After a rough month for Muni, San Francisco’s top transit official is out — though not immediately.
Ed Reiskin, director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, announced he is stepping down in an email to employees Monday morning.
He will not seek contract renewal when it ends in August, Reiskin wrote.
“It’s become clear that this is the right time for a change,” he wrote, announcing what is effectively a resignation. “I’m extremely grateful to the SFMTA Board of providing me with the privilege to serve in this capacity for eight years, and to all of you for the honor it is to work with you all.”
Seeking contract renewal would otherwise be routine, but these aren’t routine times for Muni.
Reiskin’s letter follows a sternly worded letter from Mayor London Breed Monday critiquing Reiskin’s performance. Her letter called on Reiskin’s bosses, the SFMTA Board, to start a national search to replace him. SFMTA runs Muni, but also plans street changes like bike lanes and oversees parking across The City.
In a letter to the SFMTA Board of Directors, Breed requested they immediately initiate a national search for a new director. Importantly, that board is appointed solely by the mayor; though they operate independently they have shown deference to The Mayor’s Office in the past.
Breed wrote that Reiskin has fallen short in managing Muni’s many challenges.
“Recent incidents at the SFMTA have shown that existing leadership is not up to the task,” she wrote.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, Breed said her next pick for SFMTA should be well-versed in transit. Reiskin was former head of Public Works.
“”We’re looking for someone who understands the bigger picture,” Breed told reporters, adding she’s looking for a “transportation expert.”
— Joe Fitz Rodriguez (@FitzTheReporter) April 29, 2019
While on Friday much of Muni’s metro system came to an absolute standstill, stranding thousands of riders, that was only the last straw. In her letter, Breed cited last summer’s operator shortage and subsequent Muni slowdown, the agency’s plague of unanswered sexual harassment complaints which were also exposed last year, and this month’s discovery of faulty Muni train doors dragging a woman to the tracks, as examples of “challenges” Reiskin did not handle adequately.
“The Agency seemed paralyzed and unable to respond definitively” to the train door situation, Breed wrote. And after the Muni meltdown last Friday, “every San Franciscan who depends on Muni to get to work, to school, and to important appointments, finally had enough, and I was with them.”
Reiskin, the former head of San Francisco Public Works, was tapped to lead SFMTA and its now $1.2 billion annual budget in 2011. He earned $342,483 in 2017, the most recent data available on Transparent California, a nonprofit that tracks CA government salaries.
Last August when some of Muni’s systemic problems were exposed in the Examiner, Breed wrote a letter to the SFMTA board expressing her “deep concern” and “frustration.” In her letter Monday Breed said “I made it clear that I would be expecting progress and improvement.”
Instead, Breed wrote, those challenges persist and “by many measures, they have gotten worse.”
In his letter to employees, Reiskin wrote “I will continue to give my heart and soul to this job up to my last day, and as someone who will continue to ride Muni and enjoy the streets of San Francisco each day, I’ll be confident in the fact that the SFMTA is in your good hands.”