Changing buses


It seems as though whatever changes to the Muni system the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency adopts, some people on the buses are bound to be upset. That decision could come as soon as next month, when the agency will consider acting on recommendations from its Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP) studies.

The proposed changes were presented to the SFMTA board of directors Sept. 16, when many riders weighed in with criticisms that their routes were being cut or changed as part of the first major overhaul of Muni since its inception more than 25 years ago.

Depending on whether the recommendations are approved in October or the decision is delayed, the changes to a system that has about 700,000 daily riders won’t happen until summer or fall of next year. At the end of the Sept. 16 hearing, board chair James McCray Jr. requested that a subcommittee be formed to integrate the concerns of the 107 people who made public comments into the final plan.

The stated goal of the TEP is to revamp Muni into a "faster, more reliable, and more efficient public transit system for San Francisco." But with a finite pool of money, improving some lines means taking resources from others, and that means controversy.

"If only 1 percent of our ridership shows up to make a comment, that’s 7,000 people," Julie Kirschbaum, TEP program manager, told us.

One was Evelyn Landahl, a 90-year-old resident of Laguna Honda who was upset about changes to the 36 line. "I know there are students who use this bus to get to City College and San Francisco State as well," Landahl said. "As we older people leave this world, those kids will run out of gas some day. They’ll need buses and services."

Mark Christensen, vice president of the Merced Extension Triangle Neighborhood Association, told the agency that "residents have not had a true voice in determining what is best for our community." He criticized the TEP’s public outreach efforts, saying that the agency didn’t do enough in certain areas, particularly his Merced Heights neighborhood, which would see disrupted service with changes to the M and J lines.

Jim Kirk, who lives in Noe Valley and travels by a combination of car and Muni, decided to attend the Sept. 16 hearing to express support for changes to the 48 line that would eliminate sections of the route. "There are too many buses, at least in my neighborhood," he said. "To me that’s overkill." As a taxpayer, he said, he is concerned about reducing Muni costs.

The proposed modifications to the 36 line have triggered major debate. Some hearing attendees said there is no reason why a bus with such a low ridership should travel an already congested street. They claimed that there are as few as six and no more than nine riders on the 36 at any given time.

Additional route adjustments that have generated concern among riders, residents, and other stakeholders involve the 66 Quintara, the 38 Geary, the 3 Jackson, the 48 Quintara, the 17 Park Merced, the 18 46th Ave., the 26 Valencia, the 27 Bryant, and the 39 Coit.

Kirschbaum said that Proposition A, which voters passed last November, will be the main source of funding for improvements to the Muni system.