“Service Improvement” on the F-line? You decide.

If you’re riding the F-line this sunny Saturday morning, you’ll find fewer streetcars out there, and longer wait times. But not to worry, it’s a “service improvement.”  Who says so? Muni.

Muni’s parent, SFMTA, sent out a blog post entitled “More Muni Forward Service Improvements Roll Out”. The F-line is mentioned. But when you click through to the story, it’s, well, a different story.

After listing other “improvements” (including cutting back a major crosstown bus line to eliminate transfers to the 14-Mission), they take on the F-line.  “As we fine-tune service to better match demand, a few routes with extra capacity will also see reductions in service, [including the] F Market & Wharves line in the morning and afternoon.” Well, we see the F-line every single day, with every car passing by our San Francisco Railway Museum. Tell the folks stuffed on board the cars about the “extra capacity” they don’t need.

Oh, but wait, Muni then goes on to explain: “Note on the F Line: In recent months we’ve seen issues with streetcars and buses crowding at the line’s terminal at 17th and Market streets. This slight reduction in service frequency is expected to help make the line more reliable.” Huh? If the streetcars are crowding the terminal, it’s because of poor line management. And who is responsible for that? The riders?

Beyond the facts of the rollout, there’s the way it was done — with zero public outreach. After this story was posted, we got an angry call from the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District leadership, asking what we knew about it. The answer: nothing, because we learned about it from the public notice along with everyone else. Turns out the Castro Merchants weren’t informed either. So there was no chance for suggestions of other ways to solve whatever issues might have arisen.

After we learned of this, we did call Muni service planner Julie Kirschbaum, who told us something different than what the official release said. She said the issue was a shortage of both streetcars and trained operators for the F-line. But the fact is that there is not a shortage of streetcars for current operations, and Muni has gotten around the training issue, which has now dragged on for over a year, by assigning buses to regular F-line runs. Has that changed? We weren’t told.

In any event, we are going to be looking very closely at this, working toward further adjustments at the next sign-up period in a couple of months, and advocating for F-line service improvements that are actually improvements. We’ll keep you posted.

  • Peter Ehrlich

    This issue with the “reduction” of F-Line service was announced as if it were a mere “footnote” to the Muni Forward systemwide improvements. For weeks, I had tried to find out more details, all in vain. Nowhere was it mentioned what the new headways would be. I still don’t know.

    And what is it going to be like in the summertime tourist season? Did they forget? Someone upstairs at One South needs a good old-fashioned reaming out.

  • Bill Hough

    This “insufficient number of operators” BS has only been going on for a year? WTF? I have a shot of articulated bus 420 in F service from 2006. “Dragged on for over a decade” would have been a more accurate statement.

    • At various times in its 20 year history, the F-line has experienced both shortages of equipment and operators. The operator shortage has been especially severe in the last year.

  • Mitleser

    Get me a Greencard and pay me the same salary as in Germany, and you’ll have a skilled operator for the F-Line. 😉 I’ll do anything except busdriving. :-p

  • psf

    Muni Forward is getting a little OCD when it comes to some of its more recent changes. Like moving certain bus stops across the street in areas like the Outer Sunset which have hardly any street traffic, or removing stops that are very much utilized on different routes simply for increasing service flow by a couple of seconds. It makes you wonder if Muni Forward is actually running Muni and not the City or the SFMTA. These new changes of theirs are happening more and more frequently it seems….

  • david vartanoff

    Apparently, Muni continues not hiring enough workers to actually put the scheduled service on the street In some other forum it was suggested that during the general signup, operators left the rail division in favor of all rubber tire divisions. Nothing new here.

  • Paul Tominac

    Muni can’t keep enough operators ON the “F” line. With one inspector instead of the three inspectors of yore, there aren’t enough eyes watching the line. The drivers don’t work together like they used to—one in particular leaves his car where it stops on Jones, last in line, and darts into Starbucks to flirt with the cashiers and baristas, long after the other cars ahead of him have left, and leaving other operators steaming on Jefferson (we could move his car, we used to, but why encourage such selfishness?). Add in Market street, where traffic between 3rd and the Ferry has only gotten worse, and nothing is ever done—you can run on time from Castro to 3rd and then be 10 minutes late by the time you hit the ferry building (cars turning right block the Transbay busses who then, quite reasonably, enter the left lane and hold up the Ferry buses and F). Throw in the princesses and self appointed nobility who will be on 311, or their supervisors hot line, to report anything that irritates them; and finally, the homeless. Unbathed, lugging piles of stuff, never paying the fare, taking up more than one, or two seats (sometimes sleeping across them). And strollers three times larger than they have to be and the parents who can see how small the cars are but won’t fold them up. You try to make it as pleasant, or some days as least offensive as possible, and instead of thanks, you’re getting cussed out.

    Ever have someone spit in your face?

    I left the F for all of the above, like a parade of operators before me, and since. It’s a great idea, but in San Francisco it’s become a lot of work for an agency that never knows your name, unless it’s to haul you onto the carpet.

    • Paul Tominac, we’ve never heard anything but complaints from you, so this is no surprise. Complaints but no solutions. Do you advocate physically removing the “homeless” from your streetcar? Did your peers EVER go to this miscreant operator at the terminal and tell him how mad his actions made you? If so, what did he say? If not, send us his name by private email and if he’s still on the F-line and dragging the line, we’ll document it and post it. We have always said we would do what it takes for good F-line operation,within the limits of our outsider role. It’s not helpful, though, to just have this kind of carping spewed on the site, without solutions.