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Rescue Muni was founded in 1996 by transit riders in the U.S. city of San Francisco seeking to improve the reliability, service, and safety of the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni). The organization conducts an annual riders' survey, serves as a citizens' watchdog group for Muni, and promotes the expansion of transit service in San Francisco.
Rescue Muni co-sponsored November 1999's Proposition E for Muni reform after circulating its own charter amendment earlier that year and participating in City Hall negotiations. The ballot measure created the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) to run both Muni and the Department of Parking and Traffic. It made the agency semi-independent, set service standards for it, and changed its budget and civil service rules.
Headed by Andrew Sullivan, Rescue Muni is made up largely of citizens upset with the current level of service provided by Muni. Through its various initiatives, Rescue Muni has become an important political force in San Francisco, and can mobilize a large contingent of voters quickly through its website. It was influential in passing Proposition E, which helped turn the transit agency around. It is also a vigilant watchdog group, and has campaigned for the expansion of Muni service, including light rail on the Geary Boulevard corridor and the conversion of some Muni bus lines to bus rapid transit.
The organization also campaigned against efforts to require Muni to buy alternative fuel buses on a more aggressive schedule than the one mandated by the California Air Resources Board, arguing that such buses were very expensive, had proved unreliable in other major urban areas, and offered no significant pollution advantages over the current generation of Clean Diesel buses.
Rescue Muni is also known as a strong advocate for the construction of a new Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco, and the extension of Caltrain to the new structure. The organization also fought successfully to shift the alignment of the proposed new Central Subway from Third Street to Fourth Street, arguing the latter would be faster, cheaper, and more efficient. However, these cost savings never materialized, and in fact the realignment has resulted in significant cost overruns for the project, as reported in Rescue MUNI's Fall 2005 newsletter, Transfer number 23.
Rescue Muni strongly opposed a measure on the November 2005 ballot to give the Board of Supervisors the power to appoint some of the members of the MTA Board, arguing that doing so would reverse some of the reforms adopted in 1999's Proposition E.