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Muni bumps perform­ance as ridership surges

Muni’s on-time rate is slowly ticking up despite challenges that continue to plague the transit agency.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency reported Muni’s achieved an on-time performance of 60.2 percent in January and 60.4 percent in February.

In March it reached 60.6 percent — the highest on-time rate during the last 10 months. It’s still far off from the City’s voter-mandated goal of 85 percent.

John Haley, director of transit, contributes the increased performance to improved operations in the Muni Metro, better maintenance of vehicles and infrastructure improvements.

Haley said at a Monday hearing at the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development committee that better supervision at the Muni Metro Embarcadero station has helped quicken trains turn-around by as much as 2 minutes.

Muni trains are also moving faster between West Portal and Castro stations because of an increased speed limit from 35 to 45 miles per hour.

Riders will be happy to hear that Muni is continuing its popular three-car shuttle during morning and evening peak hours. Haley said they are looking at adding a second three-car shuttle.

On-time performance in the Metro system, though, continues to hover around 50 percent. Maintenance issues on trains continue to cause the most delays.

To help clear maintenance delays faster, mechanics have now trained rail supervisors to help with some of the issues onboard trains.

It’s also getting a bit more crowded on Muni as ridership reached a five-year high, said Haley. The transit agency is investing in new buses and light-rail vehicles. New buses already have arrived but it will be a couple of years before new trains arrived.

While the transit agency awaits for the new trains, Muni is testing out a new seat configuration on a train that will provide more room for riders.

The concept was first brought by City supervisors who wanted to know if there was anything Muni could do to add capacity to its trains. The new configuration would change forward facing seats to perimeter seating. Haley expects to put the train in service by the end of May.

Bus service is improving thanks in part to the rehabilitation of buses and the purchase of new buses, said Haley. On-time performance is around 65 percent for just Muni bus service.

The transit agency also just installed transit-signal priority to help improve travel time on the Mission Street corridor. The 14-Mission average travel time went down from 57 minutes to 52 minutes.

Traffic signal changes is helping riders on the T-Third line as well. Six intersections on Third Street now have signal preemptions, which gives trains the ability to change the traffic lights to green.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who called for the hearing on Muni’s latest performance, said he was glad to hear about the improvements made since last year’s hearing.

Wiener said more investment must be made to Muni so that the transit agency can prepare for the projected influx of people moving and working in the City in next several years:

“Transit has to be a part of that future. We cannot afford to have another 50,000, 75,000 cars in San Francisco.”

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