City leaders promise to improve MUNI service
Searching for answers, Mayor Gavin Newsom and SFMTA Director Nathaniel
promised Wednesday to make major changes to improve the city's
public transit system.
By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service
April 12, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Three of San Francisco's top officials
promised yesterday to make major changes in the city's beleaguered
public transit system, citing safety, reliability and on time
performance as priorities.
With passengers experiencing major rush hour delays and at least
three recent pedestrian deaths, the Municipal Transportation Agency
has been experiencing some heated criticism lately.
Mayor Gavin Newsom acknowledged those issues before a roomful
of reporters and promised that Muni was not only getting his office's
utmost attention but it would also receive the funding necessary
for positive change.
"We recognize that we can't play in the margins any longer,"
Newsom said. "We recognize that there are a lot of long-term
questions and concerns about the fiscal health of the agency.
All of these things need to addressed in a comprehensive way so
we can make substantive changes."
The mayor hopes that the Transit Effectiveness Project, due to
be completed in December, will direct the city's efforts. The
study could lead to a number of changes in the transportation
network, from revised routes to less stops and Newsom said it
is the key to getting Muni back on track.
City Controller Ed Harrington called the project the first "fact-based"
Muni study to be undertaken in 25 years, but the fact that the
study isn't due until December hasn't stopped officials from scrambling
to fix recent problems.
MTA Director Nathaniel Ford likened the city's transit system
to an orchestra, with each line having to act in concert for entire
network to run smoothly. With this week's unveiling of the T-Third
Street line, however, it was like throwing an unpracticed tuba
player into the mix.
"We are seeing the challenges of disrupting or making changes
to that orchestra," Ford said. "Adding the T-Line, more
recently, extremely stretched an organization that was already
seeing some challenges."
Ford referred to this week's gridlock as "growing pains"
and said he was adding management personnel and other trouble-shooting
staff members to upcoming shifts in the next month. He said riders
should at least give the city a month to work out the kinks in
As far as safety, which has come into the spotlight lately with
last week's pedestrian fatality in the Tenderloin District, Newsom
pledged to make it priority number one. He also said that because
of recent agreements with union officials, the city will be looking
closer into the safety backgrounds of train, cable car and bus
"We need to redesign our system," Newsom said. "As
our city is going through dramatic changes, so too must our public
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