How to fix Muni Metro

A few years ago, I moved closer to a Bart station simply so I could get to work on time. While Muni Metro has the potential to be a great system, it simply didn’t work for me for any other situation where I needed to get somewhere on time.

The problems I experienced with the Metro are systemic but not intractable. Here’s a few “no duh” solutions to fix Muni Metro.

At the very least, riders need to know when they’re going to be late. When there’s problems on the Metro, the control center needs a way to notify everyone that there’s a delay.

Riders should be notified of what type of delay occurred and be given an estimate for how long the delay will take. This means direct communication with people in trains and people waiting at station platforms. Ideally, bus stops would have this information as well.

Muni has no excuse for failing at this; Bart does this VERY well! During a delay, the Bart control center announces the delay to all stations and on all train loudspeakers. Why can’t Muni Metro do the same?

Being a combined streetcar/subway system, there’s many places where traffic interacts with Metro trains. These areas slow trains unpredictably.

The intersection at West Portal and Ulloa and the intersection at Duboce and Church both see multiple Metro lines exit the tunnel and enter the street. These two places are also notorious for 10 minute+ delays.

Why? Because both intersections have stop signs. Drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists compete with trains in getting through these intersections, often darting in front of trains. Adding a traffic light at both intersections would at least make the delays minor and predictable.

Secondly, other intersections could be improved. A traffic light at Cole and Carl would speed up the N-Judah line slightly. The area where the M-Oceanview crosses 19th Ave has a light, but drivers often block the tracks. A light timing adjustment here would help immensely to get drivers off the blocked section. Failing that, cops should be dispatched to give tickets to motorists who (illegally!) stop on the tracks.

Door malfunctions
When I lived in the Sunset, malfunctioning doors on the train were a source of delays for me on a weekly basis. On some trains, the doors simply won’t close when the train is on an incline. This is unacceptable in a city as hilly as San Francisco.

The doors NEED to somehow be fixed so they can close. This seems like a maintenance no-brainer.

Train spacing
Train spacing solves two problems: being trapped in a tunnel and waiting too long for a train.

When there’s problems with trains ahead of you, riders shouldn’t be trapped on a stationary train in a tunnel. They should be brought to the next station and given the choice to get out and take a bus. A major reason this happens is because there’s too many trains in the tunnel for everyone to arrive at a station platform and get off. In other words, the tunnel is over capacity. The control center could have prevented this, but rarely does.

Likewise, at surface stops you occasionally see several trains go by in a row. This indicates the trains weren’t spaced correctly.

Unlike buses, spacing can and should be resolved in the tunnel. When trains turn around, if there’s three L-Taravals in a row, at least one of them should be changed to a different line. If there hasn’t been a J-Church in the past 20 minutes, why not make it a J-Church? The train control operators can simply change the destination of any train at the Embarcadero switchback. But more often that not, they don’t.

Unfortunately, these problems are obvious to the riders of Muni Metro. Why hasn’t Muni taken action? Are the directors of the MTA unaware of these issues? Do they not care? I can’t tell.

What’s going on, Muni?