The headline says it all, you guys! The dog days are over, and Muni has transformed into a swiftly-moving chariot, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Did you notice?
In a 2008 report that described Muni’s control center as "a marvel of 1980s technology," planning think tank SPUR said then that the agency has been "Saddled for at least a decade by a shortage of about 150 operators," which forces the transit agency to cancel hundreds and hundreds of runs a day — and that means longer waits and packed buses for riders across the system.
By 2012, John Haley, the MTA's transit director, told the Chron that the shortage was at 160, with the drivers' union saying the shortfall was closer to 300. In 2013, Muni said the shortage was 100, but, as we noted at the time, "no one has done a good staffing analysis to determine how many drivers they need to maintain in their ranks."
In June, 2014, the Ex reported that though Muni has recently added 25 "graduates" of their training program, there were still 266 unfilled operator positions due to issues with pay (as in, Muni was not offering enough of it), commuting (since "the top gross pay for a bus driver in San Francisco is about $70,000 a year" an estimated 85 percent of Muni drivers live somewhere other than the pricey burg of SF) and what the Ex described as "an ever-tougher working environment" (have you ridden the bus lately? If so, you know what they're saying here).
Haley, speaking to Streetsblog in February, said then that the staffing shortage hasn't just made passengers miserable, but operators too, "as drivers who pick up the slack work overtime more often and get burned out from the stress of the job."
"When bus runs are canceled," Streetsblog reported, "the buses that do show up get more crowded, riders get more frustrated, and drivers become more worried about staying on schedule."
But according to a post published on Muni's Moving SF blog Tuesday, "Since September 2014 we’ve hired and trained nearly 700 new Muni operators. Thanks to them (and to everyone who participated in bringing them on board), Muni’s operator shortage is now officially over."
"With a full staff of operators now on board, we’ve been able to deliver over 99 percent of our weekly scheduled service consistently for months," they write.
"Even more remarkable, for 150 days in a row we exceeded the voter-mandated Proposition E goal requiring Muni to deliver 98.5 percent of scheduled service. This is the first time Muni has accomplished this goal since Prop E’s inception in 1999."
As someone who works from home, I don't have the daily Muni experience to verify their claims of improved service, but what do you guys think? Have you noticed an improvement?
But even if you have, cautioned Streetsblog last February, "the question then becomes how long Muni can hold the line." If, as the Ex noted last year, starting wages for a Muni driver is $18.60/hour, why deal with all the other hassles of driving for the transit agency when as of last week, drivers of comparably cushy tech buses were pulling down $25?