Google vs MUNI

googlebustimelapse-00233

The Bus Wars: MUNI vs GOOGLE

The original video can be seen here: http://vimeo.com/88424080

From the VIMEO page:

“Taken on Thursday March 6, 2014 between roughly 6:15AM and 9:15AM during the morning peak. Purpose was to observe how commuter shuttles and Muni operates at this stop (21-Hayes, EB at Steiner). One should note that the 21-Hayes is less frequent than some of its nearby counterparts (5/5L-Fulton) and 71L and 6 on Haight Street. Video was taken for planning purposes only and is not intended to be used outside of this context. Video was taken at speed and from this distance specifically to limit any privacy issues.

Note that Thursday morning is also street cleaning on this side of the street, hence why there are no vehicles parked towards the end of the video. For questions please email at supawanich@gmail.com”

Screenshots were only taken when a bus stopped (dead stop) in the bus stop. No private shuttles buses passed by without stopping in the stop (even when one of them did not board any passengers), but several MUNI buses passed by without stopping (these were not included). The term ‘GoogleBus’ is used as a shortcut for any private corporate shuttle bus.

The original video is (approximately) 3 hours speeded up to 3 minutes and 25 seconds. This means every second on the video is (approximately) 50 seconds real time. The screenshot granularity is one tenth of a (speeded-up) second; therefore the actual screenshot granularity is approximately 5 seconds. The duration time in the bus stop (in brackets) is in seconds, from the first frame the bus is (partially) in the stop to the last frame the bus is (partially) in the stop. These times are calculated using the x50 speed.

The time spent in the stops by the private shuttles are much longer than when MUNI stops. The private shuttles are boarding many more passengers in the video. One might say the need for the private shuttles is obvious, since so many people use them; another might say these are passengers diverted from public transportation systems, and all that implies (loss of income, funding, improvements, etc).

It has often been stated in the media, regarding this video, that the only clear instance of the private shuttles interfering with MUNI operation is at timeframe 01:20 (Washington Post article: “It’s also true – as occurs at about the 1:20 mark – that the Google bus appears to occasionally get in the way of the Muni bus, confirming the complaints of many San Franciscans.”). This is where the private shuttle bus sat in the stop for five minutes and twenty seconds, boarding passengers, with a MUNI bus right behind it (we can’t tell for how long; see Figures 12, 13). But this is misleading. At two times in the video a MUNI bus passes right by the stop completely, while the private shuttle is in the bus stop (see Figures 20, 32). I feel it’s safe to assume, in these cases, that (1) the MUNI driver did not want to wait for the shuttle to leave and skipped the stop altogether, or (2) the MUNI driver could not see through the private shuttle bus if any MUNI passengers were waiting and chose to drive past instead of waiting. In either case the end result is the private shuttle interfered with the operation of the MUNI buses. Another figure shows a MUNI bus pulling into the stop directly behind the private shuttle as it pulls out (see Figure 29).We can assume from the video that the MUNI bus had to wait for the private shuttle bus (it was in the bus stop for 45 seconds) and therefore, technically, interfered with MUNI operations.

One thing never been mentioned in any article regarding this video (none that I have found) is how the private shuttle buses (and yes, MUNI, too, but that is not the point of contention here) interfere with other traffic (autos and bicycles). They block traffic behind them by not pulling up to the curb (43.75% of the time in the video), creating delays and safety hazards (if drivers/bicyclists try to pass around them).

This particular bus stop is not very active compared to other MUNI stops that are being shared with the private shuttles. Any problems seen here are most likely magnified many times over in other neighborhoods with more private shuttles and busier MUNI buses.

In the video a total of 16 private shuttles and 20 MUNI buses stop in the bus stop (and one Amazon Fresh delivery truck). The private shuttles spent an estimated 23.5 minutes in the stop, while MUNI spent an estimated 5.5 minutes in the stop, which averages to 88 seconds per private shuttle bus and 16.5 seconds per MUNI bus. Considering that the private shuttle buses were boarding many more passengers, this is understandable. Under the current SFMTA pilot program for the private shuttle buses the city will receive $16.00 for the activities shown in the video (approximately $5.33 per hour).

The width and length of the private shuttle buses are similar to that of the MUNI buses, but the height of most of the private shuttle buses (particularly the double-decker buses; see Figure 25) is considerably taller than the MUNI buses. If this is one of the reasons that these taller buses do not fully pull in closer to the curb (the top of the bus might hit overhanging tree branches), then the only solution to this, in order for them to be able to stop closer to the curb, out of the traffic lane, to board/unboard passengers, is to trim more of the city’s trees at bus stops. Hopefully the $1 per stop fee will cover this.

Point System (Negative Based)

-1 for too far out from curb
-2 for so far out from curb outer white bus stop line visible
-1 for too far back in bus stop (closest indecipherable white lettering in stop is visible)
-2 for so far back in bus stop white ‘STOP’ lettering is visible
-2 for so far forward in bus stop bus is in automobile parking spot
N/A hindering MUNI bus operation

Three of 16 private shuttle buses scored 0 points (no offenses).
Zero of 20 MUNI buses scored 0 points (no offenses).
[edit: conditional scores; see comment 2 below]

The Final Score         Total Points   Averaged Per Vehicle
MUNI:                                      -34                   -1.7
SHUTTLE:                              -19                   -1.2
AMAZON:                               -02                   -2.0

And the WINNER is… (drumroll) … SHUTTLE BUSES! with the least negative points. [edit: conditional winner; see comment 1 below]

Although deduction of several MUNI points can be somewhat justified because of the hindrance caused by a private shuttle bus it would not change the outcome/winner. And, realistically, the private shuttle score is not good–it’s just that MUNI’s score is so bad.

CONCLUSIONS

MUNI operations were (most likely) hindered by the private shuttles in (a minimum of) 4 out of 22 instances (18%).

  1. The private shuttle bus drivers are better (less bad) at correctly using the MUNI bus stops than MUNI drivers.
  2. MUNI bus stops are not wide enough to accommodate public transit buses of any type in this video
  3. San Francisco needs to trim and/or remove many trees to accommodate the taller shuttle buses; perhaps a new pilot program for city-wide Public Tree Attrition can be researched
  4. Although not related to this bus stop, the private shuttle buses (but not MUNI buses) travel on many of the city’s narrower streets where vehicle gross weight technically prohibits such usage. Perhaps the city can also initiate a pilot program for widening some city streets for the private shuttle buses. This will necessitate the city procuring some housing through eminent domain procedures for the widened roadways. I suggest we begin SFMTA hearings for this to be held in the neighborhoods affected. Noe Valley might be a good place to start. And hopefully this too can be afforded through the $1.00 per bus per stop fee the city is being paid by the private shuttles.

And last, but not least, based on the scores I have noted above, it is obvious that MUNI is falling down on the job. Equally obvious is that Google (and Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, EBAY, et al) can do it better (though still not well). I suggest to the city of San Francisco that we scrap MUNI altogether and contract with Bay Area technology companies to provide us with our public transportation. It’s not my decision to make, but based on prior evidence, I think $1.00 per stop per bus paid to the technology companies would be fair.

[edit: added from March 20 Comment #1]

Note: The ‘too far back’ and ‘so far back’ points are based on the idea any bus should pull into the bus stop as far ahead as practical, in order for another bus to pull in behind it.
The bus stand, where MUNI passengers tend to wait, is located at the beginning of the stop, not the end. This would explain why so many of the MUNI buses do not pull in at the far end of the stop (no doubt riders would complain, saying “Why can’t you just stop where everyone is?” if the drivers did otherwise).

If you take this into account, with MUNI scoring:
-8 for too far back in bus stop
-22 for so far back in bus stop
and detracting that from their score, the tally would be:
-4 Total points for MUNI (-34 -(-30) = -4), averaging -0.2 points per vehicle.
Applying the same to the private shuttle buses (although their riders do not appear to use the MUNI bus stands) would be an adjusted score of -13 (-19 -(-6)), averaging -0.8 points per vehicle.

We have a new winner! MUNI!

[edit: added from March 21 Comment #2]

And…
If you use the criteria in Comment 1 (penalties are assigned only for distance from curb, blocking other traffic, and stopping in automobile parking space), the adjusted tallies for buses scoring 0 points (no offense) are…
Seven of 16 private shuttle buses scored 0 points (no offenses) (43.7%).
Eighteen of 20 MUNI buses scored 0 points (no offenses) (90.0%).

We have a new winner! MUNI!

[edit: added March 27]
The graphic below shows the proximity of all the buses on a timeline.
The use of ‘one minute or less collision’ is purely subjective to make a point.
Note: Yellow dot is Amazon Fresh truck

googlevsmuni-graph-2hrs

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2 Responses to Google vs MUNI

  1. admin admin says:

    Note: The ‘too far back’ and ‘so far back’ points are based on the idea any bus should pull into the bus stop as far ahead as practical, in order for another bus to pull in behind it.
    The bus stand, where MUNI passengers tend to wait, is located at the beginning of the stop, not the end. This would explain why so many of the MUNI buses do not pull in at the far end of the stop (no doubt riders would complain, saying “Why can’t you just stop where everyone is?” if the drivers did otherwise).

    If you take this into account, with MUNI scoring:
    -8 for too far back in bus stop
    -22 for so far back in bus stop
    and detracting that from their score, the tally would be:
    -4 Total points for MUNI (-34 -(-30) = -4), averaging -0.2 points per vehicle.
    Applying the same to the private shuttle buses (although their riders do not appear to use the MUNI bus stands) would be an adjusted score of -13 (-19 -(-6)), averaging -0.8 points per vehicle.

    We have a new winner! MUNI!

  2. admin admin says:

    And…
    If you use the criteria in Comment 1 (penalties are assigned only for distance from curb, blocking other traffic, and stopping in automobile parking space), the adjusted tallies for buses scoring 0 points (no offense) are…
    Seven of 16 private shuttle buses scored 0 points (no offenses) (43.7%).
    Eighteen of 20 MUNI buses scored 0 points (no offenses) (90.0%).

    We have a new winner! MUNI!

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