -” by San Francisco residents.

And in worse news for the agency, San Franciscan’s evaluation of Muni performance is now at its lowest point since 2013, after rising for several years. In the last survey, which was released in 2017, Muni was graded a B -.

The drop in confidence in The City’s transit agency, which serves more than 720,000 riders every day, comes at perhaps its most challenging time in recent memory: its new train cars sport malfunctioning doors and couplers, an operator shortage is leading to bus and train delays, and Ed Reiskin, who heads Muni’s umbrella organization, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, is departing amid heat from The Mayor’s Office.

“I’m not surprised that the grades have dropped so bad,” said Cat Carter, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Transit Riders advocacy group. “Muni’s service in the last year or so has gone through a lot of difficulties.”

A firm contracted by The City Controller’s Office, Corey, Canapary & Galanis conducted the survey of 2,218 city residents, which is done once every two years. This is the 17th such official “City Survey.”

The San Francisco Public Library scored highest in that survey, earning an A- from San Franciscans. Parks earned a B+, infrastructure a B-, 311 Services a B+, public safety netted a B and overall government performance a B-.

Muni saw the largest decrease in percentage point evaluation from San Franciscans, dropping by a whopping 19 percent approval from 2017 to 2019, according to the City Controller’s Office.

San Franciscans did credit Muni with a B and B- for the courtesy of operators and safety, respectively. However, they knocked it for its frequency of service, cleanliness, and its ability to manage crowding.

Low income and older San Franciscans rated Muni the highest scores. About 54 percent of low-income respondents gave Muni an A or B rating, versus just 34 percent of respondents making more than $100,000 annually.

Low-income women use Muni the most, according to survey respondents. About 68 percent of women who make $50,000 or less use Muni frequently, versus between 53 and 57 percent for all other income levels of men and women.

Black and Latinx women were far more likely at 13 percent to feel “very unsafe” on Muni, whereas just 3 percent of women of other ethnicities feel very unsafe on Muni.

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose acknowledged the agency has a ways to go, but noted it has also made improvements along the way.

“Significant progress has been made over the last five years. Muni went from operating the oldest fleet of buses and trains in the nation to one of the newest and the greenest. We have increased service by more than 10 percent and invested more in maintenance. This past month, we consolidated bus and train service into the Transportation Management Center, which will improve our ability to manage service in real time and respond to incidents,” Rose said.

“But,” he added, “there’s no denying we have more work to do.”

joe@sfexaminer.com

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