Parking placards for the disabled found on Muni workers’ autos 

One worker smokes a cigarette in her car before making a U-turn and parking in an empty spot. Another carries a shoulder bag to her vehicle, where she sits for an hour. And another jogs slowly to his car before zooming off down
the road.

Each one wore a Muni operator uniform, and each one used a vehicle with a disability placard parked at a metered spot.

That scene took place at North Point Street between Powell and Stockton streets — right outside Muni’s Kirkland bus yard — Friday morning during a 90-minute span. Of the 14 vehicles parked at meters on North Point during that time, 11 had disability parking placards or plates, allowing them to stay at the spaces all day for free.

Between 9 and 10:30 a.m., Muni operators from the Kirkland facility frequently drove off, took breaks and placed belongings in those vehicles.

When The San Francisco Examiner tried to ask Muni workers at Kirkland why so many operators were using disability placards, an employee at the facility said, “We don’t talk to the media.”

Secretary-Treasurer  Walter Scott of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni’s 2,000 transit operators, said he knows of several drivers who require disability placards, but said the number wasn’t high. He said he didn’t think operators were using the placards as a result of new Muni rules requiring union members to pay for parking at their station lots.

“I haven’t heard any complaints about operators abusing these placards,” Scott said. “If they’re using them now, they’ve probably been using them for a while.”

Bob Planthold, a local disability activist, said just because a motorist appears physically fit doesn’t mean they don’t have health problems. Doctors can award placards to motorists who have high blood pressure, hearing problems or weight issues.

“Looks can be deceiving,” Planthold said. “But it does raise questions when so many of the operators are using disabled placards.”

Before Muni operators are cleared to drive, they must pass medical guidelines required by the federal government, according to agency spokesman Paul Rose.

“Being an operator is a physically demanding job,” Rose said. “You have to be in good health to work here.”

He said the agency would look into possible abuses of the permits. Rose said parking control officers can check the validity of each disability placard, but they can’t question the physical condition of a driver.

Keeping tabs on parking spots

Between 9 and 10:30 a.m. Friday, The San Francisco Examiner observed Muni operators using vehicles with disability placards at metered parking spots on North Point Street.

9:10: 11 of the 14 vehicles parked on North Point Street between Powell and Stockton streets have disability parking permits. Of the 11 vehicles, nine have placards and two have license plates.

9:01: A female Muni operator carrying a shoulder bag opens the door and sits down inside a parked Lexus RX350. The car has a disability placard.

9:38: A male Muni operator drops off bags in a parked Isuzu Rodeo. The car has a disability placard.

9:39: A male Muni operator jogs slowly to an Acura sedan before pulling out and leaving. The car has a disability plate.

9:43: A male operator sits down in a parked Toyota Paseo. The car has a disability placard.

9:51: A female operator smoking a cigarette makes a U-turn in a white Lexus while driving east on North Point Street. She pulls her vehicle into a metered spot. The vehicle has a disability placard.

10:06: A male operator drives off in a green sport utility vehicle. The vehicle has a disability placard.

10:11: The male operator in the Toyota Paseo drives away.

10:17: Two operators drive off in a Honda sedan. The car has a disability placard.

10:25: The female operator in the parked Lexus RX350 exits the vehicle.

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Will Reisman

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