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Muni apologizes for systemwide failures

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Hundreds of service hours have lapsed citywide this summer

Day Two Of San Francisco Transit Workers’ ‘Sickout’ Causes Commuting Delays Throughout City Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Muni service—which has never enjoyed a resounding reputation even at the best of times—has gotten so spotty and unreliable lately that SFMTA published an apology to riders Thursday. The agency vows to shore up weaknesses in the strained and struggling transit network. This comes one the heels of a report by Mission Local detailing how the city’s transit service failed miserably this year.

“Muni service in the past few months has been performing below our 98.5 percent service goal,” the public message reads. “We apologize and want to let you know what we’re doing about it.”

The service goal mentioned here is actually part of the City Charter, which specifies that “98.5 percent of scheduled [Muni] service hours must be delivered, and at least 98.5 percent of scheduled vehicles must begin service at the scheduled time.”

The mea culpa outlines a few promised reforms, including bumping part-time drivers up to full-time gigs, training more drivers on new vehicles, and “proactively troubleshooting issues.”

For the most part, Muni service in 2018 has been pretty much what riders probably expect: According to SFMTA’s June 2018 self-assessment, 55 percent of buses and trains arrived on time, down from 57 percent from 2017.

The number of late trains actually declined year over year, with the biggest change being the number of coaches that arrive early, up from 21 percent in summer 2017 to 27 percent in 2018.

According to City Hall’s on-time assessments going back to 2013, Muni only occasionally manages to break the 60 percent mark for on-schedule departures, with the average monthly figure falling between 55 and 60 percent.

A passenger sits on a MUNI bus on March 21, 2018 in San Francisco, California.  Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

So the figures through June of this year are a little below average and certainly not inspiring, but by and large they’re within the standard range for Muni overall.

However, since the closure of the Twin Peaks Tunnel, service has spiraled downward.

In July, the San Francisco Examiner found that an average of 100 vehicles sit idle in city yards each day rather than going into scheduled service because of a shortage of operators, with the figure approaching 200 on one particularly bad day.

The need for more buses to fill in for trains suspended due to the tunnel work has exacerbated the crisis. The Examiner also notes that the shortage is in part due to drivers quitting, and cites “irate operators” leaking internal info about service problem pile-ups.

Figures compiled by Mission Local in July reveal wildly inconsistent Muni scheduling: Some days record zero missed hours of service, while the next day may see dozens or even hundreds of hours’ worth of absences.

Twin Peaks tunnel service resumes on August 26, which should relieve some of the pressure currently stifling city transit. Larger systemic problems, unfortunately, lack a set expiration date.