Muni floats focus toward lower-income riders

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is taking steps to make sure that riders that need Muni the most are able to get to their destinations without service delays.

The “Muni Equity Strategy,” proposed at the transit agency’s policy governance and policy meeting last Friday, will focus on improving key Muni routes in low-income neighborhoods in The City.

Julie Kirschbaum, operations and scheduling manager for the SFMTA, said the transit agency will first identify low-income and minority neighborhoods through Census data and by working with advocacy groups like People Organized to Win Employment Rights, one group who fought for free Fast Passes for the City’s low and moderate-income youth.

Kirschbaum said the focus would not be on every route in each neighborhood, but on critical routes in underserved communities.

The transit agency would look at service for each route such as crowding, gaps in service and how long it takes to get key destinations in neighborhoods such as grocery stores, the hospital and transit connections.

SFMTA staff will look at routes at not just during peak hours, but also during the midday and late-night.

Improvements could include changes in how the transit agency manages the service, increasing frequency or capital projects.

Staff from the transit agency plan to report annually to the SFMTA board and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority on the status and effectiveness of the equity strategies including proposals to improve Muni routes.

Funding for any capital projects or increased service would be looked at during the next budget cycle in the spring of 2016.

The transit agency plans to hold community outreach meetings in the summer and fall this year to identify specific transit needs for each neighborhood.

Work has already begun to find out who Muni customers are through a on-board survey of over 22,000 riders conducted last year, said Kirschbaum.

Fifty-one percent of Muni riders said they considered themselves living in low-income households while 58 percent of riders surveyed identified themselves as non-white.

The survey also found that more than three percent of riders said they paid with a discounted disabled fare or were a Medicare card holder.

The equity strategy will go to the SFMTA board for approval at its May 6 meeting.