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SF Examiner Doesn't Forget the Past : It Doesn't Even Know It!

This morning's papers are full of news about our MUNI. They're starting to do test runs of the T-Third Line, which is due to open on weekends January 2007, and for full service later in 2007. There's the fallout from the Spare The Air Days (both positive and negative), and the inevitable call for free rides every day, all day.

All interesting, to be sure, but what stuck out today was this peculiar editorial in the billionaire out of towner owned Examiner suggesting that privatizing MUNI would make the system run better.

Umm...yeah. Right. That will improve things. I look at the oh so brilliant innovation and customer service of big monopolies like AT&T, Comcast, and the like.

After dealing with customer service by way of New Bangalore when I have a billing problem, and put up with mediocre, overpriced service that profits a handful of execs, you'll pardon me if I don't sign up for privatizing a service that inherently can't make money without cutting off service to a vast number of neighborhoods and people.

But that's not the point. What's most surprising is that a paper that was once a part of San Francisco History and a former flagship paper for the infamous Hearst Corporation, can't seem to remember San Francsico's own long history of competing streetcar lines. Nor does it seem to remember that consolidation of these many systems into one devoted to the public interest, not personal profit, was necessary for the city to be served properly.

And, it seems the out-of-town editorial writers didn't read any of SPUR's analyses which point out that much of the inefficiency of today's MUNI is left over from duplication of service left over from the old systems, which need to be addressed.

If someone can show me a city where they have a privatized system that serves the entire public equally and cheaply, hey, sign me up. But when a private, chain owned paper that's supposedly been a part of the City for the last 100+ years can't even remember some basic facts of San Francisco history, well, perhaps that's just one more reason we shouldn't rely on large, out of town interests to work in the public interest.

Comments

As you pointed out, Muni can only make muni by cutting service and driving away riders because they loose money on every rider. In fact fares only account for about 25% of Muni's yearly revenue.

It creates a system in which riders are a drain on the system. Managers and planners are in an unfortunate position choosing between cutting service and raising fares. Those most dedicated to their job are going to be the ones who are going to be most discouraged. Add to that outside political pressure telling them they can't do either.

So I've had this idea kicking around for a while...

Set aside privatization and that editorial, particularly the quotes from Jane Jacobs, has a point about making Muni competitive. That means Muni needs to have a vested interest in attracting riders with good and fast service.

This is where the private sector has something to offer. A business depends on sales of products and services to make money and that means (in most cases) they have to make the customer happy. Now if Muni were to make money off every rider instead of loosing it, they'd have a reason to improve service.

No, I'm not suggesting hiking fares, but while rider fares are about 25% of Muni's budget, the City provides about 30% through DTP fines and fees, a majority of Muni funding.

If Muni received those DPT funds on a matching basis, cutting ridership would also cut revenue, not the other way around. Caltrain receives a lot more of it's funding directly through fares and matching funds, so last year when they were facing a deficit they increased service by (I think it was) 10 trains a day to attract more riders (though it did come along with a fare increase)

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