Reader Mail: Catch Up Day – Safety, Good News, and More – UPDATED

With all the attention the site has received recently, there’s been a lot more Reader Mail coming in, and it’s easy for me to sometimes lose track of it during a busy week. Here now we catch up with readers writing in about MUNI safety, some good news from the N line, and more…
First, Reader Tracy writes, with a moment of Zen goodness on the N worth writing about:

Was on inbound N Wednesday (July 30) standing up front. Operator AA male, skinny, 50-something. A large,elderly babushka Russian lady boards at 9th, gleeful on seeing operator, “so good to see you” and he hops up, opens door and gives her a hug while other passengers board behind her. Delay, none. Atmosphere wonderful. Kinda reminds me of the 60s when the operators really knew their passengers.

Once again, a good operator, who deserves more than a gold star. Maybe we should give ’em out ourselves since it’s not like MUNI seems to want to reward the good guys and gals of MUNI?
Next, a reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes in with another incident about Good Citizen Service, in this case a late night incident:

Hi, I’ve been a longtime reader, really enjoying the anecdotes, but never really felt I had much to contribute until now.
Last week I had an amazing experience on the N. I even called 311 to report it.
At about 10pm on Thursday I was waiting at Embarcadero station when I realized I wanted to be closer to the head of the train when it came. I got up from my seat and walked towards where the front of the train would pull in. I notice that a guy who had been siting near me on the round bench got up and moved as well, standing near and slightly behind me.
On the N he sat near me in the middle of the train. I couldn’t be sure if he was trying to follow me (Im a petite 22yo female), but the fact that he continually glanced in my direction over his paper did not make me feel comfortable. About 2 blocks from my stop in the outer Sunset I walked up to the driver of the train and ducked my head into his window. I told him there was a man I didn’t feel comfortable near and was wondering if he could possibly help me make sure that this guy didn’t get off the train behind me. The driver, without hesitation and further explanation from me said “where do you want to be let off child?”
I asked if I could be dropped off one block between my stop and the one after it, so I would be closer to my house. Sure enough, in between the two stops the driver paused the vehicle without notice and opened the front door only, allowing me to exit. As I turned around on the sidewalk to wave to the driver I noticed the man had stood up and started walking. I’ll never know if he was trying to follow me or not, but that driver was my best friend that night.
I called 311 that night and noted the time and direction of the train, but I cannot thank that driver enough for his kindness. It is that safety which makes me so proud to live in this community.

These days you can never be too safe. Maybe the person was a stabby stalker, or maybe just coincidentally leaving at the same time. Either way, a high five to the driver who helped a passenger late at night!
There’s more after the jump about safety and fare jumping, please continue!


Next, Reader “J” CC’s us on a letter to the SF Chronicle regarding MUNI statistics that gives one some points to consider:
TO: Greg Dewar

Re: More MUNI Misery…(N-Judah)
What was the Big Deal about the last quarter report of MUNI’s on time performance improvement from a 69 to 70 percent (or vice versa) ?
More importantly, it’s time to measure MUNI’s poor safety record: On June 10, a few days before the MUNI T & N Metro accident at King & 4th Street last month, a friend and her mother fell off the N train at night when the driver opened the doors on the wrong side and they fell into a void, landing on the cobblestones three feet below instead of stepping onto the platform. Other passengers had to jump off the train because the driver failed to notice his error. Meanwhile, one of the two victims is still in a wheelchair, facing potential surgery for her injuries and is unable to fly home to return to her family or her job.
From conversations with fellow MUNI riders, this accident was far from unique but the public is less aware of the daily risks of being a MUNI passenger. I suggest MUNI provide passengers with the London Underground’s constant public warning announcement to “Mind the Gap” and focus on improving driver training with a stronger focus on safety standards to prevent accidents.
Finally, given MUNI’s miserable performance and safety issues, the proposal for the City and the Board of Supervisors assuming responsibility for PGE and our energy supply is another potential nightmare scenario.

I think we’re going to hear a lot about that last point. Already some on one side of that issue have tried to compare the Municipal Railway’s consolidation with Market Street Railway in the 1940s, and frankly that’s like comparing apples to crack pipes.
And finally, Reader Jeff, who originaly hails from the Seattle area (where I lived for 7 years, actually!) provides an in depth look at fare collection, fare evasion, and enforcement. There’s quite a bit here, but let’s open it up for discussion as well:

I have a suggestion you *may* have overlooked, and a comment as “an outsider”.
If dodgers are very high here [they seem to be, but many of them may have passes they are not showing (knowing the driver doesn’t really want to look at it anyway, as often as not)] AND if checking by uniformed staff increases compliance AND if police asked to use the system tend not to, then I propose a solution worth considering that you may have overlooked.
For a set time, as an experiment with measurable results, have a certain proportion of parking enforcement staff act as deputized Muni enforcement staff. I know this is outside of normal protocol (different agencies), but you have a budget emergency, and $60 is something we all know is two tokes over the line (I don’t even own a car and I recognize that). But is parking enforcement is already net-positive and Muni-enforcement is not, if parking enforcement is adequately staffed and Muni’s is not, it makes sense to balance the pain until it does.
HOW WOULD IT WORK…
Each shift, a single four line computer program picks a random percentage of deputies within a range (for example between 5% and 35%). Every shift when parking enforcement staff arrive at work, a simple eight line computer program picks a random number for each staffer and with the day’s percentage as a probability, assigns that staffer to regular duties or as a Muni deputy to issue revenue-enhancing tickets.
The random bit close to guarantees that marginal fare-dodgers will comply rather than take a chance, because no one knows in advance what days will be hardest hit and what shifts. The lifestyle fare dodgers probably won’t be affected, except they will probabilistically acquire more tickets (the people most everyone agrees SHOULD be paying).
And a little side-benefit: Many drivers paying these Brobdingnagian meter violation fines will be less ugly about it because they will have more trust in the social contract with shifted enforcement. They will be marginally less likely to get ticketed while knowing scoff-fares are marginally more likely to.
An experiment like this should have a sunset clause…last 12- or maybe six months, after which you could evaluate whether it was worth staffing parking and Muni enforcement groups differently from the status quo.
IT’S A BUDGET EMERGENCY…
It must be if a California municipality has the cojones to bust the ball-bearings of drivers (a sacrilege in a culture where the act of driving occupies without challenge the one true faith’s center altar). If it’s an emergency, you can risk changing expected protocols. It’s not like you’re planning to hack them down to minimum wage. You have a surplus of enforcement talent matched with a deficit of enforcement talent.

Remember, you can always email the NJC – and we don’t print your email address or last name. Or, post something in the comments (which we’re working on fixing still) and join the discussion!

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One Response to Reader Mail: Catch Up Day – Safety, Good News, and More – UPDATED

  1. JB says:

    I had an experience with a friendly driver. I was getting on a bus in West Portal, it was foggy Sunday morning, and no one was on the thing. I got on and was alone on the bus with the driver for a good 3 miles. The driver proceeded to tell me stories about MUNI buses, things he would do when he was younger on days like that, and the merits of a certain type of croutons on blood pressure. I was listening to every word because he was being entertaining, friendly, and just an overall good guy. He seemed like a driver who’d been around for awhile, and had a time when driver/rider familiarity was a normal thing. After 4 years of nothing but public transportation, he’s the only MUNI driver I can actually remember.

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