What REALLY Happened At Yesterday's Hearing at the Board of Supervisors
You can read the Chronicle's account of what happened at yesterday's City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee of the Board of Supervisors, but you won't really hear what actually happened there. Yes, you get the party line from Muni management, in particular John Haley, the Director of Transit. You can watch the spectacle online at SFGOVTV.org
What you didn't hear about, however, was the fact that said Director of Transit not only was poorly prepared for the hearing, he often refused to even bother to answer questions of the two supervisors on the committee, Supervisor Carmen Chu (also comittee chair) and Supervisor John Avalos. Several times during the hearing, one or both would have to call BS and demand, more than once that their questions actually be answered.
Also, another typical Muni tactic was employed during the "presentation" - the use of stale facts to reinforce their facade that "everything is ok." In this case, they used only a few months of data from September-December 2010 to somehow gloss over the fact that a) short turns are a problem and b) we've had a ton of meetings and a lot of promises about this problem that Muni has failed keep, and led to this hearing in the first place! Another tactic: using only SF311 calls to count complaints, essentially saying to anyone who used any one of a number of ways to contact Muni (via a Supervsior, etc) "we're stacking the deck against you." Fail, fail fail. And on it went.
Overall, though, what I came away with after sitting through this hearing was a distinct lack of faith in Muni's management. It's very clear that their so-called "policy" of not short turning trains only when there's a train five minutes behind is just words on paper - anyone dumped off late at night who has to walk to La Playa from 19th Avenue knows that. But when even a Supervisor can't get an answer out of Muni management, how the heck can we, as the mere owners of Muni, expect any respect?
However, the meeting also had some highlights, too. For one, we saw what it's like when Supervisors aren't passing useless "non binding resolutions" and headline grabbing BS, and instead working for the good of the City. Supervisor Chu, in particular, deserves praise for staying on top of this issue and not just letting it slip by after past bogus meetings. Supervisor John Avalos also deserves some praise for being ready to get in Muni's face about their promises, their lack of responsiveness and making a basic point - we can't expect people to use a transit system that's unreliable, and then turn around and start talking about things like congestion pricing that would essentially discriminate against those in the west and southwest of the city. Sitting in the audience, I realized THIS is what it's like when City govenrment represents the people for a change, and it sure felt good.
It was also nice to see some members of the public speak out too, many of whom read the blog, and all of whom used a variant of the term "owner/rider" in their comments. I finally got to meet my twitter friend Katie, who gave a concise and eloquent account of the effect short turns have on the disabled. In a bitter, ironic twist, she was short turned at West Portal on the way home from work later that evening. No, really.
Going forward, I think there's a few things we can do to try and keep this issue on the minds of the well-paid folks at Muni management. One is to flood 311 and every email inbox we can find for Muni and the Supervisors and the Mayor every single time this happens. The other is to start asking our new Mayor to consider cleaning house at Muni. We have already passed a difficult proposition that will, over time, bring some sanity to work rules and the like. Now it is time to take a hard look at the well paid management, in particular, Mr. Ford, and evaluate if we're getting value for the money we're spending up there.
No one "hearing" can solve anything, but it's good to know that Sup. Chu will be keeping this issue alive as we go forward in 2011, with a new Mayor, a new Board, and the potential for another new Mayor this fall.