Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Muni's contempt for its passengers 4

The story in yesterday's Examiner (Bus ad wrappings draw criticism as funding measure for SFMTA) has the first reference ever in the local media about how ads covering Muni bus windows impair passengers' view of the city:

Critics of the bus ad wraps say they degrade rider experience and further tarnish San Francisco's overall scenic beauty, while top transit officials say it is a responsible way to leverage revenue from its assets.

As a regular Muni passenger, I've been bitching about this for years. I first complained during the 2000 campaign for District 5 Supervisor and later in a message to then-Supervisor Gonzalez:

Date: Tue, 05 Jun 2001
From: Rob Anderson
To: Matt Gonzalez


Here's a "small" issue I mentioned a few times during the campaign but I haven't heard about any action/discussion: the advertising on the sides of Muni buses. I'm sure Muni makes a lot of money on the ads, but they demonstrate management's contempt for Muni passengers. Sitting inside and looking through one of those signs, you see a beautiful city transformed into a grid, like one of those Chuck Close paintings. The moral of the story: schmucks who don't own SUVs and have to ride the bus aren't entitled to a clear view of what is supposedly their beautiful city, too. Is the amount of money Muni makes on these ads enough to justify obstructing passengers' view of their city? Is any amount of money enough to justify it?

After I started blogging, I tried to find out how much Muni makes on the ads, but of course I got no information. The Chronicle provided that information a few years later, while also retailing Muni's lie justifying covering windows with ads: "They[Muni officials] say the window-wrap material is perforated vinyl that won't obstruct views." Anyone who rides Muni knows that's untrue.

Muni was then making only $500,000 on the ads in a $780 million budget! Muni's CFO provided the usual bullshit justification: "The bus-wrap ads could avoid the need to make service cuts to balance the budget." The same argument is made now: "[Paul]Rose noted that not acquiring the $325,000 in ad money could mean the loss of four mechanics the agency was planning on hiring to tend to a growing fleet."

Muni's Chief Bobblehead, Ed Reiskin, makes $294,000 a year, which would almost cover it---and he wouldn't be missed by anyone but the Bicycle Coalition.

From the Examiner story:

Kearstin Krehbiel, executive director of San Francisco Beautiful, a nonprofit organization that has fought to limit advertising on public property, is fighting the contract. "This deal is no good. San Francisco is being asked to bear the burden of twice as many ads," Krehbiel said. She added that the "toxic effects upon our visual environment" provide relatively little revenue and suggested it would hurt the agency's plans to ask voters to approve other potential revenue generating measures on the November ballot.

Yes, apparently City Hall's November $1.5 billion ballot measures to pay for more "improvements" to city streets aren't polling very well. Good. Let the MTA---which already has more than 5,000 employees---take a haircut for a change. It's particularly helpful that the initiative opposing City Hall's anti-car policies will also be on the November ballot. City voters can both reject City Hall's latest money hustle and vote for the initiative.

Back in 2002, city voters passed Proposition G to regulate billboards and other outdoor advertising, but vehicles were exempted. Of course the ads on Muni buses blight the city's visual environment, but that's no concern to the greedheads and philistines that now govern San Francisco.

Photo by Jim Herd

Labels: , , , , ,