Suspension possible for lotto-playing Muni operator 

A Muni bus driver who tried his luck at the lotto a couple of weeks ago has ended up with a losing ticket.

Muni is disciplining the driver following reports that he hopped off a packed 5-Fulton bus to play the lotto at a convenience store, leaving his passengers stranded without an explanation.

While stopped at the intersection of Masonic Avenue and Fulton Street on April 16, the operator ran off the bus, grabbed a lottery ticket from a stand outside the Fulton Food Shop and then dashed inside to redeem it, according to a passenger who witnessed the event.

The passenger, who alerted The San Francisco Examiner about the incident, declined to be named publicly.

“We were all in shock,” said the passenger. “No one could believe the driver was leaving a bus full of people to play the lottery.”

While the operator milled around inside the store, the passenger called 311 to alert Muni of the incident.

After reviewing the reports from the passenger, Muni placed the operator on nondriving status and is currently considering appropriate disciplinary measures, according to Paul Rose, the agency’s spokesman. Those measures could include a multiple-day suspension.

The driver’s untimely lotto decisions add to an ever-expanding list of recent misdeeds committed by Muni’s transit operators. Two operators were fired in April — one for texting while driving, the other for booting a family off a bus — and two more face uncertain fates for running trains through the subway with open doors.

All the aforementioned infractions were reported by passengers, who have increasingly sought to capture footage of the various misdeeds through mobile technology, Rose said.

“We’re definitely seeing the case of people notifying the agency and The City when they see something they don’t appreciate,” Rose said. “And that’s something we absolutely encourage, because at the end of the day, the opinion of the passengers is what truly matters.”

Rose also said that Muni has increased the number of cameras on its vehicles, allowing it to capture virtually all onboard incidents.

For the operators, the reports of driver antics come at a particularly crucial time. The Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni’s operators, is engaged in historic labor negotiations with management. Muni officials have projected that the agency could save $26 million in concessions through the labor negotiations. The operators union has threatened to strike if talks reach an impasse.

Calls to the union’s leadership were not returned.

Transit shenanigans

Passengers have been responsible for a string of recent reports of misbehavior by Muni drivers:

February/April 2011: A Muni bus operator is caught texting while driving by a passenger. Initially, she’s suspended for three days, but once more information is revealed, she’s placed back on nondriving status. After caught driving a bus last Thursday by the same passenger, she is let go from the agency Friday.
April 1, 2011: A passenger records footage of a Muni train travelling through the underground tunnel with its doors open. Passengers on the train insist that the operator knew the door was open. Operator is placed on non-driving status while Muni investigates.
April 11, 2011: A Muni bus driver kicks a family off the 24-Divisadero for holding up service on the line. The driver, still on his probationary period, is let go by the agency after it reviews footage from the incident.
April 16, 2011: Passengers witness a Muni driver dash off a packed bus to cash in a lotto ticket at a convenience store. The operator is placed on non-driving status and could face a multiday suspension.
April 21, 2011: For the second time in three weeks, a Muni passenger records footage of a train passing through the subway with an open door. The incident is found to be the result of human error and the operator is placed on non-driving status. He could face possible termination.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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Will Reisman

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