muni_generic.jpgYesterday we did what we could to clear up one reader’s confusion about how the SF MTA’s proposal regarding Cable Car and Express bus use would work for Fast Pass holders — basically, to use those Muni services, you’ll need to get a Muni “A” Fast Pass, the same one you have if you regularly ride BART within SF.

Commenter Akit asked

I wonder what’s the policy for those who want to just take the express bus for a local trip, say taking the 38BX from 25th & Geary to Park Presidio? Or how about the folks who take the 8X from Chinatown to Market?

Is there an additional fee for “M” passholders That’s the Fast Pass that works only on Muni who need to use the route, or will there even be a premium cash charge? This question also goes to the Cable Cars too.

MTA spokesperson Kristin Holland tells us that “According to the proposal before the Board of Directors at tomorrow’s meeting, “M” pass holders would pay the full cash fare for cable cars or express service.”

So, basically, it’s like if you’re a “M” Fast Pass user, you’re doing the same thing you’d do if you ride BART: you pay the full fare. If you’re riding an express bus, Holland says that “a new premium cash fare for express service” is not being proposed, so you’d pay $2. If you’re riding a Cable Car, you’re paying $5. It doesn’t matter if you’re riding one block or end to end, you’re paying that fare.

Perhaps anticipating that response, Akit’s already commented:

I don’t think the folks to frequently commute between Chinatown and Market Street are going to like being told their “M” pass is banned on the 8X. Once they learn that, the 30 and 45 is going to get even worse.

Guess, if the proposal presented to the MTA board tomorrow is accepted, we’ll have to wait and see.

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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  • irrelevance

    I’m right there with Akit. It’s hard to imagine the 30 or 45 getting any worse, but that is what will happen without use of the 8x. The 30 and 45 traveling to Caltrain already end up skipping stops in the middle of Chinatown because the bus fills up so fast. I guess if I’m in Chinatown and this thing passes, I’ll have to walk to one side or the other to catch the bus.

  • irrelevance

    I’m right there with Akit. It’s hard to imagine the 30 or 45 getting any worse, but that is what will happen without use of the 8x. The 30 and 45 traveling to Caltrain already end up skipping stops in the middle of Chinatown because the bus fills up so fast. I guess if I’m in Chinatown and this thing passes, I’ll have to walk to one side or the other to catch the bus.

  • Alex Zepeda

    This tiered pass idea is truly a superb example of cutting off your nose to spite your face. The higher priced pass will encourage people to use services that are covered with the lower priced pass, right? That’s what the MTA is hoping for, right? Right?

    Sigh.

    As Akit and irrelevance have predicted, this is likely to increase the use of the already overburdened 30 and 45. Julie Kirshbaum has already indicated that express routes do have “hidden” costs to providing express service. It would likely be cheaper for the MTA to increase service on the 30 and 45 than it would be on the 9/8X.

    But let’s step back a bit. From the MTA’s own documents* here’s the cost per trip:

    Cable Car – $7.06
    LRV – $3.08
    Diesel – $2.49
    Trolly bus – $1.95
    BART – $0.87

    So if the goal of this higher priced pass is to charge a premium for services that cost the MTA more, it’s failed. If the Mission dwellers move to the M pass and switch to the 14X/L you’re talking about roughly doubling the cost per trip. The outlook is even more bleak if any sizable number of Balboa Park residents switch to the M pass and the J, K, or M. Pushing people from the cable cars is probably for the best, but pushing them from BART is going to sting. A lot.

    Another nugget from the MTA. 2.7% of the 30-Stockton runs are significantly overcrowded during AM peak hours, 14.3% during PM rush hour. The 45-Union/Stockton is at 12% and 8.1% respectively. The T-Third Street, which is also poised to take on more riders was significantly overcrowded 25.0% of the time during the morning rush. They only sampled a few lines, and I suspect the numbers shown are quite low compared to reality.

    What’s significantly overcrowded? Over 125% of capacity for the vehicle. On the 30 and 45 this would mean over 118 people on a bus, on the KT over 150. More than one in four K/T trains has more than 150 people on it during the morning rush hour. And the MTA wants *more* people to use it. I love this new math.

    * – FY2010 Q1 service standards report available on sfmta.com

  • Alex Zepeda

    This tiered pass idea is truly a superb example of cutting off your nose to spite your face. The higher priced pass will encourage people to use services that are covered with the lower priced pass, right? That’s what the MTA is hoping for, right? Right?

    Sigh.

    As Akit and irrelevance have predicted, this is likely to increase the use of the already overburdened 30 and 45. Julie Kirshbaum has already indicated that express routes do have “hidden” costs to providing express service. It would likely be cheaper for the MTA to increase service on the 30 and 45 than it would be on the 9/8X.

    But let’s step back a bit. From the MTA’s own documents* here’s the cost per trip:

    Cable Car – $7.06
    LRV – $3.08
    Diesel – $2.49
    Trolly bus – $1.95
    BART – $0.87

    So if the goal of this higher priced pass is to charge a premium for services that cost the MTA more, it’s failed. If the Mission dwellers move to the M pass and switch to the 14X/L you’re talking about roughly doubling the cost per trip. The outlook is even more bleak if any sizable number of Balboa Park residents switch to the M pass and the J, K, or M. Pushing people from the cable cars is probably for the best, but pushing them from BART is going to sting. A lot.

    Another nugget from the MTA. 2.7% of the 30-Stockton runs are significantly overcrowded during AM peak hours, 14.3% during PM rush hour. The 45-Union/Stockton is at 12% and 8.1% respectively. The T-Third Street, which is also poised to take on more riders was significantly overcrowded 25.0% of the time during the morning rush. They only sampled a few lines, and I suspect the numbers shown are quite low compared to reality.

    What’s significantly overcrowded? Over 125% of capacity for the vehicle. On the 30 and 45 this would mean over 118 people on a bus, on the KT over 150. More than one in four K/T trains has more than 150 people on it during the morning rush hour. And the MTA wants *more* people to use it. I love this new math.

    * – FY2010 Q1 service standards report available on sfmta.com

  • Akit

    The same problem goes with the 38 lines. A 38AX express bus can make it from end-to-end (48th/Pt. Lobos to Financial District) in the morning in 30 minutes, but a 38L can make it end-to-end in 38 minutes, and I think people will see the bargain by not paying the $10 monthly premium charge ($120 per year) by simply adding eight minutes to their commute by taking the limited bus. (Source: SFMTA bus schedules)

    The result? More packed 38L buses.

  • Akit

    The same problem goes with the 38 lines. A 38AX express bus can make it from end-to-end (48th/Pt. Lobos to Financial District) in the morning in 30 minutes, but a 38L can make it end-to-end in 38 minutes, and I think people will see the bargain by not paying the $10 monthly premium charge ($120 per year) by simply adding eight minutes to their commute by taking the limited bus. (Source: SFMTA bus schedules)

    The result? More packed 38L buses.

  • Akit

    I think it would be fair if Muni allowed “M” pass holders to be allowed to pay a small additional premium fee of 25 or 50 cents if they plan to take an express bus. It would be discouraging to regular commuters who take a round-trip express to just pay the $10 up charge for the better pass, but for those just taking it for the occasional times, it would be helpful.

    Muni tried this during the Frank Jordan era where the cheap pass came with a 25 cent surcharge.

  • Akit

    I think it would be fair if Muni allowed “M” pass holders to be allowed to pay a small additional premium fee of 25 or 50 cents if they plan to take an express bus. It would be discouraging to regular commuters who take a round-trip express to just pay the $10 up charge for the better pass, but for those just taking it for the occasional times, it would be helpful.

    Muni tried this during the Frank Jordan era where the cheap pass came with a 25 cent surcharge.

  • Alex Zepeda

    I agree that the result will be more people moving to the ‘cheaper’ service. Aside from the cost of providing said service, the other obvious problem is that more utilization will result longer dwell times, resulting in slower service. The limited service will cease to be as efficient. Of course the SFMTA timetables are a crock in the best of times.

    The MTA needs to solve the cost issues (and whatever other issues may exist) with express service. Full stop.

    As for a discounted cash fare, I don’t like it. The most glaring problem is that the MTA shouldn’t be charging more for express service. However, one of the big reasons I like the idea of TransLink is that it simplifies fare media quite a bit. Offering a rider a multitude of different fares depending on something as ambiguous as what the route is* will increase dwell times. If some sort of discount is to be offered, it should be TransLink only.

    IMO, as unpopular as this option has proven to be, a bus/LRV pass for $60 and a bus/LRV + cable car/F pass would, IMO, make a lot more sense. Both the cable cars and F cars cost the MTA a whole bunch more to operate. The vintage street cars break down about 2-3 times as often as the newer LRVs.

    * How often do you see buses signed incorrectly? At least charging an additional fare for cable car and F-line service uses something pretty obvious like the type of vehicle.

  • Alex Zepeda

    I agree that the result will be more people moving to the ‘cheaper’ service. Aside from the cost of providing said service, the other obvious problem is that more utilization will result longer dwell times, resulting in slower service. The limited service will cease to be as efficient. Of course the SFMTA timetables are a crock in the best of times.

    The MTA needs to solve the cost issues (and whatever other issues may exist) with express service. Full stop.

    As for a discounted cash fare, I don’t like it. The most glaring problem is that the MTA shouldn’t be charging more for express service. However, one of the big reasons I like the idea of TransLink is that it simplifies fare media quite a bit. Offering a rider a multitude of different fares depending on something as ambiguous as what the route is* will increase dwell times. If some sort of discount is to be offered, it should be TransLink only.

    IMO, as unpopular as this option has proven to be, a bus/LRV pass for $60 and a bus/LRV + cable car/F pass would, IMO, make a lot more sense. Both the cable cars and F cars cost the MTA a whole bunch more to operate. The vintage street cars break down about 2-3 times as often as the newer LRVs.

    * How often do you see buses signed incorrectly? At least charging an additional fare for cable car and F-line service uses something pretty obvious like the type of vehicle.

  • DT

    Additional cost for the AM/PM only Express service is paying OT for the Operator’s split shift. These runs are assigned by seniority and have same operators in the AM and PM.

    The assignment of these routes is another one of the Union Work Rules that keep costs up. While I can see these runs as desirable (no crime and few stops) to reward seniority with, some of the Express operators were downright dangerous and crude.

    I rode the 31AX for years; many of the operators used the OT to purchase real estate during the 70s and 80s. They had plenty of time between 9:30 and 3:30 to do it. It was a rough job: three runs inbound with deadheads back and three runs outbound in the afternoon with two deadheads. Off work by 7PM.

  • DT

    Additional cost for the AM/PM only Express service is paying OT for the Operator’s split shift. These runs are assigned by seniority and have same operators in the AM and PM.

    The assignment of these routes is another one of the Union Work Rules that keep costs up. While I can see these runs as desirable (no crime and few stops) to reward seniority with, some of the Express operators were downright dangerous and crude.

    I rode the 31AX for years; many of the operators used the OT to purchase real estate during the 70s and 80s. They had plenty of time between 9:30 and 3:30 to do it. It was a rough job: three runs inbound with deadheads back and three runs outbound in the afternoon with two deadheads. Off work by 7PM.