San Francisco Municipal Railway

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San Francisco Municipal Railway
SFMuni Worm.svg
Background
Owner City and County of San Francisco
Locale San Francisco
Transit type Bus, trolleybus, light rail, streetcar, cable cars
Number of lines 82
Daily ridership 731,400 weekdays (2011)
Chief executive Edward D. Reiskin, Director of Transportation, SFMTA
Headquarters One South Van Ness Avenue, Seventh Floor
Website http://www.sfmta.com/
Operation
Began operation December 28, 1912[1]
Operator(s) San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA)
Technical
Track gauge

1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) (light rail)

3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) (cable cars)
Minimum radius of curvature 43 ft (13.106 m)[2]
Average speed 8.1 mph (13.0 km/h)[3]
Top speed varies[4]

The San Francisco Municipal Railway (SF Muni or Muni) is the public transit system for the city and county of San Francisco, California. In 2006, it served 46.7 square miles (121 km2) with an operating budget of about $700 million.[5] In ridership Muni is the seventh largest transit system in the United States, with 210,848,310 rides in 2006[6] and the second largest in California behind Metro in Los Angeles. With a fleet average speed of 8.1 mph (13.0 km/h), it is also the slowest major transit system in America.[3]

Muni is an integral part of public transit in the city of San Francisco, operating 365 days a year and connecting with regional transportation services, such as Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Caltrain, SamTrans, and AC Transit. Its network consists of 54 bus lines, 17 trolley bus lines, 7 light rail lines that operate above ground and in the city's lone subway tube (called Muni Metro), 3 cable car lines, and a heritage streetcar line known as the F Market & Wharves. Many weekday riders are commuters, as the daytime weekday population in San Francisco exceeds its normal residential population. Muni shares four metro stations with BART. Travelers can connect to San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport via BART.

Operations[edit]

A cable car being turned around at the end of the line, August 1964

Most bus lines are scheduled to operate every five to fifteen minutes during peak hours, every five to twenty minutes middays, about every ten to twenty minutes from 9 pm to midnight, and roughly every half hour for the late night "owl" routes. On weekends, most Muni bus lines are scheduled to run every ten to twenty minutes. However, complaints of unreliability, especially on less-often-served lines and older (pre-battery backup) trolleybus lines, are a system-wide problem. Muni has had some difficulty meeting a stated goal of 85% voter-demanded on-time service.[7][8]

All Muni lines run inside San Francisco city limits, with the exception of several lines serving locations in the northern part of neighboring Daly City, and the 76 Marin Headlands line to the Marin Headlands area on Sundays and holidays. Most intercity connections are provided by BART and Caltrain heavy rail, AC Transit buses at the Transbay Terminal, and Golden Gate Transit and SamTrans downtown.[citation needed]

Bus and car stops throughout the city vary from Metro stations with raised platforms in the subway and at the more heavily used surface stops, to small shelters to signposts to simply a yellow stripe on a utility pole or on the road surface. 70% of stops are spaced closer than recommended range of 800–1,000 feet (240–300 m) apart.[9]

[edit]

O'Shaughnessy logo (dated)

Muni is short for the "Municipal" in "San Francisco Municipal Railway" and is not an acronym; thus, when it is written in plain text, only Muni (not MUNI) is correct. However, many San Franciscans, including some of those who work for Muni, write it MUNI. The Muni metro is often called "the train" or "the streetcar". Most San Francisco natives use 'Muni' when speaking about the system (Metro & buses) in general.[citation needed]

The F Market & Wharves line is referred to by Muni as a "historic streetcar line" rather than as a "heritage railway".[citation needed]

Muni's logo is a stylized, trademarked "worm" version of the word "MUNI".[10] This logo was designed by San Francisco-based graphic designer Walter Landor in the mid-1970s.[11]

Route names[edit]

All Muni routes, except the cable cars, have two parts to the name, and are most often referred to by both, for example, the "1 California". The word(s) on the end generally refer to the street encompassing the plurality of the line. This does not mean that the line runs solely on that street (e.g., the 1 California runs on Sacramento and Clay Streets east of Pacific Heights). Bus and trolleybus lines have number designations, rail lines have letters and the three cable car lines are typically referred to by name only (Powell-Mason, Powell-Hyde and California). However, Muni maps abbreviate the cable car route names to PM, PH and C, and they are given route numbers 59, 60 and 61, respectively, for use within Muni operations.

Fares[edit]

Fares are $2 for adults and $0.75 for seniors over 65, youth aged 5–17, people with disabilities, and Medicare card holders. Proof-of-payment (POP) is handled through a Clipper card, Muni Passport, or a transfer slip (either a piece of newsprint-like paper, torn to indicate expiration time—buses, light-rail vehicles, and streetcars—or machine-printed on thicker tag stock at a few outdoor stops), any of which can be checked by fare inspectors. These transfer receipts allow travel on almost any Muni vehicle for at least 90 minutes but no more than 2 hours from the time of issue. The exception to this is for cable car lines that require a $6 one-way fare with no transfers unless the rider has a Muni Passport or Fast Pass. This monthly pass is $66 for adults ($76 with BART functionality within city limits), $33 for low-income residents ("Life Line Pass"),[12] or $22 for youth or seniors, as of July 2012.[13] Persons with disabilities who have obtained a Regional Transit Connection discount card may purchase a $22 disabled monthly sticker. Passes are valid on all Muni lines—including cable cars—and the $74 adult Fast Pass allows BART transit entirely within San Francisco (between Embarcadero and Balboa Park). Other passes and stickers are valid on all Muni lines, including cable cars, but not on BART (with the exception of BART-Plus[14] ticket types).

Cable car fare is $6 per trip, with no transfers issued or accepted. "Passports" are folding scratch-off passes that can be purchased by mail, or at various places throughout the city; they are good on all regular-service lines without surcharge, including cable cars, and cost $14 for a 1-day pass, $21 for a 3-day pass, or $27 for a 7-day pass, as of July 2011.[13]

Special round-trip fares are set for buses going to Candlestick Park during football games. They are $12 for adults, $10 for children, seniors, persons with disabilities and Medicare card holders, all with proper ID, and $8 for anyone with a pass.[13] Riders are given a special pass once they pay the fare, which they can then use on the return trip from the park.[15]

Muni has implemented a dual-mode smart card payment system known as Clipper (formerly TransLink). The transponders have been in use since at least 2004,[16] and replaced most paper monthly passes in 2010. BART, Caltrain, Golden Gate Transit, VTA, AC Transit, SamTrans, and San Francisco Bay Ferry also utilize the Clipper system.[17]

Special service[edit]

A trolleybus on the 21-Hayes line

Muni operates 15 express lines, 6 Limited lines, and 12 Owl lines, which run between 1 am and 5 am. During sporting events, additional lines go to Candlestick Park.

Express lines only run during peak hours (with the sole exception of the 8X Bayshore Express); during mornings they run towards downtown (the Financial District) and during the evening they run away from downtown. All express lines have an "X", "AX", or "BX" following the line's number. Some lines are divided into A and B Expresses. The B Express line is shorter and has stops that are closer to downtown, while the A Express makes stops further away from downtown and will make few or no stops in the area where the B Express stops.

Limited lines also provide fast service along their routes. They make fewer stops than the standard line to achieve faster travel, but the stops are interspersed at greater intervals along the entire line. Express buses make frequent local stops near the origin and destination, but not in the middle. Limited buses take the same route as the regular line, while Express buses take a bypass route. All limited-stop lines have an "L" following the line's number.

Statistics[edit]

An Orion VII bus operating in San Francisco. These buses were introduced in 2006 and were in service by 2007.

Muni operates about 1,000 vehicles: diesel, electric, and hybrid electric transit buses, light rail vehicles, streetcars, historic streetcars, and cable cars. Many buses are diesel-powered, but more than 300 are zero emissions trolleybuses powered by overhead electrical wires. The electricity to run all of Muni's trolleybuses and streetcars comes from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park.[63]

In 2006, Muni purchased 86 hybrid electric transit buses from Orion Bus Industries that are diesel-fueled but feature lower emissions and 19% reduced fuel consumption.[64]

All Muni lines except for cable cars are wheelchair accessible. All bus lines have bicycle racks, but streetcars and cable cars do not.

The longest Muni line is the 24.1-mile (38.8 km) 91 Owl, a nighttime-only route that blends several other routes together, while the longest daytime route is the 17.4-mile (28.0 km) 29 Sunset. The shortest route is the 88 BART Shuttle at 1.4 miles (2.3 km). The steepest grade climbed by Muni vehicle is 23.1% by a diesel bus on the 67 Bernal Heights line, 22.8% by a trolleybus on the 24 Divisadero line, and 21% by a cable car on the Powell-Hyde line.[65]

The busiest Muni bus line is the 38 Geary, which travels 6.5 miles (10.5 km) in the east–west direction along the Geary corridor, and has an average speed of only 8 miles per hour (13 km/h),[66] taking over 50 minutes to travel from the Richmond District to the Transbay Terminal when operating on schedule.[67]

At Powell and Market Streets and California and Market Streets, three types of rail gauges come within a few hundred feet of each other: Bay Area Rapid Transit's 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) broad gauge (which is underground in the lower level of the tunnels), Muni Metro's 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) (also underground in the upper level of the tunnels), and the San Francisco cable car system's 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) narrow gauge (at street level a few hundred feet away to the north of Market Street in both cases). The F Market heritage railway is also present here, at street level on Market Street. The rail lines, however, do not physically intersect.

The F Market and Wharves line uses the same 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) as the Muni Metro, and in fact uses the J Church tracks to travel between its regular route and the storage facility near Balboa Park Station.

SF Muni, used by many in San Francisco, the greater bay area region and those visiting from around the world have often remarked upon the inefficiency of the transportation system. In fact, a report conducted by the San Francisco Municipal Transport Agency in early 2013 noted that Muni was on time only 58.7% of the time. It delayed its customers a total of 172,195 hours and reduced the city's economic activity by $50 million USD per year.[68]

Governance[edit]

The Muni Metro system map. Note the combination of the K and the T lines.

Since the passage of Proposition E in November 1999, Muni has been part of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), a semi-independent city agency created by that ballot measure. The agency, into which Muni, the Department of Parking and Traffic, and the Taxicab Commission were merged, is governed by a seven-member Board of Directors appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Board of Supervisors.

The executive director and CEO of the SFMTA since August 15, 2011 has been Edward D. Reiskin, who previously headed the San Francisco Department of Public Works. He replaced Debra A. Johnson, the acting executive director and CEO who replaced Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr. upon his resignation.[69][70]

History[edit]

An F Market and Wharves heritage streetcar at the Ferry Building

Early years[edit]

Muni has its origins in the period following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Until then the city had been served by a number of commercial horsecar, cable car and electric streetcar operators. Many of these had been amalgamated into the United Railroads of San Francisco (URR) company. In 1909, voters approved a municipal rail line down Geary. Three years later in 1912, the city declined to renew the franchise that bestowed cable car operator Geary Street, Park & Ocean Railway the privilege of operating on Geary Street, and converted the line into a municipal electric streetcar line,[71][72] the first line of Muni. In 1912, the average speed of the city's public transit was approximately 8.5 miles per hour[73] – slightly faster than the average speed of 8.1 in 2007.[74]

Muni soon started on a large building program. On December 29, 1914, the new Stockton Street Tunnel under Nob Hill opened, allowing streetcars from downtown to go to North Beach and the new Marina District. On February 3, 1918, the Twin Peaks Tunnel opened, making the southwestern quarter of the city available for development. On October 21, 1928, the Sunset Tunnel opened, bringing the N Judah streetcar line to the Sunset District. These improvements plunged Muni into direct competition with the URR on the entire length of Market Street. The two operators each operated their own pair of rail tracks down that thoroughfare, which came to be known as the "roar of the four".[75]

1940s: The first trolleybuses[edit]

In 1941, Muni introduced its first trolleybus line, the R-Howard line. Trolleybuses had been running in San Francisco since 1935, but operated only by the Market Street Railway Company, successor to the URR. By 1944, the MSR was in financial difficulties. Thus, at 5 am on September 29, 1944, Muni acquired its commercial competitor. Along with the routes and equipment, Muni adopted its competitor's more expensive seven-cent fare.[76] Following national trends, Muni replaced most of its rail lines with trolleybus service in the succeeding decades. A few lines with dedicated rights-of-way (including those serving the Twin Peaks and Sunset tunnels) continued as rail lines running 1940s-era PCC streetcars through the 1970s. These lines became the foundation of the Muni Metro.

1970s and '80s: Construction and reorganization[edit]

In the 1950s and '60s, the neighboring BART system had been conceived on a grandiose level (described as one of the "great planning disasters" of the 20th century[77] ), operating express trains through San Francisco, and local service within San Francisco. Because it was assumed BART would provide local rail service, investment in Muni infrastructure failed to keep pace with major urban redevelopment projects. For example, BART was intended to provide Richmond district and Western Addition service as part of its Golden Gate Bridge/Marin line. This leaves a legacy of the inadequate 38-Geary bus serving these neighborhoods.

Construction on BART's Market street tunnel started in 1967,[78] with two decks tracks – the upper intended to provide local service. Major cost overruns in the BART project forced the state legislature to rescue the project in 1969: curtailing local service in San Francisco and converting the partially constructed stations into the basis of a new light-rail subway called the Muni Metro to connect the downtown stations to the Twin Peaks Tunnel and continuing along reserved tracks to St. Francis Circle. Construction on the metro began in 1970, but the project suffered from further cuts and design changes throughout the 1970s. The Muni Metro finally opened in February 1980, for one line (N-Judah),[79] with other lines following later in 1980, but the many design compromises and piecemeal planning led to long-term operational challenges and inefficiencies.

In 1970, Muni also suffered a severe diesel bus crisis.

Muni experienced a diesel bus availability crisis in 1981-2 when most of their diesel buses, 401 GMC and Flxible "New Looks" purchases in 1969, reached the end of their 12-year design life and funds for their replacement were not available. Most of the rest of the fleet were undersized 36-foot AM Generals purchased for neighborhood routes, and their use on heavier lines exacerbated conditions. The trolley bus fleet was in good order and had excess capacity at the time so Muni improvised a few temporary services with them to help out. One such service was a trolley 14-Limited that used the abandoned trolley overhead on South Van Ness. The diesel 82-Chinatown was replaced with short runs of the 30-Stockton. But the trolleys could only go where their wires went.

Muni adopted some policies to alleviate future service issues due to an aged fleet. They would stagger bus purchases so not as large a portion of the fleet would hit retirement age at once. They would arrange for mid-life rebuilds to keep the buses more serviceable in their final years. And they would work to reduce the role of diesels in the total operation. Three trunk diesel lines were converted to trolley bus service in the next twelve years.

But these efforts have not been as successful as hoped. Out of necessity most of the fleet, 330 standard bus equivalents out of 506, were replaced in just two years in 1985-6. (Standard bus equivalents factor the 30-foot and 60-foot into their equivalent capacity in 40-foot buses). And seven years passed without any new buses coming on board before Muni started its next full diesel fleet replacement cycle in 1999. This was fourteen years after the previous cycle instead of the twelve years that buses are designed to last. Muni is now aware that they must expect to keep diesel buses past their design life and have also found that funds granted for mid-life rebuilds require that the buses be kept longer still. As the fleet replacement cycle begins again in 2013, Muni has arranged for life-extending rebuilds of 142 buses, by count over 30% of the fleet.

In September 1982, the cable car system was shut down for 21 months for rebuilding, and there were massive line reorganizations as Muni restructured their route network to provide stronger cross-town services.

In 1983, Muni temporarily ran streetcars down Market Street as part of the San Francisco Historic Trolley Festival, initially conceived of as a substitute attraction for tourists during the one summer when no cable cars would be in operation.[80] The service became so popular that the festival was repeated for several years following.[81] Anticipating the return of permanent streetcar service on Market Street, Muni began rehabilitating tracks in 1987, a process that culminated in the opening of the F line in 1995.

The first modern Muni shelter was installed in front of the War Memorial Opera House in 1987.[81]

1990s: the "Muni Meltdown"[edit]

A cable car at California and Market Streets

During the late 1990s, with aging equipment and poor management, Muni developed a reputation for poor and erratic service. In 1996 a group called Rescue Muni representing transit riders formed to organize concerns and press for change, advocating for the successful 1999 Proposition E that formed the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and set service standards for Muni. In an effort to improve service, Muni began to replace its troublesome fleet of Boeing-Vertol light rail vehicles with newer Italian Breda light rail vehicles. In 1998, San Francisco residents witnessed a protracted malfunction of Muni Metro during the switch to automatic train control, culminating in an event that is known as the Muni Meltdown. The two-decade-old fleet of Flyer trolleybuses were replaced with Electric Transit, Inc. (ETI) trolleybuses in the early 2000s.[82] Likewise, the diesel bus fleet saw an infusion of 45 new NABI buses from AC Transit in 1999.

Meanwhile, the F line was reintroduced in 1995 as a heritage streetcar service. Initially designed as a temporary tourist attraction to make up for the suspension of cable car service for rebuilding, the F has become a permanent fixture.

2000s[edit]

On October 8, 2007, SFMTA's cable car signs were awarded the AdWheel Award as the best in print promotion by the American Public Transportation Association. Nathaniel Ford, executive director of Muni, said that the "marketing group has done an outstanding job making the key boarding areas more attractive and inviting for residents and our guests."[83]

On November 15, 2007, city officials announced that they were looking into the possibility of adding double-decker buses to the Muni fleet, which would be operating mostly on the 38 Geary and the 14 Mission routes. The test period started on December 12, 2007, and ended on January 8, 2008.[84][85]

On December 1, 2007, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that the entire city fleet, including all of Muni buses, are henceforth powered with biodiesel, a combination of 80% petroleum diesel fuel and 20% biofuel, to reduce carbon emissions.[86] Muni's current hybrid bus fleet currently runs on biodiesel.[87][88]

On July 17, 2009, a Muni LRV rear-ended another at West Portal Station. That accident injured 50 people.[89]

On December 5, 2009, the Muni system underwent its most extensive changes in over 30 years, in an attempt by the SFMTA to reduce its budget shortfall. This involved changes to over 60 percent of its bus and light rail routes, including the elimination of six bus routes. Changes included reduced frequency of service, shortened or altered routes, and earlier termination of service, although a few of the busiest lines, such as the 38 Geary, saw service increases.[90]

2010s[edit]

On February 26, 2010, the SFMTA board, which oversees Muni operations, voted for Muni to undergo further extensive changes in a further attempt to reduce its budget shortfall.[91]

On July 1, 2012, Muni was the first transit agency in North America to implement all-door boarding throughout its system. Such practice already exists in the Muni Metro as Proof-of-Payment.[92]

System expansion[edit]

A light rail vehicle on the T Third Street line. The T line, the sixth Muni Metro line, opened on April 7, 2007.

Construction on a sixth light rail line from Caltrain Depot in Mission Bay to Visitacion Valley and Bayview/Hunters Point was completed in December 2006. The new line, named the T Third Street, consists of 19 new high-platform stations at street-level, including at least one within walking distance of Candlestick Park.[93][94]

A further underground expansion for the T line is under construction. Dubbed the Central Subway, four new underground stations at Moscone Center, Market and Stockton Streets, Union Square, and Chinatown are being built with a target opening date of 2018. Construction will include tunneling up to Columbus Ave and Washington Square Park but the T line will stop at Chinatown. A future extension into North Beach and Fisherman's Wharf or to the Marina District and The Presidio may be built in a third phase. This project is expected to cost about $1.4 billion.[95] A critical problem with the proposed subway is that the stations will be much narrower and shorter in comparison to existing Muni Metro stations on Market Street; ridership projections reveal that the line will run at near capacity from the start of operations with little or no ability to increase capacity. Some activists have criticized these long-term plans as catering to the needs of visitors at the expense of city residents, asserting that Muni's resources would be better spent on a seventh light rail line running along (or under) Geary Boulevard into the densely populated Richmond District. Currently, a bus rapid transit ("BRT") line is being planned for Geary Boulevard, possibly as a precursor to a light rail line.

Expected smaller changes to service include rerouting the 22-Fillmore and extending either the 30-Stockton or 45-Union-Stockton into Mission Bay when the area becomes developed, and a new E Embarcadero historic streetcar line is expected to begin operation along the Embarcadero from Fisherman's Wharf to the Caltrain station at 4th and King Streets, with a possible future extension into Mission Bay.

Additionally, there are plans to expand trolleybus service in several parts of the city. Several extensions to existing trolleybus lines are planned, including 14-Mission service to the Daly City BART station, 6-Parnassus service to West Portal Station, 33-Stanyan service across Potrero Hill to Third Street, 45-Union-Stockton service to the Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio and 24-Divisadero service into the former Hunters Point shipyard. Other expansion plans include electrification of some diesel bus lines, with the most likely lines for conversion being the 9-San Bruno, 10-Townsend and 47-Van Ness. Electrification of the 10-Townsend line would likely be joined by an extension of the line across Potrero Hill to San Francisco General Hospital. Other lines that may be electrified are the 2-Clement, 27-Bryant, 43-Masonic and 71-Haight-Noriega.[96][97][98][99][100][101]

However, the average speed of Muni vehicles has been slowly declining over the years due to increasing vehicular congestion and is now merely 8 miles (13 km) per hour.[3] In response, Muni has launched plans to make its transit vehicles move faster through the city. The Transit Effectiveness Project was launched in May 2006 to take a comprehensive look at the entire Muni system and to see where service can be improved or streamlined to provide faster and more reliable service. Twenty-five years have passed since the last comprehensive review, and travel patterns have changed, traffic congestion has increased, operating costs have risen and on-time performance has dropped since then. Automatic passenger counters will help to provide an accurate picture of where riders get on and off. In addition, bus rapid transit is currently being proposed on the Geary and Van Ness corridors.[102][103]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Perles, Anthony, with John McKane, Tom Matoff, and Peter Straus, The People's Railway: The History of the Municipal Railway in San Francisco. Glendale: Interurban Press, 1981. ISBN 0-916374-42-4. A detailed, illustrated history of Muni from its inception through 1980. Currently out of print, but used copies are frequently available through booksellers specializing in transportation and railroads.

External links[edit]