On April 20, an online media outlet posted a video
promoting the supposed benefits of reducing the numbers of bus stops, as a way to speed up MUNI. Though the message itself may initially seem appealing, look at the mobility capacities of those who are interviewed.
NONE of those interviewed share with seniors, people with disabilities, and single parents a visceral, ongoing need for easy and safe access to reliable transit. The 3 people interviewed on the street, as well as two of the supposed "experts", all are agile, childless individuals between the ages of 25 and 45 who each have a choice of modes of travel.
That's not always the case with seniors and people with disabilities.
Speeding up MUNI is not as simple as the sample suggestion we hear in the video, to simply eliminate every other stop on the heavily-traveled Mission Street corridor.
MTA staff often use some statistical analysis on determining passenger loads and needs for frequency of bus service on each line. But, what is missing is any analysis of the characteristics and needs of the passengers who use those lines. MTA doesn't try to determine how many parents and grandparents take their pre-schoolers and young kids to and from school on MUNI. Simple elimination of every other stop means a family may have to go two extra blocks to get to and two extra blocks to get from a bus stop.
Pushing a baby in a stroller and holding the hand of a curious toddler while trying to get to a MUNI stop to pick up a 2nd-grader from school is taxing at any time; adding two blocks for each portion of a trip [ 4 blocks minimum and possibly 6 total when including transferring] is even more burdensome.
Think then of the difficulties in getting to and from fewer MUNI bus stops of those who use manual wheelchairs or walkers.
In an attempt to get support from viewers for reducing the number of bus stops, the video simply cites linear distance information, without regard to passengers' needs. Nothing is said about first instituting more bus-only lanes and then engaging effective enforcement of bus-only lanes. Nor is anything said about quick enforcement of double-parking.
The video's excerpted comments by an MTA staff planner also fail to show a real grasp of the needs of passengers in determining what stops to consider for elimination and where to consider re-positioning them. To say that no stop in front of a senior center would be eliminated may seem responsive; actually, it is placatory and masks all the other travel needs and plans of seniors and / or of people with disabilities.
Seniors and people with disabilities need to travel to all the same types of destinations that the agile, able-bodied people pictured in the video travel to -- but seniors and people with disabilities may not be as agile, swift, and adept as those featured in the video.
The simplistic solution suggested in the video could easily result in a decline in use of MUNI by seniors and by people with disabilities--a form of Darwinian "cleansing" of certain types of passengers from MUNI.
What's unstated is that any large-scale elimination of bus stops could result in much HIGHER costs to MUNI -- by those who are conditionally eligible for the heavily-subsidized paratransit. If this bloc of passengers can't safely get to and from a bus stop, they can be forced to use paratransit. That hidden cost factor is ignored by the video's makers and their hand-picked "experts".
Finally, re-positioning bus stops is more than a game of numbers of passengers served. WE who are transit-dependent and vulnerable understand that reducing the numbers of bus stops is a case of protracted urban warfare -- public meetings and hearings on a block-by-block and corner-by-corner basis.
All those corners and blocks slated to get a newly-installed bus stop can drag out the process by complaining about losing curbside parking -- and thereby project litter, vandalism, and the death of Western civilization. We experienced that in the Inner Sunset, in the late '90s, at UCSF's Key Stop.
Who stood then with seniors and the disabled? NOT ONE SINGLE CITY HALL OFFICIAL.
Being abandoned by all at City Hall understandably makes us wary of such a drastic change as eliminating a large percentage of MUNI bus stops. When the "expert" proponents are so closely linked to an agency [ SPUR ] that called for the clearly illegal charge of $ 300 / year for use of disabled parking placards, then does the possibility of a hidden bias surface.
It's a case of able-bodied Yuppies trying to tell those in need what they need. Demeaning, insulting, and just plain wrong. That's where the film's analysis and storyline falls down.