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Muni's "Death by a Thousand Cuts"

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The San Francisco Weekly's cover story this week is all about "The Muni Death Spiral," and serves as a good primer on the larger issues that have been affecting Muni service and costs over the last decade -- by which we mean less service and more costs. With the Board of Supervisors voting yesterday to let service cuts scheduled for May to move forward, it promises to get slower, and with so little notice, it will probably catch riders unawares, compounding their frustration with the service.

And therein lies the death spiral -- frustrated riders abandon Muni to drive cars and ride bikes, leading to more congestion which slows down Muni, which leads to more frustrated riders. But as the Weekly piece points out, attempts at political solutions to the problem have generally backfired. So who's to blame?

The two villains in the Weekly piece -- a third, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who's successfully gutted transit funding statewide for years, goes unnamed -- seem to be San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Transit Workers Union.

The former is accused of exerting line-item control over the Muni budget, and of asking the agency to fudge numbers for political purposes. The latter is accused of fighting for work rules that actively encourage poor performance through paid, unplanned absences.

A spokesman for the mayor denied accusations that the MTA was asked to fudge the numbers, while the TWU is quick to say it's being "scapegoated" and blame executive salaries like SFMTA Executive Director Nathaniel Ford, the highest-paid city employee.

Regardless, it seems like some sort of drastic change is going to be necessary if the transit agency's bleeding to to be stopped and service rebound. But the discussion seems to be long on finger pointing and short on proposed solutions.

The Muni Death Spiral [SF Weekly]
Supes Spurn Appeal; Muni Service Cuts Coming in May [SF Weekly]
New Muni Service Cuts in May - Akit Reminds Muni how they Failed Before [Akit's Complaint Department]
Muni union not giving what city wants to take [SFGate]