San Francisco’s transit agency wants to spend $2.4 million annually — a 1,500 percent increase from what it’s currently spending — for a training facility for Muni drivers.
Transit officials, however, failed to justify such a cost increase for the facility to members of the Board of Supervisors at a budget committee hearing Wednesday. Instead, transit officials will make their case to the committee March 9.
John Haley, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s operations director, said there was “a critical need for a dedicated training facility.”
The transit agency spends $155,000 annually renting spaces for training newly hired Muni operators, who require 44 days of training, at the Cow Palace parking lot, a former naval airstrip lot in Alameda and the Alemany Farmer’s Market when not in use. The agency has class sizes of about 30 to 40 new hires.
The agency is proposing instead to pay $2.48 million each year, a 1,500 percent increase, to rent a 7-acre site at 30 Tanforan Ave. in South San Francisco, 11 miles from Muni headquarters at 1 South Van Ness Ave., according to Harvey Rose, The City’s budget analyst.
The 9.5-year lease would amount to a total of more than $20 million.
Haley told supervisors the agency should spend more money on a training facility because the agency overhauled its training system two years ago to improve service.
But Supervisor Norman Yee, who sits on the committee, said Haley’s testimony could be used as an argument against entering a new, more expensive lease.
“I have to find the justification,” Yee said about the added cost. “It almost feels like why change it then for $25 million.”
Haley said Muni is among the only major bus providers that does not have a dedicated training facility.
“We risk missing a class which would put us below our service goals again,” Haley said.
Yee asked Haley to provide data to illustrate what problems the agency has in training new operators, such as delays or canceled classes that incurred costs or impaired service.
In addition to cost concerns, Rose said the lease with property owner Tanforan Industrial Park, LLC lasts for 9.5 years with no guarantee of an extension. South San Francisco has permitted that site to be used as a training facility until February 2026, and could extend it then.
Eric Williams, president of Transport Workers Union Local 250A, which represents Muni drivers, emphasized such a training facility is in integral part of any modern transit system.
“This agency is so far behind the curve when it comes to transportation issues and the things that other transportation agencies across the country have already done,” Williams said. “You want us to curb our incidents and accidents. We need the consistent training.”
Williams added, “You go to this agency’s training facility right now, it’s a joke.”