Making Muni Faster and More Reliable by Speeding Up Boarding
Some of the most important changes for San Francisco's Muni system are also the simplest ones. In the first of our five-part series on creating a faster Muni, we focus on bus stop boarding. By instituting a prepaid boarding system called proof-of-payment, Muni could dramatically quicken the boarding process, speed service and improve reliability.
Under the system, riders who have a monthly Fast Pass, a transfer, or a TransLink card could board through any door on the bus. Instead of showing the driver proof-of-payment, passengers just hold on to their transfer or ticket, and fare inspectors randomly board vehicles to check for payment. That's already how it works on Muni's light rail vehicles when they run on the street, which has led to faster boarding times and lower fare evasion rates.
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Bryan Goebel: [0:08] 1: San Francisco has one of the slowest transit systems in the country, but there are a few easy steps the MTA could take to make a faster MUNI.
Julie Kirschbaum: [0:23] 1: Speeding up boarding is a really important part of getting people where they're going more quickly.
Tom Radulovich: [0:28] 2: MUNI spends about half of it's time on any given run not moving. So the bus is either stopped at a light, or the bus is stopped at a bus stop. So speeding up boarding would be hugely important in getting MUNI to be both more reliable and faster.
Julie Kirschbaum: [0:45] 1: You save money by making the buses move more quickly. You attract more customers to the system because San Franciscans are very time-sensitive, and so if you can give them a faster boarding experience and an overall faster travel experience, you're going to attract users to the system.
Gabriel Metcalf: [1:01] 3: Some of the best changes for MUNI are the simplest ones, like speeding up how long it takes to get on the bus. There are a couple of very simple ways to do that. One of them is to switch to proof of payment, where instead of everybody getting on through the front door and putting in their money or showing their Fast Pass, you can get on through the back door, you can get on through as many doors as there are, and then somebody comes around and checks periodically to make sure everybody has paid and has a ticket or has a fast pass.
Julie Kirschbaum: [1:38] 1: We're one of the first systems in the country to have all-door boarding on our light rail system, and that has been very, very successful.
Tom Radulovich: [1:46] 2: So instead of paying the driver and everyone going in the front door, you pay before you get on the platform. The train pulls up, everybody gets on, everybody gets off. Much faster.
Julie Kirschbaum: [1:56] 1: Fumbling for dollar bills and putting them into the machine is obviously one of our biggest sources of delay. Moving to TransLink, to the smart card, is really going to help with that because people will have more options to pay, and when people have more choices, they're less likely to use cash.
Dave Snyder: [2:18] 4: It should be really fast to get people on and off, like it is on the trains, for example. That's why trains are so efficient compared to buses. Look how long it takes all these people to get on and off, and there are not that many people. Compare that to how long it takes at the Underground, the MUNI Underground. And this bus is here for a full minute. If you have a Fast Pass, why should you wait in line to get in the front? That just slows everyone down. It's a real inefficient system.
Julie Kirschbaum: [2:45] 1: We recently did a fare evasion study and found that even though people are boarding on all doors on our light rail system, we actually have relatively low fare evasion.
Gabriel Metcalf: [2:58] 2: So moving to proof of payment is, at least in part, an accommodation to things that are already happening. Already a lot of people get on illegally through the back door. Most of them have a Fast Pass or a transfer, not all. But basically, the drivers all know and the riders all know it just takes too long to wait in line and get on through the front door. When we do a little better job on the enforcement, the periodic checking to make sure everybody has paid, this all-door boarding is going to really be natural to MUNI riders. [3:32] Most transit operators in the world have switched to low-floor vehicles where, instead of walking up the stairs to get on, it's just smooth, level boarding.
Julie Kirschbaum: [3:41] 1: The advantage of a low-floor vehicle is two-fold. One, it eliminates the steps so most customers can get onto the bus more quickly. And then a second aspect is that it uses a much simpler ramp for people with disabilities to get on and off the bus.
Gabriel Metcalf: [4:04] 2: Everybody know we've got to do it, and we may as well get started. [music]