Transportation Policy

Transit Troubles

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A series of management and modernization failures in the nation's seventh largest public transit system has prompted officials in San Francisco to look to the private sector for help. The San Francisco Municipal Railway, or Muni, has a $281 million budget and 3,441 employees. Yet Muni has experienced a number of failures and much bad publicity in recent months, including:

• Delays in service and a forced 15 percent reduction in the city's streetcar fleet after a computerized train control system was introduced last August. The problem is not expected to be fixed until 1999.

• Thirty percent of Muni's diesel buses at the agency's Kirkland facility failed inspection by the California Highway Patrol in June.

• The National Transportation Safety Board criticized Muni's safety record in the wake of a series of accidents earlier this year.

Mayor Willie Brown and the private management firm of Booz Allen & Hamilton are negotiating a proposal to help restructure key parts of Muni's operations, including maintenance, troubleshooting, and parts acquisition.

Booz Allen & Hamilton has presented its plan to the mayor, Muni director Emilio Cruz, and Board of Supervisors President Barbara Kaufman. Only one-third of Muni's revenue comes from its customers (in the form of fares); more than 40 percent comes from the city's general fund and from parking revenues.