(Scroll down for updates) Appeal reporter Chris Roberts, working hard at today’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting, just IMed in a kind of disconcerting report: Every time someone calls the 311 Customer Service Center about Muni, Muni is billed $1.96.

As Chris already told you, today’s the day Supervisor Dufty and Friends follow up on their demand for accounting of Muni funds. As they were going through the budget, Dufty called out the notation that every Municentric call to 311 costs Muni $1.96. “he goes to Tom Nolan, (MTA board vice-chair), is that right, $1.96? and Nolan says, ‘yes'”

311 has been hailed as a success even as it’s lampooned by others as a “pet project” of the Mayor’s. With costs like this coming to light, one is compelled to wonder if the pet in question is one of those puppies that seems really cute and great until it grows up and starts taking huge dumps on the rug.

UPDATE: Get this: that $1.96 per adds up to a total bill to MTA from 311 calls of $6.2 million. 80 percent of 311 calls people asking when the next bus is expected, which means the 311 operators check nextmuni for you. From Chris: “According to the MTA, if people used 511 or used nextmuni.com on their computers they would save $4.5 million.” Chris also notes that there are 90 full time call-takers at 311 and they added 25 this year. We’d like to revise our metaphor about the pet in “Mayor’s pet project” from incontinent dog to dog that attacks little kids and eats their faces.

UPDATE: Chris was able to get his hands on two documents that you’re going to love. The first is a proposal from Muni to have people calling 311 for Muni information be directed, via menu, to call 511 instead.

We also have a pdf or the work orders used in today’s meeting, which includes:


Chris also notes that “Not once did the SFPD answer the question, “Why aren’t there cops on the buses?” They hemmed and hawed and said, uh, we’ll look into it and that was that. “

We’ll save the major analysis for Chris’s report coming later today — but one, obvious question is this: if 311 is intended to be the one stop shop for City services, isn’t having a menu telling people to call elsewhere counter to that?

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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