For workers whose main duty is to keep people moving, there are precious few places for Muni operators to go.
Seven new bathroom facilities placed throughout the transit system are being proposed by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, to address an issue that has plagued operators for a decade. The agency also intends to add three more portable restrooms and enter into negotiations that would allow operators to use facilities at seven different businesses.
Nearly 40 percent of Muni’s 146 terminals lack bathrooms, a dearth that has exasperated the 2,200 members of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, the operators union.
“In the last decade, the bathroom situation for the operators has been nothing less than deplorable,” said Ron Austin, the union’s spokesman. “We have drivers making 1½- and 2-hour trips with basically nowhere to go. The bathrooms we do have are less than optimal conditions for any human being — and I’m being diplomatic about that.”
Austin said drivers have faced discipline for running into nearby restrooms to relieve themselves in the middle of their routes.
“They can’t just run behind a bush,” Austin said. “There are legitimate health hazards that they face.”
Many of the portable toilets currently in use don’t have hot water for the operators to wash their hands, and the lack of sanitary bathrooms is particularly vexing for Muni’s 600 female operators.
Installing the new bathrooms will not come cheap or easy, however. Building the facilities will cost $650,000 — at a time when the agency is facing a $14.6 million deficit — and the bathrooms must still be approved by several city agencies, including the Planning Department and the Arts Commission, said SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose. And negotiating with businesses to allow operators to use their facilities will cost additional money.
While the SFMTA has identified 17 specific locations for new facilities, it hopes to add 43 bathrooms as part of the program.
“This is an example of the union and agency working closely together to provide much-needed resources for our operators,” Rose said.
If everything goes as planned, the new bathrooms will be installed within six months — a development that can’t come soon enough for operators.
“Workers in every other city department have the ability to use a sanitary, well-lit bathroom,” said Austin, who lauded the efforts of SFMTA chief Ed Reiskin on the issue. “That’s something that been missing for us for a long time.”
Proposed bathroom sites:
Geary Boulevard and 33rd Avenue
Bowley and Lincoln streets in Presidio
Potrero Avenue and 25th Street
Fitzgerald Avenue and Third Street
Hudson Avenue and Newhall Street
Evans Avenue and Newhall Street
Ortega Street and 48th Avenue