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Muni debuts new gray uniforms for operators

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Fourteen-year SFMTA Operator Monica Collins, center, looks at her colleagues while they sport new and improved uniforms for their employees during the SFMTA Board meeting at San Francisco’s City Hall Tuesday, September 5, 2017. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Goodbye, brown. Hello, gray.

Fore more than four decades, Muni operators have sported a signature brown uniform familiar to any San Franciscan who’s ridden public transit.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency announced its new gray operators uniforms at the SFMTA Board of Directors meeting.

“It’s a historic event,” SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said.

Muni operators have worn the current iteration of brown uniforms since 1981, he said, though they were brown before that, too. But it wasn’t SFMTA that suggested the change in color, Reiskin said. “It was really our operators who led the selection.”

That’s because it’s not just about a change in color, but in material and style. Those brown uniforms were itchy, hot and just plain uncomfortable, some operators said.

Those old uniforms are “what a hot dog feels like in a steamer,” said Eric Williams, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A.

A bevy of Muni operators strolled into the board meeting in their new uniforms, Tuesday, to applause from the audience. The new uniform options include different tops in light gray — polo shirts and button-up tops are both available. Dark gray shorts, skirts and slacks will be available to operators. Some of the operators wore red ties, in different varieties.

Perhaps most noticeably different are the jackets. No longer Muni brown, operators will have a choice between a black jacket with white reflective Muni logos or a fluorescent yellow reflective safety jacket.

The jackets may say “Muni” on them, but the uniforms themselves do not, which worried SFMTA Director Malcolm Heinicke.

SFMTA Director of Transit John Haley told Heinicke there are still ongoing “discussions” about adding logos to the shirts.

Though the new uniforms may be a drastic change in the eyes of longtime San Franciscans, at least one San Francisco native said it’s time for Muni operators to sport a new look.

“Change is needed, and change is good,” said Monica Collins, a 14-year Muni operator who grew up in The City and attended Woodrow Wilson High School.

For women especially, she said, the old-style brown uniforms were “horrible,” sweaty, and uncomfortable. Collins is a light-rail vehicle operator on the K/T line, which tends to be stuffy already, she said.

Though she grew up seeing Muni operators in their brown uniforms, she said her 15-year-old kid isn’t a fan.

“My son says we dress like we’re from the 60s,” she said with a laugh.

The new uniforms may roll out as soon as the end of September, according to the SFMTA, as soon as the uniforms are distributed to all of the agency’s some 2,000 operators.

“They’re coming soon to a moving vehicle near you,” Haley said.

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