As our City bounces back from COVID, we have continued the work to bring back transit service. Most of our lines are back, and Muni is faster and more reliable than it has been for decades. We continue to add more services as soon as new transit operators finish their training. Just this week we announced we are bringing back the 1X California during commute hours and expanding our partnership with Golden Gate Transit to support riders who used to ride the 30X. And we launched a free weekend service on the Central Subway! As we hire and train more transit operators, we will restore more lines and more service.
As we do this work to restore service, we are focused on making sure Muni is clean and safe for our riders. The good news is that we were already increasing security on Muni and safety across our system and are taking additional steps in response to recent incidents.
Ambassadors in and around Transit Stations
Recently we announced an expansion of our city’s Ambassador program (link) by adding 150 new ambassadors to the over 250 we already have. This program has been successful in making San Francisco a more welcoming and safer place, whether that’s through our Urban Alchemy Ambassadors helping support the Tenderloin, Civic Center, and Mid-Market, or our Welcome Ambassadors located throughout Union Square, Downtown, the Embarcadero, and the Waterfront, or our retired police officer ambassadors supplementing our beat officers’ deployments.
One critical part of our expansion is having these ambassadors not only around our transit stations but inside them. To do this we are partnering with BART to fund more station attendants in our stations. These attendants will provide a positive presence, give directions, and offer basic help to transit riders.
Including this presence in and around our transit hubs is critical. We want people to have a positive experience when they ride Muni and BART, and that includes their time in our stations. Whether this is someone coming to work or a visitor coming in from the airport to San Francisco for the first time in their life, it’s critical that we provide a safe and welcoming experience.
Security on our Buses and Trains
Ensuring that all riders are safe and can be confident riding our buses and trains has been a long-term priority of my administration and the SFMTA. Muni has 13,000 high-quality video cameras on vehicles, in stations and at transit facilities, and video footage is shared with the police when a crime occurs. Inside transit stations, Muni station agents are monitoring these video feeds. Our buses each have at least 11 cameras on them that are recording while they operate. This video footage has enabled the police to identify and arrest people who perpetrated crimes. Recently, they were able to identify a suspect in a case where a rider attacked the transit operator. An arrest warrant has now been issued for that person.
We also have Muni Transit Ambassadors who ride Muni routes and are trained in conflict resolution to assist customers, address any conflicts, prevent acts of vandalism, and assist bus operators. Currently, there are 21 Ambassadors, many of whom know the system because, like me, they grew up here riding it. The SFMTA is hiring another 20 Transit Ambassadors in the coming months. Our Muni Transit Ambassadors are San Francisco community members with deep ties to their neighborhoods. They are trained in conflict resolution techniques and ride-specific Muni routes to assist customers, defuse and deter any conflicts, prevent acts of vandalism and assist bus operators.
Reporting Harassment Supports Prevention
Everyone should feel safe riding Muni, and I’ve heard too many stories of women not feeling safe. Enforcement has a role to play, but we also need to make it clear that when an incident does occur, it needs to be reported. That’s how we can work to respond to and prevent these kinds of occurrences from happening. It’s also how we know where to direct our staff and other resources. To address this, the SFTMA has launched an awareness campaign on gender-based harassment called MuniSafe. https://www.sfmta.com/blog/help-make-munisafe-everyone.
Already, we have seen a major increase in reporting, averaging about 2.8 reports per month over the last five months. Compared to 0.4 reports per month from 2015–2021, that is a 700% increase. That doesn’t mean we’ve had an increase in the incidents, it means we have an increase in their reporting. That’s important because we have been able to access video for a majority of the incidents and have already identified individuals for staff awareness. Depending on the nature of the incident we are working with the San Francisco Police Department as appropriate.
This information helps the SFMTA understand the scope and gravity of gender-based harassment on Muni. Over time, we will be able to identify trends, contributing factors, gaps, and opportunities that require new policies, outreach, and partnerships that will increase Muni safety for everyone.
Cleaning up our transit shelters
Right now, the SFMTA is working on a plan to clean up our bus shelters across the City to create a better experience as our transit riders return to Muni and improve the condition of our streets.
To do this, the SFMTA is amending its contract with Clear Channel, which provides cleaning and maintenance of these shelters as part of its advertising agreement. Once the contract is amended, we will increase the cleaning of transit shelters across the city by 50% going from 2-days a week at all locations to three. Boarding platforms will be cleaned 5-days a week, and we will invest in refreshing our shelters across the city after a full evaluation of their condition.
This will include full shelter replacement, glass replacement, and other repairs and fixes. In addition, we are working on implementing Muni’s new Customer Information System (CIS), which will include new digital screens to provide real-time information to our Muni riders, including accurate predictions.
Muni is an essential part of the lives of our residents and our City’s recovery. It’s a safe and efficient way to get around, and we are committed to keeping it that way, whether you’re waiting for a bus, riding on one of our vehicles, or exiting our stations.