Thursday, March 12, 2009
San Francisco M-Ocean View Line Unreliability
The Muni line most utilized by SF State commuters received the lowest on-time performance rating in a survey, Muni officials reported March 3.
Muni posted a record 72 percent systemwide on-time performance rating. The M-Ocean View line, heavily trafficked by SF State students, faculty and staff, did not perform as well.
“Several times the M failed me. Once when I was on my way to giving a midterm exam,” said Linda Day, an SF State urban studies department lecturer who frequently commutes to campus via Muni. “I was late and it made the students very anxious.”
According to a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency service standards report released March 3, of the Muni metro lines surveyed, the M line posted the lowest on-time performance for the fourth quarter of 2008, at just 62 percent.
“We do have a shortage of operators and on some days we may have vehicle availability issues where we need to run some M runs as one car instead of two cars and that could potentially slow down the service and the reliability,” said Judson True, SFMTA media relations manager. “We try to get all the lines up to the standard that the voters have prescribed and we’re not quite there yet.”
In order to improve Muni service and see that it ran on schedule at least 85 percent of the time, San Francisco voters passed Proposition E in 1999. According to SFMTA's 2008-2012 Strategic Plan, Muni aims to meet this mandate by 2012.
SF State commuters access the M line via the SF State and Stonestown stations and ride inbound to central San Francisco or outbound to Balboa Park to connect with BART or the J-Church line. Weekday M service does not operate around the clock. The first train departs at 5:42 a.m. and the last at 12:10 a.m. Trains are scheduled to run approximately every nine minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes in the evenings.
According to SF State’s 2008 Transportation Survey, 36 percent of university commuters rode Muni, and 45 percent of them took the M line in particular, making it the Muni route used most to access campus.
Steven Severn, an SF State business major and M line rider said he wants to see “more trains ... because there's like a billion students.”
A billion may not be in the university’s future, but enrollment is expected to balloon to 25,000 full-time students by 2015, according to the Campus Master Plan.
SF State has partnered with SFMTA and the city to perfect service and tackle the transit needs of a burgeoning student population.
Jason Porth, SF State’s associate director of community relations, said the university is involved in short-term solutions aimed at hustling service. Among them are modifying the boarding platform at the SF State station to ease overcrowding and to relocate some fare vending machines to campus to speed the ticket purchasing process.
The SFMTA, City Controller’s Office and communities cooperated in an evaluation of Muni operations dubbed the Transit Effectiveness Project, which yielded recommendations for future service. SFMTA’s board of directors voted to endorse TEP recommendations on Oct. 21, 2008.
The TEP calls for the M line from downtown to terminate at SF State and for extension of the J-Church line service west from Balboa Park to SF State and Stonestown. The move would shift more two-car trains to the M line's busier sections.
“Speed, reliability and frequency would all be increased by terminating the line here at SF State,” Porth said. “What that means for SF State students is not only better M service, but for students coming from neighborhoods currently served by the J, it provides an entirely new route to get here.”
Before this line reconfiguration can occur, Muni infrastructure and facility improvements must be made along 19th Avenue, according to the Campus Master Plan.
“The M is a very heavily used line, especially for SF State students and we want to do everything we can to have it be as reliable as possible,” True said.
Note: This story - authored by Christian Goepel - appeared in the March 12, 2009, edition of the Golden Gate [X]Press.