Tardy Muni Metro lags on half its trips

It’s not your imagination if you’ve noticed more delays, slowdowns and crowds on Muni Metro trains.

A report this week from John Haley, transit director of operations, said Muni’s light-rail system posted an on-time performance of less than 50 percent in May.

Haley said many factors affected the subway’s performance including vehicle malfunctions, which accounted for 71 percent of delays. 14 percent of delays were due to trains failing to connect with the automatic train control as vehicles enter the subway.

On average, a train can break down every 25 to 30 days, which affects the availability of trains each day, Haley said.

Muni riders may have noticed single-car trains during peak commute times, which was part of a discussion last week at a San Francisco Board of Supervisors hearing on Muni delays affecting the local economy.

The report on Muni’s Metro poor service last month was presented to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board earlier this week. Board member Malcolm Heinicke, a regular rider on the subway, said riding the Muni Metro can be frustrating sometimes:

“Occasionally we are shown how great the service can be. And then quite often it doesn’t live up to that and my fellow riders and I are left wondering why is it that we can’t have that same smooth service we had yesterday?”

Haley said he is working on assigning additional mechanics to the subway, updating schedules that meet current operating conditions and adding supervision at choke points where trains slow down, like Church and Duboce, and Embarcadero station.

A new procedure will also roll out at the end of this month at the Embarcadero station with the hopes of speeding up service. The time allotted for trains to turnaround will be reduced to three minutes, said Haley.

Currently, each train is given five minutes in the schedule to make the turnaround from inbound to outbound. An analysis showed that only 10 percent of trains were able to complete the turnaround on schedule.

Muni will also be testing double-berthing in July. This would allow more than one train at some of Muni’s longer platforms to unload and load riders at the same time. Three-car trains are also being looked at by the transit agency.

Muni is looking to put out bids for new trains next year, which might arrive in 2017.

Until then, Heinicke requested a follow-up in the fall to evaluate if any of the solutions have improved Metro service.