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Chariot shutdown helps boost Muni operator applications as agency works to reduce staffing shortage

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Passengers board the 27 Muni bus on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/ Special to S.F. Examiner)

The City has seen an uptick in Muni operator applications, thanks partly to recently laid off Chariot drivers who were encouraged to apply in a new program authorized by Mayor London Breed.

That’s good news for San Franciscans, as an operator shortage has left buses and trains sitting idle and caused a meltdown in Muni service last summer that drew the ire of riders and city officials.

A total of 807 applications came Muni’s way in its latest hiring round from January 16 to January 28, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

While comparing the total number of applications received can be difficult due to differing lengths of application periods, SFMTA officials said they received about 62 applications a day in the latest recruitment effort, compared to just 55 applications a day during the last two recruitment rounds.

About 111 of the applicants in this round were former Chariot drivers, according to the SFMTA.

SEE RELATED: Chariot drivers could get new gigs with Muni

SFMTA credits those applicants to the Office of Economic and Workforce Development’s new program, CityDrive, which was ushered in by Mayor London Breed last month just as the news broke that Chariot would close and lay off its 300 local drivers, who are represented by the Teamsters union.

CityDrive offers an expedited process to obtain Class B licenses necessary to drive for Muni and other bus programs including the commuter shuttles that the tech sector relies on to carry employees to and from the South Bay and Peninsula every day.

“Thanks to Mayor Breed’s leadership and with support of the Teamsters, we are turning a difficult situation into a great opportunity for Chariot drivers and for Muni riders,” SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said at a Chariot recruitment meeting. “This program will help get more Muni operators behind the wheel faster, while connecting real people to quality jobs in San Francisco.”

SEE RELATED: Report: Poor pay for bus drivers caused ‘chronic staffing deficit’ that led to summer Muni meltdown

While the uptick in driver applicants may be good news for SFMTA, which runs Muni, the agency isn’t out of the woods yet. A report by the San Francisco Budget Legislative Analyst found Muni has just as much trouble retaining operators as it does recruiting them, due to a lengthy period before they can earn full pay.

Previously it took Muni operators 18 months to become fully paid, but after the last contract negotiations in 2014 that “step” period to full pay was extended to 48 months.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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