Mayor London Breed, in her continued frustration with the SFMTA, has put together a working group to review all Muni service and recommend changes, months ahead of hiring a new agency director.
Current SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin announced his departure in April under pressure from Breed, and following a particularly disastrous day for the agency with a morning rush-hour meltdown that impacted all Muni Metro service. Reiskin will be stepping down in August, but it's not clear that a replacement will be named before Breed's reelection comes up for a vote in November. As of two weeks ago, the SFMTA Board was meeting just to finalize the job description and looking at several proposals from executive search firms to help with the task.
But now as the Chronicle reports, at the suggestion of District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, Breed has appointed a transit performance task force to get an overview of Muni's current troubles and a set of recommendations that can become marching orders for a new director. The working group includes Mandelman as well as former City Controller Ed Harrington, and SFMTA Board Director Gwyneth Borden. From outside the city, the group will also include AC Transit general manager Mike Hursh, Los Angeles MTA COO James Gallagher, and Beverly Scott, former executive director of the transit systems in Atlanta and Boston.
As Mandelman tells the Chronicle, "We’re going to look at what the MTA has achieved over two decades, where it’s failed, and what kind of funding it needs to be successful."
Breed is already asking for 90-day improvement plans from the SFMTA's transit director Julie Kirschbaum, who is shouldering a lot of the burden right now as Muni grapples with problems with its fleet of new trains.
When she was promoted last month, Kirschbaum gave a statement saying, "I am honored and humbled to take on this critical role. While we have a lot of work to do, the steps we are taking now will help improve the system for everyone."
As Harrington says, diplomatically, to the Chronicle, a transit system "requires constant renewal," and Muni's current problems have as much to do with our population boom as they do with aging train cars, a driver shortage, and a system that was originally engineered decades ago.