From the SF Bay Guardian:
We joined a small group waiting for a westbound bus at Haight and Divisadero. The sign told us the next bus was coming in five minutes; Michael and Vivian sat on the horribly uncomfortable seats designed to keep homeless people from sleeping on them, and in about 10 minutes along came a 6 Parnassus.
It slowed down enough for us to see that it was standing room only (but nowhere near as bad as the 14 Mission is every day), then pulled away without taking on passengers.
Okay: bus too crowded. Driver decides no more passengers can fit safely aboard. It’s called “passing up” a stop, and it happens. Typically there’s another, emptier bus just behind. And sure enough, the sign said a 71 Haight/Noriega would be along in three minutes.
Well, seven minutes, actually — and then the same thing happened again: full bus, no stop. At this point there were maybe 30 people at the bus stop, and some had been waiting quite a while and were getting pissed. After a while, along came another 71 … and passed us up. The corner was getting crowded; people were yelling at the bus, chasing it, running into the street, and trying to climb in the back door when it stopped in traffic. Not exactly safety first.
But there’s an issue here that intrigues me: What is Muni supposed to do in this situation? It doesn’t seem as if this should be an impossible management problem. A Muni controller could, for example, radio the next five buses on the Haight Street line and tell them each to pass up alternate intersections so everyone gets a chance to ride eventually.
I called Judson True, a nice guy who has the unfortunate job of handling press calls for Muni this week, and he told me Muni does the best it can at line management — that in theory, someone watching the Haight Street line should have radioed in the problem (I think the drivers ought to do that too) and a controller should have been able to shift more buses to that line. I suspect this may have been a screw-up. But one thing that happens when you keep cutting the Muni budget is that the ranks of controllers and line managers — those middle-management “bureaucrats” Matier and Ross and the like always whine about — start to thin out. And this shit happens.
There is a kind of irony to the anti-government ideology when it comes to power. They can mismanage government assets and then shrug it off because they’ve lowered the expectations of government anyway. And when there is a successfully managed public service, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority or Conrail, there’s an intense push to privatize, most likely because someone sees profit to be made.
If government was run like a business, there would be more public sector offerings as alternative revenue. In any case, there’s clearly a demand for public transportation. The private sector sure hasn’t risen to it.
The photo comes from the San Francisco Sentinel.