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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.

[intro music]

[music continues under] [0:00]

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]

[4:07]

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  • http://seekingecopolis.wordpress.com Brian

    I wish we had low-floor buses and trains here in Denver. It would make things a lot easier.

    Regarding the faster boarding, our light-rail trains work on a similar system. I don't use it often, but when I have, I've never been asked for any proof I've paid. Our buses, however, do not. I've often thought it would help the boarding process if they required everyone who could to exit by the back door, only allowing the handicapped or those with strollers to exit at the front where they could use the extendable ramp or kneeling capabilites of the bus. A system as what is being proposed here would also be helpful. Thanks for posting this idea!

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/Green_Idea_Factory Todd Edelman

    YES. In Prague and the whole Czech Republic the streetcar and bus drivers sit inside a little or nice sized cabin and never deal with passengers except in emergencies. They can focus on driving -- fellow passengers can always give advice. You can use all doors to enter and exit. Tickets are available at automats, shops and so on plus you can pay for single tickets by SMS. Most people have passes. You stamp tickets inside the vehicle.

  • zach

    My San Francisco colleagues beg that the US mint stop making dollar bills, so that they don't have to wait so long to feed them into bus machines. In the meantime, we can at least have the dollar bills fed into machines on the curb that give time-stamped tickets.

    As for level boarding, I fear the hills make that a bit tougher, but not impossible.

  • http://WWW.BAYTAC.ORG EMA

    please visit http://www.baytac.org/MUNI_PROPOSAL_2010.pdf
    March 30, 2010, agenda

    Begin page content.

    SAN FRANCISCO
    MUNICIPAL TRANSPORTATION AGENCY
    BOARD OF DIRECTORS

    NOTICE OF MEETING AND CALENDAR
    Tuesday, March 30, 2010
    Room 400, City Hall
    1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place

    SPECIAL MEETING OPEN TO PUBLIC AND CLOSED SESSION
    9 A.M.

    SFMTA BOARD OF DIRECTORS

    Tom Nolan, Chairman
    Dr. James McCray, Jr., Vice Chairman
    Cameron Beach
    Shirley Breyer Black
    Malcolm Heinicke
    Jerry Lee
    Bruce Oka

    Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr.
    EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR/CEO

    Roberta Boomer
    SECRETARY

    The Origin of BAYTAC according to Emanuel Andreas, President

    On April 7th, 2009, at around 3: 33 PM, I attended SFMTA’s monthly Board meeting and made a public comment, in which I opposed SF Muni giving SFPD $19 million for security they did not provide. The next day, I was told by the dispatcher on duty that I was being placed on non-driving status. I knew that this was management’s retaliation to my public comment, because I was given no reason as to why I was pulled from driving.

    On April 10th 2009, I came to work with my laptop and established a small corner office at the Potrero Division lunch room. While I was writing my letters, many operators came and asked my advice for rule violations they received from the management. I helped some of them and I felt that it was almost impossible for one person to solve every problem. In addition, I received many phone calls on my cell phone from other operators in other divisions, asking for my help. Because of these calls, I dedcided to form an organization. I began consulting my good friends and retired Transit Operators, John and Ellen Murray.

    I would like to thank Victor Gryson, operator, from Green Division for our fruitful discussion. In addition, I would like to recognize Dr. Collins and my classmates from both the Computer Repair and Electronics courses, at the Southeast Campus of City College of San Francisco, for their encouragement and support, in helping me shaping my thoughts in setting up this progressive organization, Bay Area Transportation Advisory Commission, or B.A.Y.T.A.C. I would also like to thank Dr. Veronica Hunnicutt, Dean of the Southeast Campus for giving me permission to use the conference room at Sourtheast Campus, as a meeting place to further our cause. Last, but absolutely not least, I would like to thank Mr. Al Yates, Vice-President of the Southeast Campus Student Association, for his support and dedication to our organization. With the help of these generous and wonderful individuals, I know that I can stand up to the SFMTA.

    For management to put me under house division arrest without any reason shows the impact I have made and continue to make on the operators. This organization and the services it is providing will make it easier for operators who are experiencing undue penalties and discipline to fight back. Many of our operators do not know how to fight back for many reasons, some which include: lack of information, lack of resources, and fearing the loss of their jobs, just to name a few. B.A.Y.T.A.C. will serve as an instrumental organization in trying to right the wrongs inflicted by managerment.

    Membership

    Membership to BAYTAC is open to everyone who believes in stopping unjust actions to good, hardworking people. We do not discriminate against race, color, creed, gender, or nationality, the disabled, the employed, nor the unemployed. All we ask is a monthly donation of $5.00 in order to cover our expenses. We expect our members to attend meetings at least 2 to 3 hours per month. B.A.Y.T.A.C. will grow stronger as more people get involved.

    We are a non-profit organization, which means that we will have fundraising events from time to time to cover expenses such as printed materials, picture production, video production, travel expenses, (for our representatives to and from hearings and meetings all over the Bay Area) and finally, for this website and its maintenance.

    MEMBERSHIP MEETINGS

    B.A.Y.T.A.C. meets every Friday from 7:00pm-9:00pm. The location varies from week to week, so if you are interested in attending, please call Emanuel at 707-319-9952

    The Origin of BAYTAC according to Emanuel Andreas, President

    On April 7th, 2009, at around 3: 33 PM, I attended SFMTA’s monthly Board meeting and made a public comment, in which I opposed SF Muni giving SFPD $19 million for security they did not provide. The next day, I was told by the dispatcher on duty that I was being placed on non-driving status. I knew that this was management’s retaliation to my public comment, because I was given no reason as to why I was pulled from driving.

    On April 10th 2009, I came to work with my laptop and established a small corner office at the Potrero Division lunch room. While I was writing my letters, many operators came and asked my advice for rule violations they received from the management. I helped some of them and I felt that it was almost impossible for one person to solve every problem. In addition, I received many phone calls on my cell phone from other operators in other divisions, asking for my help. Because of these calls, I dedcided to form an organization. I began consulting my good friends and retired Transit Operators, John and Ellen Murray.

    I would like to thank Victor Gryson, operator, from Green Division for our fruitful discussion. In addition, I would like to recognize Dr. Collins and my classmates from both the Computer Repair and Electronics courses, at the Southeast Campus of City College of San Francisco, for their encouragement and support, in helping me shaping my thoughts in setting up this progressive organization, Bay Area Transportation Advisory Commission, or B.A.Y.T.A.C. I would also like to thank Dr. Veronica Hunnicutt, Dean of the Southeast Campus for giving me permission to use the conference room at Sourtheast Campus, as a meeting place to further our cause. Last, but absolutely not least, I would like to thank Mr. Al Yates, Vice-President of the Southeast Campus Student Association, for his support and dedication to our organization. With the help of these generous and wonderful individuals, I know that I can stand up to the SFMTA.

    For management to put me under house division arrest without any reason shows the impact I have made and continue to make on the operators. This organization and the services it is providing will make it easier for operators who are experiencing undue penalties and discipline to fight back. Many of our operators do not know how to fight back for many reasons, some which include: lack of information, lack of resources, and fearing the loss of their jobs, just to name a few. B.A.Y.T.A.C. will serve as an instrumental organization in trying to right the wrongs inflicted by managerment.

    Membership

    Membership to BAYTAC is open to everyone who believes in stopping unjust actions to good, hardworking people. We do not discriminate against race, color, creed, gender, or nationality, the disabled, the employed, nor the unemployed. All we ask is a monthly donation of $5.00 in order to cover our expenses. We expect our members to attend meetings at least 2 to 3 hours per month. B.A.Y.T.A.C. will grow stronger as more people get involved.

    We are a non-profit organization, which means that we will have fundraising events from time to time to cover expenses such as printed materials, picture production, video production, travel expenses, (for our representatives to and from hearings and meetings all over the Bay Area) and finally, for this website and its maintenance.

    MEMBERSHIP MEETINGS

    B.A.Y.T.A.C. meets every Friday from 7:00pm-9:00pm. The location varies from week to week, so if you are interested in attending, please call Emanuel at 707-319-9952

    [Reply]

  • Susan De Vos

    Since boarding is much faster when one does not have to somehow show that a fare has been paid, does someone know the what the break-even point is that could actually make it more economical *not* to charge a fare than to take the time to check whether a fare is paid or not? Instituting the "random check" system could be less fair than charging no fare at all since some people would naturally pay while others would try to get by without paying, especially if enforcement were lax.

  • sebra leaves

    According to retired Muni engineer/mechanic Mike Cheney, other cities get good results by running an express line along with a slower, local stops line, (he uses other words). This jives with my suggestion that the Muni needs to licnese jitneys. Jitneys costs nothing to Muni and would allow for some easy ways to pick of Muni;s slack without any cost to the taxpayer. If SFMTA really cared about their Muni passengers, as much as they do about the cyclists and pedestrians, they would have figured this out a long time ago.

    More on Mike Cheney's ideas and suggestions in the sfweekly: http://www.sfweekly.com/2013-06-19/news/mike-cheney-muni-sailwing-san-francisco-examiner?utm_source=Newsletters&utm_medium=email