Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Voice of Muni

It happened again last night! As I arrived at Montgomery Station, a clear voice came over the p.a. and announced, "Due to an injury accident at 22nd and Taraval, the L Taraval will only go as far as West Portal. Disembark there, leave the station and board one of the buses to continue. Buses are at the station and waiting."

Sure, it's a pain to have to take the bus instead of the train, but for the second time in as many days, Muni was alerting passengers to a problem and providing a solution in advance. I don't have to go out to the Sunset, but I imagine that passengers who boarded the trains with this knowledge in advance were a whole lot less grumpy than if they were ejected from the train at West Portal.

Hey Muni! Are you listening? If you are, consider doing the brave and correct thing to close your budget gaps. Raise the prices.

Today's Stats:
I drover to work today.
I will pay about $15 for parking.
I did not get fresh air or read a book.
It took about the same amount of time as taking Muni and was somehow less pleasant.

Monday, December 10, 2007

No Cost Goodwill on a Bad Day

We arrived at the Castro this morning just as an announcement was made.

"We are experiencing a delay at Montgomery Station due to a medical emergency. Outbound trains are not running. We expect them to begin again shortly."

Clear, concise, specific. While I wasn't thrilled about finding another way for my child (and a couple of his buddies who were already on the outbound platform) to get to school, at least we knew we had to do something. I rounded up the kids and called my husband, who got in the car and drove the kids to school. They were thrilled to get a ride. I was back down on the inbound platform 10 minutes later.

The announcement was made three times as I waited for an inbound train. Each time, the message was clear and specific. The final message was that outbound service was going to start again, but it would be slow going for a while.

This type of messaging is the sort of thing that Muni should be doing all the time. It costs nothing and it gains an enormous amount of passenger goodwill. People are less irritated if they know WHY and HOW LONG they'll be waiting for a train.

The experience today gave me an idea. Since lots of kids ride Muni to school (saving the city beaucoup bucks in bus costs, no doubt), it might be cool to have simple maps for them to use when alternative transit is required. Instead of addresses, show the school name and give them specific instructions for bus routes, etc.

Today's Stats:
Wait time: 5 minutes - after re-routing the outbound kids
Ride time: 15 minutes
Muni Reading: What is the What, by Dave Eggers. This could very well be ideal reading for all Muni passengers. It provides a much needed perspective. Getting jostled, being late, sniffing bad smells - all that pales in comparison to what these kids endured.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Measuring Muni

This morning's Examiner has an article about Muni's poor ontime performance. It talks about bus lines and owl lines and light rail and bonuses for Muni brass. What it doesn't talk about is common sense.

Of course night owl buses run on time. There's no traffic then!

Of course the obscure 81X Caltrain Express has a terrible ontime performance. It's running to and from a train station that's situated next to a freeway. That means traffic.

These "on time" statistics make no sense to me. In these days of and Nextmuni, printed schedules are just not that meaningful. We can easily check when the next bus/train/etc. is due (more or less) and plan for that.

Frequency is the thing. You want to measure performance - ask riders HOW OFTEN their bus comes, now when. It doesn't matter if the 24 is "on time" if it's a half a block behind the one that's "late." And for the passenger who waited twenty minutes for a bus instead of ten, it doesn't matter that the second on is on time. It's just irritating.

As for me, my rides over the past few weeks have been just fine. Even as the rains come and people start carrying giant shopping bags onto the trains and buses, I'm still a satisfied Muni rider.

I just wish that I could think of a way to get all that Prop A money into the public schools. I'm still rankled by our sell-out progressives.

Today's Stats:
Wait time: 1 minute
Ride time: 15 minutes
Muni Reading: What is the What, by Dave Eggers. And if reading about hundreds of frightened, malnourished boys crossing souther Sudan on foot doesn't fill you with gratitude (even for Muni), I don't know what could. But really. Read this book. A compelling story brilliantly told.