Bowing to pressure from the mayor and others, the SFMTA's transit chief of eight years, Ed Reiskin, announced Monday that he would be stepping down in August.
That situation led to a ramping up of pressure from the Board of Supervisors and Mayor London Breed — who were already dismayed from news the previous week about faulty door sensors and train-coupling mechanisms on the new Siemans light-rail trains. The Supes had already decided to withhold $62 million in funding for a new batch of train cars.
The Mayor's Office apparently sent a "scorching letter" to the SFMTA board Monday morning calling for a national search for a new director, as the Chronicle reports. And Reiskin responded with his own letter to colleagues saying, "The employment agreement I have with the SFMTA Board of Directors ends in August, and it’s become clear that this is the right time for a change." (Breed had similarly put pressure on Reiskin last August, following a spate of Muni delays, writing in a letter, "at the bottom line, Muni must be more dependable. Diminished Muni service forces people to make less sustainable trip choices and erodes confidence in City government.")
Reiskin added, "I will continue to give my heart and soul to this job up to my last day."
As KPIX/CBS SF reports, Supervisor Aaron Peskin had given statements over the weekend suggesting that the SFMTA needed an overhaul. "Things happen when you have a complex system, things do break down," Peskin told KPIX. "But it seems that the cascading number of events and the way they’ve handled it with the media and with public officials, has left a lot lacking."
Reiskin has served as Muni's transit chief since 2011, following stints heading up the Department of Public Works and the city's 311 call center. And Muni's persistent problems, particularly in the rush-hour meltdown department, certainly predate Reiskin's tenure.
As the SFMTA wrote in an apologetic blog post titled "What Happened to My Friday Commute?", "The subway is the backbone of Muni’s light rail system... The impact of even a single incident such as this one in the subway causes delays across the entire system." But the agency goes on to say that "49% of subway delays stem from decades of underinvestment in 'state of good repair' projects," suggesting that the issue has been one of funding.