Transportation (AKA MUNI Reform)
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of leading the Transportation discussion group at Reset SFs Food for Thought. We had approximately 15 SF residents and regular MUNI riders who provided lively and thoughtful ideas and discussion for improving this system. While the discussion group was called "Transportation", it was clear MUNI was foremost on everyones mind. It was pointed out that transportation could include parking, bike lanes, street improvements, etc., but only a couple of remarks were made about bike travel in SF, and that was that bike lanes do not follow a natural layout and were not intuitive. "Rules of the Road" are not clear to drivers, and some type of education is needed here. (I personally like the on-line DMV test where they provide graphic, moving examples of the most common problems and have a multiple-choice test. Since I led the session and am writing the notes, I'll add my own thoughts to this post, but in parentheses.)
Communication and Signage on many levels could be improved and many of the problems and solutions dealt with better communication. Below are a few of the suggestions that came out of the discussion:
Suggestion 1 - also a revenue generator? - At the underground MUNI stops, the destinations should be clearer. "Van Ness/Market" doesn't mean a lot when 2 of the exits are marked the same. But "Van Ness/Market/BofA" would mean more - especially in inclement weather or for those who can't walk as far. Nordstrom has special signage at Powell Street and it is very helpful.
Suggestion 2 - City officials - especially those who are customer-facing - should be identified if they are bi-lingual - in any language. This could be as simple as a button (which could be forgotten), or underneath their name tag (better). This will help our tourists and immigrant population. It shouldn't just be in the major languages that we always see in our voter brochures - but should include French, German, etc.
Suggestion 3 - Market Street from Van Ness to the Embarcadero should have some "Express Service." Instead of stopping at every corner, every 2-3 corners would make the trip better during rush hours. It doesn't have to be every bus, but some would be helpful.
Suggestion 4 - Back door entries vs. revenue. It was pointed out that other cities - NYC - Cleveland - Boston - all have front-door entry only. And their buses are on schedule. Riders for the Richmond Express buses at rush hour all que up at the front door and it goes very smoothly. And runs on time. What's up with that?
Suggestion 5 - Provide status information on the government cable channel, so if there is a melt-down, people can turn on the channel and find this out immediately. Is there a way to have automatic alerts synced with our message devices? GPS information on the bus and bus stops need to be accurate.
There was a long discussion on signage and what works and what doesn't. The bus signs on the street are not intuitive. They are hard to read and words should be bigger. Depending on where you are - "inbound" and "outbound" are meaningless words. Perhaps more information should be available in the underground - especially around tourist areas? Information such as that found in "Walk SF" would be useful for those exiting a stop. This would be wall information - not more brochures.
Instead of cutting salaries continually, perhaps give incentives to drivers for getting there on time, that it is noted in their performance review if they show up regularly - or not.
What are the best ways to notify people when there is a meltdown? Or should we resign ourselves to having to call 311 every morning before we leave for work? 511 has an excellent trip planner.
Near the end, participants agreed that we should raise these issues with someone who can do something about it. We might decide to visit our MTA commission.
(On a personal note, I'm sorry this update is a day late. I had problems with the computer last night - yeah yeah - blame it on the machine. Perhaps we should have a "Dummies" brochure for using MUNI, or a "Making MUNI work for you" guide that goes over the 5 most useful things people need to know. Thank you to Jason Chan for being our scribe and to all of you who participated.)