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Muni closes two bus yards on weekends during operator shortage, union cries foul

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Muni began closing the Kirkland Yard on weekends starting in June, a move that union members allege has exacerbated a shortage of drivers. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The City closed two bus yards this summer amidst a Muni operator shortage, potentially straining already worn-to-the-bone bus drivers.

That’s the allegation of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni operators.

And, TWU Local 250-A President Roger Marenco said, that decision likely exacerbated the citywide Muni slowdown.

The SFMTA has left buses in depots sitting undriven while scheduled runs are missed across The City, the San Francisco Examiner first revealed in an investigation late last month. Muni riders have waited 20 to 40 minutes for buses that usually arrive in just ten minutes, or even sooner. More than 30 bus lines across The City have seen major service gaps, data analyzed by the Examiner revealed.

That’s due to a failure to prepare for increased demand this summer for operators in SFMTA’s training department, leading to a dearth of drivers behind the wheel, the agency has said.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency closed its Islais Creek and Kirkland bus yards on weekends in June, according to a plans laid out in an internal Muni memo from late 2017 shared by Marenco. Buses were shifted to Flynn and Woods bus yards. Notably, specific bus lines — say the 6-Parnassus — run out of specific bus yards from operators who consistently drive those routes.

But Marenco alleges drivers aren’t always moving with the displaced buses, to those other yards, to pick up the slack.

“It puts a strain on Woods (and Flynn) operators,” Marenco said. “Now the Kirkland operators all have Saturday and Sunday off.”

That’s affected a number of lines on the weekend, including the 2-Clement, 10-Townsend, 12-Folsom-Pacific, 19 Polk, 28-19th Ave, 43-Masonic, 47-Van Ness and 76X-Marin Headlands Express. The 38-Geary and 8-Bayshore, two of Muni’s most trafficked lines, were also affected.

SFMTA Director of Transit John Haley disagreed with Marenco’s assertions.

“I’d say Kirkland, based on the first couple months, is a success story,” he said of the weekend closures, allowing the agency to perform more needed maintenance without the hustle-and-bustle of bus service around it. He noted some workers have reason to be angry with the move. “I suspect some of the people you may hear from who are upset are car cleaners,” he said. “They don’t need to work on weekends at Kirkland anymore.”

Making the other bus yards busier, he added, “That’s not a bad thing.”

But Marenco doesn’t buy it. He said his operators are singled out by angry riders, who experience late buses, for decisions operators have no control over.

Those riders shout “‘I’ve been waiting 30 minutes. I’ve been waiting 40 minutes. What the hell is going on?’” Marenco said. When that happens, he said, he’d like operators to have print-outs with Haley and his direct subordinates’ email addresses to hand to riders, to voice their complaints directly to the source.

“I am going to give (the emails) to thousands to the operators,” Marenco said, “the hell with 311.”

The Muni Kirkland Yard is located at Beach and Stockton streets near Pier 39. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

joe@sfexaminer.com

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