The proposed pricey new training facility for Muni drivers advanced closer to approval Wednesday, but members of the Board of Supervisors remain critical of the deal.
The reason, they say, is the cost.
Two weeks ago, analysis by the board’s budget analyst Harvey Rose revealed the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency would spend $2.4 million annually — a 1,500 percent increase from what it’s currently spending — to train Muni operators at a new facility on a 7-acre site at 30 Tanforan Ave. in South San Francisco.
The board’s Budget and Finance Committee postponed a vote two weeks ago on the proposal, requesting the agency to better justify the cost increase.
The agency returned with new data Wednesday to show it was not spending $155,000 a year as it previously stated, but rather $375,000 on existing leased facilities at Cow Palace and an air strip in Alameda County. That means the increase would only jump 575 percent, instead of 1,500 percent.
But that revelation did little to soften cost concerns.
But the agency argued that missing Muni operator training classes could hamper service and increase overtime expenses. Last year, there were 13 classes that trained about 40 Muni drivers each. One of the classes was canceled because there weren’t enough trainers, not from lack of a place to train drivers.
Agency officials warned there was risk of missing classes given their current arrangements with the two sites. If one class of 30 Muni operators is canceled, it would result in $400,000 in overtime, or about $5 million annually. They acknowledged, however, a class cancellation due to deficient facilities has yet to occur.
The committee sent the proposal to the full board for a vote Tuesday, without recommending its approval or disapproval.
“I completely understand the need,” Supervisor Katy Tang said of a training facility. “We’re just trying to sort through and reconcile this enormous jump in price.”
Tang said she would be more comfortable with the deal if after the lease’s 9.5 years there was a guarantee The City could continue to use the site as a training facility. As it stands, South San Francisco has agreed to allow the land use only for 9.5 years and would need to give additional approval after that time period.
Supervisor Norman Yee said he didn’t support the deal, noting the agency managed to offer 13 classes last year under the existing leases and only plans to have nine classes moving forward, suggesting there wasn’t a need for the new arrangement.
Ed Reiskin, SFMTA director, argued the lease is “critically important” to Muni operations.
“There is no question this is not an insignificant cost,” Reiskin added. “The real estate market in San Francisco and in the Bay Area is very, very challenging.”