Tuesday, March 06, 2007

FREE MUNI !!!

Free Muni ride? It's possible, says Newsom
Rachel Gordon, San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said today that he has asked the Municipal Transportation Agency to look into the possibility of providing fare-free public transit in the city.

He told The Chronicle that when all the costs associated with collecting the fares are factored in, the idea of letting people board for free may not be a big financial stretch.

"When you add everything up, this idea certainly deserves consideration,'' he said.
He said Municipal Transportation Agency officials are still crunching the numbers, and should have their report concluded within a month or so.

The city hopes to collect a projected $138 million in fares in the upcoming fiscal year. And while that may seem like a lot of money, it accounts for about 22 percent of the annual Municipal Railway budget -- below the average national fare-box collection rate.

Muni charges $1.50 for a regular adult fare, and $45 for a standard monthly FastPass. There are discounts for seniors, children and the disabled.

Newsom said the costs to purchase and maintain fare boxes, to count the money and to pay a crew to catch fare cheats are major expenses that could be eliminated if people could ride for free.

But allowing free boarding no doubt would increase the number of riders, which in turn could put an increased financial burden on the system. There likely would be a need to expand the fleet of buses and street cars and to hire more drivers, security officers and maintenance workers (music to my ears).

"All of these issues are being analyzed,'' he said.

Well, he's got my vote.

I like the idea of allowing the people who live and work in this beautiful city to ride public transportation for free. It really puts a smile on my face. I've been working at MUNI for a year now and truth be told, it's the best damn job I've ever had. I absolutely look forward to going to work every day.

I get the feeling that they'll still be complaining big time about the service, though.

17 Comments:

At March 07, 2007 4:32 AM, Blogger Peacechick Mary said...

That is such a great idea for so many reasons. Another reason is that it would greatly cut down the number of cars on the road and there has to be some big savings there, too. I'm sure there are other payoffs to this idea.

 
At March 07, 2007 5:36 AM, Blogger Psychomikeo said...

People over profits
Rally behind all free thinkers!

 
At March 07, 2007 8:36 AM, Blogger PTCruiser said...

This, of course, brought to you by the same mayor who decided gay folks should be allowed to marry each other just like everyone else.

You're right, Mike-o. Amazing what a little clear thinking can do to liven up a place.

I can't wait til he runs for president. I'll be all over that bandwagon.

 
At March 07, 2007 9:58 AM, Blogger azgoddess said...

when i was visiting san fran -- i rode on muni all the time -- love it!!

so i think this would be a great thing to make it free!! whoo-hooo they should do this all over the country!

 
At March 07, 2007 5:22 PM, Blogger Donnie McDaniel said...

That's some kind of mayor you guys have PT.

 
At March 07, 2007 6:45 PM, Blogger John Good said...

I'm envious, PT! I wish our community had such great progressive ideas. . .

 
At March 09, 2007 8:47 AM, Blogger pissed off patricia said...

It is because of people like that mayor that I find myself in favor of cloning. We need dozens more who thinks like he does. He's one elected official who is "doing his job"

 
At March 09, 2007 12:45 PM, Blogger Kvatch said...

I like the idea of allowing the people who live and work in this beautiful city to ride public transportation for free.

Before I register my dissent, let me state that nobody is a bigger advocate of effective public transit than I. I've lived carless in San Francisco for 9 of my 11 years and take public transit everywhere, but...

I tend to agree with critics that caution that there are many problems with this:

1) San Francisco has a profound homeless problem. Making MUNI free may turn our buses and streetcars into mobile homeless shelters. Nothing says "bed down here" like a free, temperature controlled place, and if you think that drivers will deal with the issue. Think again. As long as any drifters don't cause a commotion, drivers won't lift a finger.

2) As many studies of free public-transit have pointed out, crime in the transit system is almost certain to increase.

3) Security in the transit system will have to be beefed up...significantly! Citizens will demand it, and if MUNI does not follow through, ridership may actually drop as inappropriate use of public transit becomes epidemic.

I'm sorry, but I can't get behind this.

 
At March 09, 2007 1:11 PM, Blogger PTCruiser said...

I was waiting for you to weigh in on this one, my web-toed friend. I kind of figured you might have a different take on it.

1) The homeless are riding public transit right now as you and I type these words. I see them every day on the trains/buses and for exactly the reason you state. If you think putting a $1.50 fee for a ride is going to stop them from boarding, it isn't. Some of the drivers do deal with it, but most won't or they'll have an inspector deal with it. I've had to wake people up myself at the end of the line.

2) I haven't seen any of these studies, but I'll definitely look into it. If you have any links to them, it would be greatly appreciated.

3) They could take the (POP) Proof-of-Payment officers they have now and utilize them as a security force in the system.

Thank you for your viewpoint, Kvatch. I sincerely appreciate it.

 
At March 10, 2007 6:13 AM, Blogger Kvatch said...

Well the two studies that I know of are BARTs assessment of crime on Spare the Air Days (mostly from last summer when we had a bunch of them) and Austin, TX's conversion to free public transit in the late 80's early 90's--but I can find either online. Both were referred to by the Gate. I'll keep looking.

As for the homeless issue. Sure, they're riding the buses now...rarely, but for the most part not the MUNI Metro or the Streetcars. Conservatively speaking, my guess is that instances of homeless camped out on the buses, Metro, and streetcars would increase 10X if we went to a free system. One reason is that we'd remove the one obviously legit reason for getting them off the buses now, P-o-P.

Thank you for your viewpoint, Kvatch. I sincerely appreciate it.

:-) :-) :-) Always glad to be a cynical stick-in-the-mud.

 
At March 10, 2007 12:38 PM, Blogger Human said...

Hi PT. Sorry I have not been around much but LIl Joe's been real sick. He's better now. And I did respond to your query.

Anyways as a person who has extensively utilized PT(ha ha gotcha there!) in L.A., Portland Ore. and the Metro DC area I say it's a great idea. 'Course nuttin fer free, but I'm a Socialist anyways.

Portland has (had? it was a few years ago) a bus that runs downtown for free. It has stops on the most traveled street. Shops and Courthouse area. The street cars were pretty cheap too. They also have a "Cultural" bus that for 1 dollar, one can ride all day and visit a whole bunch of attractions.

Since California is leading the way in Fuel conservation, a huge tax on those huge machines people drive would be a good start to help pay for it.

Peace.

 
At March 13, 2007 12:40 AM, Blogger PTCruiser said...

"As for the homeless issue. Sure, they're riding the buses now...rarely, but for the most part not the MUNI Metro or the Streetcars. Conservatively speaking, my guess is that instances of homeless camped out on the buses, Metro, and streetcars would increase 10X if we went to a free system. One reason is that we'd remove the one obviously legit reason for getting them off the buses now, P-o-P."

I've been thinking quite a bit about this and have come to the conclusion that anyone who doesn't like riding public transit with the homeless on board can bloody-well hire a cab to take them where they want to go. I can honestly never recall a time where I saw a homeless person get out of a cab. I don't see anybody holding a gun to anyone's head to ride on the buses.

And I can state for a fact that they are riding the metro trains. I haven't seen any on the F-Line cars but they definitly ride all the other rail lines.

 
At March 13, 2007 6:00 PM, Blogger John Good said...

See? At least people out there are thinking. . .Change and progress are dirty hippie ideas here in the old Fort. Even when taxpayers don't have to foot the bill. . .

 
At March 13, 2007 6:46 PM, Blogger PTCruiser said...

I don't think you're a dirty hippy, John.

Thanks for the link. Hey, I just saw Mike Sylvester on TeeVee!

 
At March 14, 2007 5:31 PM, Blogger Kvatch said...

I've been thinking quite a bit about this and have come to the conclusion that anyone who doesn't like riding public transit with the homeless on board can bloody-well hire a cab to take them where they want to go.

Oh...ho. I see where this is going. OK, so should I deduce that you're OK with using MUNI to fix a problem that we should be dealing with using other means? And that, if ridership really does go down as a result, then we just chalk it up to a shift in the dynamic of our social problems?

And to address the cab point: I in fact, do take cabs. I also belong to and use City Car share, and despite those expenses, I save a bundle by not owning a car. Now...if you want to fix a system that is truly broken, deal with the SF taxi commission. We have the highest drop fare and per/mile charge in the country (higher than the former #1, San Diego, CA as of January), we also have one of the smallest medallion/population ratios.

I frankly don't believe that use of public transit is solely a matter of cost, free vs. fare, but rather the following:

1) Accessibility (coverage, timliness and ease of use)
2) Comfort (cleanliness and courtesy)

Focus on these and ridership will go up. I would be very interesting to see if there is a correlation between the 50% fare hike and ridership. Likewise between the service improvements after the "meltdown" and ridership.

 
At March 14, 2007 7:39 PM, Blogger PTCruiser said...

I don't think that could be classified as using MUNI to fix the problem as that is clearly not a "fix".

I just think public transit should be for the entire public and I strongly feel that it should be free. I'm still not convinced ridership would go down.

I do, however, agree with you 100% on the taxi commission issue.

"I frankly don't believe that use of public transit is solely a matter of cost, free vs. fare, but rather the following:

1) Accessibility (coverage, timliness and ease of use)
2) Comfort (cleanliness and courtesy)"


I think as far as point #1, we're doing pretty good compared to other cities.

Point #2 could use some work, I'll have to admit. A lot of those vehicles don't get cleaned as well as they should. In addition, when there's a delay in the system, all the riders really want is some information, something that is rarely given to them.

 
At March 14, 2007 7:45 PM, Blogger Kvatch said...

Coverage...yes! Timliness...an emphatic no! According to the Chron, on time performance has been getting worse for the last two years, and I'm betting Rescue MUNI's surveys back that up. Ease of use...'bout as good as it gets. Cleanliness and courtesy are both getting worse.

I guess now I'm going to have to dig up a stat on ridership vs. the fare hike.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home