Cut Muni service crawling back 

There’s still work left to do to restore Muni’s recent service reductions, but a proposal is in place that inches toward the transit system’s original operating levels.

The latest deal, however, relies heavily on support from the operators union. 

By rearranging schedules to eliminate standby hours — times when operators are paid while waiting between driving shifts — the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has figured out a way to restore 61 percent of its recent service cuts by Sept. 4, an 11 percent increase from an earlier plan.

Faced with a massive budget deficit this fiscal year, the SFMTA, which operates Muni, cut service by 10 percent in May, a move that saved $28.8 million.

Through a combination of local and state funding allocations and internal cost savings, the SFMTA was able to scrap together $15 million, which is enough to restore half the service cuts by Sept. 4.

On Tuesday, the SFMTA presented an updated plan that would eliminate 232 working hours a day for operators, although it wouldn’t result in any layoffs. By being paid for nondriving time between the morning and evening commutes, operators accrue a large amount of overtime pay, which will be slashed by the scheduling change. The savings from those efficiencies free up enough cash to restore an additional 11 percent of the May service cuts.

The total 61 percent service restoration will allow Muni to begin running late-night Owl buses every 30 minutes instead of 60, expand schedules for local and community routes and add capacity back to crowded bus lines.

As part of the contract the SFMTA has with its operators union, the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, any scheduling change requires a hearing between the two sides. The union can offer insight and recommendations on the scheduling changes, but ultimately the SFMTA has the final say, according to union representative Walter Scott. Management, however, has never implemented scheduling changes without the consent of the operators union.

The SFMTA has begun meeting with the operators union to discuss the scheduling changes, according to Debra Johnson, the agency’s director of administration.

“As we look at the schedules going forward, I can sense there will probably be a difference in opinion,” Johnson said. “But I have a strong belief that we started out on a good, solid footing.”

Earlier this year, the SFMTA and Mayor Gavin Newsom announced plans to restore the 10 percent service reductions, based on assumptions that Local 250-A would agree to labor concessions. However, members declined the package and on Tuesday operators were actually officially awarded raises that will cost $14 million this fiscal year.

Newsom, who said the latest proposal shows “real progress,” is working with Board of Supervisors President David Chiu to come up with a full restoration plan by Dec. 1.

Public transportation

The following shows hours of operation for the Muni system:

                                        Current    With service restoration    Difference
Average daily weekday         8,985                 9,488                     +503
Average Saturday                6,367                 6,866                     +499
Average Sunday                  6,230                 6,651                     +421

178,781 annual service hours to be restored

Service restoration highlights

  • Restore Owl service to every 30 minutes
  • Restore night end times for community routes
  • Restore night end times for many local, rapid routes
  • Add capacity back to 13 weekday routes, three weekend routes
  • Restore evening frequency on nine routes

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Will Reisman

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