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Muni buses slower, more prone to malfunction than almost any other city

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City Hall’s own transit report card flunks Muni

A bike on a rack on the front of a Muni bus. Photo by Sundry Photography

Compared to 16 other major cities with similar transit challenges, public transportation in San Francisco has some of the slowest, clunkiest, and least reliable service nationwide.

And that’s by City Hall’s own admission, per the newly added “transportation benchmarking” tab on the city’s Performance Scorecards site.

According to the site, “the dashboards show how San Francisco compares to peer jurisdictions across a variety of transportation performance metrics, using both publicly available and survey data.”

The “peer cities” are Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Portland, Seattle, LA, Miami, Minneapolis, Oakland, Long Beach, San Diego, Denver, Sacramento, San Jose, and Baltimore.

While there is some good news in the city’s own calculations, for the most part the numbers provide a grim (if unsurprising) assessment of the “transit-first” city’s frequent last-place showings.

A few high and lowlights:

  • San Franciscans do use public transit far more than average. Despite all of the problems, the city finds that residents are twice as likely as inhabitants of other metros to use public transit on their daily commute. A reported 34 percent of SF residents use public transit, compared to 17 percent on average among other cities. Only Boston has comparable ridership at an estimated 33 percent. Note that these figures are from 2016, and Boston edges out SF in some previous years.
  • San Franciscans drive less. The average for non-car commute methods among other cities is just 33 percent. In San Francisco it’s 60 percent. Among the other cities, Boston again came closest with 54 percent.
Photo by Sundry Photography.
  • Muni buses are slower than those in any other city. Overall, a Muni bus averages just 8.2 miles per hour, the worst score in the grouping. Second-to-last-place Chicago beats Muni by more than a full mile at 9.3. Light rail numbers are a little bit better: Muni trains clock in at 9.6 miles per hour, which is better than Boston, Philadelphia, and Seattle; but still one of the worst scores nationwide. Of course, variables like the relative traffic congestion in different cities can skew these figures, but last place is still last place.
  • Muni vehicles appear to be very unreliable. A San Francisco city bus drives just 6,600 miles in between incidents of “major vehicle failure.” While that’s again not the worst nationwide—five cities have more frequent breakdowns—it’s less than half the inter-city average of 14,000 miles. Light rail trains are even worse, breaking down every 5,400 miles, the second most troubled showing overall, as only Baltimore riders are left in the lurch more often.

You can check out the scores in full here.

It’s worth noting that Muni is in the process of replacing essentially its entire fleet of vehicles, buses and trains alike, in the near future—and not a moment too soon.