The MTA’s new board member’s beloved by some, but not all, Greg Dewar tells us why Muni’s problems are everyone’s fault, The Ex tells us why Muni light rail trains languish while we pack shuttle buses, and the MTA has some neat photos and video from 105 years ago. Let’s go!

Cheers and Jeers for New MTA Board Member

The death of MTA board member Cameron Beach last month left Mayor Lee looking for a replacement and he found it in Joel Ramos. Ramos comes from a background of transit activism. He’s worked extensively with the Oakland-based non-profit TransForm helping to organize minority and low-income communities’ land use around mass transit options. He is also an avid biker and rides Muni everyday.

He’s literally the walking embodiment of everything the bike and bus loving transit nerds over at Streetsblog wet dream about–so it’s no surprise they’re absolutely gushing over his appointment. They laud his stated commitment to fully enacting the long-stalled Transit Effectiveness Project as well as his experience stirring up grassroots community involvement on transit issues. “Ramos’ record of educating the public…is promising for advancing the discussion on some of the most politically contentious strategies for improving transit,” writes Streetsblog. “Extending parking meter hours, demand-based parking pricing, and bus-stop optimization are some of the known best practices that could use his community outreach expertise.”

Conversely, Ramos is representative of many things infamously anti-bike transit pundit Rob Anderson hates. Anderson writes of Ramos:

Yes, of course the city wants the feds to put up most of the money for the Central Subway, but let’s not forget that San Francisco, a city with a chronically under-funded transit system, is also chipping in $300 million for that political deal disguised as a transportation project. A prog lemming like Ramos would never oppose the Central Subway. We already know that, like all good progressives, he supports the high-speed rail boondoggle. He also supported the discredited Berkeley BRT proposal.

In 2005, Anderson rose to prominence/infamy by successfully suing San Francisco when the city attempted to implement a plan for expanding bikes lanes, while eliminating parking spaces, without first doing a comprehensive environmental review. The result was a lengthy delay before the plan we allowed to go though. Since then, Anderson has been the subject of a profile in the Wall Street Journal and become the leader of the city’s burgeoning bike backlash.

Despite Anderson’s qualms, Ramos’ nomination is likely to be confirmed by the Board of Supervisors without much fight.

The N-Judah Chronicles Chronicles The Muni Contract Fight

I like to say that everything I know about Muni I learned from The N-Judah Chronicles‘ Greg Dewar. Well, that’s the first time I actually said it but I liked doing it. So yeah.

Anyway, last night Dewar wrote a great post tearing into both the drivers’ union and MTA management for their twin roles in making Muni suck.

Dewar writes that whatever contract gets hammered out, most likely in the binding arbitration that both parties will be forced into if they can’t play nice and reach an agreement, won’t be good for operators, management or riders:

That’s because the agency is taking the tack that “driver pay” is the Only Thing Killing the Agency (not true), and the union is taking the attitude of “it’s not our job to care about the agency’s problems, unlike other unions who made sacrifices” (also, not true). The end result is well-funded antagonism, a flurry of stupid blog comments, and once again an agency that is adrift, leaderless and not being honest with themselves, the public or its employees.

Dewar admits that, even though he was among the most ardent supports of Measure G (which attempted to reform the way the driver’s union negotiated its contracts with MTA), the measure is unlikely to become the magical cure-all for Muni’s ills it was initially pitched as.

He also points out the elephant in the room, one neither side of the debate really wants to talk about: Sacramento’s raiding of the gas tax funds originally portioned off to fund transit and MTA’s inability to find a replacement revenue source other than “give out more parking tickets or whatever.”

Muni Has A Whole Fleet Of Trains and No One To Drive Them

Muni has all these sweet light rail trains but, because of a hiring freeze implemented 18 months ago, not enough drivers trained to actually operate them. Capable drivers are maxing out their overtime, forcing the agency to replace some trains with slower, more expensive shuttle buses.

Shuttle buses? Those are terrible!

The agency hasn’t trained new operators because they were worried they would just have to fire them in a later round of layoffs. As per their contract with the union, Muni isn’t allowed to hire light-right drivers from the outside. Instead, train drivers have to be trained (heh) from the already existing pool of bus drivers.

A little over a dozen part-time drivers have been hired out of retirement, but that hasn’t been enough to cover the shortage. It’s probably for the best they couldn’t get any more because its always coming of retirement for “one last job” that gets you killed.

The training of new drivers has commenced and a Muni spokesman says that service should be back to normal by the mid-summer.

Take A Trip Down The Market Street Of Yore

The San Francisco Railway Museum just posted an amazing video on its website documenting a 1906 trip down Market Street.

It has everything then it does today: cars wildly serving from lane to lane, streetcars clustered in packs of three for safety/annoyance, bicyclists weaving in and out of traffic with little regard to their own safety or the safety of others, people wearing hats, etc. Apparently its always been a clusterf*ck.

The video is taken right before the catastrophic 1906 earthquake. Contrast that with these newly published shots of the destruction that was to follow.

“Hundreds of photographers took thousands of pictures of the disaster, but some of the best were taken by John Henry Mentz, official photographer for United Railroads” writes the Chron’s Carl Nolte today. The SFMTA inherited these and 4,077 other glass plate negatives from that, SF’s transit agency at the time of the disaster.

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  • DT

    There should be plenty of Metro Operators once tourist season starts, many of them transfer off the F Line. Several have told me that when I have been on empty Fs traveling to and from my dentist near Pier 27 (only way to get there now that the 42 and 10 are gone).

  • Greg Dewar

    You’re too kind, Mr. Sankin! Thanks for the link and the shout out!