AWOL operators drive Muni delays

Muni’s performance goals for the 2008-09 fiscal year will include a concerted effort to tackle employment absenteeism, notably transit operators, whose high rates affect the transit system’s on-time numbers.

Transit operators had an 11 percent rate of unscheduled absences during the past quarter of the 2007-08 fiscal year, according to Muni officials. Muni has 1,915 transit operators on active duty, according to department documents released in February; that calculates out to an average of 220 workers not showing up for their scheduled work detail — not counting vacation days.

Unscheduled absenteeism by Muni operators hurts the public transit system’s on-time performance rate, which has never hit the 85 percent mark mandated in a proposition approved by voters in 1999, according to Municipal Transportation Agency spokesman Judson True.

Since the performance standards from the proposition went into affect in 2004, Muni’s annual on-time performance rate has peaked at just above 71 percent.

Muni officials have set a goal to slash unscheduled absences for transit operators to 10.2 percent, which would add 23 drivers per day for the light-rail vehicles, buses and cable cars. Unscheduled absences include all missed workdays that aren’t part of pre-arranged vacation days.

The MTA is working to improve operators’ absence rate by partnering with union officials on injury-prevention efforts and expanding the department’s workers’ compensation program.

“Being a transit operator is a physically and emotionally demanding job,” True said. “So it takes extra effort to work with operators to have as many work as possible on a given day.”

With the department projected to hire 191 new operators this fiscal year, it will be “the first time in several years the department will have a net increase in operators,” according to True.

The agency also is working on following the discipline process of the operators who have the highest unacceptable absentee rates, True said.

Muni officials will present their performance standards goals for the 2009 fiscal year to the board of directors Tuesday.

wreisman@examiner.com

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