SFMTA hires executive as deficit looms 

Despite facing a $16.9 million midyear deficit and looming layoffs for transit operators and other employees, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency announced the hiring of a new transit director who will be paid more than $200,000 annually.

John Haley, a 30-year veteran of the transportation industry who was most recently with the Metropolitan Transit Authority in Houston, will be responsible for all of Muni’s management and operation strategies, said Judson True, spokesman for the SFMTA, which oversees Muni.

Haley will be paid $225,038 by the cash-strapped transit agency, which has lost $230 million in state and local funding during the past two years. Haley replaces Ken McDonald, who resigned six months ago. The position has remained in the SFMTA budget.
The SFMTA is proposing service reductions that could result in as many as 170 operators losing their jobs and is planning to eliminate 250 nonoperator positions, which includes laying off 24 parking control officers.

The SFMTA board of directors will vote Friday on an amended budget proposal that would finalize those position eliminations.
Along with the layoffs, the agency has been engaged in labor concessions with the Transit Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents 2,500 operators. The union recently turned down a contract deal that would have resulted in savings of $14.9 million during the next two years. Union President Irwin Lum, who said the organization will review the contract negotiations again this week, questioned the timing of Haley’s hire.

“We’re getting slandered from all sides, even though we’re really trying to do what’s best for the riding public,” Lum said. “And then the MTA goes and hires a new top-paying executive? That doesn’t make much sense to me.”

Haley’s experience includes stints as the deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the deputy general manager of BART and the general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. At $1.6 billion, the MBTA budget is more than twice that of the SFMTA.

“John has worked in numerous cities and understands the unique challenges of keeping transit safe and on time in an urban setting,” SFMTA Executive Director Nathaniel Ford said. “I believe his extensive experience in both planning and operating complex transportation systems will serve Muni and San Francisco well.

Haley takes over for interim director David Hill, who manned the position for the past six months following the resignation of McDonald. Hill will return to his normal position as deputy director of bus operations.

The SFMTA is currently recruiting for a new sustainable streets director, another position in the transit agency’s upper-management structure.


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