Saturday, June 25, 2011

Muni's contempt for its passengers 3


Riding the #24 Divisadero bus up the hill from 24th Street is one of most scenic rides in San Francisco. The other day I was sitting on the east side of the bus, looking up at Twin Peaks on a beautiful day. Alas, Muni had one of those advertisements spread over the windows on that side of the bus, so that gorgeous view could only be glimpsed through the grid of dots. When I got off the bus, I saw that it was an ad for the latest Disney/Pixar cartoon about talking cars. The city that knows how shows contempt for the people who ride Muni, but that's not new. (I've complained about it before, and Maggie Lynch is checking on how much Muni makes on that advertising, but it's been almost four years, and I'm beginning to suspect she's not going to get that info for me.) 

I don't have anything against ads on Muni buses as a matter of principle. But can't they at least keep the windows clear? Is the amount of money they make covering the windows---as opposed to ads that don't cover the windows---worth the imposition on Muni passengers? Is this an issue that's even been debated by the MTA board? I know they're pretty busy crafting a golden parachute for Nat Ford and turning city streets over to the bike people.

You can learn more about the issue through the MTA's website:

The SFMTA also provides an opportunity for you to advertise on Muni Vehicles. Advertising on a Muni bus, cable car, or a Metro light rail vehicle is a cost-efficient way to blanket the city with your message. Your ads will travel through a city where people live, work, and visit.

Apparently Clear Channel is the city's vendor of choice for this crap that helps corporations "establish brand awareness" and "penetrate every part of a community with "dynamic displays" on buses. Check out their special approach to the growing "multi-cultural" market!

The MTA naturally has elaborate and detailed rules about the content of the ads they'll allow---no ads for tobacco or firearms!---but there's nothing that protects us from the contempt the folks who run the Muni system evidently have for their passengers.

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8 Comments:

At 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe you should get in touch with Eric Mar.

 
At 10:40 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I'm skeptical that this is a widespread medical issue. It's just strange that Mar and other progs seem to think it's okay to obstruct the view Muni passengers have of their own city---the system has more than 700,000 "boardings" every weekday. This is also a city that attracted almost 16 million visitors---aka, "tourists"---last year. We market our city's beauty to tourists and then we allow Muni to obstruct their---and our---view of the city from the city's buses.

When he was supervisor, Jake McGoldrick is the only other city leader who's even mentioned the issue, which presumably isn't important enough for the rest of our elitist leadership, who apparently don't ride the bus much.

 
At 9:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's either these ads, or raise parking ticket prices. You pick.

 
At 9:01 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Not exactly an exhaustive choice of alternatives. We could also dump a few featherbeders from the Bicycle Program (how many staff does that program have now, and what do they do all day?). Or we could dump the Central Subway project, which would save $200 million in Prop. K revenue.

Actually, we don't have enough information to properly analyze the issue. As I ask in the post, What's the difference in income between ads that cover the windows and ads that don't cover the windows? Is it great enough to justify this ongoing insult to Muni passengers? I doubt it.

 
At 12:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or we could dump the Central Subway project, which would save $200 million in Prop. K revenue

--> Cannot be used for operations. One of the great crimes of how our government allocates money. Organizations should be funded appropriately and make their own decisions on capital/operations, not get capital money solely as a pass through to construction firms from the legislators.

 
At 2:35 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The city can use Prop. K money to pave our streets and buy new buses (See page 34 of this document), which means the bond measure for street work City Hall is putting on the November ballot should be rejected by city voters.

 
At 1:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most importantly, one cannot see out the windows properly. It is as though one is looking out through a fine mesh screen; street signs are hard to read as one rides by, when normally they would be quite legible. Store signs are likewise difficult to discern. Because of the mesh obstruction and the motion of the bus, looking out the window can make one physically ill. Everything is out of focus. But what about those with low vision or the elderly who typically experience diminution in focusing capabilities? Doesn't this violate the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), if not in a technical sense? I have observed passengers fidgeting nervously, craning their necks, moving side-to-side in vain attempts to see where they are or what street was just crossed, only to give up and proceed to the front of the bus to the only unobstructed view--the windshield. (see below for problems associated with this). This is even difficult for veteran riders such as myself. What about tourists who have no idea where they are? They must be wondering why this beautiful city is covering up the windows of its buses!
Why are they making it so difficult to see where one is going? Especially maddening is trying to see out at night. With the reflection of the interior lights in the windows, it is virtually impossible to see out and know where you must disembark.

As mentioned above, most passengers are unable to see clearly and have no other option but to head to the front of the bus to peer out the front window. The problems with this are that such people interfere with the boarding passengers, and often have to confirm the stop with the driver who is also trying to collect fares and issue transfers. It is ironic that if there is no problem seeing out the windows, why isn't the windshield also covered?

Should there be a serious altercation on the bus, it would be very difficult to see what is happening from the outside, thus perhaps endangering the passengers and driver. It would be very easy to imagine a fight progressing inside as the bus passes a police car without the police noticing a thing.

Dissatisfaction with the window covering is also evidenced by the following observations: passengers are discouraged from looking out by the covering because it's so disorienting so most heads are turned in towards the aisle. When it rains, the streaking water makes it even more difficult to see outside.

If there has been little opposition to this form of advertising so far, I believe it is only because the wrapping has not infiltrated enough bus lines throughout the city. Also when comments are collected about the ads, I would suggest that in analyzing them, one make the distinction between comments made by people viewing them versus comments made after riding in the buses and being subjected to the problems outlined above. Even though my objections are essentially twofold: aesthetics and obstructed viewing, the latter is of paramount importance. I do not believe that passengers who actually ride the buses in question were adequately surveyed about this advertising’s impact.

However, a compromise is a simple solution if the ad revenue is too great to ignore: Please just take the advertising off the windows! Please stipulate in any new contract that all windows cannot be covered.

Certainly MUNI can realize increased ad revenues without subjecting paying passengers to such visual obstruction! You would need to experience the aforementioned problems yourself, to really understand them.
The fact that relatively few buses have these ads or that relatively few passengers are subjected to the vision problems, does not condone disregard for any passenger's right to look out unimpeded from a public bus window.

 
At 4:03 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The people who make public policy in SF are the crudest sort of elitists, notwithstanding their phony political rhetoric. They make huge salaries and benefits and apparently rarely ride Muni.

Maybe all Muni/MTA officials should have the windows on their cars covered with advertising to show them what it's like.

 

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