Supe Calls For Hearing On Recent “Unacceptable” Muni Service Disruptions

Calling the handling of recent San Francisco Municipal Railway service disruptions “unacceptable,” Supervisor Scott Wiener today called for a hearing on problems with Muni’s subway system and communication with riders.

In the wake of a Muni Metro service disruption Monday morning caused by problems with the computerized train control system, Wiener said the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency needs to have procedures in place for responding quickly to such problems and communicating with riders.

He cited a delay that occurred when a person was hit and killed on the tracks at the Powell Street station on the afternoon of Feb. 15, shortly before the popular Chinese New Year’s Parade, as another example of an incident that was poorly handled and poorly communicated to riders.

Wiener said it took too long to get bus shuttles into place, too long to communicate with riders and too long to restore service.

“I was caught in that meltdown along with many other people,” Wiener said.

“They made us get off at Van Ness and told us to go upstairs to catch shuttles,” he said. “When we got upstairs, there were at least a thousand people milling around with no shuttles in sight and no surface transportation at all. It was a mess.”

Muni officials issued an apology for Monday’s peak-hour service disruption, which knocked out subway service from 6:19 a.m. to 6:37 a.m. and from 7:57 to 8:33 a.m.

It occurred when the computer system that provides automated train control within the subway system failed, stopping all trains and requiring a reset before service could resume.

“The incident was inexcusable and we apologize for the severe inconvenience suffered by Muni customers,” John Haley, Muni’s director of transit, said in a statement. “We are working with the manufacturer to determine the cause of these incidents and to ensure a solution is in place.”

Muni spokesman Paul Rose called the computer failure “rare,” saying it was the first time that particular problem had occurred in years.

Rose noted that Muni’s on-time performance figures for light-rail vehicles have improved recently, from 47 percent in May to 51 percent in January.

The system has experienced an 8 percent decline in total hours of delay, from 452 hours in May to 414 hours in December, Rose said.

About 75 percent of delays are caused by vehicle mechanical failures, a problem Muni officials hope to address through ballot measures to provide funding for repairs and replacement vehicles, he said.

Customers can obtain real-time information on Muni issues during the week by following the agency on Twitter and signing up for Muni alerts at, Rose noted.

On the weekends, however, Rose acknowledged that the agency does not have the resources to provide real-time information. The Feb. 15 delays, which took nearly four hours to resolve, occurred on a Saturday at a time when unusual numbers of people were boarding trains for the Chinese New Year’s parade.

“We’re using that incident as a learning experience to improve how we communicate,” Rose said.

Sara Gaiser, Bay City News

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  • culture_drone

    The train control system has been crap ever since it was installed, I have vivid memories of waiting at the entrance to the tunnel at Duboce & Church for 15-30 minutes every morning back in 1999/2000. There was a SF Weekly article about it way back when, it’s pretty much the usual mismanagement with no repercussions:
    Every “upgrade” since has gone poorly and had major problems.

    • njudah


  • Jerry Rosenblum

    I also was caught in that but to say that there were 1,000’s of people
    is a gross bit of hype. Wiener seems incapable of telling the truth.

  • AAFerguson

    This guy wastes more time and money by calling for hearings on Things That Can’t Be Fixed. It’s just a means for him to shine brighter in the public’s eye, nothing more.

    • njudah

      Saying Muni “cant be fixed” is at best defeatist “wallow in failure” nonsense. Come on. A small city can’t have a functional Metro system all the while third world nations do?


      • AAFerguson

        “Things That Can’t Be Fixed by public hearing” is what I meant. Holding hearings on this is nothing more than *ahem* stroking Wiener.

        I was at the lengthy hearing he called on those AT&T big sidewalk cabinets that are now being installed all over the city. Near the end of the hearing Wiener stated nothing anyone said in the hearing mattered because nothing can be done.
        Huge waste of personal time and money as well as taxpayers’ time and money!

      • LVLHeaded

        Other systems have workers that show up to work when they’re supposed to. MUNI has a daily 12.2% absentee rate. Compare that to the 3% national average. Audit MUNI.

  • phuong

    The point is not whether or not Scott Wiener is exaggerating, but rather it is about the fact that Muni service has been terrible and the agency is incapable of communicating in a timely manner. I was caught in the February 15 jam underground between Forest Hill and Castro, as well as Monday’s disaster, and I didn’t get any information on what happened until well after I managed to free myself. Put down your torches and pitchforks and at least recognize that Wiener, as a Muni rider and someone who can effect change, is drawing attention to Muni’s failings.

    • njudah

      what he said. the liberal haters of Scott Weiner have no solutions to anything tangible….they just like hating on Scott. Where’s the progressive solution for Muni? OH YEAH THERE IS NONE

  • redbeardsf

    All of our supervisors should be required to ride MUNI to get to work.