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Hey! Did you miss Saturday’s MTA town hall meeting regarding the plans to cut Muni service and increase fares? Don’t worry, you can watch it and/or read how everyone else covered it at the bottom of this article.


What: SFMTA Budget Town Hall Meeting
When: Tuesday, Feb. 9 – 6 to 8 p.m.
Where: 1 South Van Ness Avenue, 2nd Floor, Atrium

Present at Saturday’s meeting were MTA spokesperson Judson True, Communications Manager for the MTA, Julie Kirschbaum project manager, and MTA board Vice Chairman Dr. James McCray.

Conspicuous in his absence, however, was MTA chief Nathaniel Ford, leading one of Saturday’s attendees to tell the Appeal that “at the end it kind of started to feel like we were all talking to each other.”

Why didn’t Ford attend, and will he be at Tuesday’s meeting? We asked MTA spokesperson Judson True about this Monday afternoon, who said he’d have to pass our questions on to Ford, himself. As of publication time, we have not heard back, but will update when we hear back.

We do know where Ford will be Tuesday morning, though: According to the schedule the Mayor’s office sends out every day, “at 11:00AM (Tuesday) Mayor Newsom, Board President David Chiu, SFMTA Executive Director/CEO Nathaniel Ford and community leaders” will be breaking ground on the Central Subway under the I-80 freeway off 4th Street between Harrison and Bryant Streets. JUST SAYIN.

True also doesn’t know who else from the MTA will be at Tuesday’s meeting, but hastens to add that “we are providing all comments from the meeting to our Board and executive management.” So, there’s that. I guess?

Do not let the kind of downer message of these preceding paragraphs dissuade you from attending Tuesday’s meeting, though! This is your chance to share your concerns on what they want to do to your ride before the February 16th board meeting (put in your PTO request now!) in which the members will vote on the MTA’s proposed cuts/price increases. As concerned citizen Tami Twarog, who will be in attendance Tuesday night, told the Appeal, “there are some things that are doable. Good public transit in a city 7×7 square miles is one of them.”

Coverage of Saturday’s Town Hall elsewhere: Muni passengers sound off at town hall meeting ABC7, Riders’ anger continues over Muni service cuts Ex, Muni Riders Vent Frustrations KCBS,Muni meets the public SFGate blog

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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  • Becca Klarin

    I could only stay for the first 45 min. of Saturday’s town hall, but I was impressed with the participants’ passion.

  • Becca Klarin

    I could only stay for the first 45 min. of Saturday’s town hall, but I was impressed with the participants’ passion.

  • Eve Batey

    I was watching when Judson kept calling your name to comment! It was a total “Bueller, bueller” moment.

  • Eve Batey

    I was watching when Judson kept calling your name to comment! It was a total “Bueller, bueller” moment.

  • Becca Klarin

    Ugh! I tried to pull my name from the list, and the staffers, between the three of them, couldn’t figure it out. It was apparently too hard to pull my piece of paper out of the stack!

  • Becca Klarin

    Ugh! I tried to pull my name from the list, and the staffers, between the three of them, couldn’t figure it out. It was apparently too hard to pull my piece of paper out of the stack!

  • Rick

    Anyone know how to get Muni to reply to inquiries about budgeting information?

    I’ve tried their rep on Twitter (seems to be broadcast-only there) – as well as emailing the sfmtabudget email and nothing, nada.

    Maybe the better question is realistically, are these meetings all for show – does citizen participation even matter?

  • Rick

    Anyone know how to get Muni to reply to inquiries about budgeting information?

    I’ve tried their rep on Twitter (seems to be broadcast-only there) – as well as emailing the sfmtabudget email and nothing, nada.

    Maybe the better question is realistically, are these meetings all for show – does citizen participation even matter?

  • Eve Batey

    Hey, Rick, what’s your budget question, and I can see if I can get the answer for you?

    I honestly don’t know the answer to your question on citizen participation — why not go to the meeting and ask them, yourself?

  • Eve Batey

    Hey, Rick, what’s your budget question, and I can see if I can get the answer for you?

    I honestly don’t know the answer to your question on citizen participation — why not go to the meeting and ask them, yourself?

  • Rick

    Thanks for the offer, Eve!

    I am going – and was looking for some data beforehand to try and allow me to participate vs. just spectate.

    Specifically, I was trying to find the burdened cost per mile to operate buses and LRVs inside the SFMTA ecosystem.

    I read through every document I could find from their website that deals with budgeting (not just the powerpoint presentation but some of the longer, drier PDFs) – but couldn’t find it.

  • Rick

    Thanks for the offer, Eve!

    I am going – and was looking for some data beforehand to try and allow me to participate vs. just spectate.

    Specifically, I was trying to find the burdened cost per mile to operate buses and LRVs inside the SFMTA ecosystem.

    I read through every document I could find from their website that deals with budgeting (not just the powerpoint presentation but some of the longer, drier PDFs) – but couldn’t find it.

  • Becca Klarin

    I don’t think the re: “burdened cost per mile” was provided at Saturday’s meeting. But there were lots of handouts featuring pie charts, bar graphs, bullets, and teeny-tiny excel spreadsheets.

  • Becca Klarin

    I don’t think the re: “burdened cost per mile” was provided at Saturday’s meeting. But there were lots of handouts featuring pie charts, bar graphs, bullets, and teeny-tiny excel spreadsheets.

  • Rick

    one of the reasons i am interested is to see how the cost of running a bus compares to running an LRV…

    for example – i live on the N…. would there be any measurable savings by moving OWL buses on the N earlier in the evenings and perhaps all weekend?

    if so, could current levels of service be maintained by changing how we deliver that service?

    or could it be that the trains are really less expensive to run per mile than buses?

    etc etc

    i guess i’m making a mistake of approaching it from a business perspective – but every business i know of has a cost of goods or a cost of service that forms the basis of their operating model.

    not sure if Muni does the same.

  • Rick

    one of the reasons i am interested is to see how the cost of running a bus compares to running an LRV…

    for example – i live on the N…. would there be any measurable savings by moving OWL buses on the N earlier in the evenings and perhaps all weekend?

    if so, could current levels of service be maintained by changing how we deliver that service?

    or could it be that the trains are really less expensive to run per mile than buses?

    etc etc

    i guess i’m making a mistake of approaching it from a business perspective – but every business i know of has a cost of goods or a cost of service that forms the basis of their operating model.

    not sure if Muni does the same.

  • Alex Zepeda

    @Rick

    First off, yes, these meetings are entirely for show. Look at what Judson told the Chron and Examiner. The primary purpose of this meeting is to explain that the state has been stealing money form the MTA.

    If you look a bit further, it’s not hard to see additional evidence of what a farce this was. No Nat Ford, no mayor, no supervisors. No significant advertising. There were a few posters here and there on SOME buses, but none of the NextBus signs had any specific information. In fact, the one person I talked to at length worked on Treasure Island. She saw non-MTA flyers at the Transbay Terminal.

    I’m a firm believer that any agency who would consider cutting 50% of the service to an isolated locale like Treasure Island is clearly not engaging its constituents very well (this is the biggest non-OWL cut in the system). Quite frankly, if the MTA was going to blow its wad on meetings, they should have done a better job reaching out. Neighborhood meetings with the district supervisors would have been great.

    That said, I don’t think they should bother with these meetings in the first place. Public input like this is often highly overrated. Look at the people chanting “tax the corporations” or “let’s have more hybrid buses instead of trolley buses” or “let’s keep the disabled passes cheaper than the low income passes”.

    Public expectations for these folks working at the MTA are also a bit high. The MTA prattled on a bit about reconsidering cuts to the 108, and perhaps mitigating the cuts with bendy buses… not even mulling over the fact that infrequent service is as bad as overcrowding. Prattling on about what a great capital investment the Central Subway is misses the point completely.

    Instead, the MTA should take the money that’s being spent on printing up colorful packets, on junkets in SOMA, staffing these after hours town hall meetings, staffing an information-less twitter account, and sink it into maintaining service levels.

  • Alex Zepeda

    @Rick

    First off, yes, these meetings are entirely for show. Look at what Judson told the Chron and Examiner. The primary purpose of this meeting is to explain that the state has been stealing money form the MTA.

    If you look a bit further, it’s not hard to see additional evidence of what a farce this was. No Nat Ford, no mayor, no supervisors. No significant advertising. There were a few posters here and there on SOME buses, but none of the NextBus signs had any specific information. In fact, the one person I talked to at length worked on Treasure Island. She saw non-MTA flyers at the Transbay Terminal.

    I’m a firm believer that any agency who would consider cutting 50% of the service to an isolated locale like Treasure Island is clearly not engaging its constituents very well (this is the biggest non-OWL cut in the system). Quite frankly, if the MTA was going to blow its wad on meetings, they should have done a better job reaching out. Neighborhood meetings with the district supervisors would have been great.

    That said, I don’t think they should bother with these meetings in the first place. Public input like this is often highly overrated. Look at the people chanting “tax the corporations” or “let’s have more hybrid buses instead of trolley buses” or “let’s keep the disabled passes cheaper than the low income passes”.

    Public expectations for these folks working at the MTA are also a bit high. The MTA prattled on a bit about reconsidering cuts to the 108, and perhaps mitigating the cuts with bendy buses… not even mulling over the fact that infrequent service is as bad as overcrowding. Prattling on about what a great capital investment the Central Subway is misses the point completely.

    Instead, the MTA should take the money that’s being spent on printing up colorful packets, on junkets in SOMA, staffing these after hours town hall meetings, staffing an information-less twitter account, and sink it into maintaining service levels.

  • Alex Zepeda

    @Rick Second, I believe the figures you’re interested in should be in the Short Range Transit Plan (SRTP). At least that’s where I think I found the cost per passenger mile listed. Suffice to say trolleys are the cheapest vehicles in the fleet, cable cars are by far the most expensive. The streecars are significantly more expensive than things with rubber tires, but still less expensive than the cable cars.

    Moving OWL service earlier would be a big win both because of the reduced service but also because of the reduced cost of operating the vehicles.

    @Eve The bigger question for me is: where are the riders? I missed the first thirty minutes on Saturday, but I sure didn’t see anyone from Rescue MUNI. I saw a guy from SPUR and someone from Save MUNI (both made salient points)… but saw nobody representing our supposed riders’ union (or whatever it is that RM pretends to be these days). Less than one hundred people are a poor representation of a system that nearly a million people a year use.

  • Alex Zepeda

    @Rick Second, I believe the figures you’re interested in should be in the Short Range Transit Plan (SRTP). At least that’s where I think I found the cost per passenger mile listed. Suffice to say trolleys are the cheapest vehicles in the fleet, cable cars are by far the most expensive. The streecars are significantly more expensive than things with rubber tires, but still less expensive than the cable cars.

    Moving OWL service earlier would be a big win both because of the reduced service but also because of the reduced cost of operating the vehicles.

    @Eve The bigger question for me is: where are the riders? I missed the first thirty minutes on Saturday, but I sure didn’t see anyone from Rescue MUNI. I saw a guy from SPUR and someone from Save MUNI (both made salient points)… but saw nobody representing our supposed riders’ union (or whatever it is that RM pretends to be these days). Less than one hundred people are a poor representation of a system that nearly a million people a year use.

  • Alex Zepeda

    @Rick:

    http://www.sfmta.com/cms/rstd/documents/Q4FY08ServiceStandardsReport.pdf

    The service standard report lists the “fully allocated” cost per hour and per passenger mile. I was incorrect: the cost per passenger mile for trolleys is higher than diesel and rail. However, the cost per hour for trolleys is the lowest. IOW, the trolleys are cheaper to operate, but are underused.

  • Alex Zepeda

    @Rick:

    http://www.sfmta.com/cms/rstd/documents/Q4FY08ServiceStandardsReport.pdf

    The service standard report lists the “fully allocated” cost per hour and per passenger mile. I was incorrect: the cost per passenger mile for trolleys is higher than diesel and rail. However, the cost per hour for trolleys is the lowest. IOW, the trolleys are cheaper to operate, but are underused.

  • Rick

    Alex – Thank you! I obviously missed this document and do I appreciate the referral.

    I’m sure that I’m oversimplifying – if a bus in 2007 cost $145.44/hr to operate and LRVs cost $216.08/hr – that’s a difference of about $70/hr.

    If I divide that into the whole $16M shortfall, I get north of 228,570 hours of bus time offset required – which I am not sure is mathematically possible before the end of this fiscal year. But some of it sure could be.

    Sortof have to wonder if it’s even worth discussing – if it’s all for show in the first place.

    Thanks again.

  • Rick

    Alex – Thank you! I obviously missed this document and do I appreciate the referral.

    I’m sure that I’m oversimplifying – if a bus in 2007 cost $145.44/hr to operate and LRVs cost $216.08/hr – that’s a difference of about $70/hr.

    If I divide that into the whole $16M shortfall, I get north of 228,570 hours of bus time offset required – which I am not sure is mathematically possible before the end of this fiscal year. But some of it sure could be.

    Sortof have to wonder if it’s even worth discussing – if it’s all for show in the first place.

    Thanks again.

  • Alex Zepeda

    @Rick – something else to keep in mind with your proposition is this: all MUNI drivers are required to be certified to drive 40ft diesel buses. Your pool for potential drivers is thus much larger for 40ft buses than for LRVs.

    Rail is an expensive means fo transportation. San Francisco’s LRVs moreso. This is generally not a huge issue because you can cram so many more people into an LRV (or two or three) than into a bus. But… the LRVs aren’t being used efficiently… and if you look at the plans for the central subway, you’ll see that it’s been designed for low ridership with stations and platforms that can fit one LRV only… extremely sharp turns, and so on.

  • Alex Zepeda

    @Rick – something else to keep in mind with your proposition is this: all MUNI drivers are required to be certified to drive 40ft diesel buses. Your pool for potential drivers is thus much larger for 40ft buses than for LRVs.

    Rail is an expensive means fo transportation. San Francisco’s LRVs moreso. This is generally not a huge issue because you can cram so many more people into an LRV (or two or three) than into a bus. But… the LRVs aren’t being used efficiently… and if you look at the plans for the central subway, you’ll see that it’s been designed for low ridership with stations and platforms that can fit one LRV only… extremely sharp turns, and so on.

  • Rick

    hey Alex – at one point tonight i heard Judson True call out your name – but i didn’t see you…. sorry I missed you.

    i did pass on the bus-for-rail idea as a method to allow better service on the Owl lines – essentially kicking in Owl at 10PM via bus and sending the LRVs to bed. since you get 3 hours of bus at the same cost of 2 hours of train, it might help in some small way.

    but i’m not sure that anyone was listening anyway.

    one of the staff there – a tall slender Asian gentleman whose name i did not get – told me that we would be able to speak but that all decisions had already been made.

    if that is the case, then i’m really steamed.

    what was the point, you know?

  • Rick

    hey Alex – at one point tonight i heard Judson True call out your name – but i didn’t see you…. sorry I missed you.

    i did pass on the bus-for-rail idea as a method to allow better service on the Owl lines – essentially kicking in Owl at 10PM via bus and sending the LRVs to bed. since you get 3 hours of bus at the same cost of 2 hours of train, it might help in some small way.

    but i’m not sure that anyone was listening anyway.

    one of the staff there – a tall slender Asian gentleman whose name i did not get – told me that we would be able to speak but that all decisions had already been made.

    if that is the case, then i’m really steamed.

    what was the point, you know?

  • Alex Zepeda

    Rick, I left around 8pm. I was tired, thirsty, and underwhelmed by the commentary (you know you’re screwed when the ANSWER Coalition shows up). I returned briefly after the commentary in hopes of finding an MTA employee who felt qualified to mop up a safety hazard.

    While I don’t doubt for a moment that decisions have already been made, I’m glad you made constructive comments. My hope is that enough people will show up to convince the MTA to take reasonable action. Sixty people are easy enough to ignore when 750,000 people use the system every day. A hundred odd are a bit more difficult to ignore. Five hundred would be awesome. It’s a sham, but if we can make it a newsworthy sham, it might go somewhere. Of course it would help to have a riders’ group a bit less flaccid than RM.

    The most telling thing, IMO, was from the beginning of the farce where Judson pointed out that the MTA is only willing to look at service cuts and other things that do not involve the board of supervisors.

  • Alex Zepeda

    Rick, I left around 8pm. I was tired, thirsty, and underwhelmed by the commentary (you know you’re screwed when the ANSWER Coalition shows up). I returned briefly after the commentary in hopes of finding an MTA employee who felt qualified to mop up a safety hazard.

    While I don’t doubt for a moment that decisions have already been made, I’m glad you made constructive comments. My hope is that enough people will show up to convince the MTA to take reasonable action. Sixty people are easy enough to ignore when 750,000 people use the system every day. A hundred odd are a bit more difficult to ignore. Five hundred would be awesome. It’s a sham, but if we can make it a newsworthy sham, it might go somewhere. Of course it would help to have a riders’ group a bit less flaccid than RM.

    The most telling thing, IMO, was from the beginning of the farce where Judson pointed out that the MTA is only willing to look at service cuts and other things that do not involve the board of supervisors.

  • Rick

    “The most telling thing, IMO, was from the beginning of the farce where Judson pointed out that the MTA is only willing to look at service cuts and other things that do not involve the board of supervisors.”

    No kidding – I got a kick out of that, too.

    On one hand I understood – yet on the other, it seemed a bit cheekish.

    What is the breakpoint for having to involve that august body of supes?

  • Rick

    “The most telling thing, IMO, was from the beginning of the farce where Judson pointed out that the MTA is only willing to look at service cuts and other things that do not involve the board of supervisors.”

    No kidding – I got a kick out of that, too.

    On one hand I understood – yet on the other, it seemed a bit cheekish.

    What is the breakpoint for having to involve that august body of supes?