uFixIt: Muni project frustrating commuters

January 8, 2011 12:25:06 PM PST
Muni is getting more than 1,000 new bus shelters, as part of a $300 million advertising deal. But some of these so-called "smart shelters" aren't working. The I-Team learned about this problem through uReport.

All the new bus shelters that Clear Channel is building for Muni are supposed to include a display, which uses GPS to predict when the next bus will arrive, and a button for blind people to press to get the same information. But Muni rider Bill Jensen says, ever since they replaced the shelter at Fifth and Mission Streets in San Francisco three months ago, that display has been blank and that button does not work.

"I saw that they had installed the component in there, but it never worked," he said. "Now with it not working at all, I have no idea when the next bus is coming."

So Jensen called the phone number on the bus shelter to report the problem and, he says, he kept calling almost every week for nearly three months, but he never heard back from Muni.

"I feel frustrated and it feels like Muni doesn't care. They're making no attempts, to even respond to me, let alone do the work to fix this device," he said.

"We just have to be cautious when we have 12,000 volts underground that we have to work around," Muni Spokesman Paul Rose said.

Rose says the agency has been waiting to get clearance from PG&E and the Department of Building Inspection on a location to ground the new shelter's electrical system. He says at least two more of the 100 shelters installed so far are waiting for clearance to turn on the power.

"To Bill and to all commuters who were affected at this bus shelter, you know, it's unfortunate that we had to do this. But we have to do it to be cautious. We have to be safe," he said.

The day after we interviewed Muni, Clear Channel sent a contractor to connect the display. But the "push-to-talk" button for the blind was still disconnected when we checked it the following week.

"You're supposed to upgrade, not downgrade, and I'm feeling like they downgraded," Bill said.

Jensen says Muni needs to make sure all the new shelters work.

"I think Muni should fix it and they should go around to every shelter that they've ah replaced and make sure if that device was working in the old shelter, and that it'll work in the new shelters," he said.

Muni has fixed that button for the blind since we shot this story, and you'll be seeing a lot more of those new shelters around town soon. Clear Channel will install 1,000 more in about two years.

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