You've probably noticed over the past week that Muni's light rail system has been functioning even worse than normal. The fundamental problem with the light rail system is that we don't have enough vehicles. Muni didn't order enough in the 1990s, and because the light rail vehicles (LRVs) have serious defects and are now old, they break down too much, with few if any replacement vehicles available. This week saw a higher than normal failure rate, including mechanical failures and accidents, in addition to the Giants playing at home all week. The situation is unacceptable and, frankly, embarrassing for our world-class city.
The good news is that on Tuesday, I joined several colleagues (including Supervisor London Breed) to introduce legislation approving the purchase of the next generation of LRVs. Muni will thus have almost twice as many vehicles, the vehicles will be much more reliable, and we will be able to have numerous 3 and 4-car trains in the subway.
The bad news is that in the short run, until the new vehicles roll out, we are stuck with the LRVs we have. The first crop of new LRVs will roll our in 2016, with gradual rollout thereafter. Of note, this contract is not fully funded. We will need to do what San Francisco has a poor track record of doing: adequately investing in our transit system. If we make aggressive investments, we can accelerate production and roll-out of LRVs in the few years after 2016. If we don't, it'll be a slower rollout. I have a measure on the ballot this November that will help us do just that: make key investments in improving Muni's reliability and capacity as our population and transit needs continue to grow.