Mayor Launches Task Force to Rethink Muni

As the past year has demonstrated, the SFMTA could use some serious intervention.

Muni passengers cram onto a K-Ingleside train at Powell station on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. (Photo by Kevin N. Hume)

Mayor London Breed and a couple of supervisors are flexing their limited power over the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency with a task force amid a leadership transition.

Breed, along with Supervisors Rafael Mandelman and Aaron Peskin, announced on Monday that a working group stocked with transit experts and labor leaders would review Muni service and make suggestions. With SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin out the door after a series of fumbles, timing is ripe for the advice to be followed.

“Since taking office one year ago, I have heard nearly every day from constituents sharing harrowing tales of their experiences on Muni,” Mandelman said. “We have an opportunity and obligation to evaluate this agency’s track record and current performance and offer its new leadership a roadmap to fixing Muni and delivering San Franciscans the 21st-century, world-class transit system they deserve.”

It’s been hard for San Franciscans to see it that way for the past year, starting with last summer’s meltdown attributed to tunnel repairs and an operator shortage. Bad news followed, from defective trains and sexual harassment allegations to faulty doors that caught a woman and dragged her down a platform. Shortly after the latter, Reiskin announced in April that he would step down when his contract ended in August.

While Breed searches for a replacement, the Board of Supervisors has expressed “growing frustration” with the SFMTA’s management and last week threatened to shoot down the agency’s budget — one of the board’s few oversight options. 

The task force is another way they hope to put Muni back on the right train track, and Breed already has a team ready to go. SFMTA Board Director Gwyneth Borden and former city controller Ed Harrington will lead the group that includes Beverly Scott, former leader of transit systems in Atlanta and Boston, AC Transit General Manager Mike Hursch, and officials from Transit Worker Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni operators. 

Muni has to work for everyone—for people commuting to work, for people getting to appointments, for people who are just trying to live their lives,” Breed said. “That requires us continuing to invest in new trains and buses, but also looking at the system as a whole to see how we can make improvements.”

The group will issue a report by January 2020. 

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