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Archive for August 2nd, 2021|Daily archive page

WHEN VIRUS (COVID) MEETS ARROGANCE (MUNI)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on August 2, 2021 at 12:57 am

The San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) is the public transit system for the city and county of San Francisco, California.

In 2018, MUNI, with a budget of about $1.2 billion, served 46.7 square miles. It is the seventh largest transit system—in terms of ridership—in the nation.

Its drivers are the highest-paid bus drivers in the nation—making on average $79,617. That’s 51% above the national average bus driver salary of $52,730.

Muni | SFMTA

So what are San Francisco residents getting for all those expenses?

Far less than they deserve.

Since the Coronavirus plague hit San Francisco in early March, 2020, MUNI has:

  • Offered fewer bus routes
  • Made it impossible to guess when and where a bus will stop
  • Drastically reduced the number of buses and
  • Scrapped its underground lines altogether.

What does all this mean?

Of MUNI’s 89 routes, all but 17 were eliminated.

MUNI claimed that the cuts were made to allow for increased social distancing on the most vital routes. How riders were supposed to increase social distancing on fewer buses was not explained.

Muni Service Changes 2.0 Start Saturday | SFMTA

A MUNI bus

The 38 Geary bus line—which travels east and west—is the most heavily-traveled route in the city. In pre-COVID times, these buses were packed, often with passengers standing close together in the aisles after all available seats were taken.

Loudspeakers aboard MUNI buses regularly tell passengers to socially distance from each other—that is, put at least six feet between themselves and their fellows.

But with far fewer buses running, MUNI passengers can’t be sure when—or if—the next one will arrive when they need to catch it.

So residents scramble aboard, en masse, the first bus that shows up.

This makes social distancing impossible on most rides. 

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Cooronavirus

MUNI loudspeakers also tell passengers “You must wear a mask to board MUNI.” And most passengers do wear a mask when they board.

But not all of them do—especially those who board through the rear doors, out of sight of the driver far up in front. 

Even when passengers wear masks, they often do so just under their nose or chin—meaning they can sneeze or cough potentially lethal germs on anyone sitting near them.

Another drawback to riding MUNI: Buses don’t always stop when you pull the “Stop” cord. 

Suppose you’re a senior, or disabled, or have a couple of bags of groceries you need to lug up to your apartment. Suppose you board the 49 Van Ness at Sutter Street.

The 49 boards at Sutter, but it stops only at Jackson Street.

So you pass

  • Bush,
  • Pine,
  • California,
  • Sacramento,
  • Washington and
  • Clay 

before you reach Jackson.

And if your apartment lies somewhere between Sutter and Jackson, you’re going to have to forego MUNI and walk north to it, or get off at Jackson and walk south to it.

As if all this wasn’t confusing enough, MUNI has changed many of its bus stops. The 27 Bryant which used to stop at 9th and Bryant no stops at 9th and Folsom—two blocks north. Naturally, there is no sign posted at the former stop to warn passengers of this change.

Besides making its above-ground routes needlessly complicated and even dangerous, MUNI  eliminated its underground routes. 

These featured fewer stops over longer distances, thus reducing the amount of time you had to be on board.

MUNI’s official reason for this: To protect its drivers from the dangers of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Bay Area Transit System (BART) which serves cities well beyond San Francisco, continued to use its network of underground and above-ground stations.

No one at MUNI has explained why its drivers couldn’t do what BART’s did for the last year.

Meanwhile, city officials—specifically, the Mayor and Board of Supervisors—are relentlessly pushing to make San Francisco “car-unfriendly.”

San Francisco City Hall 2.JPG

San Francisco City Hall

Sanfranman59, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

This has long been their goal. And COVID-19 has made it possible for city leaders to aggressively pursue it under the guise of helping restaurants.

Countless spots that once were reserved for parking have been turned into outdoor dining sites. This seems to makes sense for restaurants, which have taken a beating since indoor dining was banned due to COVID. 

But outdoor dining isn’t as safe as many people think.

Sure, you and the person(s) you’re eating with may not be COVID-infected. But what about the people at the packed table just a couple of feet away from you?

And what about the pedestrians who often must walk between unmasked diners on either side of a sidewalk?

Finally: There is the constant danger of a car crashing into one of these outdoor sites—which usually protrude from the sidewalk.

Offering a mixture of incentives and deterrents has long been a preferred method for winning compliance. In Mexico, this has been famously termed “Pan o palo” (“bread or the stick”).

San Francisco has chosen to offer a sticks-only policy:

  • Allow its bus service to treat its patrons with infuriating contempt; and
  • Make it ever harder for residents and tourists to use private automobiles to reach their destinations.

It’s a recipe guaranteed to cost the city dearly—in both residents and tourists.

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