muni_generic.jpgLooking Into Yesterday’s Epic Muni Fail

Yesterday morning, a damaged electrical harness on an inbound N-Judah caused the train to pull down 500 feet wiring and concrete supports as it traveled through the Sunset Tunnel. If you’re wondering if this was a good thing, it most definitely was not. When the train ruthlessly tore down all that poor, defenseless concrete, it made the tunnel impassible, which blocked traffic in both directions on the J-Church, L-Taraval, M-Ocean View and N-Judah lines. All of these trains were out of commission for most of the day.

One unlucky rider, who was on the N-Judah when the incident occurred, wrote into Muni Diaries with her harrowing tale:

I was on the N-Judah when this happened. I was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced during my time on public transit. Before we entered the tunnel a Muni worker looked like he was chasing our train waving his hands. As soon as I lost all cell phone reception sparks started flying everywhere outside of the train, and then the ceiling began to crack spaying debris onto the surrounding seats. We waited 20 minutes to be “rescued” and lead back up to the street. Fuck you for making me an hour late to work Muni!

Muni dispatched 15 buses to shuttle passengers in lieu of regular train service, however riders still experienced long waits.

Muni officials are looking into what caused the problem, however there is speculation that an automated train control system, much like the one the California Public Utilities Commission recommended be installed in the tunnel and Muni insisted was unnecessary, would have prevented much of the damage.

In other news, Public Bikes offers free test rides of their bikes every day at their location in South Park.

Happy Post-Nat Ford Era!

Speaking Of The Post-Nat Ford Era

A lot of people are unhappy with the way the pre-Post-Nat Ford Era ended.

When SFMTA’s outgoing chief resigned earlier this weekend, the transit agency’s governing board gave him a nearly $400,000 severance package that was approximately the same amount of money the agency would have had to spend buying out the remaining two and a half years of his contract had they outright fired him. So, from now on, let’s put “resigned” in quotation marks.

That’s a lot of money to pay someone to not do their job anymore and naturally a lot of people are pretty peeved about it. Muni maven Greg Dewar has been rousing the rabble against Ford’s golden parachute for months and now he’s got some high-profile company: mayoral candidate Sen. Leland Yee. On his campaign website, Yee is hosting a petition protesting Ford’s severance package and encouraging the SFMTA board to vote against it.

In a prepared statement, Yee said:

I am deeply disappointed that MTA would approve a nearly $400,000 golden parachute for an outgoing city executive. At a time when our budget is cutting critical social services for our kids and the most vulnerable in our city, we can ill-afford to be paying excessive payouts to administrators who are no longer working for the public. I have fought these exorbitant sweetheart deals at UC and CSU, and as mayor I will reform these practices.

The problem here is that a buyout is required in the case of early termination as per employment contract Ford signed with the city when he first took the job in 2006. This type of thing is why it’s often difficult to get rid of people who come into a high-paying job with lofty expectations but then massively underperform (see: Zito, Barry).

The only way the city may be able to get out of paying the remainder of Ford’s contract is by winning in the lawsuit that would inevitably be triggered if they terminate Ford without paying him. A willingness to fight Ford on a buyout would signal to the public that SFMTA is willing to make a clean break with the past and focus on service above all else. However, having just emerged from with an epic contract fight with the operators’ union, SFMTA management is most likely in the mood to just give Ford his money and get on with it, probably one of the reasons SFMTA board president Tom Nolan defended the severance package to the Chron as “a reasonable and fair expense.”

What Might That Post-Nat Ford Era Look Like?
It will look like an era where SFMTA chief is no longer the highest paid public official in the city. It will look an era where the agency hires its top brass locally, instead of by doing a national search. And it will mostly likely look like an era where the agency is run by either SFMTA Executive Deputy Director Carter Rohan or Department of Public Works chief Ed Reiskin.

Reiskin and Rohan are currently the top two contenders for the position. Rohan has the added advantage of automatically becoming the Interim Executive Director if the board is unable to reach a final decision when Ford steps down at the end of the month.

SFMTA #1 In Country For Seniors
There was a lot of cynical Muni bashing in the roundup today, which happens sometimes. But it’s not all “epic fails” and “golden parachutes” and “Leland Yee”. According to the transit reform advocacy group Transportation For America, San Francisco is the best city in the country for public transit access for seniors. Hooray!

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  • Greg Dewar

    Leland Yee could care less about anything that’s not Leland Yee. He’s just pulling a stunt to make it look like he cares about Muni, but he voted many times in the legislature to kill transit funding at the behest of Gov. Schwarzenegger (which courts ruled illegal). And my petition started sooner and of course Leland was nowhere to be found.

  • Greg Dewar

    Leland Yee could care less about anything that’s not Leland Yee. He’s just pulling a stunt to make it look like he cares about Muni, but he voted many times in the legislature to kill transit funding at the behest of Gov. Schwarzenegger (which courts ruled illegal). And my petition started sooner and of course Leland was nowhere to be found.

  • LibertyHiller

    Aaron, where did you get the idea that this was a problem in the Sunset Tunnel, which would only have affected the N-Judah?

    As Paul Rose of SFMTA noted in the comments on the Muni Diaries post, ATCS would have made zero difference in this case, which was strictly a mechanical fault. (For once, he’s not blowing smoke up anyone’s fundament.)

    The pantograph on the damaged streetcar — which is the proper term for what you call the “electrical harness” — was apparently damaged around 2nd Ave. or Arguello Blvd., but nobody noticed it until the train was entering the Market St. subway at Duboce Portal, and by then it was too late.

    Although the damaged streetcar wasn’t blocking the main line of the subway (K/T, L and M), the power surge affected both the main line and the branch that exits at Duboce Portal and carries the J-Church and N-Judah to the surface. Muni couldn’t restore power to the subway until the damaged streetcar was pulled out of the way, sometime after 4pm.

    There’s a discrepancy between Koskey’s reporting (to which you linked) and the reports from Will Reisman of the Examiner and others that I was reading Thursday night. She says that service was restored around 5:30 to the main line, which is being generous. (From my own commute experience: at 5:30, the agents at both ends of Montgomery station were turning away passengers. As I recall, Muni didn’t announce that main line service had been restored until well after 6pm.)

    Footnote: the CPUC’s complaint about automated train control refers to the Sunset Tunnel, not the main line of the subway. (See its press release of Feb. 2011 at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/published/News_release/131263.htm for further details.) The main line’s ATCS was installed in the late 1990s, and led to a legendary meltdown of service.

  • LibertyHiller

    Aaron, where did you get the idea that this was a problem in the Sunset Tunnel, which would only have affected the N-Judah?

    As Paul Rose of SFMTA noted in the comments on the Muni Diaries post, ATCS would have made zero difference in this case, which was strictly a mechanical fault. (For once, he’s not blowing smoke up anyone’s fundament.)

    The pantograph on the damaged streetcar — which is the proper term for what you call the “electrical harness” — was apparently damaged around 2nd Ave. or Arguello Blvd., but nobody noticed it until the train was entering the Market St. subway at Duboce Portal, and by then it was too late.

    Although the damaged streetcar wasn’t blocking the main line of the subway (K/T, L and M), the power surge affected both the main line and the branch that exits at Duboce Portal and carries the J-Church and N-Judah to the surface. Muni couldn’t restore power to the subway until the damaged streetcar was pulled out of the way, sometime after 4pm.

    There’s a discrepancy between Koskey’s reporting (to which you linked) and the reports from Will Reisman of the Examiner and others that I was reading Thursday night. She says that service was restored around 5:30 to the main line, which is being generous. (From my own commute experience: at 5:30, the agents at both ends of Montgomery station were turning away passengers. As I recall, Muni didn’t announce that main line service had been restored until well after 6pm.)

    Footnote: the CPUC’s complaint about automated train control refers to the Sunset Tunnel, not the main line of the subway. (See its press release of Feb. 2011 at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/published/News_release/131263.htm for further details.) The main line’s ATCS was installed in the late 1990s, and led to a legendary meltdown of service.