VIGILANCE! Simple Muni Solutions: Best Practices in the World.  =  FRISC
Fast, Frequent, Reliable, Inexpensive, Safe, Clean and “Cool”.
Emphasizing best transportation practices in the world, is dedicated to improving the entire Muni transit system  in every neighborhood of San Francisco—quickly and inexpensively—rather than wasteful projects, like the Central Subway,that decrease transit service levels and take money from the rest of the Muni system.

BE VIGILANT!   The shrinking zero-sum game:  More losers than winners.  Muni riders will lose more transit service, while bad projects take more money.  Be vigilant of a ballooning 2014 General Obligation Bond ($120 million to $250 million to $500 million) and plans to decrease neighborhood transit.  Be aware of more stealth Central Subway funds as cost overruns rocket and schemes to push the subway north to the waterfront, taking more money from the rest of Muni. 

TRANSIT EFFECTIVENESS PROJECT (TEP)  =  TRANSIT-PRIORITY STREETS (TPS) Starting in 2003, with voter approval of Prop K and its citywide TPS policy, a world-class transit system could have been initiated—instead of bad priorities that caused service cuts, route eliminations, shortened bus lines, switchbacks, missed runs, deferred maintenance, “holiday” schedules, increased fares/ fees/ fines/ meters….  The current TEP cuts service levels for the neighborhoods, seniors, disabled, low-income and disenfranchised.  SFMTA can modernize transit in every neighborhood—rather than usurping funds for limited expensive projects at the expense of citywide quality.  First, the TEP should provide a record of Muni service degradation since 2003.  Then, instead of shuffling funding and service levels as a zero-sum game, Prop K’s TPS should be planned for the entire Muni system.  By adopting best practices in the world, the entire Muni system can be transformed—-quickly.

SAN FRANCISCO AS A MEDITERRANEANVILLAGE San Francisco is geographically compact with a relatively small population.  San Francisco is a livable city and a world-class destination because of its Mediterranean village-like quality, geographic beauty, topographic splendor, historicism, culture, diversity and a human scale rich with creativity.  San Francisco’s uniqueness drives its largest industry of tourism— the economic-engine that attracts 16 million visitors and $8.5 billion annually.  Buttressing what already now occurs, good urban design gets people to pass by every street, café, restaurant, storefront, park, scenic vista, landmark… People should activate every street and every neighborhood—walking, shopping, sitting, biking and riding buses/ cable cars/ streetcars.  Smart planning amplifies social connectivity, chance encounters and diverse interactions—stirring the economic and creative primordial pot throughout the day and night.

SIMPLE SOLUTIONS FOR MUNI We need world-class transit for every street and every neighborhood—quickly and inexpensively.  Simplicity is quicker.  Paint is cheap.  Elegance is efficient.  Even developing countries can move millions of daily riders with limited funding.  Forty years ago in Curitiba (Brazil), Mayor Jaime Lerner (an architect and urban planner) integrated public transportation into a comprehensive urban plan.  Curitiba’s transit-priority streets and bus rapid transit were consistently implemented in stages, avoiding large-scale and expensive projects in favor of modest initiatives.  In 1973, Zurich’s voters rejected an expensive subway project and voted instead to implement a less costly transit-priority program—-leading to one of the world’s highest per capita ridership rates because its transit service is fast, frequent, reliable and inexpensive.  While regional-metropolitan transit authorities are commonplace globally, even more prevalent are citywide integrated transit systems.  Meanwhile, Muni has fewer riders now than it did a decade ago—the only major transit agency to lose customers among the nation’s top six transit districts.  Only 17% of all trips within the city are by public transit, 21% are by biking/ walking and 62% are by motorized vehicles.  Transit-Priority Streets are flexible and easily phased.  Muni has already adopted TPS elements of all-door boarding, traffic light synchronization, bus-only lanes and color-coded lanes—expandable with parking/ traffic management, peak hour management, delivery management, neighborhood loop buses, pedestrian-bicycle enhancements, street beautification and a citywide comprehensive plan.


BEST TRANSIT PRACTICES IN THE WORLD Unless the SFMTA reprioritizes funding to improve Muni throughout the city, most people will rely on their automobiles—to meet complex multi-tasking in their daily lives.  Many cities have transformed public transit through conventional innovations to meet people’s needs.

YOUTUBE:  Epic Bus Ad from Denmark

DENMARK:  Design is important!  Taking the bus has never been cooler than this funny Danish TV commercial for Midttrafik.  Good transit has to be safe, clean and “cool” too.  Cable cars and historic streetcars are desirable “slow” transit because they’re “cool”.

YOUTUBE:  Take The Bus, De Lijn, Funny Video

BELGIUM:  Transit can demonstrate collective benefits.  Cute Bus Ads by Belgium’s De Lijn, which transports over 508 million passengers annually, for an area population of 6.5 million.

PLANETIZEN:  Zurich, The World’s BestTransitCity
“The thing that sets Zurich apart is not just the frequency of the individual bus lines, but the density and interconnectedness of the overall network of buses, trams, commuter rail, funicular railroads and ferries on LakeZurich.”

MINETA TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE:  Implementation of Zurich’s Transit Priority Program
“Zurich is famous for the quality of its public transportation system and it has one of the highest levels of per capita transit ridership in the world.  This is because its transit service is fast, frequent, reliable and inexpensive due in large part to its transit priority program.”

YOUTUBE:  Swiss Streetcars, Trolleybuses and Trains
By year 2000, Zurich was a leader in ecological, environmentally-friendly, integrated transit systems.

NEW YORK MAGAZINE:  Subway On The Street
“To a large extent, flexibility remains the bus’s chief advantage—unrailed, they can go wherever we want them to go—and they’re a relative bargain. But over the last decade, in a few transit-enlightened cities around the world, the bus has received a dramatic makeover. It has been reengineered to load passengers more quickly. It has become much more energy-efficient. And, most important, the bus system—the network of bus lines and its relationship to the city street—has been rethought. Buses that used to share the street with cars and trucks are now driving in lanes reserved exclusively for buses and are speeding through cities like trains in the street. They are becoming more like subways.”

CRI ENGLICH:  Guangzhou Wins Sustainable Transport Prize
A bike-sharing program, wide bicycle lanes lined with trees, and a huge bus system that ties into the municipal rail network are all part of the recipe for a winning transportation system in Guangzhou.  The bus rapid transit system which opened in February 2010 carries as many as 800,000 people a day, making it one of the world’s largest.  More importantly, the new bus system “hooks up seamlessly” with rail and “idyllic” bicycle paths and bike-sharing stations and helps to make the city.

STREETFILMS:  MBA: Bus Rapid Transit
“Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) provides faster and more efficient service than an ordinary bus.  These systems operate like a surface subway but cost far less than building an actual metro.  Watch this chapter of ‘Moving Beyond the Automobile’ to learn about the key features of bus rapid transit systems around the world and how BRT helps shift people out of cars and taxis and into buses.”

URBAN HABITAT:  Curitiba’s Bus System is a Model for Rapid Transit
“The bus system of Curitiba, Brazil, exemplifies a model Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, and plays a large part in making this a livable city.  The buses run frequently—some as often as every 90 seconds—and reliably, and the stations are convenient, well-designed, comfortable, and attractive.  Consequently, Curitiba has one of the most heavily used, yet low-cost, transit systems in the world.  Around  70 percent of Curitiba’s commuters use the BRT to travel to work, resulting in congestion-free streets and pollution-free air for the 2.2 million inhabitants of greater Curitiba.”

HUFFINGTON POST:  China Plans Huge Buses That Can DRIVE OVER cars
“The innovation will allow cars less than 2 meters high to travel underneath the upper level of the vehicle, which will be carrying passengers.  The 6-meter-wide 3D Express Coach will be powered by a combination of electricity and solar energy, and will be able to travel up to 60 kilometers per hour carrying some 1200 to 1400 passengers.” In the coming future, transportation technology will develop quickly, requiring planning flexibility and adeptness.

Transit-Priority Streets (TPS) is a flexible concept that can be adapted to individual neighborhoods and phased in incremental steps.  Under-developed countries implement variations of TPS as funding allows.

Subway projects, which connect to regional commuter rail, drive up land values, up-zoning, special use districts, development, densification and gentrification—threatening affordability, evictions, diversity and neighborhoods.  Modern surface transit suits the Mediterranean village of San Francisco—strengthening all neighborhoods equally.

 SAN FRANCISCO HAS EXISTING TPS PLANS THAT CAN BE IMPLEMENTED Transit-Priority Streets are city policy by 2003’s Proposition K.  TPS can be built in parts or in phases—quickly with performance specifications that use field-directed work and unit costs.  Thousands of jobs for every neighborhood would stimulate the economy—with massive local hiring of a wider range of workers.
SFMTA has already implemented elements of TPS, such as all-door boarding, dedicated bus lanes, color-coded lanes, sidewalk widening, bulb-outs, traffic signal synchronization….  With a global city plan, every neighborhood can implement TPS—with street beautification, parking/ traffic/ delivery management, BRT stations, pre-boarding payment, low-floor buses, neighborhood loop buses….  SFMTA has already developed a host of TPS plans and trial projects.  By example, for northeastern San Francisco, small amounts of funding could revolutionize transit quickly:

Following the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, this study evaluated a host of transit solutions.  Besides a subway, quicker alternatives included new bus routes, F-Line loops, street/ traffic management…


In 2003, this study of a Stockton Street TPS program could be built for under $10 million—including dedicated bus lanes, sidewalk widening, bulbouts, street beautification…..

STREETSBLOG:  Chinatown Businesses Thrive During a Week Without Car Parking

During the 2012 and 2013 Chinese New Year, Stockton Street’s parking removal, no double parking, delivery restrictions and “widened” sidewalk instituted TPS elements that allowed buses to fly through the busy commercial corridor.


BETTER MUNI PRIORITIES FREES UP FUNDS Usurping $595 million in state and local funds, the Central Subway Project has drained Muni budgets.  With upcoming cost overruns, as high as $500 million, the Central Subway will take more funds—state, local, transportation tax dollars, debt load, revenue bonds and general obligation bonds.  The 2014 TEP General Obligation Bond may be tapped for the Central Subway.
To subsidize the Central Subway, SFMTA has taken Muni operating/ maintenance funds—causing service cuts, route eliminations, shortened lines, deferred maintenance, crumbling infrastructure, missed runs, switchbacks, “holiday” schedules, increased fares/ fees/ fines/ meters….  Major commercial streets like Columbus Avenue, Clement Street and Valencia Street have diminished as transit corridors.  In 2007, the new T-Line (Central Subway Phase 1) eliminated the 15-Kearny Bus/ 20 Columbus Bus and cut hours for the 41-Union Bus.  In 2009-10, SFMTA eliminated 6 routes, shortened 16 routes and reduced operating hours on 22 routes.
If built, according to FEIR and FTA documents, the Central Subway will take $15 million annually from Muni operating funds and cut 34,000-76,000 bus hours/ year from the 8X, 30, 45 bus lines—decreasing service to many northern and southern neighborhoods.  With elimination of the T-Line’s Embarcadero/ Waterfront loop and direct connectivity to Market Street’s BART/ Metro Stations, the Central Subway will cut transit service for hundreds of thousands of riders.  The Central Subway decreases net Muni service to the transit-starved southeast corridor, Waterfront, Market Street Corridor, Chinatown and northeast quadrant.
Moreover, the Central Subway’s unnecessary 2,000 foot, empty tunnels from Chinatown to Washington Square will waste $70 million.  And the Pagoda Theater Project will waste another $9 million—taken from Muni operating funds.

CENTRAL SUBWAY DECREASES NET TRANSIT SERVICE The Central Subway Project takes $595 million of state and local funding from the rest of Muni—as well as $942 million of federal funds, much needed for the Downtown Caltrain Extension.  With impending cost overruns, as high as $500 million, stealth plans are to take more funds from Muni.  Little known, the Central Subway eliminates the existing T-Line’s Embarcadero Loop (dashed line)—causing a net service decrease into Market Street’s BART/ Metro Stations and less connectivity to the waterfront, Transbay Terminal and future High-Speed Rail.

Expensive projects override TPS improvements in every neighborhood of San Francisco. 

 Regards, Howard Wong, AIA