The Muniblogosphere took a collective dump on Muni and 511 yesterday, as significant delays were reported much of the afternoon.  You’ll notice the “were reported” link is not to 511, Muni’s alert system of record — it’s to Twitter, the alert system of the people.  But, as Brock pointed out, 511 was being a little witholding.

So, when Muni spokesperson Judson True called us back this morning, we had to ask him: what the heck? 

“I don’t think it was as bad as it sounded” he said “usually, when things are really bad, I get about 50 phone calls right away, but this time I didn’t get any.”  Well, what was the “it” that wasn’t that bad?  Looks like an outbound L crapped out between Powell and Civic Center around 1:30.  Getting it to the Civic Center station to get folks off it took some time, and getting it out of everyone’s way took even longer. hence delays, shuttle buses, etc.  Wheee! 

But here’s the problem: 511 alerts are Judson’s responsibility, so if he’s unavailable (as he was yesterday afternoon), one doesn’t get sent out, for which he apologizes.  And when one is sent out, 511 doesn’t update the original note, like one would an article, blog post, or pretty much everything that appears on the TV with the typewriter.

So, we have two inefficiencies, here: The issue that only one person is charged with 511 alerts, and the lack of easy to find updates of those selfsame alerts.  On the former front, True, to his credit, apologizes and says they’re working on it.  On the latter point, Judson says they’re in talks with 511 to get them to post status changes more conspicuously.

It’s not fair to compare two such differently structured and funded organizations, but why can’t Muni be more like BART? OK, that’s not constructive.  The workaround if 511 is impossible on which to rely?  Nextmuni is our pick, what’s yours? Oh, and while we have you here, was Judson right, was it really “not that bad” yesterday afternoon?  Let’s hear it in the comments.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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  • Greg Dewar

    Ahem…”not that bad” – look I’m one of the first people to get emails and tweets about any major fail on the N or elsewhere…and this time I got flooded with more hits than even the major epic double fail of last summer…I know for myself I ended up not going to an event as planned because the alternate routes were jammed with people fleeing the N, et al.

    as for 511…I subscribe to the Muni TroubleAlert, but if something’s really bad, then I tend to hear about it from the emailers and twitteratti first.

    I’ve got to believe in a high-tech, wired city such as SF, MUNI could find a way to make it easier for them to update 511 and alert riders about things the way BART does on twitter with useful info, esp. on delays etc. The key is not to get caught up in the “toys” of the internet, but find a way to use tools that make the daily routine of MUNI more efficient. I have faith in Judson and I’m hoping we can all work out something that helps all of us ! 🙂

  • Greg Dewar

    Ahem…”not that bad” – look I’m one of the first people to get emails and tweets about any major fail on the N or elsewhere…and this time I got flooded with more hits than even the major epic double fail of last summer…I know for myself I ended up not going to an event as planned because the alternate routes were jammed with people fleeing the N, et al.

    as for 511…I subscribe to the Muni TroubleAlert, but if something’s really bad, then I tend to hear about it from the emailers and twitteratti first.

    I’ve got to believe in a high-tech, wired city such as SF, MUNI could find a way to make it easier for them to update 511 and alert riders about things the way BART does on twitter with useful info, esp. on delays etc. The key is not to get caught up in the “toys” of the internet, but find a way to use tools that make the daily routine of MUNI more efficient. I have faith in Judson and I’m hoping we can all work out something that helps all of us ! 🙂